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What is fair replacement for broken camera?

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Michael Kellam
What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 24, 2005 at 2:17:08 am

Hello everyone,
I have a problem and would like to submit my question to the great COW oracle and get your opinions. I was recently on a shoot for a personal project with a camera that belongs to my employer. During the course of the shoot, I tripped and fell and dropped the camera.

When I was hired for the job, I was not offered a salary that I was happy with, but my supervisor said that I could use the employer's equipment for personal projects as a sort of benefit of the job.

I want to do the right thing here, but I'm not sure what that is and I think I'm being taken.

Here's the deal. The camera fell lens first. The camera doesn't look too bad on first glace, but the lens is bent downward maybe 2 degrees and there are stress fractures and cracks around two screws near the lens mount that suggest that the lens pressed inward into the camera. Also, the filter wheel won't turn. The camera portion seems to work OK and still puts out a picture, but the deck portion acts as if it is not getting power and will not eject the tape.

The product is under an extended warranty, but the warranty doesn't cover damage, only factory defects. My supervisor says that he talked to someone at Mack over the phone and sent some photographs via e-mail. My supervisor says the person he spoke with at Mack told him that the camera was almost certainly totalled and that based on his experience it would be a waste of money to ship it to them to check out.

Anyway, my employer wants me to pay for the price of a new camera. The one I broke is three years old and was in reasonably good shape as far as I can tell. The new price for a similar camera is $5200 with lens, batteries, charger and power supply. So far, they want me to pay $5200, but I don't feel too good about that because this one wasn't new.

A few days before I broke the camera, my supervisor indicated that they planned to buy a camera with more features and sell this one used. Two days after I broke the camera, he bought the camera he had been considering, expecting that I would pay $5200 toward the price. When I look out on the web for this camera used, the price range is $3200-$3900. The $3200 includes lens and viewfinder and the $3900 includes lens, viewfinder, batteries and hard case. I have info on 6 cameras currently listed in this price range in comparable condition and I think that I should not have to pay more than this.

When the new camera arrived, my supervisor decided that he needed the lens because the upgraded camera did not have one. Also, he wants to keep the batteries, charger and power supply.

Tell me what you think. I'm leaning toward this. I pay them aroung $3200 and subtract the value of the lens since they want to keep it. I'd have to look at used lenses, but it would probably make $300-$500 difference. Then I keep the camera and sell it for parts for whatever I can get for it.

What would you do? Does this seem fair? I want to do the right thing here, but I don't want to be taken advantage of.

And yes, this has been a good learning experience about the value of a rental insurance policy for these things. (Incidentally, we have exhausted all insurance options and none will pay.)

Thanks for your advice!

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Craig Seeman
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 26, 2005 at 3:25:33 pm

Some tough lessons here.

A verbal agreement to replace but no agreement on value. You can insure things for replacement value or new value. I always insure for new value since that's the price one actually pays for the new piece of gear (as opposed to the used value of the equipment).

Your employer should have insured his equipment. Breakage can happen on his jobs too. NOT the same as an extended warranty. Maybe you should have taken out insurance if you plan on using their gear regularly.

The two of you have to decide what's "fair." I do think keeping the damaged camera is fair after replacement. You really should get (pay) for an estimate. It may be very expensive to repair (new housing, new lense, possibly other things) but it MIGHT cost less then buying a new camera. It might give you a usable camera. I'm not sure if selling for parts is viable. Who uses used parts except for small "in house" repairs? Used parts usually works only on discontinued service parts.

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Michael Munkittrick
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 26, 2005 at 3:41:48 pm

To begin, a 2 degree bend, crack or misalignment is definitely a lens killer. Unless you

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Charlie King
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 26, 2005 at 3:54:28 pm

[Michael Munkittrick] "To begin, a 2 degree bend, crack or misalignment is definitely a lens killer."

Not necessarily. Contact Stuart Rabin at
We have had two lenses repaired after they had been dropped, with what we had decided would be total damage. He is highly recommended by the Hollywood market for lens repair.


