When I decided to step up to a full frame dSLR camera I spent months researching everything from the body to the lenses to the accessories that I would need. Included in that was a seemingly endless debate in my head around protection plans. Most sites dismissed these of course; photography forum members said they’ve never broken anything, consumer blogs talked about limited use and getting your money’s worth but carrying a single item worth well north of $2,000 seemed like an accident waiting to happen and I felt I needed something in case of damage.
How SquareTrade Plans Work
Shopping around yet again I found that by purchasing my camera from B&H, I was able to get a 4 year, accidental protection level SquareTrade* plan for about $100. For less than 5% of the purchase price of my camera I ignored the remarks, sucked it up and made the investment. For a year that plan seemed about as useful as the blogs all said it would be…
But accidents happen. Heading out on an early winter adventure a few weeks ago, I hiked, I explored, I had a blast but somewhere in the day the bottom of my trekking pole and the lens of my camera apparently decided to get close, really, really close. Don’t ask me how that happened but believe me when I say that whatever metal it is they use on the tips of trekking poles beats glass any day of the week, even with the “protection” of a lens hood (I had ditched UV filters after reading about their utility though who knows if that would have helped here.)
The result was not one or two small scuffs but a whole host of scratches along the front of the lens. In truth, the few photos I snapped after noticing the incident seemed just fine but with the risk of degrading a shot at a smaller aperture, from the apparently increased risk of sun flare and of course tanking the value of my lens, fixing it seemed obvious. That I happened to be using my SquareTrade covered lens made it an easy call.
There are of course many protection plans out there, even many flavors from SquareTrade, but my concern isn’t about extending the factory warranty as it is in covering accidental damage. In that regards SquareTrade’s “drops & spills” which applies to incidents of all sorts stood out and I elected for 4 years of that coverage. I did select a 5 day service level rather than 2 which helped bring the cost down a couple bucks.
Putting it to the Test: My SquareTrade Experience
The promise when I signed up was no deductibles, no shipping costs and repairs within five days plus shipping time but how would it actually work? When I first filled my claim online it sat around for a few days lost in limbo until I called up to get things moving. After that hiccup it was smooth sailing, no fuss, no argument. SquareTrade emailed me a FedEx shipping label which I slapped onto a box I bought (my only cost in the repair) and shipped out their way From there updates were frequent and automatic: shipment started, package received, repair in progress, repaired item on its way back.
The lens that came back minus the scratches and plus a little extra cleaning… crisp, fast, so far it seems to be shooting like nothing ever happened.
All said the process took a week with the camera leaving my house on Friday morning and returning the next Friday via FedEx 2 Day delivery. As I understand it, SquareTrade may issue coverage plans in years but their service works more like a debit account with the cost of your repairs or replacement being deducted against the amount the camera cost in the first place until you run out of coverage funds (or have to chip in.) Replacing the front of element of my lens seems to be about a $200 fix so I’ve already come out ahead though hopefully it will be both my first and last incident; being without my camera was no fun!
Would I have fixed my lens if I didn’t have the replacement plan? Yes, absolutely though I certainly would have shopped that around. Would I buy coverage on another major camera body or lens? For sure, well, as long as the price was right (my rule for these plans is 10-15%, max.)
The bottom line: Worth it for outdoor photography
Most importantly: Would I suggest SquareTrade for you? That really depends on what you plan to do with your camera. Insurance becomes much more necessary when you’re out traveling to places in bad weather and participating in highly involved activities. Wandering around town or shooting events, I’m guessing a break is a lot less likely than a theft and that’s not covered here (nor is reckless use or cosmetic damage.)
Point is, look at the cost, consider your actual use but don’t pass just because some report says the average user doesn’t benefit. You’re an adventure traveler and we’re talking about your camera, not a TV sitting peacefully in your home (or van home.)
This post has picked up in visitors over the years so a quick update…
All said and done, my original camera + lens were served 3 times by SquareTrade for different issues before I sold them off. Over that time, the warranty request process has gotten easier (less chatting, more forms fields & automation) though the repair speed is about the same. They don’t seem to tell you exactly what everything costs but asking support, I used about $700 of repair value — perhaps an overstatement vs a local repair shop but a direct savings in my book. No surprise when I say that I bought coverage on my new camera too though once again, I shopped for the price on it!
* To be clear, I purchased my SquareTrade plan as a regular customer and received nothing for this review. However, if you buy through my links, I do get a commission on any sales.