SquareTrade, an independent warranty provider for electronics and appliances, has been regularly releasing reliability studies for product groups it covers (laptops, game consoles, and smartphones, so far) and Wednesday, it dropped one on digital cameras. Its analysis looked at customer-reported failure data from a sample of more than 60,000 new digital cameras purchased by SquareTrade warranty customers since 2006.
As you can see in the graph, Panasonic had the fewest reported failures while Casio had the most for cameras priced less than $300. The study (which you can check out in full here) also looked at premium point-and-shoots, those priced from $300 to $500. Of those, Canon had the highest percentage of failures at 6.2 percent; however, overall failures are significantly lower at this higher price point at just 4.8 percent.
Other result highlights are that on average, 10.7 percent of digital cameras fail within two years, and 15.6 percent are projected to fail within three years; accidents account for slightly less than 40 percent of camera failures; and (shocker!) more expensive cameras tend to be more reliable than cheaper models. Oh, and Nikon and Canon digital SLRs are equally reliable; there wasn't enough data on other brands.
There are plenty of ways to pick apart statistical studies like this one (please feel free to do so in the comments). It's helpful information to have, but the company is still in business to sell you an extended warranty, after all. Unsurprisingly, its digital camera warranty addresses the study highlights mentioned in the previous paragraph. SquareTrade's coverage is for three years; it charges a little extra for accidental-damage coverage; and the more expensive the camera, the more the coverage will cost you and the odds are in its favor on needing to pay out.
On the other hand, a lot of the data jibes with my experience. Particularly the high three-year failure percentage and the more you pay, the better the product. I can't speak to the reliability of specific brands, though. Can you?