Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ferndale’s Main Street, Christmas Night 2013

Ferndale’s town Christmas tree is the tallest living Christmas tree in the United States. When last measured, it was 162 feet tall, and every year, the Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department decorates it with 19,000 watts of Christmas cheer. For the last 12 years, as a member of the fire department, I have helped with the task of putting the lights up the first Sunday in December. I also like to get one photograph of them each year while they are lit. Some years weather and scheduling make it impossible, but this year looked like it was just going to be cold, not wet. Cold I can deal with. I missed out on a couple of really nice sunsets that I just caught the tail end of from home. I would have loved to get the tree photographed with one of them. Then one night that looked like a good possibility, I got called out for a river bar fire that ended up being aa 30 minute drive on the river bar just to get there. By the time we had dumped our tankful of water, got back to the hall, and cleaned up, it was already dark. I finally decided to try Christmas night. I figured stores and restaurants would be closed, people would be at home, and Main Street would be clear of cars, so you could actually see the little Christmas trees on Main Street too. My assumption proved correct. Other than occasional traffic in and out of J&W Liquors, Main Street was clear. Traffic was so light I was able to get this picture standing in the middle of the road. This photo, and other Ferndale Christmas photos can be viewed and purchased in the gallery. 20131225-Main-Street-39-40

Morgan – A Victorian Boudoir

Picture of the Month – May 2012

My supply of models to work with on personal projects seemed to have dried up lately, as my favorite models either moved away, or were busy being moms. So I was happy when I saw an ad in Craigslist for a local woman interested in modeling. I hadn’t met with Morgan before our shoot, so I had planned to do some demure shots featuring some of Lori’s Victorian clothing so I could add those items to her vintage clothing website. Morgan arrived a bit early, and already she had impressed me. We made small talk for a bit while I waited for Lori to arrive, and we quickly realized that we were on the same wavelength on how we felt the world should be run. I was liking her even more. I explained that the set I was using was something I wanted to use someday to recreate a Victorian style nude portrait, and she told me she’d be up for that. So, change of plans, and this is one of the results. I had fun with a lot of the photos, changing them in Photoshop. This one has had a lot of work done to it, mostly desaturating it and adding a couple of texture layers. While not truly representative of what a Victorian photograph would look like, I think it has a good vintage feel to it. You can view and purchase photos from this set in my Naughty Victorians gallery. Victorian Lady in a boudoir pose

Converting color images to black and white in Photoshop

In a recent forum discussion, the question was asked what’s the best way to convert color images to black and white using Photoshop. As with almost any task in Photoshop, there are a number of ways to accomplish it and while some are personal preference, some methods do offer advantages to creating better images. First, I’m going to define the “best” way as the method that allows you to fine tune the image the most. While some of the methods are easier and quicker than others, they provide little control over the final image. There are 5 methods that I’m going to review and I’m going to present them in the order of least desirable to most desirable. They are: 1. Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer 2. Image>Mode>Grayscale 3. Gradient Map Adjustment Layer 4. Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer 5. Black & White Adjustment Layer There are two other methods that I’m not going to cover. First is making the conversion to the Raw file before it gets into Photoshop. Converting the raw file can produce better results in some cases, but the Black & White Adjustment in Adobe’s Camera Raw works similarly to the one in Photoshop. The second alternative is using a plugin which might give you even more options. But since I am happy with the amount of control that the Black and White Adjustment Layer provides, I haven’t explored purchasing a conversion plugin. To help demonstrate the results of each of the 5 methods, I first created a sample file made up of 7 gradients. The first three gradients go from black to one of the primary transmissive colors (red, green, blue) and then to white. The next three gradients go from black to one of the primary reflective colors (yellow, cyan, magenta) and then to white. The last gradient goes from black to white using shades of gray. Then I used the different conversion methods to see what effect they had.

Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

As you can see, reducing the saturation treats every color the same. You’re simply getting rid of the color. There are no options for this method. The black and white gradient is a bit different, and that might be due to the way I created it.

Image>Mode>Grayscale

I was actually surprised by the result of this method because I expected it to be identical to reducing the saturation to zero. Especially when you see the warning message that Photoshop throws up. It sounds like it’s going to do the same thing that the saturation adjustment would do. But this method uses some algorithm that treats colors differently. This is just a setting that some Adobe engineer decided looked good for most images. It might look good for your image, then again it might not. But like the saturation method, you have no control over the result.

Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

Using a Gradient Map to convert to black and white is a method that I wasn’t familiar with until reading about it in the forum discussion mentioned earlier. So I looked it up on the web and found an article on how to do it but the author wasn’t sure exactly what it was doing. I don’t know either. It does provide a different result than the prior two methods. It also offers one level of control. You can change the softness value in the gradient to get slightly different results. Here are two conversions. The first one was converted with a softness value of 100% and the second was a softness value of 33% which the article recommended.

