I Dropped My Camera. Now What?

by Barrett

Your pocket camera is on the floor and now a useless brick.  In our disposable society, do you just buy another?  Or do you navigate a repair?

Your pocket camera is on the floor and now a useless brick. In our disposable society, do you just buy another? Or do you navigate a repair?

My little boy was so delighted to be in the caboose!
The mini choo-choo train was about to begin its ‘extensive’ journey
around Mathews Park.
He was so excited!
And there I was, squeezed into the caboose, sitting right next to him.

A father and son moment.
My three year old beamed at me.
I had to have a picture.

So I carefully pulled out my Canon PowerShot S100 camera, just like I had done a hundred times before.
I turned it on and placed it on my lap.
And then I inexplicably lost my focus…
…for a millisecond.

Maybe my adventurer whispered, “Wow!”
Maybe the sun was a distraction.
Maybe aliens were trying to contact me.

But my little camera…
It just slid off my lap.

In the blink of an eye, it was on the wooden floor!

The fall couldn’t have been more than two feet.
But it fell… lens first.

I picked up my camera quickly, as if to erase the last ten seconds.

It seemed fine.
Intact.

No battery and chip guts spewed all over the floor like many a dropped BlackBerry…
(Don’t deny it…I know that’s happened to you at least once!)

My camera’s screen was still illuminated and seemingly ready for action.
I turned the device off to ensure it was still fully operational.

It was not.

The lens began to slowly recede into its body.
(It usually whisks shut.)
And then the lens just… stopped.

Frozen in its ‘on’ position.
I looked at the screen.

The dreaded “Lens Error” displayed.
And then the camera shut itself down.

I rebooted my precious machine several times, hoping to breath some life into its injured extension.

No such luck.

The power came on, but the camera just freaked out as soon as it realized the lens was immovable.

My camera was officially broken.

The train began to pull away, and my three year old squealed with glee.
Chugga-chugga, choo-choo!

I put the camera away and turned my full attention to enjoying the train ride.
Self-recriminations would have to wait till later.

Looking for the Easy Fix
That night, I went online and Googled how to repair a Canon S100, hoping to find some magic ‘reset’ solution.

The first page was filled with a recall notice from Canon.

What?!

Apparently there was a problem with the lens motor, and Canon had offered to repair the problem for free…

Yes!

…on a specific batch of the cameras identified through a range of serial numbers.
My serial number was not included.

No!!!

The Choice
So I was faced with ‘the choice.’

  • Was it worth paying to have my camera fixed?
  • Or should I walk away from my hockey puck and buy a new camera?
    (I’m sure ‘The Fall’ would void any warrantee.)

Today, the economics of repairing your gadgets can get really confusing.

They’re often cheap to buy.
And relatively expensive to repair!

I bought my S100 on Amazon last Black Friday.
So it’s only six months old.

It was a sweet deal at $229 (including an 8 GB memory card), partially because its newer cousin, the S110 had already been released.
(The S110 usually runs $399, although it’s now on sale for $349.)

How much would you pay to repair a $229 item?
It was time to find out…

I went online to find an old-school camera store that also does repairs.
Yes, they’re still out there. Just not on every corner, like Starbucks.

I decided to pay a visit to Camera Land in New York City.
(relatively close to my daily commuting route)

Entering Camera Land
I pushed open the door like it was the Wild West and sauntered over to the counter to see Reggie, the repair manager.
He looked up, barely interested.

I wanted to say, “Give me a shot of whiskey.”
Instead, I slid my metallic carcass over to him.

He picked it up and tried to turn it on.
He looked liked he’d been doing this kind of thing for a hundred years.

He spent a little more time with my dead camera and then leaned forward.

Some deactivated DNA popped on and I suddenly wanted to reach for an imaginary holster in a ‘fight or flight’ response.

The rest of me told these cranky genes to simmer down…

Reggie proclaimed if they could fix my camera in the store,
it would cost me $80.
(Okay… that seemed reasonable.)

But if the in-house repair attempt failed, he would need to send the camera to Canon’s repair center…in Canada.

Canada?!

