How could a digital camera break like this? Is it worth fixing?
April 5, 2009 4:50 PM   Subscribe

How could a digital camera break like this? Is it worth fixing?

My partner's little Canon Elph S500 has broken in an odd way, resulting in distorted pictures with lots of horizontal black lines and a striking absence of green. There's a lot of vertical blurring, too, and the weird thing is it's uneven. The image is equally distorted in the live preview as the stored JPGs, so it seems to be the sensor, not the processing / compressing / storing part that's broken. FWIW the camera hadn't been used in a few months and had been in a moving box for awhile, so could possibly have been jostled.

I know a fair amount about how digital cameras work, but for the life of me I can't figure out how it broke this way. Any guesses?

Also, is it worth repairing? I found some online site that promises a repair for $135. Brad new similar cameras with more features are about $350. But I hate feeling so wasteful with a relatively new piece of equipment.
posted by Nelson to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
That's bizarre all right. The Bayer filter pattern used by most digcam sensors is 50% green, 25% red, and 25% blue, so somehow loosing the green channel across the whole sensor seems like it could result in a really bizarre reconstructed image.

You might want to look into the Canon Loyalty Program. You send them your old camera. They'll tell you how much it will cost to repair and give you a discount on a refurb of a recent model. Sometimes the refurb is a good deal, sometimes not.
posted by Good Brain at 5:05 PM on April 5, 2009

I'd guess that something got smashed on the sensor, which is one of the more expensive parts of the thing - in the case of those little point-and-shoots, I'd assume it's by far the biggest cost.

The SD500 may still be selling new for $400 on Amazon, but there are entirely newer models that will cost you as little, or close to it, as that repair - like the SD1100, or SD770 (and keep in mind that for some insane reason, Canon's Elph line doesn't adhere to a straightforward "bigger number better" or even "smaller number better" system.) I may be missing something in the 500 that isn't available in even the cheapest newer models, but all told, I definitely wouldn't bother trying to repair it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:11 PM on April 5, 2009

Call Canon tech support. Nice guys. They'd be able to walk you through troubleshooting, if any. Also, if they tell you it can't be fixed, they'll refer you to a repair facility. If you decide not to do it, they offer the Canon Loyalty program, which can carry a nice discount.

Also, you may qualify for this. Won't know until you call tech support. When I worked there I remember a number of camera models falling prey to this.
posted by sephira at 5:20 PM on April 5, 2009

Canon had a rebate on some models with a sensor flaw. Here's a page with a little info about it.

I had an S2IS fail with exactly the same kind of problem. IIRC, it had something to do with the chips failing in high humidity(!!).

I didn't bother to send it in since I hack around with the broken parts. Here's another page with exactly the same problem.

I think you can get a free replacement out of this.
posted by fake at 5:24 PM on April 5, 2009

nthing fake. We had the same problem with a PowerShot. We contacted Canon, got a UPS label, sant the camera in -- it was back in a matter of 2 - 3 weeks. Free fix.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:53 PM on April 5, 2009

sant = sent. Damn my bad typings and old eyes!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:54 PM on April 5, 2009

Definitely send it in to Canon after searching if any recalls exist. I had the same problem with my SD 110. They sent me back a new (refurbished) 770IS (substantial upgrade) for free! They even covered shipping both ways. I was beyond impressed.

I searched for the recall info and emailed Canon. They emailed me back with a shipping lable and the rest was history. Absolutely fantastic experience.
posted by xotis at 5:58 PM on April 5, 2009

It looks like your camera is on the list of affected cameras. I've had mine repaired twice now, paying nothing more than the cost of the packing material.
posted by oaf at 7:10 PM on April 5, 2009

Thanks for all the replies; I had no idea this was a known issue. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by Nelson at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2009

Looks like several people chimed in already, but I had a very similar problem with an A70 and they fixed it no questions asked (and it was years out of warranty).
posted by O9scar at 7:39 PM on April 5, 2009

Something strikingly similar happened to my old camera (Olympus SP500UZ) after I got hit by a car. After talking to a bunch of camera people, the consensus was that the pink stalactites were the result of sensor damage; sounds like the sensor is probably the culprit for you at well. If the recall doesn't apply somehow, and Canon's going to charge you for the repair, it will probably end up being almost as expensive as getting a new camera.
posted by ubersturm at 8:27 PM on April 5, 2009

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