Getting your camera repaired


konicaminolta_dimagez2.big.jpgAnother long-term reader and frequent-commenter had a question for us, and because I’m such a nice guy, I couldn’t let this one go, because I feel his pain: He has ruined his camera, and doesn’t know what to do next… 


I’m facing having my camera repaired, and although its not a DSLR, its not a point-and-shoot either. Its a DimageZ2 and I think its good until I save up for a full DSLR. As you know Sony bought out Konica Minolta’s Digital imaging side so now I’d have to send it to them for repair and its not much less than I paid for it in the first place.

So in general is sending a unit back to the MFG for repair always the best? Are the other resources and are these places also willing to work on consumer cameras. An extra question: are they nice? I went to a a camera store to ask about repair and I didn’t leave with a good feeling

Ai, Stu, it seems as if you’ve got yourself a nasty pickle there, mate.

If your exhaust on your car breaks, you can generally replace it with an off-the-shelf solution, or if a window in your house gets broken, you have lots of choice for who repairs it.

Digital cameras are vastly different: They share very few parts, and the ones that are shared (imaging chips, card reader units, all that stuff) is generally soldered in, so they can’t easily be replaced. Even if you could replace, say, a card reader, the time it would take to un-solder the old unit and re-solder a new one would make the whole thing un-worth-while. Instead, the repairmen will replace the faulthy part and everything that is connected to it. In your case, you don’t mention what’s actually wrong with it (Electronic? Battery related? Mechanical?), but in the example of the card reader, you’re looking at a main board replacement. Generally, the manufacturers don’t make a lot more main boards than cameras (they make a few, in case of warranty faults), so if your main board breaks, you are basically shit out of luck.

That’s the way with all consumer electronics, unfortunately: If the remote control for your TV breaks, you might have to buy a new TV. If the screen on your mobile phone goes, you need a new mobile, and if your camera kicks the bucket – even if it’s a really small and nominally cheap part that breaks – it is generally not replacable, and you’re left without any camera.

There are very few manufacturers who actually offer repairs for compact digital cameras anymore. If anything goes wrong with your camera in the warranty time, they’ll send you a new one, because it isn’t economically feasible to get an engineer to fix it. Because there are so few people who deal with it, most manufacturers won’t have a distribution network for parts in place, and all borked cameras will get returned to the manufacturer, instead of distributing parts. This means that the only people who can actually do anything about a broken camera are the manufacturers themselves.

The case is much the same for dSLR cameras, in fact. Generally, they don’t break (although they might need a sensor clean or similar every now and again) but if they do, you’re out of luck, and the item has to be replaced. For cameras which are in abundant supply (such as the popular consumer cameras from Canon and Nikon), a number of spare parts are available, both off ‘scrapped’ cameras and freshly produced parts destined for the repair industry. Professional dSLR cameras are a different matter altogether, because they are built for heavy abuse, and generally have more servicable parts (shutter mechanisms, mirror lock-up mechanisms, movable parts etc are all designed to be easily replaceable).

To answer your question – I wouldn’t hold in high hopes that anyone can put humpty dumpty back together again. Sorry. If I were you, I’d hurry up and put a d-SLR on your Christmas list…

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