I was very impressed when I was able to buy a Canon SD1000 for $170. I'd been pretty fond of my prior Canon compacts, and the new model was still "made in Japan".
I've learned to be less impressed by "made in Japan". The focus motor abruptly stopped working at age 10 months. The camera didn't even last long enough to qualify for my excellent AMEX extended coverage -- I have to work with Canon (yeck).
It seems this camera is known for early death of the focus mechanism: Disruptive Conversations: My Canon SD1000 camera dies... "Lens error, restart camera". I also see from blog post comments that Canon isn't very good about honoring their 1 year warranty.
In retrospect, Canon quality took a dive with the release of the SD600. Of course even the relatively robust S410 died of mode switch failure, but any company can have that sort of design problem. The recurrence of the same problem with the SD600, however, was clearly a bad sign.
So Canon quality is pretty feeble now.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? When these compact Canons work they take great pictures, and until recently camera technology was moving so fast it was reasonable to upgrade a compact camera every 1-2 years. So there was an argument for building for a short life and low purchase costs.
An argument, but not a good argument. It's not like the cameras give us a one month warning of impending doom -- they fail in use.
I hate that.
Anyway, cameras aren't improving nearly as fast as they were in 2006. Now it's reasonable to replace a camera every 3 years instead of yearly.
So Canon's quality/price ratio is wrong for us.
But does the competition offer more reliable compact digital cameras? I doubt anyone offers a 2 year warranty, for example.
That's what I'm trying to figure out. I haven't had any luck so far, but I'll update this post with what I learn. If I find that Nikon, SONY or Olympus are offering a higher quality alternative, or even better warranty service, I'm ready to switch.
Update: The Olympus Stylus SW (770SW) series uses durability as a selling point, and they're more expensive than feature-comparable Canon cameras. That's encouraging, but the word "warranty" doesn't appear anywhere on the Olympus web site. That's not encouraging.
Update 9/11/08: I eventually called Canon service. It was a very short conversation, mostly them telling me to omit the strap, battery, memory card, etc. After we finally mailed the camera it turned around very quickly. They replaced the optical assembly and main "pcb" (circuit board). It works. Canon service did well, though I'd have preferred to avoid them. We're out the cost of the package but the camera is effectively new again.
Update 10/17/08: Just noticed when downloading images that Aperture sees this as the "Canon IXY Digital 10". This was the Japanese market name for the SD1000. Curious! I wondered if there weren't a few more menu options post-repair. No complaints, but worth noting.