Softness set at 100%

Softness set to 33%

The effect of using a gradient map is pretty close to that of the grayscale method, except that it seems to darken the blue channel more. The effect of changing the softness level is subtle at best. So even though the method has some control, it’s not related to anything that you’re trying to accomplish in the image. Which gets me to the next method.

Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer

33% Red, 33% Green, 33% Blue

Photographers who have actually shot black and white film know that the best tools to improve the photo are contrast filters, a set of colored filters. By restricting the colors that hit the film, the photographer can change the contrast of the image. Since a black and white image can only convey information from contrast, this is very important. The channel mixer method allows you to use some of the control that contrast filters do for film. The advantage that digital has over film though is that the decision of which filter to use can be made later. You can even use one “filter” on the sky, and another “filter” on the foliage, something totally impossible in the film world. For example if you want to lighten the leaves on the trees so they stand out better, you would increase the green channel. The example above shows all three channels being set to 33%. This gives a result identical to the saturation method. But the wonderful thing is each of the three channels can be tuned from -100% to +100%. When I was using Photoshop CS and before, I used the channel mixing method and as a starting point for most images I used settings of Red 60%, Green 40%, and Blue 0%. This difference is illustrated in the image below. I’m not saying those are the best values to use. But for the camera that I was using at the time, and the type of images that I take, that seemed to be a good starting point.

Black & White Adjustment Layer

When I upgraded to Photoshop CS3, I found there was a new conversion method available under Adjustment Layers called Black and White. Similar to the Channel Mixer, it allows you control the mix of colors, but instead of just the transmissive primaries available in Channel Mixer, it also has sliders for the three reflective primaries. I now use this method for my black and white conversions. Most of the time I make adjustments to the red and yellow channels. But once in awhile one of the other channels becomes really useful. For example if you’re trying to make a purple shirt show up better, sliding the magenta higher can help. The six controls allow you to target individual colors better. This image shows the output of the sample file with the settings at each slider set at 50%. This gives you the same output as the reduce saturation method. Here is the difference when you change the magenta to -200% and the cyan to +300%. Finally, here is the output using the default values of Red 40, Yellow 60, Green 40, Cyan 60, Blue 20, Magenta 80.

Conclusion

While all of the methods will get you black and white image, if you want to control how the final image looks, the Black and White Adjustment Layer provides the most control, and I think it is also the most intuitive. Remember also, that in addition to the color conversion, your black and white image may need further changes to the contrast, either globally or locally. Global changes can be made with a Contrast Adjustment Layer. I usually darken the shadows and sometimes I lighten the highlights as well. Local changes can be done through dodging and burning. Like color conversion, there are numerous ways you can dodge and burn in Photoshop. That’s an entirely different subject to explore. Here is a summary then of the different methods. 1. Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer – Just throws the color info out. No user input. Every color adjusted equally. 2. Image>Mode>Grayscale – Color info removed, but Photoshop applies it’s own algorithm of what it thinks is best. No user input. 3. Gradient Map Adjustment Layer – It does something similar to Method #2, but not sure what it does. Minimal non intuitive control 4. Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer – 3 channels x 200 levels = 8,000,000 options and intuitive control interface 5. Black & White Adjustment Layer 6 channels x 500 levels = 15,625,000,0000,0000,000 options and intuitive control interface If you’ve used method 5 and have also set the global and local contrast of your image, but you’re still not happy with your black and white image, then maybe it’s an image that just isn’t going to work as a black and white. Maybe it needed different lighting and/or composition to begin with to make it an effective subject in black and white.

Spammed if I do, Spammed if I don’t

Dealing with spam has become one of the least enjoyable aspects of being a web designer. Currently about 90% of the emails I receive are spam. Because many of the web sites I design have an email address that eventually finds its way to me I often get multiple copies of the same spam. Not only is the amount of spam that I receive a waste of my time and resources, but I also have to deal with unhappy clients who receive spam, or worse, those that can’t get their mail sent or received because someone else is blocking their good messages as if they were spam.

Intercepting Spam

There are three places that spam can get intercepted, and how well the first two work affects how much you’ll need to rely on the last defense, which is your computer.

The Sender’s ISP

The first line of defense is the spammer’s ISP. Spammers used to get caught because they would connect to their own ISP and start sending out thousands of emails. That was pretty easy to track and shut down. So spammers got smarter by trying several different approaches.
  • They search for mail servers on other ISPs that are open and send the mail through someone else’s server. Fortunately, most ISPs are smart enough to not allow relaying so this is becoming less common.
  • They search for web pages that use insecure forms processing and attack those to send spam. Older versions of the Perl script, FormMail were notorious for being hacked this way.
  • They craft trojan programs that make their way onto your Windows PC that allow them to take over some of the processing power to send their spam from your computer to your ISP. This is the most common way that spammers are currently sending spam. If you use Windows you need to make sure that you have taken steps to prevent viruses and trojan horses from infecting your computer. 
Still it would be best if ISPs could detect the spam as it’s being sent and just prevent it from going through the system clogging up everyone’s bandwidth. 

