The Canon/Nikon debate is a Ford vs. Chevy debate for trucks, and a Coke vs. Pepsi debate for sodas. Both systems have their advantages, and their flaws (Come on Canon...make a 14-24mm already!). However, Canon, in my opinion, separates itself with one tool, the Canon Professional Services program.
What Is It?
If you own enough equipment from Canon, they’ll offer for you to join their professional services program. The program itself has 3 different tiers in which you can join, each with its own set of qualifications (that are fairly easy to meet). The tiers are broken down into Silver, Gold and Platinum.
I recently renewed my Gold membership at WPPI, so I received a new package from Canon as a result. Within the package I received from Canon, I got the following items.
The CPS Strap provided by Canon is a vast improvement over the straps included with their cameras. Unlike their standard strap, the CPS camera strap is padded, and the curve within the strap makes it very comfortable to wear. I, like many photographers, use a third party strap as it is, so this camera strap has no real use for me. But the straps, because of their quality, or some reason unknown to me, sell new on eBay for around $70-$75, which makes the $100 annual fee far more bearable.
They're identical to what you'd receive if you bought a new camera body or lens from Canon. Moving on...
EF Lens Work Book
This book is wonderful for anyone who is interested in learning the ins and outs of Canon's lens lineup. Every lens that is currently in production is featured in the book, with bright visuals, and often, examples of each lenses capabilities. The book itself is hardcover, and over 200 pages explaining everything you'd want to know about the lenses Canon has available. Everything from the weight, to the coating used on the glass is covered in this book. Also, if this book has no use for you, it can easily be sold on eBay for $15-$25, though I'd recommend holding on to it as a coffee table book.
Clean and Check Cards
One of the more valuable things within the packet you receive is the Clean and Check cards. These allow you to send your lenses or camera body into Canon to be professionally cleaned and serviced. The last time I had this done, Canon provided my camera with a new focusing screen, free of charge. This service is great, as its professionally done (instead of a simple blast from a rocket blower) and often costs upwards of a hundred dollars if done at a Canon retailer. Also, Canon often offers free cleaning of your equipment at different photography expos throughout the year to CPS members.
20% off Canon Workshops and Seminars
Personally, I've never used this feature within the CPS services, however I have no doubt that it is useful. Canon sponsors some of the best photographers in the world, who all offer their guidance within the CPS online portal. Classes are often cheap, and the 20% off just further cuts the cost of that.
CPS Pin & Membership Card
Eh, just throw this stuff in the trash, as I assume you probably won't use it anyway.
Equipment Evaluation Loan
This is perhaps the best tool within the CPS program. Canon will lend you Camera bodies, Lenses, Flashes or whatever you'd need free of charge (minus shipping and handling). This is exceptionally useful if you often find yourself renting equipment from online vendors, as they'll have deadlines for returning, and will charge you extra for long term rentals. However, its worth noting that while Canon does offer this service for free, there are limits to the equipment you can borrow, and the time you can borrow it for. (Sorry video guys, no 1D-C's for you). A full list of potential rentals is available by clicking here.
Discounted & Rush Repairs
Another useful tool for CPS members is the discounted and rush repairs. Nikon, often takes weeks for specialty fixes on their camera gear, and do not offer a service that provides a timeline for returns. With Canon CPS, they are able to guarantee a 3 day turn around (for Gold members, 2 Days for Platinum members) with a discount of 30%-60% of the cost. Aside from this wonderful service, Canon also offers loaners for the time that you're without a camera.
How to Enroll
Canon Professional Services is incredibly simple to enroll in. If you've been registering your gear with Canon, enrollment will take only seconds. In order to be eligible for Gold or Platinum memberships, you must reach an allocated amount of points for the equipment you have registered. Pro cameras range from 4-10 points, and lenses range from 2-8. Personally, I've been able to reach 56 points, which is nearly triple the amount needed in order to obtain Gold membership, so reaching 20 should not be much of a problem. To enroll into the program simply click here.
Upon registering, Canon will send you your packet of information, usually within 3 business days. This will include everything you see above, as well as rush shipping labels, in case you do need to send some of your equipment in for repairs.
Sony, Pentax, and Olympus offer a program similar to this, however my experience with them is nonexistent (Thank you to Jason from the comments for the find). Nikon offers a program called Nikon Professional Services, but shares virtually no information on the program via their website. If you do shoot Canon, I believe Canon Professional Services is a must have program to be enrolled in. Between the repairs, equipment loans and the beautiful camera strap, CPS has shown appreciation towards its photographers that is unrivaled by their competition.
PSA : I'm not endorsed, sponsored or paid by Canon in anyway whatsoever. I simply learned that some Canon photographers were still unaware of the CPS program during WPPI, and decided to write this article about it to inform others.