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PocketWizard Plagued by Poor Sales, May Have Laid Off Almost Half Its Staff

Video thumbnail for vimeo video PocketWizard PlusX

We’re unfortunately accustomed to bad news in the photo industry. That’s not to say there’s not great news and exciting new products and a bright future ahead, all of those things are there too, but slumping sales and discontinued products are becoming all-too-common reports.

Case in point: it seems flash trigger king PocketWizard is struggling of late, with reports claiming that the company has had to lay off as many as 20 of its 50 employees due to low sales figures and increasing competition out of China.

The original report comes from the good people at Lighting Rumors, who cite an email by PocketWizard CEO Tim Neiley in which the head honcho admits that the company “has reduced staff” and announces the end of an 18-year relationship with consultancy firm Inovanti.

pocketwizardhome1

Official details are slim, and there’s only so much one can assume from the words “has reduced staff,” but LR claims that competition from Chinese brands — which are becoming increasingly more reliable while remaining extremely cheap — has forced the company to fire “as many as 20 or more employees” over the course of two rounds of layoffs.

This is confirmed somewhat by LinkedIn profiles that reveal employees from every department ending employment in January and February. And while business the company is doing in the US is not slowing down (according to a statement by US distributor Mac Group) we can’t help but wonder what effect layoffs of this scale will have down the road.

And speaking of wondering what will happen, let us know what you think in the comments. Have you found yourself leaning towards the cheaper competition when it comes to investing in a triggering system? And how do you think PocketWizard should respond?

(via SLR Lounge)


Image credits: Photographs courtesy of PocketWizard


 
  • tomdavidsonjr

    “as many as 20 or more”

    It’s one or the other: “as many as 20″ or “20 or more”. Not both. As written, that clause is completely meaningless – encompassing every number from 0 to everyone employed there.

  • Zak Holman

    In wild, PocketWizard is second to non for quality and tech support. How ever I don’t like design of those units at all. Overall PocketWizard will be the only choice of mine for any job related to ad-agency or to any other important client. You know why.

  • Scott Wuerch

    Thanks, Boris. I’ll have to try using all four and see if I have the same problem. I typically use 1 or 2 radio slaves (depending on the complexity of the set-up) and have the rest of my lighting fire on visual slave so I’ve not had the problem of 1 not firing. What would be the advantage of having all 5-6 of my lights on radio triggers in my studio?? I’m not typically setting up a multi-head light set-up where others will be using flash.
    Nor have I had the problem of shutter shadows with syncs shorter than 1/160…I’m using a 5DMIII as a primary and a 5D as my back-up. I’ve synced to the full 1/200 with my 60D using my 580EXII for volleyball pics and had excellent results. Yes, I know that the 60D has built in wireless, but it sometimes struggles with the distance needed in a large gym so the radio triggers are the fix. I use the 603s to fire across a football field as well as several large gyms for the sports photography I do and distance has not been a factor for me.
    Given that I do not have lenses that can see through walls, I have not expected my 603s to function that way. But since you issued the challenge :-) I just tried it and got mine to fire from across the house through 4 walls… :-) Couldn’t see the flash but could here the audio indicator on my SP3200 indicate a full recharge. The pictures were grossly underexposed though :-).
    Perhaps I am just blessed with a really good set of 5, but my research indicated I would be and I have not been dissappointed. With what I saved I bought a used 430EXII for my 60D.

  • Scott Wuerch

    Funny, because if your using Canon or Nikon, all their flash equipment is built in China. At least so say my 430EX, my 430EXII and my 580EXII. I took a Canon Off-camera shoe cord and it’s Yongnuo equivalent apart. I’m guessing they’re made in the same factory as the injection ports for the plastic parts appeared, to my eye, to be in the exact same spot, the wiring solders looked similar, the Made in China logo was stamped in the same place, etc. No apparent difference in my opinion, but I am a photographer, NOT a manufacturing expert.
    Don’t get me wrong, I have rented PW’s before and they worked great, but not 5 or 6 times the price great. I have other things I would rather do with my money than spend it on wireless triggers. But that is just my philosphy, you can do whatever you want with your money. :-)

  • Nate Weir

    It would be in Pocket Wizard’s best interest if they were able to get in touch with Canon and design radio-adapter devices with near-full compatibility with Canon’s RT line of flashes. I bought 2 600EX-RT strobes, but I also have 2 other strobes (a 580 ex-II and 430ex-II) that would benefit from transmitters so I could use my legacy strobes with my 600ex strobes. If pocket wizard could do this, I feel like they could move themselves out of the ditch.

