Kodak's LS443 Camera *or* Kodak's Greediness at its Worst

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by enri, Oct 3, 2005.

  1. enri

    enri Guest

    My LS443 Kodak Digital camera failed all of a sudden, with no human
    intervention nor abuse of any sort after approximately 5000 shots over
    less than three years

    The lens mechanism wouldn't retract. This is the infamous "Error #45"
    which I learned a posteriori, was a well-known common problem in this

    A call to the KODAK service revealed that the camera would not be
    repaired by them, that the unit was no longer in production and that
    there weren't any parts available.

    "Management had decided that it was not in Kodak's best interest to
    repair this kind of problem in this particular camera"

    They offered to replace the damaged camera with a refurbished DX7630
    camera for $125.00 + $10.95 shipping plus the old camera shipped at my
    expense, i.e. roughly $150 for a refurbished, an euphemism for "used",
    camera available for about $250 new.

    I took the trouble to find out which part needed replacement finding
    out that the part in question is a plastic gear costing less than 10
    cents (I know this because I worked optical production issues at
    Lockheed Martin).

    What emerges from this picture is the image of KODAK as a greedy
    company which offered to the market a product having a design flaw for
    more than $500 without doing very much about it.

    The case of Iomega and its "click of death" Zip drive went to court
    eroding its customer base and driving down the price of its stock.

    Image buying a Honda Civic having a design flaw resulting in a
    transmission problem; the company refuses to repair your vehicle but
    offers a different *used* vehicle for half of the original price of
    the original vehicle.

    Kodak could at least had issue a warning to its customers of a
    potential gear problem; the problem was known to them shortly after
    releasing the LS443 to the market. If one knows that the camera has a
    gear problem one would not retract its lens so frequently to save
    battery power.

    This is not a "lack of parts" problem, it is simply too much effort to
    install the part. This "too much effort" is their own engineering
    fault, and the burden for it should not fall on the consumer.

    enri, Oct 3, 2005
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  2. It's unlikely that the cost of repairing the Civic would exceed its value,
    or even be a large fraction of its value. You bought an inexpensive camera;
    you used it for three years and 5000 shots; it doesn't really matter
    whether the failure was an expensive part and you're the only one it's
    happened to or a ten-cent gear that's happened to thousands of them.

    Digital cameras are fragile. Since people want them small, light, fast and
    cheap, things like short lifespans or trouble points on lens systems, card
    doors, etc. are common.

    Bummer. But I think you're shoveling too much on Kodak.
    James Gifford, Oct 3, 2005
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  3. enri

    Alturas Guest

    The poster mentioned paying $500, which isn't my idea of cheap. I
    think Kodak pushes the "EasyShare" concept too much and people buy
    into it. With most Kodak models, the photos themselves don't get top
    ratings. I'd rather get the best possible lens/sensor than mediocre
    photos that are easier to "share" (share with the neighbors?)
    Plugging in a USB cable and browsing for a removable drive is no

    Alturas, Oct 3, 2005
  4. enri

    Alturas Guest


    That and other Kodak digicams have never gotten top ratings for image
    quality, so it might have done you a favor by quitting. I've been
    hustled to buy Kodak models in several electronics chain stores,
    knowing from online samples that they were mediocre. I'd never buy a
    camera on features alone, like the hyped "EasyShare" system. I'm not
    knocking Kodak's potential but there are better buys out there.

    Alturas, Oct 3, 2005
  5. enri

    Ron Hunter Guest

    Perhaps you should have bought a Rolls Royce. They will always make
    parts for any car they ever made. Of course this COSTS. After 5000
    pictures, you should be ready for a new camera with current technology.
    Nothing lasts forever. BTW, I can't buy 'design flaw' is this case
    since it is a part that failed. Parts wear out. Lots of MY parts are
    wearing out, should I complain to the designer?
    Ron Hunter, Oct 3, 2005
  6. enri

    Ron Hunter Guest

    Then replace the LS443 (one of Kodak's better efforts, BTW) with a nice
    new Canon DSLR for about $1500, and then complain about IT.
    Ron Hunter, Oct 3, 2005
  7. enri

    enri Guest

    Go ahead and Goggle LS443 "error 45", you will find out that they
    are many, many entries, suggesting that a *lot* of people had this
    problem. Not to mention the large amount of LS443 cameras sold "for
    parts only" sold in everyday in Ebay.

    Other Kodak camera models do not show such frequent problems. In my
    book this is a classical case of engineering design flaw.

    Also, years and years of handling failures of optical assemblies
    tells me that 5000 shots is not a large number. Typically a properly
    designed gear assembly for a modestly priced Zoom lens has a MTBF
    (Minimum Time Between Failures) of over 50,000 "shots" or lens

    enri, Oct 3, 2005
  8. enri

    enri Guest

    Are you implying that reliability lies only in the realm of *very*
    expensive camaras? I suggest you review the US auto industry
    reliability problems of the 60's and 70's vs. Japan auto industry.

