FlavMogo blog: • My recent photography in articles • News about the world of photography and the equipment • Current news and events • My take on all of the above

June 28, 2011

More imports from China

The video is not 100% related to my point, but read on.

We came to live in an age where China is no longer the "cheap plastic toys you get when you don't want to cash out on the real thing". The thing is, it's infrastructure has grown so much and when you do so much manufacturing you are bound to get better at it, specially since there's 1.4 billion people working in china and per hour work will always cost very low, if it will grow to a higher price, people will turn to India, there too is an abundance of people without income.
Nowadays most of everything you buy is made in China, except for Ikea furniture, which probably won't end up there soon because they have a very streamlined production and shipping which really keeps costs down.

It's not all bad though, Nikon corporation is outsourcing many lenses to their factory in China, that doesn't mean they're of worse quality, it's just cheaper to train Chinese employees and have them make lenses than keep Japanese workers on under 1000 euro lenses. Researching opinions, i see no change in quality, the transition from China to Japan made products was seamless, no warnings, no panic, nothing to worry about. The differences are very small, according to camera hobby website there might be a small difference in image sharpness, but who peaks at a picture of a banknote?
A strings shop here in Dublin (called Crehans) is selling instruments of decent quality up to renowned luthiers crafted maestro instruments. For the price of 135 euros (aproximate) you can buy a violin made in China. Anyone's first instinct would be to say: that's ridiculous, i can walk into XMusic, Waltons or other music instruments and gear mega store and buy one for 70, 80 euro. As the old saying goes: God is in the details. The cheaper instruments are proper chinese fully working instruments... well, I say fully working, but i bruise my fingertips trying to fine-tune it, and the pegs always turn as if they are stuck. I'm not a violinist but i can still tell you the alignment on the strings feels way off, distance between string and fingerboard being variable. And beyond that, they sound bad, really bad, either blown-out and irritating, either in the case of wood that is too thick: muffled and even inaudible. The fingerboard and pegs and fine tuners can be changed, but that would cost you as much as a proper violin from Crehans, the respectable choice, and this would as well be a compromise, because the resonance box is not as well crafted as the better imports. The shop owner, who has been in business for decades, told me it is just not viable to buy from any location in Europe since production costs - labour specially, is way too high. So this is what happens: Wood is brought to China from Canada, strings are ordered from the U.S., ebony (the black core wood that fingerboard and pegs are made out of, cheaper instruments use different types of harder wood which bends, deforms from changes in atmospheric conditions) is brought in from Brazil; everything is assembled in a factory in China where workers have been trained more and better than other factories by a professional brought in, either from europe, or some other place, most probable by a company that has very big orders. The instruments arrive in Crehan's shop, they adjust peg holes, and other knick-knacks and then sell them for a considerably low price.
It's not a bad business model, sure, professional instruments are not made in China, but by very skilled luthiers around the world, specially Italy, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and most parts of Europe will have a luthier, but if you want to start out on the violin, you definitely will not afford a good instrument, and even for a child prodigy it wouldn't be wise to spend too much, considering he'll grow out of his size anyway in some cases changing size every 1.5-2 years.

Photo and music instruments... these are just 2 fields i am involved in, but i think there's a reason we get most of our stuff from china, it's just good to research before making any purchase.

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