For sometime I had been wondering about replacing my ageing Olympus 5060 and housing by a more modern camera I spotted the Nikon Coolpix AW130 and got seduced by its small size and the fact it didn't require a housing as it was inherently waterproof to 30M. All other compact cameras like this are only waterproof to 15M, maybe 20M.
After a quick look around I decided to purchase an AW130 from eGlobalCentral (UK). This is a record of what happened...
I only did a cursory check of eGlobalCentral (UK) and bought an AW130 from them at the end of September 2015. I should have looked a little deeper.....
It turned out that despite calling themselves eGlobalCentral (UK) and having a .co.uk website the company is actually based in Hong Kong. My camera was shipped from Singapore and arrived in the UK in a couple of days. It worked. So far so good.
From the enclosed paperwork it was obvious that the camera was actually intended for the Indian market. As it was a grey import it carried no warranty from Nikon UK.
Nikon digital products sold in Europe have a warranty which is honoured by Nikon European offices in the countries listed below. This warranty is not supported by Nikon offices outside of Europe. Nikon digital products sold outside Europe also have localised warranties and are not supported in Europe.
This also meant that I'd also foregone the second year of free warranty currently offered by Nikon which only applied to products imported through Nikon's in-country distribution network.
eGlobalCentral (UK) start off by mentioning a 24 month warranty but go on to say:
For waterproof cameras, action cameras, lens filters, memory cards, mobile phones, tablet pcs, computer, computer accessories, external storage, audio equipment and watches, we only offer the standard 12-months warranty.
Ok, it's a gamble. Saved some money to start with but what happens if things go wrong?....
I took the camera on holiday to the British Virgin Islands in March 2016 where I took it diving. Diving in the BVI is good - warm blue water with generally excellent visibility - and not particularly challenging. You have to take a shovel with you if you want to get much below 20 meters so I wouldn't be getting close to the camera's maximum depth.
After about ten days of diving I came up from a dive, checked out some of the pictures I'd taken, and put the camera on one side. I picked it up about 30 minutes later and found that it wouldn't turn on.
I had had no problems at all up to then. As always I had been very careful with the cover over the battery and SD compartment and there had never been any sign of water in this area after any dive. Anyway, based on past experience of mine (and other fellow underwater photographers), any errors on this front always result in a completely flooded camera. I wondered what had gone wrong with it as there was no evidence of a flood.
So on return to the UK I got in touch with eGlobalCentral (UK) to see about returning it under warranty.....
Interaction with eGlobalCentral (UK) is via a form on their website.
Note: My experience is that this works on a minimum of 24 hours turn-around. Even if you respond immediately to an entry/email they make in the RMA file, you will not get a reply until the following day.
You start off by asking for an RMA (return authorisation number). They also asked for a photograph of the camera. A day later they asked for a video demonstrating the fault - so I sent a video showing that it didn't turn on.
At this point they accepted that the camera could be returned, provided me with a UK address to send it to and also noted:
"Please be noted that we will not cover warranty if there are damage / water damage on the item."
..which I didn't pay a great deal of attention to as this was a camera designed to be used underwater. There might be water damage, but this could be due to me or a manufacturing defect. In the latter case I would expect it to be repaired/replaced as it did not live up to its specification.
I posted the camera off and saw from the tracking information that they had received it the following day. I heard nothing for a week - I guess the time it took to send it on to Hong Kong.
The day after they acknowledged receipt their technician took it apart, found water damage and took some pictures. They said
"According to inspection report, there is water damage on the item, for such damage, it will not be covered under warranty as it is due to improper handling during usage"
At this point I tried to enter into a discussion with them as to whether the water damage was attributable to me or to a manufacturing defect. This discussion was one-sided as every response of theirs was along the lines water damage=no warranty.
To cut a long story short they stuck to the stance summed up in their final reply to me:
According to our warranty policy, we found water damage and we will not cover warranty on this item.
i.e. They offer NO Warranty if any waterproof camera turns out not be waterproof.
You will find the pictures they took here and full transcript of my exchanges with them here.
You'll have to take my word on the fact that I never found any dampness in the battery/SD card compartment and that the battery showed no hint of water corrosion when I sent the camera back. Mind you their own photographs support this fact as the water damage found is at the other end of the camera.
My view is that if the water damage resulted from my mismanagement of the waterproof cover on the side of the camera:
The technician's photographs show a very small amount of water seepage at the other end of the camera where the optics are. There are also three buttons down that side of the camera and the speaker/sounder.
You're free to draw your own conclusion from the photographs taken by their technician.
I certainly won't be dealing with them again and will be more thorough in my research of people I buy from in the future.
At the same time as I put this page up I also published a review of eGlobalCentral UK on TrustPilot. It essentially summarised the detail from this page. After five days there was a response from eGlobalCenttral which included:
As regards to your RMA case we are sorry to confirm that the camera has indeed exceeded the maximum water depth of 30 metres. Therefore, the camera was damaged by water as concluded by our technicians. We understand that it has happened by accident as it is hard to determine the water depth precisely while diving. However, we are afraid that our warranty policy does not allow us to accept your case as the damage occurred at your own expense. We hope for your understanding in this regard.
Looking at the RMA exchanges can you see any mention of this as being the reason for not honouring the warranty?
They are obviously not divers as we very carefully monitor our depth and time when diving. Most of us wear dive computers that tell us all sorts of stuff to make sure we don't kill/injure ourselves. One thing my dive computer does is record a log of my dives which records, amongst other things, the maximum depth I reached, the average depth and the duration of the dive. The depth measurement is accurate to +/-0.2m. In fact it also records my depth every 5 seconds so that I can review a profile of my dive. It has sufficient memory to hold details of my last 35 hours under water.