    "Six Sigma" and "Kaizan" are now common terms in US auto industry
    changing our perceptions of automobile reliability forever.

    enri, Oct 3, 2005
  9. enri

    Rob Novak Guest

    The usage patterns and designs of point-n-shoot cameras make them
    inherently less reliable long-term than more advanced/expensive kit.

    Think about it - they get thrown into purses, backpacks, and
    belt-pouches to bounce around with spare change, crumbs, and your
    house keys. They have nifty zoom-y lens barrels that extend and
    retract with every on/off cycle and every stab at the wide/tele rocker
    switch on the back. They dangle on a wrist-strap and get banged into
    things. Lens barrels are frequently composite materials and extend
    far beyond the camera body without the benefit of robust mechanical
    support. They're a melange of design compromises that give people the
    glitzy features they clamor for.

    There are reliable models out there, but they're expensive. Consumers
    want a pocket camera that is small, light, convenient, and not too
    expensive. However, "small" and "light" don't play well with
    "durable", and when you get the three of them together in the same
    place, "affordable" goes out the window. Exhibit A - Leica. Sure,
    they're light, fast, small, and will last forever. The materials used
    and mechanical design employed are light years beyond the average
    injection-molded conglomeration of plastic parts that comprise the
    average consumer camera, though.

    People are just not willing to pay for durability coupled with
    convenience. To keep the price point low, increased durability only
    comes at the expense of size and weight, which goes against the market
    demand for smaller and lighter. Few want to drop the extra cash for
    the exotic materials and complex tooling that allow for the latter.
    Rob Novak, Oct 3, 2005
  10. enri

    Bill Funk Guest

    MTBF = Mean Time Between Failures.
    Bill Funk, Oct 3, 2005
  11. But when the manufacturer decides not to supply parts, it has to stand for
    Mean Time BEFORE Failure.
    Peter Boulding, Oct 3, 2005
  12. enri

    Ron Hunter Guest

    One must be able to decide whether the part was not correctly
    manufactured (part failure), or was specified incorrectly/inadequately.
    Many companies order parts from a given supplier, in the normal course
    of manufacturing, and if a part fails, then a company can take a 'bum
    rap'. I suggest that it is unlikely that you KNOW which is the case,
    and are just assuming that the error was in Kodak's specification, or
    lack of testing.

    When a consumer product fails, it is also often the case that the user
    routinely used a device in ways not anticipated by the manufacturer,
    which can lead to component failure. This is another 'imponderable'.
    It may be that the part was weak, the usage was extreme, or that the
    part was not correctly specified. I can't see how you can choose
    between those alternative explanations for failure.

    Concluding, without definitive information, that Kodak was at fault
    leads me to believe there is bias in your conclusions.
    Ron Hunter, Oct 3, 2005
  13. enri

    Ron Hunter Guest

    No, I am implying that you don't KNOW that Kodak was at fault, only that
    a part often fails in a certain model of camera. If you explore
    failures in other similar cameras from a range of manufacturers, you MAY
    find that the complaint isn't specific to Kodak, but common of many zoom
    cameras. And, yes, if you pay more, you will probably get a camera that
    will last longer, and will have parts available for a longer period of
    time (the Rolls Royce example).
    Ron Hunter, Oct 3, 2005
  14. enri

    Chip C Guest

    An unimpressive experience and definitely on the low end of customer
    satisfaction, but probably not actionable except to cross them off your
    list of brands for future purchases. Post-warranty repairs are at their
    discretion and struggling old-guard companies that damn near missed the
    whole digital boat just aren't going to have the resources to do it
    right. I suspect they didn't do the core design in-house, in this case,
    and they probably have poor commonality across their various models, so
    repairs on old models will be even less cost-effective than the
    notoriously low norm on mass-market consumer electronics.

    Two experiences of my own that you've reminded me of:

    About 10 years ago I was working for a place that bought D*ll machines.
    One desktop came with a non-functioning monitor: "DOA" as we say. Well,
    such things happen, and the tech came the next day with a replacement -
    a refurb unit. But we paid for a new one, we said. Well, they said,
    warranty replacements are handled with fully-warranted refurbs, no
    matter how soon the problem crops up. But it was DOA, we said. Tough,
    they said, DOAs are handled as warranty calls. So we paid full price
    for new equipment and never, not even for a minute, got it.

    At least X***x put in the fine print on their quotes that some models
    of their big printers were fully reconditioned "factory rebuilt" units,
    so they could make a stronger case that you were stupid to have dealt
    with them to begin with.
    You are aware, of course, that diagnosis, labour and shipping far dwarf
    the nominal cost of the part, so whether it's 10 cents or 10 bucks is a
    bit of a red herring. I'd guess that any repair relating to the lens
    would require a nontrivial alignment and testing effort, so this is
    probably a significant repair. To make the job feasible at all they'd
    probably have to replace some large subsystem, like the whole
    retractable lens assembly, constituting most of the camera's value.
    These were all made at some contract factory overseas which has long
    since retooled for other clients, and it would be ludicrously
    uneconomic to make more of them now. They would have kept some number
    on hand for warranty repairs, used up the leftovers for post-warranty
    work, and now they're gone.
    The picture I get is what I said above: a desperate old-guard outfit
    struggling to keep a share in a market that their name is no longer
    synonymous with, and finding out along with their remaining customers
    that they really aren't up to it.