Now we were talking $109… at least.
Maybe more…

Crossing into three digits, not to mention another country?!
That’s almost 50% of what I paid for the camera!
Those pesky genes urged me to walk out while I still had my hat on.

But buying a replacement camera was no more attractive.

The deal on the S100 was long gone.
(and now officially discontinued by Canon)
And the current sale on the S110 isn’t that compelling.

The math boiled down to this:
Buying a replacement camera would cost me at least three times the $109 repair price.
So trying for the mend seemed relatively clear.

I left my camera behind, uncertain of its future.
(Remember, Canada wouldn’t commit to a $109 lock, sight unseen.)

Later that day, Reggie called. It was bad news.
The operation was a success, but the patient died.
(His camera doctor managed to get my lens to retract.
But then it wouldn’t open!)

My camera’s only hope was to seek treatment out of country.
I gave my consent and prayed the Canucks to be kind!

Two Weeks Later…
I called Camera Land and spoke to someone new.
The guy shouted over to Reggie, who yelled back…
“It’s not ready yet!!”

I asked the big question: “How much is it going to be?”

“$109!”
(Phew)

So I gave it another week.

Eight days later Reggie called.

“Hello?”

“Your camera is ready!”

“What?”

“I said your camera is ready!!”

“I’ll be right down!!!”
(I realized I was yelling as loudly as he was.)

Two hours later I walked in.
Reggie proudly handed me the camera.

“They replaced the whole lens.”

I pressed the power button, and the lens popped to attention.
Looked good to me.

And yes, it was only $109.
(plus tax)

I asked, “What kind of warrantee do I get with this?

“Come see me…
…just don’t drop it.”
(The ‘again’ was left out, but understood.)

I walked out.

For the record, Reggie was a really nice guy.
If you decide to revive your own broken camera, and you frequent Midtown Manhattan, I recommend you pay him a visit…

Buy the Service Contract?
So you might have been asking why didn’t Barrett just buy himself a protection plan with the camera?

Well, I usually don’t buy service plans for my tech, with the major exception of my Apple gear.

I figure most service plans are overpriced, and I won’t need them…
But maybe with my evolving life as a parent, it’s time to take another look.

It’s easy to by a protection plan if you buy your tech at a big-box store. In fact, it’s hard not to. Someone from the Geek Squad usually approaches you at the cash register and tries to beat you into submission.
You have to say no about five times before your transaction is done.

But what do you do if you buy your tech online?

SquareTrade to the Rescue
Ever hear of SquareTrade.com?

You mail them your injured tech, and they claim they’ll repair or replace your item in five business days or less.
And it doesn’t matter what you did to it.
They say, “ Drop it? Spill on it? Run over it? No worries.”

Sounds pretty compelling.

And the cost?

For a camera in the $300-399 price range, the plan costs:

  • $59.99 for two years
  • $79.99 for three years

B&H Photo offers its own discount if you buy the SquareTrade plan through them:

  • $44.99 for two years
  • $62.99 for three years

That’s not bad!
You’ve just got to sign up your tech within 30 days of purchase.

The Cost of Documenting your Life
Now to the guilt factor…

I broke my camera in the line of duty as a father and amateur photographer.
(and a clumsy one, at that)

Guilt says I should have kept my camera in my pocket and avoided the risk altogether…

A couple years back, I wouldn’t take a camera to the beach,
because I feared the sand would destroy my gear.
(A gust of wind and a few grains of sand wedged into a camera lens can kill your camera faster than you can say, “Can’t wait till Cyber Monday!”)

But recently, I’ve come to embrace a different philosophy.

You’ve got to make a choice:

  • Do you take some risk and bring your camera to live your life with you?
  • Or do you play it safe and do your best to protect your camera?
    (Translation- Leave it home when the going gets tough.)

I say… Go live your life!
Enjoy it.
Document it.

Yes, that means you might break a camera or two along the way.
So be prepared.

Note to self:
My next new camera will come with its own protection plan.

And remember, whether you intentionally put your camera in harms way or not, Fate still has its own way of messing with you.

Chugga-chugga, choo-choo can happen to anyone!

My conscience is clear.

But Fate… if you can, please be kind to my Canon S100.
It’s only got two lives!