In response to their claim I added to the review:
Of the thirteen dives I did before the camera failed six exceeded 20m. The maximum/average depths recorded for these dives were: 25.7m/17.6m, 24m/13.9m, 21.5m/14.2m, 20.9m/12.3m, 24.4m/12.8m, 23.4m/14.9m. No dive was over an hour, most were ~45 minutes. The camera is rated for 60 minutes @ 30m. My dives were nowhere near this limit.
My dive profiles for the holiday are here.
Here in the UK Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives credit card users protection in the event they suffer from a breach of contract or misrepresentation when buying goods. It makes the Credit Card company equally liable. (Value of the goods has to be £100 - £30,000).
I decided to write to my Credit Card provider and make a claim under section 75. I sent them a letter summarising the situation to date and said I wanted to make a claim under section 75. Just after I'd posted the letter the eGlobalCentral response to my TrustPilot review appeared so I followed up with a second letter adding that detail and pointing out I had the evidence of my dive computer to back up the fact that I hadn't exceeded the maximum depth of the camera.
A week after making my claim I got a phone call from the Credit Card company to check a few details and the day after that eGlobalCentral got in touch again requesting the dive profiles. I sent them off.
The response that came back was:
After review your case by our management. Sorry be noted that we are unable to accept your case under warranty claim as following reason:
Customer has dived for 1h30” on Mar 17. Since the duration of the camera is only 1 hr, the water damage is caused by misused of the goods.
To refer the duration of Nikon Coolpix AW130 under the following link.
JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent (under our testing conditions) Capacity to shoot images underwater up to a depth of 30 m (100 ft) and for 60 minutes
Checking the details I'd sent them I found the entry:
Initially I made the mistake of thinking that for some reason the PC version of the data was showing the dive duration as 1hour and 30 minutes where the Puck Pro just showed 60 minutes on its display, but the penny soon dropped that the duration being shown by the PC software was 1 hour and 30 SECONDS. Another thing of note here was the maximum depth of that dive was 13.6 metres, well clear of the 30M limit.
I added another entry to the RMA file in case eGlobalCentral had made the same mistake:
Looking at the entry for dive 31 again I see that what it is showing is 1hr 30". i.e I hour and 30 seconds. It is not 1hr 30' (1 hour and 30 minutes).
Once again I should point out that this particular dive was relatively shallow and was no where near the pressure limit on the camera.
The maximum depth reached on that dive was 13.6M. The response that came back 24 hours later was:
Sorry be noted that the repair fee is almost the same or higher than the new product, therefore, we will not suggest to get repair on the item .
Please be noted that there are the return shipping fee @GBP 25 as it is not cover warranty item, so that we will not cover the postage.
Please confirm and provide your return address for arrangement.'
...so they were using the slightest opportunity to wriggle out of their obligations.
I had to wait a few more weeks. The Credit Card company emailed eGlobalCentral (UK) about this and waited for a response - I think they allow seven days to pass before they acknowledge there is no response forthcoming. At that point they honoured my claim and I got my money back. Unfortunately it was from the Credit Card company, not eGlobalCentral (UK).
eGlobalCentral (UK) kept on harping about the entry in the technical specs:
JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent (under our testing conditions)
Capacity to shoot images underwater up to a depth of 30 m (100 ft) and for 60 minutes
The IPX8 standard is meaningless without the qualification of how it is tested. Nikon clearly state their test criteria for the IPX8 test are with the camera held at a depth of 30m for 60 minutes. This does not say that the camera can only be underwater for a maximum of 60 minutes. In the user manual they say: "This rating indicates that the camera has been designed to withstand the specified water pressure for the specified period of time when the camera is used according to the methods defined by Nikon".
If the camera is taken to say 15m rather than 30m it will be at half the pressure that it would have been at 30m and under half the stress. It would natural to assume that if there was a practical limit to the length of time the waterproofing could last then it would be longer than the figure given for 30m. If we assume a linear relationship then we would expect that it would survive for at least two hours.
I would also note that all underwater housings I have seen - and used - have a depth rating. I haven't ever seen a time limit on them. The Nikon camera is new to me in that respect. As far as the seals are concerned it is pressure that matters above all else.
However Nikon do state in their user manual:
I'm surprised eGlobalCentral didn't quote that at me.
However there is some poor wording here for lawyers to ponder on.
When a dive ends I always stop using the camera and switch it and the external flash gun off before I start my ascent. On the ascent there is always a safety stop for 3 minutes at a depth of 5 metres after which you should take a further minute to reach the surface. The camera is not "in use" for at least the last four minutes of the dive which would put it under the 60 minute limit mentioned by Nikon. (You can see the 5m safety stop on the dive profiles I provided).
I am no expert in consumer law and how rigidly statements like "60 minutes or more" are applied but I assume, in the absence of any qualification, that it must be at least +/- 1 unit?
As far as I'm concerned the evidence shows that the water damage was due to a manufacturing defect and that the way in which I used the camera did not contribute. It is reasonable to expect that an underwater camera used well within its depth rating is not going to fail because it was underwater for 30 seconds more than an arbitrary 60 minute time limit. In fact in that last 30 seconds of the dive the camera will have been at one tenth or less of its pressure rating. (3m rather than 30m).
The Credit Card company's lawyers obviously agree with me as they paid up.