  • Lauren

    Yep.

  • fahfah

    PickPocket Wizards always have been and are more than ever, overpriced. Competition is one of the greatest tools us consumers have. LPA failed to compete. They assumed the “brand snobs” would always support them. Apparently they haven’t. I buy American whenever I can but as an American, I have the freedom of choice to buy whatever I dang well please. I’m going to buy what best serves my purposes and gives me the best bang for the buck. Period.

  • The_Box

    The Canon TTL debacle from a few years ago was a bad bad sign. How they didn’t find that in testing and let the product on the market was not world class. I ended up buying Radio Poppers. Also an American company.

  • Scott

    How often do you actually need all those features.

    Looks to me not often enough to keep them from downsizing their business…

  • v2lab

    i’ve had the same pocket wizard plus 2’s forever…. when i made the choice to buy them – i said i’ll spend the money once and not spend it again. turns out that is exactly the case – i bought once and they still work to this day. (~6 years later?)

  • Tom Johnson

    If it’s cheaper and works should be the mantra of all photographers. I can’t stand overpriced photographers either. Lower your overhead so I can get cheaper pictures.

  • brian

    I had some cheap chinese triggers and I just invested in 4 pwiii and love them

  • Alfonso Sanchez

    very good products but overpriced.

  • IAM_THE_KGB

    I have yet to have a client look at my triggers (they are PW) and say “thank god you’re a real professional”, boy am I glad I called you…
    Sad comment Tristan.

  • Rob Feiner

    You seem to think that gear costs are the main reason why photographers charge what they do. That’s like saying a Renior painting should be priced lower than it is because the paint, canvas and frame of the picture costs the same as other non-experienced painters paid at the time.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Let no company rest on their laurels.

  • hopy

    they should respond on cheeper producs

  • Jim Johnson

    This is the thing with all the Chinese “knock-offs” in every category of life. Take eyeglasses: Why can I buy a pair of Chinese glasses online for $7, but the cheapest pair of glasses I can buy in an optometrist (also Chinese made, btw) cost $300? That is a huge price difference that I can’t understand.

  • delayedflight

    It’s not just gear that makes up a photographer’s costs. Usually a photographer needs to feed his/her family on their income you try feeding your family on 500 dollar gigs better still experience gigs that get your name out there.

    You’re paying for someone’s experience and skills to capture and create a final product. No one is forcing you to pay an expensive photographer.

  • lol

    than*

  • Boris Nienke

    Again: These YN are really good (good enough for many of us). I had a pair myself that were able to sync up to 1/200 (but black bars at 1/250 – of course i was using a cam that had a sync-speed of 1/250 like a 350D or 500D)
    On my workshops i really often see Pairs of YN that can’t do the 1/200 so you have to use 1/160. I think some may be faster, some may be slower. It’s not guaranteed to have 1/200

    In a studio we don’t need to talk any further. Use one Pair and optical slaves on the other flashes and you are fine.
    I’m using them outside where optical won’t work reliable. If you don’t have walls around you, you need a radio on every flash.
    And don’t ask me why – but there are locations that are very hard for radios. Maybe because of other radios (military, police, private networks, hospitals, …) around you?! I had problems with “something” triggered the flashes so that they are not recharged when I liked to trigger them. I never hat this problem with PW (don’t know YN – it were other brands back then)

    And walls: Here in Germany you are lucky to have a Wifi go thru a flat – you no expect it going thru a whole House. Don’t know why. Maybe metal and concrete is blocking it to much.
    Now sometimes you have very fancy Flash-Setups where you try to flash thru windows, or you shoot from the street up the window with flashes inside the room. I havn’t tested it with 602/603 yet because i never had a problem with PW (but with other brands before)

    So as i said – everybody needs to think about what is needed. It’s easy to by a pair or two of YN to see if it works. If it does – it’s fine. If not, there’s only PW as far as i know.

