Camera, meet concrete—will Canon or Nikon triumph in the DSLR drop test?


posted Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 12:34 PM EST

For the last couple of years, the folks at third-party protection plan company SquareTrade have posted regular drop tests, taking consumer electronics devices and either dropping them or dropping things on them, all in the name of finding out which fares best. The tests, which have so far been limited to phones and tablets, are uncomfortable to watch, but as photographers we found their latest video rather more painful than most.

For their latest drop test, SquareTrade partnered with New York electronics store B&H to drop two digital SLRs from a height of four feet onto concrete. The two models in question -- the Canon Rebel T5i and Nikon D5200 -- both had their kit lenses mounted, and a representative from B&H stood ready to test the cameras post-drop.

The immediate results were pretty predictable: both cameras lost their lenses immediately on striking the ground. Like much entry-level glass these days, both optics have plastic lens mounts, and their bayonets immediately shattered on impact. That might not seem desirable, but when you consider that an entry-level kit lens is typically far less valuable than the camera to which it is attached, it's actually good news. When a couple of pounds of camera kit suffer a significant fall, something is going to give. Better it's the cheap lens than the less-cheap body, as might have been the case with a metal mount.

SquareTrade drop-tested consumer digital SLRs from Canon and Nikon. Their attempt to draw a meaningful conclusion from just a single test, though, is perhaps rather ill-advised.

Perhaps more surprising is that when both cameras had a new lens mounted, cosmetic damage aside, they actually continued to operate just fine. SquareTrade called the test in favor of Canon because of more significant cosmetic damage to the Nikon, but in our book both cameras handled the abuse surprisingly well, and the test itself is so fundamentally flawed that choosing a victor is meaningless. Pseudo-scientific drop rig aside, what's really being tested is simply which camera happened to hit the ground at precisely the right angle to minimize damage, and which hit at precisely the wrong angle. On the day, that went in Canon's favor, but it could just as easily have gone the other way -- and you'd have to perform dozens (if not hundreds) of drop tests from all angles to make any meaningful commentary on product reliability.

But then, that was never really the point of the video -- it exists only to draw viral clicks and promote the companies involved. If a meaningful result was wanted, they wouldn't have been testing cameras without weather sealing in a rain shower, after all. That the video showed both cameras living to shoot another day despite both rain and deliberate abuse was an unintentional side effect. The commentary that the video -- and others like it -- provide on our society as a whole is rather less pleasant. We're pretty sure that -- entry-level gear or not -- there's a down-on-their-luck photographer out there who could've taken some great photos with either camera.

Of course, SquareTrade aren't the only ones smashing up gear for no good reason. Their most-viewed video lags some way behind the 17-million plus views of Android Authority's iPhone 5 versus Galaxy S3 drop test, and Blendtec has built a reputation on needlessly destroying everything from cameras to car parts with their blenders. But at least Blendtec's videos show their equipment standing up to the rigors of blending every consumer electronics gadget under the sun. It's harder to see the point of SquareTrade's videos. Yes, gadgets break when you intentionally drop them from great height. Occasionally, as in this video, they don't break as badly as you'd expect. Either way, we rather doubt SquareTrade's warranty is going to cover the same intentional abuse shown in the video.

(via The Phoblographer)