The Receiver’s ISP

The next step in the mail delivery process is the receiver’s ISP. ISPs try to determine if mail is spam on a continually evolving set of characteristics. There are also options on what they do with the mail they suspect is spam. They can refuse to accept it, they can accept it but archive it in a spam folder, they can mark it as suspected spam so that your PC can take over, or do nothing. The problem for ISPs is that while they might catch a lot of spam and prevent it from reaching your mailbox, they can also catch good mail and prevent you from ever receiving it. That’s why these days it’s always best to follow up on emails that don’t seem to be answered. It’s entirely possible that your email never made it to the recipient. For this reason I prefer the ISP to take a conservative approach to combating spam on the receiving end. I’d rather have ISPs prevent it from getting in the system, but once it’s there then unless they’re 100% sure it’s spam, they should let it through.

Your Mail Program

Whether you have a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer, your mail program has some built in tools to help solve your spam problem. Computer users need to learn how their email program works for setting up filters and take some responsibility for taking care of the spam that does get through. There are also add in programs that work with some email programs to make the filters work more effectively. For the Mac I can recommend SpamSieve. For Windows users, I would recommend that you switch to a Mac. I set up filters that look at the subject line, the from line, the content, and other criteria. Then depending on the confidence that I have in the filter only trapping spam, I do one of three things. If I absolutely know it is spam (for example, it’s coming from an address that has sent me spam before) then the filter deletes the message immediately. The next level down I move the message to the trash folder and mark it as read. That way if I find a good message goes missing I can still search the trash folder and recover it. The rest of the suspected messages go into a spam folder. I scan the contents of this folder at the beginning and end of each day. If I find any good messages in there they are moved to my inbox. Then I select the rest and delete them.

Further Spam Suggestions

If the spam is coming from anyone other than a legitimate business (and you can identify that it really came from them) DO NOT reply to the email asking them or telling them to stop sending you spam. You won’t get your name removed and you’re simply confirming that their spam reached you and was read. You will end up getting even more spam. Also it is highly likely that the FROM address was forged. So replying back to that address will just make an innocent victim suffer even more. Add a filter to delete emails with your email address in the FROM address. Unless you’re in the habit of sending yourself emails. Spammers commonly forge the FROM address making it the same as the TO address. If you have one or more email addresses that forward to another email address, be sure when tracing a spam problem what address is initially being attacked. You can view the full headers in your email program to see what address the message initially went to. To figure out how to do this, use your email program’s help menu, or Google “display (your email program here) full headers”. Personally I wish the whole email system would adopt something similar to the phone system caller ID. Then you’d have the option to send email either anonymously or with your proven ID attached. It would also mean that you could choose to receive or block anonymous emails. But until something like that gets implemented, spam will be with us, and you need to learn how to control it on your own computer. Links for further reading: http://public.swbell.net/faq/spam.html http://www.digital.net/~gandalf/spamfaq.html http://www.mall-net.com/spamfaq.html  

PHP include path

I’ve been doing a lot more PHP programming lately, especially integrating Word Press blogs (like this one). It’s been important to me that the blog part of the web site matches the look and feel of the rest of the site. This means making sure that the style sheet for the main site lives peacefully with the style sheet for the blog. It also means that there are sections of the pages such as the menus that I want to keep in separate files and include them where needed. This makes it much easier to make global changes. The way that PHP uses the path for includes is confusing, and rather than try to explain the rules, I’m going to show you what worked for me. I’m not enough of a programming geek to always want to know why, sometimes I just want it to work so I can get on with the project at hand. Here’s a simplied directory structure of a typical site: / /index.php /about-us.php /blog/ /blog/myblog.php /includes/ /includes/menu.php Suppose we want to include menu.php in both /about-us.php and /blog/myblog.php. For /about-us.php it is easy: include ("includes/menu.php"); But /myblog.php is a bit harder, since you can’t just use ../includes/menu.php like you would think. But this will work: include($_SERVER["DOCUMENT_ROOT"]."/includes/menu.php");  