  • Scott

    You are correct over all but if I could get 6-8 $500 gigs a month I’d be ecstatic! :D

  • Scott

    I kinda feel like there is some similarities in this to the explosion of cheap photographers with the availability of cheap DSLRs, digital making it easier to learn and the plethora of free online learning opportunities.

    They tried releasing the stripped down Plus X model but that’s just it. It’s stripped down. Why would people want that over something that has more features and is still less money?

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    If they didn’t cost so damn much, people would likely purchase more of them. In the world of product sales, price point is often key and many alternatives that are just as good or better may cost much, much less. Not to mention there is a much larger pool of “pro level” gear available from various outlets such as Paul C. Buff.

  • Peter “Pots”

    60 Minutes awhile back had an interesting segment on how glasses are marketed in this country…it really is a monopoly. Buying Chinese shows you how expensive it can be here. I bought some cables over there for about $3.00 and that included postage. The same thing here was over $20.00. plus tax, plus shipping…go figure

  • http://www.markhoustonphotography.com/ mthouston

    I love my pocket wizards ..I regularly work with large strobes and speed lights at the same time. my Flex TT and Multimax’s have never missed a beat.
    Are the Pocket Wizards expensive? sure they are, are Camera bodies expensive, yup, how about these high quality super fast lens everybody drools over, yup their expensive too.
    Photography is a expensive business.
    And you get what you pay….

  • ms

    I went with a set of Paul C. Buffs. Still USA made, much less expensive and the transmitter is tiny! Works every time.

  • http://www.jdbphoto.com J. David Buerk

    I sold all my PocketWizards last year when I changed my entire Speedlite setup to 600EX-RTs. For the several years I owned my PWs, I had at least one, if not several, PocketWizards fry on me every year. PocketWizard was always helpful and replaced the units for free, but when Canon came out with their own wireless system, I switched to their native system rather quickly, and finally eBayed my last PW last Fall during the Christmas rush.

    I now use twin ST-E3-RTs on my cameras to remote fire my 600EX-RTs and I have not had a single problem to date. It does everything the PW system did, and more, but more reliably.

    As others have said, if I add Paul C. Buff lighting to my kit, I will be using CyberSyncs; probably a CyberCommander. However, with my photography requirements and shooting style, Speedlites do 95% of everything I need (including being light and compact), so I don’t see this happening any time soon.

  • Canon Guy

    And they will keep losing more people if they don’t provide better and more competitive pricing.

  • anthony

    Excessively large and over priced. Hmmm not sure why they are not selling?

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    what is a “pocket wizard” ?? SERIOUSLY……NEVEr heard of it

  • Bill

    I bought three Yongnuo triggers, for less than one hundred bucks a few years ago. Their still working, granted they don’t have TTL, but I don’t really like that anyway, TTL to me is not right somehow, most of the time. Pocket Wizards are just too expensive, hey it’s a brave new world out there, competition is tight. Also on another note, bought a Yongnuo flash for eighty bucks, ten times cheaper than a Nikon SB 900, when the Nikon was new.
    Unlimited Wonderful
    Easily Grasp
    All in yongnuo

  • Bill

    Yeah you’re right, at least to my way of thinking, they are a good value for the hobbyists/enthusiast. I love my yongnuo triggers. Although they have a “plasticy” feel to the touch.

  • Bill

    It pains me to say this, but Chinese stuff, on the whole, isn’t junk anymore.

  • Bill

    But the yongnuos are ten times cheaper. I agree with the sentiment to buy American, and always have to the best of my ability to buy American. We Americans must compete, there is simply no justification to the high price of Pocket Wizard, we must find a way to beat the competition, or their going to eat our lunch!

