“Sometimes, I get burned,” explained Sweringen, owner of Camera Clinic and Horizon Electronics, the only shop specializing in new and used camera sales and repair in Sparks.
The “patient” lying on his bench is a gritty camera lens, the apparent victim of a beachfront holiday, its greasy guts immobilized by sand. The lens must be completely torn apart and cleaned, thus prolonging the job and cutting into Sweringen’s profit margin.
Trashed camera equipment, often rejected as “beyond economic repair” by big-name factories like Canon or Nikon, presents a welcome challenge for Sweringen. He’ll tackle old and heavily damaged equipment, drawing on his own sizeable collection of rare and obsolete parts.
Sweringen prides himself on working near miracle repairs no longer attempted by the big boys. Recently, a Georgia wildlife shooter let his pricey gear sit outside overnight in a camouflaged tent. Heavy rain and rising groundwater tipped and submerged the equipment. The man’s cameras were lost but Sweringen dismantled and salvaged the lenses at a fraction of the cost of new ones. Sweringen claims the manufacturer would have called the gear a total loss.
By backing up his work with a 90-day warranty, volume discounts and fast turn-around times, Sweringen has enough work to keep him busy even in the depths of a sluggish economy. While other businesses tend to slow down after the holidays, Sweringen said his work load has remained fairly constant. In recent years, he’s developed informal partnerships with “eBayers” around the country who scrounge up damaged gear, have it repaired and recycle it online. Equipment is shipped to Camera Clinic for salvage or to be cannibalized for parts for other repairs. Despite the recession, the online, used equipment business generates sometimes sizeable profits for Sweringen and his cadre of speculators.
Sweringen’s updated business card features a high-tech translucent graphic of his old favorite: a Canon T-90 film camera. For most digital junkies, the film camera is a dinosaur. Surprisingly, Sweringen said he still prefers shooting film along with some of his “die-hard” customers; about one out of every five or six of his customers still shoot film. To Sweringen, film has a “depth” while digital images are “flat” by comparison.
“Plus, I enjoy the process of waiting, the anticipation of getting the pictures back,” Sweringen explained. “It’s like opening a Christmas gift: You don’t know what you’ve got.”
Sweringen thinks creativity has been diminished by digital technology –– such as a photographer who is busy reviewing their digital images while missing the moments in front of them. Computer manipulation can also degrade the finished product, in Swerington’s opinion.
“It’s not real enough,” he explained.
Despite his reservations, Sweringen has adapted well to the digital age and is self-taught in digital repair. Digital is simpler in some ways, he said, with more electronics and fewer moving parts than film equipment. A common digital problem is dirty electronic sensors that cloud the images. In the desert, it’s a year-round problem but Sweringen said he’s especially busy after Burning Man, the annual festival in the Black Rock Desert north of Sparks. Despite his advice, short-sighted shooters expose expensive gear to the desert’s talcum-fine dust. Their foolishness guarantees an aftermath of clean-up and repairs, generating more income for Sweringen.
Sweringen provides digital sensor cleaning services at various photo conventions including this year’s upcoming annual Shooting the West XXII photography symposium in Winnemucca.
Although he specializes in Canon gear, Sweringen services Nikon and almost any other brand of gear from monster lenses and bodies to tiny “point-and-shoots.” Laptop repair, including LCD screen replacement, is also available.
Sweringen’s honesty and personable style — he’ll chat at length about any photo topic, including the latest technology or the pros and cons of film versus digital — has drawn a loyal clientele of local professional and amateur photographers.
In December, Sweringen moved to a larger and more visible shop at 1220 E. Greg St., Suite 15. He said there was a lot of available space for his choosing and that his prior landlord was unwilling to bring down the $472 in rent he paid for 400 square feet. His new shop gives him 650 square feet for $428 a month. His new landlord offered him numerous incentives to entice his business, he says.
To cover his news walls and highlight local talent, Sweringen has invited some of his customers to display their favorite shots in his shop.
“Now that I have more wall space, it’s a place to display unique work,” Sweringen said.
One of his customers recently captured a rare shot of a hawk attacking a bald eagle in Hidden Valley. Sweringen has requested the image be loaned for display in his new “gallery.”
For more information on services available at Camera Clinic and Horizon Electronics, call Sweringen at 829-2244 or go to his Web site at www.cameraclinic-usa.com.