Prologue: In mid-September, I went spelunking in my fellow CNET camera editor Aimee Baldridge's office and came upon a Casio EX-S500 with a bizarre-looking, obviously broken, LCD.
Fast-forward to last week: Rik Fairlie, the Editor of Computer Shopper, popped into my office with his relatively new PowerShot SD400 and a perturbed look on his face. Lo and behold, it had the same ugly disfigurement as the Casio. Seeing this, I immediately did what any self-respecting expert does when confronted by the unknown: I Googled. Sure enough, users by the busload have complained about problems with the LCDs on the PowerShot SD series. Read for yourself.
Given the popularity of the models, the raw number of complaints didn't really startle me--the more you sell, the more people you'll get posting complaints. What did surprise me were the number of people who said the Canon tech support had accused them of mishandling the camera. especially since the LCDs show no sign of external trauma. The effect is more like a stuck kaleidoscope than anything. Put that together with liquid crystal display, and to me it fairly screams internal damage.
My next step was to search Canon's site for any mention of this problem. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
So I contacted Canon and asked for its official policy. Bottom line: You're supposed to call one of the factory service centers. It seems as if they have the discretion over whether or not to charge for a repair.
Having seen the damage myself and read some of the complaints, I must admit that I'm having second thoughts about recommending any of these models as holiday gifts. Even if the problem occurs in only a tiny fraction of the units, I really wouldn't want to burden a giftee with the responsibility of dealing with the issue if it does arise.
I also have to admit that Canon has disappointed me on this one.
If you have one of the SD models, I suggest that you don't put the camera in your back pocket, make sure the LCD is surrounded by downy softness when you put the camera in its case, and in general, handle it with extra care.
And finally, a hearty chuckle goes out to dadu02 on eBay, who saw the market opportunity and went for it: he posted a listing offering to replace the broken LCDs for $100.