My Panasonic SD600 (which I had bought from Amazon last year when it went on sale briefly) suddenly decided to malfunction last week while on vacation at Walt Disney World.
While my wife was filming the kids at a character meet and greet event, the viewfinder went completely dark (the lens cover was still opened) but there was nothing on the viewfinder. I powered it off and powered it back on and still got the same result. After a few moments, the screen reported the following message "Error occurred. Please turn unit off, then turn on again." Unfortunately when that happens, you can't turn it off as it is completely frozen or hung. The only way to shut it off was to remove the battery.
When I switched over to the playback mode, it said the SDHC card was completely empty which totally freaked me out. I thought I had lost everything during the vacation that we had recorded until when we got back to our hotel later that evening and I took the SDHC card out and looked at on our laptop and all the data was still there -- thankfully!
The camcorder's just barely over a year old (bought in Feb 2011) and luckily I had put it on my American Express card, so there is still an extended warranty on it, beyond Panasonic's 1 year warranty. In addition, I had also purchased a SquareTrade 3 year ADH warranty (being this was our first "expensive" camcorder purchase) back then, so I guess I have some options here as to who I should use in terms of the warranty coverage goes.
1. Any suggestions/advice as to where to send it in for repairs? Panasonic's website mentions about sending it to their service facility in McAllen, TX but in my searches online, I've read countless horror stories about the quality and response (or lack therof) from their McAllen service center for repairs and poor customer service. Apparently there was an Elgin, IL facility that was much better, but I understand that facility has now either closed or no longer handles repairs?
2. How about third party Panasonic factory authorized repair centers? Panasonic also lists a "Precision Camera Repair" located in Enfield, CT. Anyone has any experience with them?
3. Utilize SquareTrade's warranty service/repairs; anybody here have any experience with their own contracted service centers?
My thoughts are to send it in to Panasonic to get an estimate/quote for repairs, and then engage American Express for their extended warranty coverage. If that fails, then I'll use SquareTrade instead. Depending on the outcome, ST may either repair or refund the cost of the purchase price of the camcorder. I've never had to call in on a ST warranty before, so if I had to go down this route, this would be the first.
The camcorder has never been dropped and has well taken care of thus I'm puzzled (and to large degree, disappointed) that it would suddenly die on me in just over a year. I actually like the SD600 and the reviews and comments here on this forum was primarily the reason why I went with this model, and would hate to have to find another replacement at a much higher cost!