Prestige Camera Review

Update 8/3/2011 – It appears that the prestigecamera.com and the digitalsaver.com web sites are gone. The warnings are still valid though as the company has a history of  operating under different names. Living in a small rural community, I rely on the Internet to make a lot of my speciallized purchases, things I can’t find locally. Most of the time making my purchases off of the Internet saves me time, fuel, and money. However, this is a tale of how some unscrupulous people are using the Internet to rip off people over and over. Pentax Optio W10I had heard about the Pentax Optio WPi camera about a year ago and I thought it would make a great snapshot camera to always carry around. Since it is waterproof, it would be great to use for my work with the Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department, and in our very wet Ferndale climate. I finally decided to purchase one in March of 2006, so I went back to the Pentax web site to research it again and saw that they had just announced a successor model, the Optio W10. I happened to be in the Bay Area a week later, so I stopped by my favorite camera store, Keeble and Schuchat to check it out. They didn’t have them yet, but I did check out the WPi and liked it. The W10 has better movie capabilities, and a bigger LCD screen though so I really wanted that model. Back at home, I did a Google search to see where I could purchase the new model. At the top of the list was a sponsored link for DigitalSaver.com. Prestige Camera was listed as the low price leader, and they had a 5 star rating. Trusting that 5 star rating is where I got into trouble. I don’t know how DigitalSaver.compiles their ratings, but checking their web site later, I couldn’t find any way to see actual reviews or individual ratings of the listed vendors, or any way to enter my own rating. Had I checked other sites, I would have found that there are plenty of other web sites that document complaints similar to mine against Prestige Camera. Had I checked those sites first, I would have taken my business elsewhere. I plan to follow up with DigitalSaver.com to find out where their ranking information comes from. But at this point I would take their rating info with a grain of salt. (Going back to the DigitalSaver.com site after writing this article, I noticed that all five stores listed, Preferrred Photo, Prestige Camera, Broadway Photo, A&M Photoworld, and Digital Liquidators, are all really the same company. An easy assumption then is that DigitalSaver.com is hardly independent and is just a stooge company (read their contact page for a laugh). The digitalsaver.com domain is registered anonymously, but you can find this address on their privacy page. If you think this is at all deceptive, you can file a complaint with Google and/or the FTC.) I placed my order for the W10 with Prestige Camera on March 21. I later received a message saying I needed to call them to confirm the shipping address. I thought this was weird because even though my credit card bills to a PO box, my street address is registered with my credit card company as an alternate shipping address. I called back and the person I needed to talk with wasn’t there, so I left a message. They called back the next day, and it became clear that the real reason they wanted to talk to me was to upsell. The salesman asked if I wanted an extra battery and I said no. Actually, I figured I would eventually need an extra battery but I wanted to get the camera first and see how long it lasted on one. He went on to explain that they had a special on extra batteries at 50% off if I purchased it with the camera. He also said that it would last twice as long as the standard battery included with the camera. He quoted a price of $40 for the extra battery, so I specifically asked if it was a Pentax branded battery, as I had heard about complaints against cheap third party batteries. He answered, yes, it is a Pentax battery. So at that point figuring I was going to buy one later anyways, I might as well get it now and save some money. (From reading other complaints on the web, probably if I had refused to purchase the battery, they probably would have cancelled my order or just refused to ship it. Selling cheap batteries at outrageous prices is how they can afford to sell their cameras so cheaply.) Prestige Camera Rip-offOn March 30, I received the package from Prestige Camera. Checking the contents I find the extra battery, and my first concern is that it’s not a Pentax battery. What brand it is I couldn’t tell you, because apparently the manufacturer isn’t too proud of who they are or they want to remain anonymous. If this battery were any more generic, it would be white with a black stripe on it. Checking it further I see that it is rated at 650mAh. mAh stands for milli-Amp hours, and it is a measure of how much energy the battery can store. I look at the Pentax battery that comes with the camera and it is rated for 710mAh. Now without even getting out my calculator, I could figure out that 650 is not twice 710. Starting to feel like I got ripped off, I look up the Pentax battery and find that they are available for about $45. But no name third party D-LI8 batteries could be found for as little as $13. Comparing my invoice to the order confirmation, I see that I was charged $49.99 for the battery, plus an additional $5 dollars to ship it. Now I know I’ve been ripped off. I called Prestige Camera on March 31, and talked to a customer service rep. I explained what I ordered, that I was told I would be receiving a Pentax battery that was twice the capacity of the standard included battery, and that I wasn’t very happy I received a battery that had even less capacity than the standard one. He responded with a B.S. story of how the original camera that I ordered was an import model and that the battery that ships with them is a lower capacity battery than the American version. Now I doubt that Pentax puts different batteries in the camera depending on what country they are eventually shipped to, but I have no way of proving that.

Update: 5/25/06 – While resolving this issue with my credit card company, I decided to give Pentax a call and ask them about the batteries shipped with W10s. Chris, in their customer service department told me that all W10s are shipped with D-LI8 batteries rated at 710mAh.

