Sunday, August 23, 2015

Insuring Your Camera Gear: An Update

This is one of the most popular articles in my blog.  My blog has had over 134,000 pageviews in its  history, and this post has had numerous comments and over 3000 pageviews (hmmm, I am pretty sure that Blogger said this post had over 3800 pageviews back in June 2015!).  Thanks for reading my blog!

The original article can be seen at:

Insuring Your Camera Gear
A Partial Guide
by Norbert Wu

Second Update, August 23, 2015:
For the first time in ten years, I had to make a claim for flooded camera gear.  Short story: Rand Insurance, the agent for Chubb Insurance, came through for me big-time.  I've heard for years that Chubb Insurance was among the best insurance companies that anyone could hope for, particularly folks in my business of photography and filmmaking.  My experience with them has been nothing but great.

Here's a summary of what happened.  I was flying a DJI Phantom quadcopter, with a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera mounted on it.  For some reason, the quadcopter lost power (or lost a propellor) and fell into Puget Sound, 20 feet away from me, in 12 feet of salt water.  It was not a good feeling.  I have not lost or flooded a camera in many years.

Like all accidents, a series of small mistakes led to a big one -- the drowning of my camera and quadcopter.  I was in a rush to film my nephews who were kayaking in Puget Sound, so even though the Phantom told me that it had not collected enough GPS satellites to return home if battery power became critically low, I ignored the warning.  I had flown this drone a few hours and was over my careful beginner stage of flying, and into the more dangerous zone where I actually felt more confident of my ability to steer the drone.  I had flown the drone earlier in the day with no problems.

I ended up having a great time flying the drone over my nephews.  The first-person-view (FPV) gear that I had installed on the drone was working OK, and so I let the drone get too high.  When a drone gets too far away, it is extremely difficult to see the direction it is going.  The only way to see is to delicately touch the controls and attempt to see how the drone responds.  I had a few adrenaline-releasing seconds where the drone got much too close to my neighbor's huge cedar trees.  I got the drone away from the trees, but as I brought it home, the drone suddenly vibrated a bit and then dropped straight into the water in front of me.  Ouch!  I either ran out of battery power (which I don't think was the reason) or a propellor fell off the drone.  When I recovered the drone the next day at low tide, one of the props was missing, which leads me to suspect the latter reason for the failure.

 I gave Rand Insurance a call.  Rand is the agent that issues the North America Nature Photographer's Association (NANPA) equipment insurance policy.  It's a great camera equipment insurance policy, and I've had it for perhaps 20 years.  My experience could not have been better, and the following describes some of the issues that I raise in my article on photography insurance of July 2007.

I periodically send Rand a list of my gear along with the value of that gear.  For instance, my DJI Phantom was listed at $600, which is the price that I purchased it for.  When the Chubb Insurance representative talked to me, she asked me to send in quotes for the equivalent gear.   My Phantom model was no longer made, so I sent in a quote for the model that was currently available.  This model sold for $900.  Because Rand/Chubb provides replacement value for listed gear, they paid me $900 to replace my $600 quadcopter.  This way I could buy the equivalent model of drone for my loss.

Needless to say, this is impressive -- and this is what you should look for in an insurance policy.  In other words, let's say this is a car insurance policy and you've insured your brand new 2015 Toyota Camry which you purchased  for $30,000.  The car is somehow damaged beyond repair.  You cannot find another 2015 Toyota Camry in the same condition, so you send your insurance agent a quote for the closest equivalent Toyota Camry that you can find -- a 2016 model that will cost $35,000.  Your insurance company does the right thing by you and sends you a check for $35,000 (minus the deductible) so you can replace your damaged vehicle with another vehicle that is the closest replacement that you can find.  I have to say that this is just superb, awesome service.  Thanks, NANPA, Rand, and Chubb. 

An aside:
A friend recently recommended Divers' Alert Network EQUIPMENT INSURANCE PLAN to me.  I decided to give this insurance a pass.  Among the things that I found objectionable with this plan were the following clauses:

First, the rate for this insurance, from my calculations, is about 3.5%.  In other words, if you insure $10,000 worth of gear, then the premium will cost $350 per year.  There is a minimum but it is difficult to ascertain from their website, which simply asks you to enter the value of your gear and then comes back with their premium cost. 

(Rand/Chubb's insurance is lower, at 2.45% annually on the value of the gear insured.  )

This clause is a bit unfair: "The premiums are fully earned, meaning there will be NO REFUNDS if the policy is cancelled before the Insurance Certificate expires or if there is a reduction in coverage due to sale or loss of an item."  In other words, if you insure an item and then sell it, you get nothing back if you remove that item from the list of insured gear before the year ends.  

(Rand/Chubb's policy allows me to remove or add items to my insured list at any time.  They will even send a refund check if my total after removing items results in a lower total amount being insured.  )

And beware of this clause from Divers' Alert Network EQUIPMENT INSURANCE PLAN: 
We DO NOT provide coverage for items that are lost underwater while you are diving, that fall off the back of the boat, or are swept overboard. 

OK, I can live with this, and I am glad that this omission is clearly stated.

I found this last clause to be very objectionable, and to be hidden in the fine print:
$100 unless claim is for water damage. In the case of a water damage claim, the deductible will be the greater of 10% of the claim or $250.

 This clause, frankly, stinks.  Let's say you flood a camera housing with a $3000 Canon or Nikon camera in it, and a $1000 lens.  You are able to save the camera housing, but the $4000 in camera gear is a loss.  If you have this insurance policy, you will get back (hopefully) $4000 minus the deductible, which will be the greater of $250 or 10% of the value of the loss, which in this case will be $400.  Therefore, you will get back $3600 from this insurance company at most -- and I bet you will get far less.
(I don't want to repeat myself, but the NANPA/Rand/Chubb policy will send you a check so that you can truly replace your camera gear -- even if that amount is MORE than declared on your policy.  They do have a $250 deductible). 

I'd like to say that I am just a "regular" customer of Rand Insurance.  I have not been paid in any way, shape, or form for the above recommendations. 

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