Over the past 30 years, We've seen a number of generations of "new technology" in the consumer electronics field, but none have been as challenging to keep customers happy as the current Digital generation. Everything is smaller, lighter, and more susceptible to damage from handling and the environment.
Please, don't let this steer you away from purchasing new digital equipment, but DO keep in mind that your new digital camera or camcorder, while small and handy, requires the care due any other very expensive piece of equipment in order to get years of enjoyable service from it.
Intermittent problems are what triggered this article. We frequently have to explain to our customers that on some intermittent problems there may be no economical 100% fix. We can open open up the equipment, clean and re tension the connectors, clean and realign the mechanism (and the customer pays for that), but we can't always guarantee the problem won't reoccur, especially if we cannot recreate it during test conditions. Under those circumstances, we make every effort to address all possibilities and known causes, short of board and mechanism replacement. If the unit fails again, we are probably looking at repairs approaching replacement cost of the unit due to the necessity of having to completely tear down clean, reassemble and realign, or replace entire mechanisms and circuit boards..
Many customers haven't accepted the level of sophistication and complexity of the product they purchase. For instance, when you purchase a computer, it is understood that repairs are expensive (of course, it's a "computer" ??). When you purchase a $1000 35mm SLR camera, you probably also purchase wonderful padded cases, special lens tissues and more (because it will be expensive to repair if you don't take care of it).
But when it comes to consumer electronics, the manufacturing processes (and marketing strategies) for those miniature digital cameras and camcorders are doing a wonderful job of suggesting that the products can be taken and used everywhere (like disposable cameras). No where is it suggested that this is a hi-tech piece of equipment requiring special care to avoid expensive repair bills..... Even the owner's manuals don't hint that these are fragile and need excellent care.
I heard one salesman in a large store working with a customer. "I'm going on a 2 week Safari in Africa and want to take pictures and movies", the customer said. "Here, this Sony Mini DV camcorder would be excellent." The customer was cautions. "It's so small, is it reliable? It will be dusty, and we'll be riding in open vehicles and on elephants". The salesman reassured the gentleman, "Sony is the best and you have a warranty in case anything goes wrong"........ I had to walk away.. That customer will not be happy when he fails to bring home the movies he planned on, then brings his dusty, gritty camcorder in for warranty service and learns that failures due to dust, dirt, moisture, falling off elephants, etc are not covered by warranty.
The technology that makes this equipment possible packs the processing and control power of several home PCs onto a tiny circuit board about 2 inches square. This board has components the size of a pin head on both sides, and 2 to 6 layers of foil circuit traces in between. These traces are interconnected between the layers with tiny plated holes. The mechanism, display, etc connect via connectors on flat ribbon cables. Some of these connectors are smaller than half an aspirin, with over 100 connections. Corrosion form high humidity environments or splashes can damage these connections. Smoke and other contaminants in the air can cause poor and intermittent connections.
Vibration can cause failures of the plated through connections. The clearances in the mechanism are such that a grain of airborne sand, such as gets in your eyes at or near the beach, can halt or cause erratic operation of the mechanism.. Airborne contaminants, and coatings transferred from poor quality tapes can also cause intermittent operation, and errors that are nearly impossible to diagnose. We won't even mention things such as getting dropped, or having a tape inserted or removed forcibly, or even pressing in the wrong place on the mechanism.
These are delicate precision pieces of equipment, and need to be cared for accordingly in order to insure continuing, quality performance.
Halle's Service, Inc.
Last modified: March 31, 2007