For months and months I was looking into buying a large format camera and really thought the Intrepid MK4 was the best option. I looked all over for a review on the camera without any luck. It’s starting to become clear why.
I will start by saying that I placed my order for an Intrepid MK 4 Black model after the COVID-19 crisis was in full swing. I believe that I have been more than patient with them given the circumstance and quite honestly, my frustration with them has little to nothing to do with the timing of everything in the world. Indeed, my major frustrations can be quickly articulated as an astounding lack of communication and transparency wrapped up in the backwards priorities. If you don’t want to read to the end, the summary of my experience is that I am beyond frustrated with Intrepid Camera and have begun to regret my decision to do business with them. It seems that no one has done a review on this model because photographers that would do a review have yet to receive their camera.
At this time I would like to note that the lead image has nothing to do with this camera or this story. I do not have a photo of a camera I don't have nor can I take photos with a camera I don't have. I decided on that one because I like it.
If you have any interest in the details of why I am frustrated with Intrepid, it starts with them releasing the “limited run” Black edition on the 27th of March. For those that are unaware, by that time the United Kingdom was already in full response with the Coronavirus Act being passed on the 24th of March. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were unable to anticipate just how much things would change and, as such, unable to give an accurate lead time. They did, however, actually make an adjustment to the lead time in response to the changing world. Shortly before the Black edition was released, they were telling prospective buyers that the lead time was 1-2 weeks. By the time the 27th rolled around the advertised lead time was 2-3 weeks.
An exchange between Intrepid Camera and a friend of mine
Someone could argue that given the “limited” nature of the camera (they advertised that the run would be limited to 150) they could have ensured that all of the parts needed to assemble the cameras were already in stock before they released the camera for sale. Someone could also argue that perhaps they should have prepared the cameras prior to releasing the camera for sale. After all, in an IGTV session they held shortly after the Black edition went live, they stated that they sell hundreds of cameras a month. As such, selling 150 Black edition cameras should be within reason, right? Still though, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that their business model (right or wrong to you or me) dictates that they don’t properly prepare inventory before an item goes up for sale. In this situation, it sounds like they like to count their proverbial chickens before they hatch.
After 3 weeks without receiving a single email, I will admit that I was pretty frustrated that I had not heard a single word from them. I would have thought for sure that if they were running late on production, they would have sent an email or something. Then, after a few more days, there was an email on the 23rd of April. At that point, I could only think of two things that must have happened. They either: A) had no time to communicate to customers the delay they were experiencing or B) had not yet understood just how behind schedule they were. With that said, however, they made a solid 21 posts on Instagram with even more posts to their stories, so I doubt they were unable to communicate with customers. And, as for B), they only sent out an email after the 3-week mark had passed for the majority of customers who bought the Black edition. How do I know this you ask? Great question. On the IGTV session they had 1 week after the camera was released, I asked them how many cameras they were making and how many cameras were still left. They responded that most sales were done as soon as the camera was released, with (I believe) 20-ish cameras left for order. Three weeks from that IGTV session, they sent out the email that they were running late due to COVID-19. I cannot help but believe they sent out that email in response to a large number of people wanting to know why they have not yet received a shipping notice within the 3-week timeline as advertised.
Once again, I found myself in a position where I’m making excuses for them. I had given back the 4x5 as soon as I ordered my camera, thinking for sure I could wait 4ish weeks. I bought several boxes of sheet film in anticipation and started shopping around for lenses. A close friend of mine who knew when I ordered my camera eventually asked me when I was expecting mine and I threw out what seemed reasonable at the timeline but was ultimately foolish in retrospect.
The WTF Moment
My tipping point came on the 6th of May. I had emailed Intrepid on the 4th only for them to continue more and more excuses on why the camera had not yet shipped. I asked simply for when I could expect the camera and I was told “next week” and that they “are running a little behind the estimated lead time due to restrictions caused by the current situation in the U.K.” Nevertheless, I bought my camera for a very specific purpose in mind and, at the time, I thought for sure that even if they were a week or two beyond the 3-week estimate, I’d still have my camera in time. On the 6th the ground shifted below my feet and the entire reason I ordered a camera when I did went out the window. I cannot express in words just how frustrated I was.
Intrepid Camera's response to my inquiry
On the 7th of May I heard from a buddy of mine in France that he had received his shipping notice earlier in the week. He ordered his camera after me. So, there I was – waiting to get a shipping notice and knowing that someone who ordered their camera after me has already had their camera shipped. How is this possible? It shouldn’t be possible, right? Their response was “I’m not sure how that happened, perhaps he/she had emailed requesting it to be shipped quicker.”
My second email to Intrepid Camera
Intrepid Camera's response to the above email
Another “wtf” moment I’ve experienced was when they decided to do away with the “limited” nature of the Black edition and add it to their site for full time availability. If you’re like me and bought the camera partly as an investment, the exclusivity of the Black edition was attractive. Instead, they’ve released the camera again without a limit on their sales and are advertising a 4-week lead time.
It’s Not COVID-19
In venting about my frustration to a close friend of mine, he mentioned that he has only known one other person to order a camera from Intrepid and had a very similar story. I reached out to this guy in Cincinnati, OH and asked him to give me a run down on his experience with them. His first message was “Yeah, it just took forever” and was followed up immediately with “when I ordered they said it had an 8-week lead time but ended up being 14 weeks. Seems pretty standard from other people’s experiences” and followed up with another message immediately after saying “The camera is great but the business model of over promising and under delivering was just very frustrating to me.” That last message really sat with me. I asked him where he has heard of other photographer’s experiences and he said it was on their Facebook page and on forums. It became clear that I had not been looking for answers in the right place.
It should be noted that the above individual ordered his camera well before the COVID-19 crisis became a pandemic.
An exchange over Instagram with a friend of a friend and the only person I've known to order an Intrepid Camera
At the time of writing, it is 4 AM on the 11th of May in the U.K. and I have still yet to receive an email from them. That is, it is safe to say that the 10th of May date that they told me didn’t hold up. At some point I assume I will get the camera. Should things go on for a couple more weeks with no resolve, I fully expect to seek a refund. Should I actually get the camera, I will obviously use the camera and will eventually write a review for it while attempting to remain as objective as possible, even if that means holding off on publishing a review until I am no longer frustrated.
Have you ever ordered a camera from Intrepid Camera? Did you have a positive experience? A negative one?
Update: As of the 12th of May, the camera is on its way. Six weeks to the day from when I ordered it.