  • LuckyCharm

    Delighted…Hope they go under and Sekonic signs a contract with @Phottix for a 2.4ghz module for their triggers/Meters. Overpriced considering others manufacture ultra reliable units for cheaper. Time to stop ripping people off. Phottix are a superb company with great products + excellent support. I’ve dealt with the European office and they have been amazing.

  • LuckyCharm

    Phottix are flawless

  • Geddy

    Indeed. Nobody outside our industry has one clue about brands like PW. They see the flash go off with no cord attached and go, “Cool”.

  • Geddy

    Me too. Plus, I got sick of the relentless stealth marketing PW and B&H engage in. Bought some Hähnel triggers that have worked brilliantly from day one.

  • Benny

    Hmm did sell all my pocket wizards. Replaced them with the canon600s. Never looked back

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.devereaux Ed Devereaux

    The first time I lost a trigger in the ocean I went to cheap, Photix and I am glad I did.

  • tobiasg1

    I was surprised that they didn’t mention this – surely a hit on sales from below(cheap stuff) and the high end (600RTs). We also use the 600RTs and love em!

  • Lorenzo Gasperini

    92 comments and I haven’t seen one that mentions the hard working people at LPA that lost their jobs. There are real people behind the popular little plastic box discussed below. Most of them worked for many years and very hard and after all these years my hat goes off to them – Thank you!

  • pw is overpriced marketin hype

    pocket wizards are too big and expensive for what they do. The size benefit of the $20 chinese ones is a huge plus, I have used pocketwizards and they feel big on the camera. oh plus the fact that at $20 they seem to work 100% perfectly fine, I use mine a lot.

  • ian kraus

    I know many pro’s who use $20 triggers lol

  • Paul A

    I stick with the Pocket Wizard Plus II (I have 3 of them) as they are very reliable – never miss a flash (unless batteries are out). But I was trying to convince my assistant to go buy a pair of either the Plus X or Plus III (latest models) but she won’t, as she says they are too flimsy for her heavy handedness! I must admit, I always considered the hot shoe attachments on the Plus II to be cheap and nasty build quality, but as they never miss a beat I have learned to live with this. When looking at some of the cheaper Chinese imports, I am seeing increasingly better quality in build standards over time – much better than my old Pocket Wizards (and immeasurably better than the new models), its just maybe that the internals and support is not quite there yet. As a professional photographer, you tend to expect quality for the bucks paid for what is considered to be professional grade equipment – I honestly don’t see the Pocket Wizards to be even close to the build quality I would consider in this regard. I would like to suggest that the CEO of Pocket Wizard talk to photographers more and maybe take a look at the hot shoe attachments of the Canon or Nikon Speedlight/Speedlite to see what a professional level of build standard looks like, and maybe if better build quality is implemented in a new Pocket Wizard design, their reputation will recover along with their business.

  • http://www.colinpeddle.com Colin Peddle

    Good ole Luxottica. Ripping us all off. I get my classes online and from China, saving me hundreds.

  • byoung328

    They are too expensive for what they offer. When using speedlights I don’t bother with TTL. The Plus X fits my needs but was too little too late. It also requires a cable, cost twice as much as my Phottix Strato II triggers, and doesn’t offer groups along with channels.

    For strobes I use AlienBees and the CyberSync system. The CyberSyncs are considerably cheaper, made by the same people who make the lights, don’t require require separate and expensive adapters, and aren’t made in a slave labor shop somewhere in Shenzen. The Pocket Wizard AC9 Adapter alone cost almost as much as the entire CyberSync receiver.

    PocketWizard makes a good product, but they are no longer the ‘king of triggers’. There are products on the market that are cheaper, equal quality, and in some cases still made in the US.

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    Keep buying knockoff Chinese triggers while whining about Craigslist photographers ‘roonin teh industry’, guys.

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    They are ‘ten times cheaper’ because Chinese companies blatantly reverse engineer copyrighted designs and then sell them to people who are too short sighted to see the bigger picture.

    It’s easy to price your goods lower when you have zero r&d costs.