Survey Says: “Panasonic Cameras Most Reliable”

If you’re looking for the most reliable point-and-shoot digital camera, you might do well to focus on a Panasonic. That’s the conclusion from a study of 60,000 warranties on cameras conducted by SquareTrade, a warranty provider for tech products.

The company just released results of a study of failures covered by its warranty plans for cameras purchased since 2006. SquareTrade found that among cameras that cost less than $300, Panasonic was the most reliable brand with a 5.3 percent failure rate.

Panasonic, which sells the Lumix line of cameras, also had the lowest failure rate (1.9 percent) among premium shooters (those priced between $300 and $500), according to the study.

Among the least expensive cameras, FujiFilm, Olympus, Sony, and Canon all had a roughly 6 percent failure rate, and Kodak, Nikon, and Pentax were just slightly higher. Bringing up the rear on reliability were Polaroid and Casio, which had the highest rates (11.9 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true for cameras, according to SquareTrade. The company says that, in general, inexpensive cameras tend to fail more often than their more costly counterparts. Based on price, cameras that cost below $150 had a 7.4 percent malfunction rate, with models in the $150 to $300 range close behind at 6.8 percent. Cameras priced between $300 and $500 achieved a lower malfunction rate of 4.8 percent.

The overall failure rate, regardless of price, among the cameras in the survey was 5.9 percent during the first year and 10.7 percent by the end of the second year. User abuse plays a big role, with about 40 percent of malfunctions resulting from accidents.

So when is it worth getting a warranty? Multiply the price of the product times the failure rate. You’d expect the warranty on a $500 camera that fails 1.9 percent of the time to be about $9.50 a year. A $500 camera failing at 13 percent would be priced rationally at $65. Warranties may be higher if the warranty company wants to cover its processing costs.

SquareTrade says it charges $80 for a three-year warranty on a $500 camera.

-RIK FAIRLIE / The New York Times

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