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Bob Cole
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 26, 2005 at 11:12:26 pm

[Michael Kellam] "So far, they want me to pay $5200, but I don't feel too good about that because this one wasn't new."

That stance alone would tell me it's time to look for a better employer.

Very likely, the company "expensed" (on their taxes, depreciated to zero) the camera the day they bought it. So I'd start at zero value, and work up, rather than new value. Or, another way to look at it: What would the trade-in value of the camera (less lens) have been on the new one? The fact that they bought a new one two days later makes me think they were ready already!

Also, we have only your side on this, but if using the gear was an offset to a low salary, then it was NOT a purely "personal" use and you don't owe them a cent. I hate to say this, but these guys don't sound like great employers... and it doesn't sound as if they value your services too highly either.

If you want to keep the job, you may have to offer them something, but I too would feel ripped off if they demanded full value. What kind of company is this? Do you really want to work for these folks?

Maybe your "trip" was the first step to another and better job....

-- BC

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Hear! Hear!
on Jul 27, 2005 at 3:45:16 pm


I think that your "Employer" is looking for a creative way to turn a profit and get a new camera to boot. They knew you would use the camera for personal projects and should have insured it to that end. I agree also about them writing it down to a zero value on the books. You are being used to get the company a new camera and making the "Manager" look good. By the way, you are letting them do the research and taking their word for it. Get involved and let them know what the options are.

Here is a creative solution: Offer to pay an amount for the damaged camera in exchange for an equivelant raise in pay. If they don't go for it take your resume and demo tape for a walk around town.

And yes, contracts help. Especially with "money-saving" employers who always try to make you feel responsible for the bad decisions they make. An agreement is an agreement. Hand them the camera back and tell them that you don't feel the slightest amount of guilt over the "accident" that befell their camera. Make them take some responsibility too.

Good luck,

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Donato M. Rondinelli
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Jul 27, 2005 at 10:12:05 pm

Agree. Your employer is aware of everything said in the 5 responses you received on your post. I could see someone like your neighbor demanding full price, someone who doesn't understand the biz & someone who sees $5200 as their life savings. Not from a professional who does this for a living. He's cheating you.

FWIW, I borrowed my former company

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Michael Kellam
RE: Broken Camera: Thanks everyone!
on Jul 28, 2005 at 3:33:06 am

Thank you all for your great answers! Even though I knew that the situation was not right, it was reassuring to get your input as part of my consideration. As it stands, I showed them the current listing of the same camera used and politely said that I did not think it was reasonable to pay more than this. My supervisor was disappointed but seemed reluctantly agreeable. Still, it has to go the financial guy for approval. In any case, the used price will be my max, just to try to be reasonable.

For those of you who commented about looking for another job, I posted a question about a job search a few posts back! ;-) That was before I broke the camera, but I have unfortunately had many other experiences with this employer that scream this isn't the best employer. I seem to be fishing in the wrong pond when I look for jobs, but this time I'm determined to be smarter about it.

Bob, I had to laugh when you said, "Maybe your "trip" was the first step to another and better job...." It would have been easier if I took the step intentionally, but I agree wholeheartedly!

Since I posted my original post, we were able to remove the lens. (Previously, we could not get it off.) The lens works fine. It was actually the mount on the camera body that was bent. When I looked into the camera where the lens attaches, I could not see the CCDs and part of the interior mechanism was definitely out of place. I am reasonably satisfied that the damage will be too expensive to send to the manufacturer, but I know some good engineers who would be able to assess it more particularly for me.

Thanks again for all your comments! I very much appreciate them!

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tony salgado
Re: What is fair replacement for broken camera?
on Aug 2, 2005 at 6:49:34 pm


You should contact the labor board in your state regarding the rights of employees. In some states an employee cannot be held accountable to provide insurance to the employee for damaged gear.

However you may not have a job if you choose not to pay for the gear which you damaged. But then again did you have a written agreement in which you were to held responsible for and damage and it clearly stated that the cost would be full replacement value?

Tony Salgado

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