For many years, manufacturers were quite distant from their consumers, choosing to sell through a series of distributors and dealers. While the last couple years have shown a little change, via developments like roadmaps, influencer connections, and some direct-to-consumer sales, it’s still tough to make your voice heard. A new announcement by Wedio and Cooke Optics shows that you might have a closer connection with the maker of your next lens.
About a year ago, I covered how Wedio was shaking up the rental and purchasing spaces with their new service. Their subscription model lets photographers and cinematographers choose gear from leading brands and subscribe for a few months, greatly reducing capital costs, while still having the flexibility to renew, return, or purchase outright.
Since then, they’ve continued to expand their product offerings and service areas. This most recent development, a collaboration with the renowned Cooke Optics, is part of that subscription service model. The partnership brings Cooke’s famous optics to a wider range of photographers, offering users access to five personalized Cooke lenses, while still carrying the same benefits of the Wedio subscription model, including global insurance, the ability to rent your lenses out, and a flexible return policy.
Now, unless you’re one of a lucky few, Cooke’s lens lineup has always been something that you’d rent, unless you’re comfortable spending a little over $42,000 on their set of “value-oriented” miniS4 lenses. What makes this new option unique, besides the added value in things like insurance, is the fact that your subscription payment actually applies towards the purchase of the gear, if you choose to do so. That’s nice to have on the lower cost subscriptions, but can be a huge difference on the more premium options, like the Sony FX9 and GFX 100. If you are interested in the Cooke Lenses Subscription, more information is available via Wedio.
Even with a subscription price, you might not be in the market for pro-level cinema lenses. What should stand out about this announcement, however, is a manufacturer drawing a much closer relationship with the end-user, thanks to the bespoke nature of this release. Other manufacturers have made small moves towards this idea in the past, like Nikon’s Yellow Program for the Z50 and even some aspects of Sony’s Kando events. In this case, however, the combination of Wedio’s subscription model and Cooke’s deep involvement could produce a more significant change.
Until now, manufacturer communication and outreach attempts have pushed information to the consumer: the lens roadmap tells you the rough specs of the lens and maybe when it’s supposed to come out, but things aren’t really up for debate. Could we see an eventual change to a pull model, where the users get more say in the development of new products? As the camera market continues to shift up in price point and down in volume, this strategy might trickle down from cinema lenses to the wider market.
Companies that have gone the Kickstarter route have created a number of really innovative products, and more agile manufacturers that have iteratively improved their product lines have quickly caught up to their slower, older competitors. I’m not expecting Sony, Canon, or Nikon to duplicate these efforts, but instead to be a bit more responsive to the desires of the community.
As software is much easier to turn around compared to a physical product and still offers a number of opportunities for innovation, it might be a good starting point. Bringing desired features to already-released cameras, like how Fujifilm was with their Kaizen updates, could even be considered the first example of this approach in recent years.
Overall, I thought this fusion of new business models was particularly interesting given the pedigree of Cooke Optics. It’s not often that a manufacturer with a history going back to 1894 is the one that’s shaking things up. In this case, however, I’m excited to see where things go.