I did tell him that the salesman confirmed that the extra battery was indeed a Pentax battery, and the C.S. rep had no response, other than he would take everything back and replace it with the imported model that I originally ordered. I mentioned that on the page where I placed the order, there was no mention of the camera being imported or gray market. I told him that if I place an order in America, from a reputable dealer, I expect to get a camera made for the American market and with a valid American warranty. The key word there, I guess is reputable, which obviously at this point I figured out Prestige Camera did not fit into that definition. The C.S. rep was very rude during the whole conversation and it left me wondering how people like him sleep at night. Their invoice states that they will take returns for a 5% restocking charge, but I’d have to return the whole package, not just the battery. So 5% of $290.99 is $14.55, plus I would have been out the $19.99 shipping charge, plus another $7.59 to ship it back. A total loss of $42.13 to get credited for a $49.99 battery. That didn’t seem like a good way to go. So instead I figured I’d take it up with my credit card company, and try to warn others to stay away from Prestige Camera. If I thought this was an isolated incident I would have accepted my losses and considered it a lesson learned. But from what I’ve seen on the following sites, this is just their standard M.O. and people need to be warned to stay away from Prestige Camera. Next time I make an expensive Internet purchase from an unknown company, you can bet I won’t be trusting any 5 star ratings. What I will do is Google their company name and see what real people have to say about dealing with them. Does this look like a real camera store? How about this view? Here are some sites where you can find similar complaints against Prestige Camera. My favorite is Reseller Ratings, who had to stop accepting ratings for Prestige Camera, because they were able to identify fake positive postings being entered repeatedly. So it makes you wonder how much worse all of these ratings would be if Prestige Camera wasn’t trying to taint them in their favor. (It just amazes me the trouble this company goes to just to continue deceiving people. Creating shell companies, writing fake reviews… Why not run an honest business and have satisfied customers?)

Prestige Camera also does business under these names:

  • A&M Photo World
  • Broadway Photo
  • Cameratopia
  • Digital Liquidators LLC
  • Ghu, LLC
  • Preferred Photo
  • Regal Camera
  • Tronicity

Further Testimonials

After I put this page up I was surprised at the number of emails and phone calls I’ve received from people thanking me for this info. Unfortunately, too many of them were like me, doing the research after they got burned. But it is rewarding to me to know that I’ve saved a lot of people from making the same mistake of doing business with Prestige Camera, and that I have cost them far more in lost sales than a simple return would have cost them. Here’s just a few of the comments I’ve received in emails:

Just to let you know, you’re NOT ALONE! Prestige is horribly crooked – I don’t know how they do any business. I ordered a Nikon D70s, Sigma lens and ended up with a 5 year warranty on the lens I DID NOT ORDER!! Same deal, phone call added it to the order – rude clerk said I wanted it, etc. I tried to protest the bill via my credit card and somehow Prestige won out because I never received any paperwork of anything fraudulent. They’re very slick! Will never order again! I LOVE the camera and lens though. (I bravely ordered a Sigma lens 18-200 and am very pleased).

I enjoyed seeing your article. Wish we could put folks like this out of business! Meanwhile, I’m sure they continue to scam folks like we were.

Bev – 10/7/2006

I just wanted to say I had the same rip off from prestige camera – plus the treatment from them was appalling.

Lani – 10/12/2006

I saw your posting on Prestige Camera. I wish I saw that before I had order from them. This is what happen with my order.I purchased a camera on www.prestigecamera.com on Oct 11. I got a call from their customer service confirming the order.

The CSR I talk to is Bernard. He offer me to upgrade to a package with an extra battery. I told him I will call him back in 5 minutes and let him know. I call him back and told him I just wanted to stay with the camera that I order online. He said okay. When I receive the package on Oct 18 I got the camera and the extra battery. Charge me $353.99 total. But I only agree on getting the camera for $288.99. I called Prestige Camera on Oct 19 let them know I order the camera only and the CSR denied and said “I don’t believe that mama.” He also said if I want just the camera, I would have to return the whole package, paid for 5% restocking, and shipping. Then if I want just the camera I have to repurchase just the camera. I told him I am not paying for the 5% restocking or shipping for something they make a mistake on. He denied everything. Therefore, I told him unless he agrees on paying me back the full amount and return shipping or I will keep the items and disputed it with my credit card company. I had filed a complain with BBB and Consumer Affairs.

Katherine – 10/19/2006

I wish I had seen your review on Prestige camera. We found them off of Shopcartusa.com, and it stated that the Canon XTi body only came with a USA warranty. Thinking that it was then a USA model, we ordered it, and found that it was actually a Kiss X model from Japan. When I called and asked about the “USA Warranty” they said it was a USA warranty offered by THEM, (not Canon). They gave me an RMA #, minus the $30 restocking fee, of course. I shipped it back to them today.

What was your luck with your credit card company? I might consider taking it up with them to fight for my $30, but not sure if it’s worth the trouble. All the reviews from shopcartusa.com were positive about the company. Even the most negative reviews were decent. I wonder if it’s a scam website too that deletes negative reviews like the other website you mentioned?

Peter – 10/27/06

Unfortunately, I didn’t find your site until after I had placed my order. I have not yet received the shipment … Because of your info, I will certainly SCRUTINIZE the shipment when (if, ???? that’s scary) it arrives. And certainly know enough to complain bitterly if they do unto ME as they have done unto YOU !!!!

Even if you didn’t save me from dealing with the &*^%$%^* s you did alert me to be careful about accepting the order … and pointed me in the direction of possible sources of support.

You did good work and I thank you for it. I wait — with trepidation — hoping that I might possibly be more lucky… Thanx!

