Why Does Digital Camera Repair Cost More Than Just Buying A New One?

Dan writes that he was very happy with his Panasonic camera, a point-and-shoot with a nice zoom lens. He would have been happy to pay $100 to get it back in working order and avoid buying a new one. Alas, this was not to be. Since a special part needed to be ordered from Japan, Panasonic wanted $488 to repair a camera that originally cost $300. Dan is better off buying a new camera–which won’t be a Panasonic.

A few weeks ago my Panasonic Lumix FZ8 digital camera stopped working. It simply refused to power on. It had worked for me perfectly well since I bought it in July of 2007, and was still a quality piece of equipment, so I decided to send it off to the repair center, hoping to have it fixed for less than $100. This camera – along with a fast SD card, everything-proof Pelican case, and extra battery – cost me about $400 a few years ago. It was a great investment. I’m not a photography expert by any means, so this camera, basically a point-and-shoot with a great Leica zoom lens, was a perfect match for me. I’d grown into its more advanced features to the point that I was willing to pay almost half the cost of its replacement to have the exact same one back.

Anyway, I sent off my camera to Panasonic’s Illinois service center with a note along the lines of “Please don’t incur any costs until you’ve confirmed them with me!”. The service center followed this instruction appropriately. A few days after my camera was delivered I received a call from a woman explaining that there was a non-refundable $45 diagnostic fee to investigate the problem. She also explained that the average repair cost was $90, including the diagnostic fee. That was all fine with me, so I gave them the instruction to proceed. The woman said that she would call me back if the cost for the repair would exceed the $90 average.

Approximately a week later was this morning. I received a call from the same woman (kudos to Panasonic for keeping me with the same CSR) explaining that the total cost of repair would be $489, or an additional $444 over the $45 fee I’m already obligated to pay. $444 is over $150 more than I paid for this camera. If you add everything up (the repair cost, diagnostic fee, shipping) this repair was looking to cost me over $500, for a 3-year-old camera I paid less than $300 for. I understand completely that as product ages it becomes more expensive to repair, but this seems absurd. The CSR explained that the high cost for the repair was because the main PCB (printed circuit board) went bad, and the part has to be ordered from Japan.

I declined the repair cost. Panasonic will be returning the camera to me, unrepaired, and I’m out a camera and $50 in fees and shipping. I really, really liked this camera, but this single experience has taught me that it is simply too expensive for me to risk another Panasonic digital camera. Panasonic loses a customer, I lose some hard-earned money and now need to spend more on a new camera.