SPECIAL REPORT: Digital camera reliability

Warranties specialist carries out study of failure rates on imaging products
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In an effort to keep consumers more informed about the reliability of the products they buy, over the past year and a half US-based warranties specialist SquareTrade has taken a look at the failure rates of a number of products, including digital cameras.

In this report, SquareTrade has examined digital camera reliability from a few different angles. It starts with an overview of digital camera failures, both from manufacturer defects and accidents. The report then compares camera reliability by brand and price point.

The analysis examines customer reported failure data from a sample of over 60,000 new digital cameras purchased by SquareTrade warranty customers. Among its conclusions, the company found that almost 11 per cent of digital cameras fail over the first two years of ownership, with 6.6 per cent of failures coming from malfunctions and 4.1 per cent from accidents. It also found the least expensive point-andshoot digital cameras to be the least reliable, while expensive DSLR cameras tended to be the most reliable.

Breaking down the reported malfunction analysis down by brand and price, Panasonic clearly emerges as the most reliable of point-and-shoots. For example, on inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras, Panasonic had a malfunction rate of just 5.3 per cent over the first two years. At the opposite end of the specturm are Casio and Polaroid, with two-year malfunction rates of 13.0 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively.

Digital Camera Failure Rates

Looking at total failure rate, SquareTrade found that 5.9 per cent of camera owners reports a failure of some kind in the first year, and 10.7 per cent by the end of the second year. Of these, roughly 60 per cent were from malfunctions and 40 per cent were from accidents.

Looking at mulfunctions specifically, it was found that 3.4 per cent of cameras failed in the first year and an additional 3.2 per cent in the second. This higher failure rate in the first year is similar to patterns seen in other consumer electronics sectors.

Camera Failures By Price

* SquareTrade has categorised cameras into four price ranges that signify the typical consumer camera market segments;

* Under $150: Value point-and-shoot cameras with limited features, not much zoom control and are competitively priced;

* $150-$300: Mid-range point-and-shoot cameras with numerous features and zoom capabilities;

* $300-$500: Premium point-and-shoot cameras with the best feature sets;

* Greater than $500: Almost exclusively Digital SLR cameras.

According to SquareTrade research, there is a clear correlation between the price of the camera and its likelihood of malfunctioning. The value point-and-shot category showed the least reliability with 7.4 per cent of cameras malfunctioning in two years, with mid-range models close behind at 6.8 per cent.

Above $300, the camera malfunction rates fell significantly. Premium point-and-shoot cameras failed 4.8 per cent of the time, making them about one-third less likely to fail over the same period of time. Cameras over $500 were the most reliable, with only four per cent malfunctioning over two years.

Point-And-Shoots Under $300: Panasonic Most Reliable
SquareTrade also broke out the two-year failure rate by manufacturer. Panasonic wins, being the only manufacturer to have a failure rate below six per cent, at 5.3 per cent. Fujifilm stood at 6.1 per cent, Olympus and Sony at 6.2 per cent, Kodak at 7.6 per cent, Nikon at 7.9 per cent and Pentax at 8.2 per cent.

The brands with the highest rate of malfunction in this study were Polaroid at 11.9 per cent and Casio at 13.0 per cent.

Premium Point-And-Shoot Cameras: Panasonic Wins Again Only five brands were surveyed in this category – Panasonic, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Canon. Panasonic was again the most reliable with 1.9 per cent of its models malfunctioning in two years. According to SquareTrade, this is impressive, as it beats even the average reliability of DSLRs and is well below the four other brands examined here.

In the middle of the pack, Nikon, Sony and Olympus had failure rates of 3.1 per cent, 3.6 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively. Canon’s premium point-and-shoot cameras were the least reliable amongst the five brands, with a failure rate of 6.2 per cent.

Digital SLRs

Good news for those consumers buying – and those retailers selling – digital SLRs is that there is no significant difference between Nikon and Canon’s reliability in the $500+ price range; they both have a four per cent failure rate at the two-year mark. At this time, SquareTrade does not have a large enough sample to say anything about the reliability of other DSLR manufacturers.

Conclusion

SquareTrade found that digital cameras have about an 11 per cent failure rate over two years when including accidents. Over the typical three-year lifespan of a point-and-shoot camera, it projects nearly 16 per cent of them to fail.

The report sums up: “When breaking apart failure rates by price range, we do see that less expensive cameras fail more often than their more expensive counterparts. Above $300 the reliability of cameras improved significantly.

“Of the brands we examined, Panasonic is the clear leader in digital camera reliability. They are the only manufacturer to have less than a six per cent failure rate for sub-$300 models, and they achieved a less than two per cent failure rate for $300-500 models, much better than the other brands we looked at.”

For further information visit SquareTrade at www.squaretrade.com.

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