My wife loves me. So, she let us buy a brand new Nikon D5100. I was in heaven! This thing made my last DSLR seem like a point and shoot! I spent hours taking pictures (evidence on my flickr site here ) and was enjoying being creative again. One night I was trying to take photos of water droplets by my pool. I accidentally caught my toe on my tripod and the tripod, camera, and lens all went into the drink. The tripod made it. It was the sole survivor.
That was a sad day.
Step 1: Step One: React!
Don't freak out, just be calm and react.
Start by removing your camera from whatever bad situation it is in. Dropped in water? Fish it out of there! Hit the pavement? Pick it up.
Examine your camera for obvious signs of damage, like dents, scratches, cracks, water leaking out, etc. If it's not wet try turning it on.
What isn't working?
Now take that info to google. The great thing about the internet is that it connects people that have a lot of similar problems. Do a search online describing your problems and you'll find a lot things people in similar situations have tried. Some work. Some don't. This will give you an excellent starting point.
For me I read up and watched a youtube video that directed me to pack my camera in rice or kitty litter. It was good advice that got a lot of the moisture out, but unfortunately I had other damage that couldn't be fixed that way.
Step 2: Step Two: Get It Looked At.
Start by checking out iFixit.com . It is a wonderful resource for tear down and repair instructions and even parts. I took one look at their tear down of my camera , sat in awe at the complexity of the thing and knew I was in over my head. You might find an easy repair that you can do though. The only mistake here is to not look.
If you decide this is beyond your ability, send it in to the manufacturer. When you send it in give a good description of what happened and be honest. These folks know what they are looking at and will probably see through any stories you tell to try to get your accident covered by warranty. Don't be afraid to tell them how much you love your camera and their company. While it is not to be expected companies will on occasion comp repairs even if they aren't covered by the warranty because they like polite customers who like them.
Step 3: Step Three: Cut Your Losses
Start by deciding if you are going to replace the camera or not. If you are not going to replace it, skip to the next paragraph. If you are going to replace your camera decide with what. Same model? Same brand? What accessories from your dead camera will work with your new one? The battery and charger from my dead camera will work on my new one and run $70. Take those accessories that you can no longer use and sell them on craigslist, ebay, or digital photography forums. Be fair about your prices.
What do you do with a broken camera? Sell it! My camera came back from Nikon being declaired "BEYOND REPAIR". I put it on ebay. Within a few hours I had a bit for my starting price of $75 and seven people watching it. A week later the auction closed at over $300!
The camera I owned before my Nikon was a Sony a-100. It flew across a sailboat while I was feeding the fish. After that it still took photos but made funny noises and drained the battery super fast. Despite being five years old it sold on ebay for around $170.
Your camera may not sell for much, but it's a lot more than nothing, which is what you've got with a broken camera.
If you do list your dead camera on ebay be honest about it. Use big, bold, red letters at the top of the listing declaring the brokeness of your dead camera.
If you opt not to sell it consider taking it apart for the enriching experience of looking inside and seeing how it works. Just stay away of that huge flash capacitor.
Step 4: Step Four: Learn
Some thoughts I came up with are:
- Be more careful with your equipment. Sure, widening your tripod may add stability, but it makes it easier to kick into the pool.
- Consider a protection plan. If you do, always read the fine print first and buy from reputable companies. I had a protection plan on my Sony from a fly by night company that didn't exist when I needed them.
- Invest in protective equipment.
- Use a strap or tether whenever possible.