    (Cynically, if they'd designed it "right", all units would have failed,
    with a uniformly random distribution of problems, the day the warranty
    expired. That all the failures are the same part means that all other
    components were overdesigned!)

    But I do agree that $500 is a price point that should put the thing
    above the disposable level.
    Imagine a Honda dealer telling someone in 2005 that they carried no
    parts, and would provide no service, for a 19xx model, but would offer
    them a $YY trade-in allowance against a newer warranted used vehicle on
    the lot, even though your car's a junker that they'll have to pay to
    get rid of. Perfectly resonable, even generous, for some values of XX
    and YY, no? So it's a good measure of their customer service commitment
    - and their cash flow - but it's not a qualitatively unacceptable
    Effort is money, and the burden of any post-warranty repair or
    replacement will unavoidably fall on the consumer. They've calculated
    that a sustainable price to do the repair would result in the vast
    majority of customers - maybe even you! - not taking them up on it. So
    they've said screw this, let's let folks buy a more current model for
    about what we'd have to charge them to fix the old one. Frankly I'd
    expect many folks to prefer it.

    Chip C
    Chip C, Oct 3, 2005
  15. Absolutely. As I said and as others have said, the market forces for
    consumer point-and-shoots are absolutely contradictory to durability
    under their normal usage conditions. Failure, even widespread and
    consistent failure, of very delicate and easily-abused things like lens
    extension systems is common across makers and models.

    I have an Olympus C-3000; the whole line is prone to damage of the
    extender. The only real solution is to put "lens armor" on it, which
    reduces the pocketability of the camera.

    I bought my daughter a slimmer Oly P&S, which requires you to close the
    front protective shutter to within a fraction of an inch of the extended
    lens assembly - no less and no more; the window is VERY small - and this
    has proven difficult to do without great patience and delicate handling.
    I can see lots of damage occurring from mommies and daddies trying to get
    the damned lens closed so they can chase Junior.

    OTOH, I bought a Canon A-95 for general family use, and I don't have a
    single complaint with it. Small, fast lens extension and retraction, and
    nothing about it requires delicate handling or seems fragile.

    I suggest that anyone buying a digicam of any price range do a ton of
    homework - the info is out there, on various review web sites - and then
    go to a B&M store and handle, handle, handle the two or three final
    candidates to make sure they suit your intended usage style and to make
    sure they don't have a "gotcha" that will prove to be irritating or make
    the cam damage-prone in their hands.

    In particular, pay attention to early reports of fragile parts - easily
    damaged lens assemblies or card doors, fragile connectors, easily
    scratched screens. It doesn't take long for this info to start showing up
    when new models are released.
    James Gifford, Oct 3, 2005
  16. enri

    Alturas Guest

    I think that many photos should be no sweat for a well-made camera.
    With the quickness of digital I could easily take 250 shots on a
    weekend trip, or 1,000 pictures a month if I was so inclined. I guess
    5,000 may seem like a lot for 35mm with a lot more care put into each
    costly snap. If the complainant paid $500 for the camera and only got
    5,000 shots, he paid 10 cents per image, but digital should knock it
    down to a penny, IMO.

    Alturas, Oct 3, 2005
  17. enri

    enri Guest

    "The buck stops here" should be a phrase of wisdom in this case. The
    blame game is of no interest to me or to the teeming millions affected
    by the problem. The issue is one of confidence, once is its broken it
    will stay perhaps forever.

    Having said that and having heard your arguments, as well as the
    arguments of other posters, I will now swallow my anger and feelings
    of impotency and treat Kodak as another company caring very little
    about my opinion.

    enri, Oct 3, 2005
  18. enri

    enri Guest

    You are right. I learned a posteriori that the infamous error E #45
    was known in Dec 2002, only months after the release of the LS443
    camera into the market.

    enri, Oct 3, 2005
  19. That's only a couple hundred rolls of film. That's nothin'.
    Blinky the Shark, Oct 3, 2005
  20. As I've found each time I've researched a new cam (and I buy more than
    most, some for professional use and some for family use), I've found the
    online digicam and camcorder community to be a surprisingly well-organized
    and - with caution - reliable source. Sometimes everyone bitches about a
    "problem" that I don't see as a drawback, but a little comparison of
    opinions, reviews etc. and you can derive a pretty clear picture of which
    cams might suit you and which are dogs to be avoided.
    James Gifford, Oct 3, 2005
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