Camera Failure Versus Price and Brand

SquareTrade is a company that provides warranties for consumer electronics. As such, it has a good deal of data on digital cameras and, more specifically, how often they fail. After a three year study of over 60,000 new digital cameras, they’ve published a report with their findings.

Here’s a graph comparing failure rate with camera price:

Surprise! Cheaper cameras have a higher failure rate than more expensive ones.

When comparing failure rate with camera brands, the results are a little more surprising:

The study found that Panasonic cameras are the most reliable for both value and premium point-and-shoots. Canon cameras are more reliable than Nikons for cheaper compacts, but for premium models Canon’s reliability does not improve, while Nikon’s improves drastically. Keep in mind this report is only about reliability, not performance or image quality.

Finally, why do cameras fail? The report has a nice graph for that question too:

Both curves seem to decrease in steepness after the first year, suggesting that if you have a well built camera and aren’t clumsy or reckless, you’ll probably take care of your camera for a good amount of time.

Finally, here’s an interesting highlight from the report:

For DSLR Cameras, Nikon and Canon were equally reliable.

Whew! Glad that’s settled…

We’d be interested in seeing a graph comparing actual life span of specific camera models compared with their price. This could provide a ranking of cameras in terms of price per year (of average life).

Digital Camera Failure Rates (via Wired)

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  • nathanyan

    I can understand how the report can be a bit misleading, but you really need to be more rigorous with your conclusions.

    E.g. “The study found that Panasonic cameras are the most reliable”

    NO. That is NOT what the study finds at all. It's not a controlled test, it's simply a study of the company's insurance claims. The study finds that Panasonic cameras had the least number of insurance claims filed for, percentage-wise, but that does not lead you to the conclusion that they must be most reliable, because you leave all the following variables out:

    How well owners take care of their cameras
    What kind of environments the cameras are used in
    How often the cameras are used

    And on and on and on. Correlation != causation

  • Michael Zhang

    Hey Nathan,

    We were reporting on the conclusions made by the report.

    The title of the report states: “Panasonic most reliable manufacturer of Point-and-shoot Cameras”

    And in the conclusion section: “Of the brands we examined, Panasonic is the clear leader in digital camera reliability. They are the only manufacturer to have less than a 6% failure rate for sub-$300 models, and they achieved a less than 2% failure rate for $300-500 models, much better than the other brands we looked at.”

  • kgphotography

    I wonder if people buy new cameras at the rate that they buy new cell phones; I like a new phone annually, that's about how long it'll last (1-2 years) and I get woo'd by the advertisers.

  • nathanyan

    I understand that, which is why I said the report is misleading. But instead of simply reblogging whatever's written, I think you should be taking some critical analysis to what you post – just because a report says something in the conclusion, doesn't mean the data backs it up.

  • shadoweaver

    Nathan, I don't think PetaPixel did anything misleading; it just presented a report from Squaretrade. You should just take it at face value instead of asking PetaPixel to verify data. “Don't believe everything you read on the internet”, remember? Believe what you want, but don't shoot the messenger.

    Peace, man.

  • zann

    it is possible; though not likely at the current technology improvement as well as competition with camera phones.

    based on my personal experience;
    phones are having faster turnaround time as there is a current innovation of ideas. cameras, less so, the main innovations right now are still focused on making cameras easier to use, or~ porting old manual camera functions (on higher end cameras)

    the ppl around me~ are likely to have used their cameras for a good 3~5yrs
    (taking myself for instance; my sony v3 was from 5yrs ago, oly E500 was from 4yrs ago, ricoh grd2 from 2yrs ago, pana LX3 from about 2yrs ago)
    (my gf had been using her pana FX01 for about 3yrs, prior to that was a sony U20 from about 6yrs ago)

    my main causal camera now is my phone; htc nexus one.
    i have a tiny flash on it; reasonable 5MP sensor; EXTREME ease of sharing, i just click and share on my blog, twitter, facebook, corporate email, gmail, flickr, picassa~~~~

    and i would use my oly e500 with takumar lens or my lx3 only for pure shooting outings.
    they are doing well, lasting for a long time.

    with all that being said;
    durability for cameras is only critical to me for higher end cameras.
    i would see sub $300 cameras going off in the next 5yrs or lesser.
    only the high quality, semi-pro, pro cameras will remain.

  • nathanyan

    That's fair. It's a blog after all and doesn't offer itself up as a credible news source, so you can't hold it up to the same standards such as a news broadcast or news article.

    In that case, just take my post as a necessary one to point out the fallacy in the original report's conclusion.

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