Brian McKinnon (below right), product manager with professional equipment distributor PROtog, explains that there are two distinct kinds of products coming out of China:
PROtog imports the Chinese lighting brand Yongnuo as a service for some of our retail partners, but we are not the sole importer, rather one of a few ‘Retailer-Wholesalers’ that can access this brand.
Yongnuo, like many Chinese companies, sell to many and do not have a traditional distribution policy. Their products will be seen on eBay Hong Kong under their own account and on Amazon store in the US. Hence pricing in the market is always under pressure and ‘proper distribution’ is near impossible. Customers are at some risk with regard warranty with this distribution model. The products themselves are famously robust and highly regarded as an alternative to the Japanese OEM products.
Many professionals moved to Chinese copy speedlight flash product up to five years ago, and with my knowledge of import I would say that 50 percent of the market is already a Chinese-branded purchase from the many sources of supply. Alternatively, we import Voking, a similar product to Yongnuo, but with distribution partners allowing proper sales and after-sales backup through retailers here in Australia. The reliability and quality is exceptional as many already know. These two brands are what I would class as ‘Copy’ products, where their main items are based around the common Nikon and Canon speedlights that we all know so well.
The second story out of China is the mature domestic brands. These manufacturers are original designers and manufacturers under their own brand names. Their products are mostly original and have been registered as such. An example is Lishuai Edgelights. These are LED continuous lights that bounce their output internally from edge mounted LEDs that are industry leading in regard colour output. They are also completely designed and manufactured by Lishuai and they are winning the hearts of many, away from traditional Euro/US lighting brands.
So how good is a Chinese designed and manufactured light, that is unique in its design and is not a copy of any western brand? Already these panels have a cult following in Australia, from the red carpet at the Brownlow medal, local freelance video production to newborn, portrait and fashion photographers. They offer bounced soft continuous light – all the advantages of a soft box in a 1.2cm thick, battery portable series of lights from round to large strip panels. How does the industry vote? These Chinese panels are already being sold by many of the major retailers here in Australia. On a recent training day with one major retailer they quoted this light to be the industry best after six months of sales and seeing the performance and reliability. This product is one of many from emerging manufacturers that are unique. Not copies, but original Chinese-developed products of the best quality, reliability and longevity.
Other examples are brands like Jinbei and Ledgo – long-standing companies that have been supplying their Chinese domestic market for up to 25 years. Domestically they are held in very high regard with 70 percent market share. Jinbei has a compelling offer for battery-powered portable studio lights. They will be the first studio flash manufacturer to move all of their new models to LED for modelling lights, leading the world in offering environmentally sustainable performance by moving away from high wattage halogen type globes. This is another example of a a different Chinese manufacturer to the stereotype we imagine. Another example is Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, another market leader in their field, which recently purchased a 10 percent stake in Hasselblad.
Samyang, and Laowa are good examples of Asian brands and manufacturers which are offering products that are optically innovative and new, and with a winning performance level.
Look for a Chinese brand with proper distribution and aftermarket warranty support in the local market. Stocking a Chinese-branded product may be one of the better moves you make for your photographic retailing business.
Finally, as we know most things – from iPhones to Mercedes – are made in China and for years the Chinese saw their products OEM’ed and sold as Western brands. Now we are seeing more products Made and Branded in China, and we are all benefiting from this with extra choice at every quality level in the market, more often than not with a considerable price advantage. All this adds up to photography being more accessible than ever before, with little or no compromise.
– Brian McKinnon,