Twenty years after buying my first Nikon camera - and having owned 15 Nikon SLRs in that time* - I can honestly say I've had very few reliability problems. The least reliable of the lot was my F100, with which I had a love/hate relationship. I liked the fact that it was a junior F5, with much of that camera's functionality in a more portable package. I hated the fact that it suffered a slew of random mechanical and electrical glitches - and that it ate AA batteries by the dozen.
Anyhoo, when my D300's rear selector lock switch packed up a few months ago, I didn't pay much attention. After all, the only practical upshot was that my selected AF point couldn't be locked in place... hardly the end of the world. But then I remembered the camera came with a free 2 year warranty, so I took the opportunity of a quiet couple of weeks to send it back to Nikon for some attention.
I was slightly shocked, then, when the following invoice turned up in my email inbox:
Here's the bit I didn't like:
Around a fiver or so to replace the offending part... and nearly 75 quid for the labour to fix it. Eek!
Luckily the invoice was an administrative ****-up and, after I queried it, Nikon confirmed the camera was still under warranty and the work had been completed FOC. But it was a salutary reminder that kit can be expensive to fix. And that, rather like other manufactured goods (cars come to mind), it's often not the cost of the spare parts that pushes the cost up, but rather the price of labour.
I'm not for a moment begrudging Nikon their right to charge what they do for skilled repair work. But for any photographer contemplating setting up in business, it's worth factoring the cost of repairs and servicing into your business plan. My accounts include a 'camera repairs' section that, most years, accounts for a few hundred pounds' worth of servicing and repair expenses. Y'knoow, stuff gets dropped, or wears out, or just needs a bit of TLC. And it's not cheap. But without well maintained cameras and lenses, you're not going to get very far.
* That's a terrifying number, and one that surprised me. But it's true:
2 x F801 (I still have one)
1 x F90X
1 x F80
1 x F100
3 x F5 (I still have one)
1 x F6 (still in the bag)
1 x D100
1 x D200
1 x D300 (current)
1 x D40X (current)
1 x D2X
1 x D3 (current)