Mary – 11/18/2006

I am having a similar experience with Prestige. I changed my mind on purchasing a warranty and I have dealt with horrible customer service people. One person even told me that I was the worst customer he’d ever dealt with and that he was going to have my name red-flagged so that Prestige will never do business with me again. That’s fine with me, since I will never do business with them. No one should be treated that way by customer service. They are giving me the same bull story that since it is a package I can’t return it and I have to pay a restocking fee, etc.

Cheryl – 12/4/2006

Thank you for your article on Prestige. Unfortunately, my husband was also scammed by them. Our story is similar, but our brand new camera didn’t work just after a few weeks/months. We sent it back for repair (Still not knowing how badly we were scammed-yet) and they kept the camera for so long they ran out our warranty. It still doesn’t work. We believe it was a lemon to begin withand they were doing a re-sale on a so called “new camera”…. Then we started looking around at the internet….and we found your article amongst others…

Lesson learned…. but I think we (everyone who was also scammed) should fight them together!!

We have filed with the BBB and are interested in Class Action. If you are interested, I am going to seek out an attorney who may want to take this on. I will file with the FTC this week.

I will let you know if I discover anything. I would be surprised if there isn’t already a class action filed!!

Thanks again for your words and putting the info out there for others. Hopefully, we can stop these criminals from victimizing others.

Kelly – 1/10/2007

Thank you for putting your story on the web. Unfortunately I didn’t see it until after I ordered over $1,000 worth of equipment. To make a long story short I got ripped off. I, too got the email instructing me to call, blah, blah, blah. I, too got the old “bait and switch” routine and the whole experience has left me angry and disappointed. The salesman flat out lied to me about the package contents. He tried the battery song and dance with me also. The scary part of it is that I was purchasing this camera for a friend of mine, I know my Nikons and they almost got me for $299.00. Had I not known what I was talking about they would have easily taken me. I just bought a Nikon D200 in Sept. I knew it came packaged with the external charger and battery. The salesman at Prestige Camera told me that it came with a small battery that had to be charged internally and the “longer lasting” battery with the external charger would be an additional $299. I argued with him and eventually told him to cancel my order. He finally “gave in” and agreed to send me what I wanted. The package arrived today. The camera was exactly what I wanted but guess what, they sent the wrong lens. The lens was supposed to be an 18-135mm, they sent an 18 – 55mm. When I called they refused to send me the correct lens they told me to pack it up and send it all back. I told him that they are going to refund the $47 shipping (which is another outrageous rip off) and he agreed (twice). I’m sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they won’t refund it. I am furious. I will definitely be contacting the better business bureau and I will tell everyone I know or ever run into not to ever try to purchase something from them. I don’t know how they stay in business. What a bunch of con artists. I’m sure they rip off unknowing people for thousands of dollars on a daily basis. It’s sickening. Thanks for letting me vent and thanks for trying to warn me even though I saw it too late. I too, took the 5 star rating seriously.

Karla – 2/8/2007

Boy did you hit the nail on the head! These guys are tolally Slime!!!

I ordered a $374 Hitachi video cam on line and got an email that I had to call to “confirm the order”. I called and got the battery story “the battery shipped is only a 30 minute battery” and if I wanted a heavier duty it would cost me $149.

Total BS of course. Who ships a video cam with a 30 min Battery?

I said I’d take my chances with the OEM battery and buy an after market battery of my choice if I felt it was needed. He (Jordan) said “you need an extended service plan. I said noooot for me. He said then that the camera I ordered was a “foreign” version. I asked what that meant and that it stated nowhere on the web page that I was ordering anything other than an American version. He said it meant all the menus etc. were in a “foreign language”. I said ” which foreign language, I speak 10 of them?

He said I could have the “American” version for $449 and would not find it cheaper anywhere.

I said “if you were to sell it to me now at $100 less than the original price I would not buy it from you! Cancel the order!

He did (I think).

I was lucky.

Tom – 3/6/2007

My story was pretty much the same as yours except I bought an Olympus Stylus 740. Same line, except they told me that the battery that came with it would only last about 20 min. I STARTED to buy the extra battery and they started on memory cards. Then I told them that I would shop around on the net. At that point he said, “why don’t you just buy the Japanese camera, it comes with the larger battery for only $25 more” he proceeded to tell me that I had purchased a japanese camera and all the online information would be in Japanese, but for $25 more I could get the American version with the larger battery. I agreed, when I should have just cancelled the order. Basically they just raised the price on me after the sale. After hearing your story I think I will file a complaint with the credit card company and not pay the bill. It would interesting to see them fight for it.

Dave – 3/16/2007

I was looking for the lowest price on a Panasonic DVD D-300 camcorder and this outfit turned up on Google. I was lucky enough to find your listing there because no physical address was given – one of the caveats I have always operated under. I never trusted the easily manipulated star ratings and always check further. I have – thanks to your “forum” – not suffered the experience of others because I trusted your warning and the horror stories you cited.

