Friday, March 19, 2010

How To Fix Your Broken Camera—04/19/10

DPMag Published in Tip Of The Week
How To Fix Your Broken Camera—04/19/10

This Article Features Photo Zoom

You always carry your camera carefully; you’ve done so for years. But then a single misstep, or a poor grip, or any number of other mishaps suddenly leads to your worst photographic nightmare: You drop your camera. If you’re lucky you’ll ding a corner and suffer nothing worse than a minor scuff. If you’re human, though, you’ll probably be faced with any number of major damages—from broken lens mounts to shattered LCDs. That’s when the real questions begin: Now what?

I dropped my favorite point-and-shoot not long ago and suffered a broken LCD, to say nothing of my momentarily broken heart. I considered all the options in front of me before deciding which path was most appropriate. Here’s what I encountered, and how it may help you when the possibility of camera breakage turns into inevitability.

A: The first option I considered was to send the camera in to the manufacturer for repair. No matter how great the warranty may be, photographer error by way of massive impact isn't often covered. That means you’re going to have to pay out of pocket for a repair, and you might not know what that will cost until the examination has been done. On a $2,000 zoom lens, it’s probably worth fixing. But what about your two-year old point-and-shoot, the one that cost $200 brand new? All of my dealings with major manufacturer repair centers have been efficient and sometimes downright affordable. But because no camera repair is standard, it’s hard to predict what these repairs will cost before you’ve sent in your camera. I decided to forego this choice. Sure, it’s a no brainer when you’re talking about crucial or expensive equipment, but I decided I had more appropriate and affordable options. Like…

B: Take the camera to a third party for repair. Many third-party outfits repair broken cameras, and you can find them online or in the back of many fine photography publications. Most major retailers will accept damaged gear for repairs, or even refer you to resources for assistance. But those, too, can be hard to know, not only what you will pay, but sometimes who you might be dealing with. Sending your camera to some faceless entity you’ve found online is considerably easier said than done. That can make many photographers, myself included, more comfortable dealing with manufacturers or major retailers for repairs. But if I’m not yet ready to try that, perhaps I should look for another option. Such as…

C: Find a part online and try to repair it myself. I could, of course, utilize the power of the internet to find the part and install it on my own. After all, eBay makes it easy to find the most obscure items—including digital camera parts. That’s the route I tried, purchasing an LCD for my poor point-and-shoot for the moderately affordable price of $50 including shipping. The problem, it turned out, was that the seller wasn’t particularly helpful and my order never arrived. They didn’t like my shipping address and rather than contact me to clarify, they simply refunded my purchase. This is what happens when you deal with sellers who are better at programming than they are at customer service—and the bottom line is I still don’t have my LCD, I’m not sure I want it any more, and I’m skittish about taking apart my camera to try this on my own. Sure, I’m only risking a two-year-old device that, fully functional, may only be worth $100, but still… it’s my camera! Taking apart a digital camera might be worth a try for the adventurous, not to mention the extremely cheap, but otherwise my advice is to send it to someone with a little more know-how for repair. Again, I’ve defaulted to the known quantity—the manufactuer’s in-house repair. But before I do that, I suppose I should consider one more option. I could, in fact…

D: Buy another camera. It turns out that one of the advantages of the rapidly improving quality-to-price ratio of digital cameras is that it becomes almost as cost effective to purchase a new camera as it does to repair an old and ailing one. The part alone in my three-year-old camera would cost $50. The repair service, even from a discount third party, took the price much closer to $100. A higher-resolution newer model refurbished camera from the same manufacturer could be had for the same price. Suddenly my decision was clear: Fixing the older camera would cost almost as much as buying a newer one. So that’s what I did—I bought a new digital camera and I turned my old one into a souvenir—a bag of digital camera parts that’s bound to make for a poor paper weight. Or perhaps I could wear it as a badge of dishonor, or a necklace to stimulate interesting party conversation. Who knows, maybe I can sell the parts online to some other poor soul who’d like to try his hand at repairing his own broken camera.
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