There has been a lot of negative press about F-stop recently. It seems that there are many claims about long wait times, orders never shipping and extremely long back order times. I had noticed earlier this year when I tried to order a Shinn backpack, that F-stop was showing them 4 to 6 weeks from being in stock. I was not really in much of a hurry to get the pack in January, so I waited. F-stop has come out with a new Orange color, that I really wanted as I hike during hunting season in Arkansas and bright orange is help against getting shot. I finally got around to ordering and found that the Shinn was still sitting in the same status, 4 to 6 weeks, etc. About this time some negative posting starting to appear and also some negative web based articles on the company.
It seems that some claim that they had paid for packs months ago, and still had not received anything, but they had paid at the time of the order. Also several articles were concerned about the Kickstarter campain that F-stop had for a new pack. I personally am surprised that F-stop went this route as that is not what I would do with a large company i.e try to gain funding via a Kickstarter. However the owners are young and they are working a different business model. The Kickstarter was supposedly cancelled and then issues came up about money again, since it seems that none of the money paid into the Kickstarter will be paid back? Not sure on that but it started a big wave that F-stop was gone, going under, no longer in business etc. Many folks reported that they were down to just 1 person in Customer relations, etc. Not sure about that either, but here is my story, and it’s a lot more positive.
I called them, (yes I actually picked up the damn phone and called them). On the first try, I got a person at the other end of the line named Mick. I mentioned to Mick I wanted a Shinn and XL-Pro ICU, in the orange color. I also told Mick that I was starting to hear some really negative things about F-stop and I did not want to order a pack for $500.00 and then wait 6 weeks, never get anything, and then have to worry about getting a credit. To my total surprise, Mick said just order it, and email the company (with their attached form on the website) and that he felt that he could get a orange Shinn shipped to me within a week! He also told me that the only hold up was the extra wide ICU for the Shinn, that these were taking longer to be delivered to the US. I was really not wanting the extra wide ICU, just an XL Pro ICU. The issue is that the Shinn is about 3 inches wider and thus the XL Pro ICU will not fit tightly. After talking to Mick for a while, I realized that the Sukha was the pack I wanted. He gave me the same information, order a orange Sukha, and XL-Pro ICU and he felt I would have it ship in about a week. Facts are F-stop shipped the pack and ICU in 3 days to me and I had it 4 days. Free shipping! To be honest, I sure that more folks will at least call F-stop as it seems they can manually get some things done.
BTW the Sukha is a great pack, and I will write more about it in a while.
I have now seen that one of the top company officials has written a formal note on the F-stop blog, mainly to talk to the delays in getting the product from China. Hopefully F-stop will get this issue fixed and soon as with the modern web, it’s hard to recover from really negative press. Again I stress, if you want an F-stop pack, give them a call and see what they can do for you.
Everyone knows that about 3 years ago F-Stop packs came on the photo scene and they pretty much revolutionized the market. The most important aspects of their new design were:
- Integrated ICU inner containers that would hold the camera gear and were 100% removable from the pack.
- The main opening for the pack was moved to the back instead of the front, which as far as I know had never been done before.
F-Stop came out with several packs of varying size and weight, but the ICU’s were all interchangeable. The packs were made in China, and then shipped back to the US. Really nothing new there. And as their name grew across the photographic world, F-stop continued to come out with new packs, and new materials. I have never figured out the percentage of the market that F-stop has over Lowe, but I have to feel based on all the forum posts I read, F-stop did very well in those first few years. My first pack from F-stop was the Satori, which was a moderate to large pack and it served me very well. I have used this pack extensively over the past 3 years, and have never had any problems with it.
The Satori was the first pack I purchased from F-stop and as I am 6′ 2″ tall, this pack always fit me a bit low. However the pack itself was excellent in construction. You have to get used to the opening up against your back, but that doesn’t talk long. ONE note, if you are with another person who doesn’t understand the F-stop design, don’t ask them to move your pack unless you know that the back is zipped up.
With the Sukha, F-stop came out with a pack mainly for carrying long telephoto lenses, but I also figured that this pack would be a better fit for me and I was correct. F-stop is now also using water-resistant fabric and they have a new material on the bottom of the backs as can be seen in the couple of side by sides I have posted. This is much heavier black nylon than my Satori has. There are also some changes to the ICU’s as the new style allow you to removed the top foam padding which is a nice feature. The Sukha has a huge carrying capacity, as it will hold the XL Pro ICU and with that installed in the pack you still have 1/4 of the pack left for other items.
Hopefully F-stop will continue to produce these excellent backpacks and bags well into the future.