Allow me to add that Buydig.com in New Jersey has been my best experience with several purchases and they get 4-1/2 stars consistently. One rule of thumb – maybe not fair for reliable dealers in Brooklyn – is the address in what some call “Crooklyn”. Generally, dealers who give their physical locations and phone numbers can be assumed to be more “legit” than those who hide their whereabouts.

Gunther – 4/4/2007

I want to write and thank you for posting this. Even though I did get jerked over, I am glad to know I am not alone. And that maybe others will be warned.

I purchased a Sanyo Xacti HD2 from them for $569. I took the ShopcartUsa.com rating as gospel – over 1000 ratings and all 5 stars!

When I called, I placed the order. He asked if I needed anything else. I told him a battery and a memory card. I was thinking – what a great price! – and we discussed the particulars.

He then told me he was sending a 2GB SD Delkin memory card for $119.00. I asked him about other 2 GB cards that sold for less. He told me they were generic cards – this one is designed to work for the camcorder I purchased. I also ordered a battery. Thank goodness I ordered the cheaper of the two. I ordered it and asked to be sent overnight.

I did a bunch of research on memory cards overnight. I found the Delkin 2GB Xtra SD for about $110 – $125. I figured it was an okay deal.

I got the package in the mail the next day. I had a Transcend 2GB SD card that you can buy at Amazon for $15.

I called them and they said the Transcend cards were better. That I got an “error free” card that sold for about $150. I asked if I called Transcend that they would verify this. He wouldn’t comment. I called Transcend and gave them the serial number for the item. He told me it retails for $17-$20.

I called back. Angry. I asked for the supervisor – who – cut me off in mid-sentence and kept me on hold for 10 minutes. I then got switched to 4 other customer service reps who kept me on the line for another 20 minutes. I think they thought I’d give up. In the mean time, I researched the battery they sent me. They charged me $55 for a battery I can buy at Amazon for $22.

I finally got the supervisor – Leon – he said his name was. Him and I went back and forth for another 30 minutes. He eventually admitted that they mark up their products/accessories to make money. I got $40 off my order and another SD card that retails for $25.

He was right about one thing. I was rooked and there was no getting out of it. I already spent $48 in overnight shipping. I would HAVE TO return the WHOLE thing – not simply the card and the battery. I would be subject to a 5% restocking fee plus the shipping and handling. That would come to about another $60. ONCE I PLACED MY ORDER I WAS DONE. There was nothing I could do about it.

I am happy with the camcorder – so far. I am also going to file something with the Better Business Bureau. In fact, I asked him about it. He hemmed and hawed as if he didn’t know who regulated their company.

In any event, thank you so much for putting this up on your web page. I feel not so bad because I know I am not alone. I have a cause! If there is a class action suit, please let me know.

Nichole – 4/6/2007

I just wanted to let you know that I had the exact same experience with these jokers. I ended up canceling my order because I refused to buy their up-sell crap. Finally, they start talking down to me, telling me I was wrong, how could I use a camera for only 20-30 minutes, etc. I have never been treated so bad by customer service!

I threw a review on yelp and I am trying to spread the word.

I wish I stumbled across your site earlier.

Scott – 4/7/2007

Wow I don’t want to sound like a broken record but thanks for putting up this page.Same story just a differant person. I needed to call in to “verify” my address. Then the high pressure sales. I was even told that the camera I bought didn’t have a year warrenty. ???? The web site says you do and so does SONY. Then I was told the battary only lasted 30 minutes. What a load of crap. I think they’re reading this all off some sort of transcript. This is the worst company out there and only get’s by from people who don’t know what to do. I sent the camera back after getting the RMA # and immedatly called my credit card company and disputied the charge. The camera box had 3 differant SONY tapes strips on it. Well I found out why. There was a pixel burnt out right in the middle of the screen. I have never met a group of people more dishonest in my life. To Kelly – 1/10/2007 : I think everyone here would like to see a class action law suite against them. I have you book marked so please let us know if the is a suit against them. And I plan to get this page out to as many people as I can via any and all rating site. Thanks

Jason – 5/5/2007

Thank you for your site. Seems like they do this to a lot of people. I got an e-mail that told me to call and verify my billing address. When I did this the customer service representative tried to add on more things to my camera. I specifically said “I do not want anything that costs money”. They said “Ok, then your order will be shipped today” and hung up. Then, I checked my credit card and the charge was much more than it should have been. I immediately called them back and they told me that I had requested an upgrade from a Japanese verison to a US version. For one, their website does not say a single thing about a Japanese camera. Then, my husband called back and they told him that the reason it cost more is because I requested a battery upgrade. Both of the reasons they gave for the billing cost are flat out lies. Then I was told that I would be charged a restocking fee after I sent the camera back. They also laughed at me on the phone when I told them that I would be contacting my credit card company to dispute the charge.

I encourage everyone to dispute their charges!!!! My company did with no questions asked. I also reported them to the BBB.

Jennifer – 5/14/2007

I read your info regarding prestige photo after ordering a canon digital camera. I found your info after telling them to cancel my order when I realized that, like you, they were trying to “upsell” me with $40 batteries as well. I told them I already had rechargeable batteries that would work (AA, 2500). The slimy rep told me that they would not work, which is not true. He then went on trying to sell me for an additional $11 a “free” camera case and other things. It suddenly clicked with me that something wasn’t right. The rep then went on to ask me what model I had ordered. He told me that for $10 more I could get a U.S.A. warranty. (Now, since I live in the U.S. why wouldn’t I be getting it anyway.) My response was “don’t screw with me!!” He responded, “excuse me?!??” After going back and forth a couple more times I told him to cancel my order. He said “good luck at finding such a low price”. I said “what low price it just keeps going up”. He hung up. I wish you the best and I will look to buy the camera either online from someone like circuit city or a reputable store that is relatively local. It’s amazing to me that these business’ are not only able to survive but thrive.

Patrick – 5/15/2007

Thanks a lot for the warning about prestige camera. I am the kind of person who likes to do a lot of research before buying from a new store. Still I was duped by the ratings of the store in ShopCartUsa.com. I was almost about to give the order, when my instinct told me (since I felt it was like “too good to be true”) to do a google search on the store ratings. And your review popped up. I was saved. I am saving for a whole year to buy my Digital SLR, and I did not want to throw it down the drain.

Again, thanks a lot!!

Chayan – 5/23/2007

Update 11/13/2009 – This article was originally written before I started my blog, and it was moved over to the blog at a later time. I was originally adding comments that people sent to me via email. By 2007 I figured there were enough comments to demonstrate this isn’t a rogue complaint against Prestige Camera. In fact from the date of the original article I have received a steady stream of emails and phone calls either thanking me for putting this information out there or wanting information on what to do after they had been ripped off too.

Common small business web site mistakes

Along with knowing what makes a web site good, it is also important to avoid the mistakes that can ruin a small business web site.

  1. Sites designed with Front Page – This program has allowed just about anybody to be a webmaster, and while that is a noble cause, the implementation of it is very flawed. Front Page creates the most bloated code of any program I’ve seen, and it is so Microsoft dependent, that sites built with it often don’t work when used with browsers other than Internet Explorer. Fortunately, Microsoft realized the error of their ways and discontinued the program.
  2. Flash – I’ve seen very few instances where I thought having Flash on a web site added to the appeal of the site, and they were all entertainment sites. For business web sites, I guess I’m just more of a substance kind of guy. Usually when I go to a web site it is because I’m looking for information. I don’t need to be entertained with animations that take forever to download and play. Flash not only requires a plug-in, it seems like you never have the latest version. Worse than the Flash intro (which thankfully can usually be skipped) is when the whole site is navigated by Flash. Often buggy to the point it doesn’t work at all, most implementations of Flash navigation are not very intuitive. I’m not going to spend much time trying to figure out how to navigate a site. I’ve seen several sites where they just have some weird non-intuitive symbols and you have to roll over each one of them to see what they go to. Flash also hurts your search engine rankings because there isn’t any text to index on a Flash page. So where do most people put their Flash animation. Yep, right on the home page, the most important piece of real estate when it comes to search engine indexing. Need a second opinion?
  3. Music – I have over 400 music CDs burned onto my hard drive so that I can listen to my favorite music whenever I want. The music is played through a set of nice speakers. It does not need to be accompanied by some cheap MIDI interpretation of Muzak. Music also takes extra time to download. Also since a lot of non-business related web surfing goes on during business hours, the person planning their next vacation while the boss isn’t looking isn’t going to appreciate your music giving him away.
  4. Frames – Frames were a good idea, unfortunately the way they were implemented in HTML was very poor. Frames make it hard to navigate, bookmark, and print web pages. Search engines are getting better at indexing them, but due to their design, it’s hard to get the user to the right complete frameset.
  5. Browser or page size requirements – Best viewed on IE or best viewed at 1024×768? What a nice way to make me feel left out if that’s not what I have.
  6. Tiny font sizes – Usually a result of designers using Style Sheets and not checking their work on Macs. If I was granted three web design wishes by a magical genie, the first would be have PC’s and Mac’s display fonts equally. 9 point on a PC looks a lot larger than 9 point on a Mac. People designing sites on PC’s often use legalese sized fonts that display so small on a Mac that they can’t even be rendered well enough to read. It’s not a question of having good eyesight, but there simply isn’t enough detail to make out what the letters are. It’s further complicated by the fact that Internet Explorer’s default font size is 16pt, which for most people is too big. So designer’s make the fonts smaller and if the user has already chosen a smaller font, it can get really hard to read. I prefer to use the default font size for the body text, and let the user change it if they need to.