Introduction: Fixing Dropped Compact Cameras

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This isn't a complete guide to compact repairs, however you have a good shot of fixing it if it wasn't completely destroyed from the fall. 

If it turns on, twiddles the lens then dies you've probably knocked the lens a bit and that's surprisingly fixable. 

Before grabbing your camera read this all the way through carefully, it might stop you from just randomly attacking the steps and skipping directly to the issue you're having.

*Disclaimer* This is not a guaranteed fix for your camera, if it is insured or under warranty you should return it to the supplier for repair or used an approved repairman.  I cannot be held responsible for the risks you take with personal property and your own body by working on your camera, components inside can hold a lethal charge, specifically the capacitor for the flash, which is likely to be charged during this. 

I hate disclaimers though in comparison to caps in disposables the spark from shorting one is deafening, rather blinding and implement wrecking.

If you liked this instructable then please vote for it in the USB contest, which is in the voting stage now!

Step 1: Take It Apart

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If you like you could use a little screwdriver, however here is a list of things I have taken apart and repaired cameras with: 

 - Corkscrew, the little knife on it
 - kitchen knife
 - A strange triangle of metal
 - My mind

Go around the outside, looking for screws, there's usually a hidden one under the battery cover. 

The cameras all tend to have to faceplates and an inner body, only unclip and remove the front side with the lens on it at first, depending on the inner construction the back may be able to stay on. Make sure not to lose the buttons.  Leave that black tape in place, especially at the head of the capacitor. 

Step 2: Inspect the Lens

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If it looks perfectly fine and is closed properly or almost completely then look around the lens assembly for screws holding it in and gently loosen them a little. 

Put the battery in without the case on and test the camera, if it works you can reassemble it, if it doesn't continue to the next step. 

Step 3: Remove the Lens Assembly

Picture of Remove the Lens Assembly

This is where things get trickier, removing the lens assembly may mean taking the LCD off the back to remove it, though don't fear the ribbon cables too much, they're mostly the kind with the flip up clip holding them in as opposed to the evil ones that just push in and out. 

If the lens assembly can be lifted out and removed with the ribbon cables attached it's easier to tell if it's fixed. 

On the back of the lens assembly there are usually around four screws holding the back on, slightly loosen these, no more than a full turn. 

Hit the power again and see, sometimes this is enough to ease the pressure on the gears and get the lens moving again. 

Step 4: Spinning the Gears

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This is a tricky step that sometimes works by simply resetting where the gears in the lens meet, it's pretty hit or miss but requires a bit of care. 

You need to loosen but not remove the back of the lens assembly just enough to let the gears not meet fully. 

Power the camera on and you'll hear the lens gears grinding and jumping, only let it happen for a second, literally a second then yank the battery because the camera will sit and do it until you do.

Tighten the back again and attempt a power up. 

By now the measures are getting to be a bit extreme and less likely to work without destroying the camera and it only gets worse from here on in, unless you happen to have schematics and proper tools.  Actually before doing anything google that, it's probably a great idea. 

Step 5: Scary Biccies Time.

Picture of Scary Biccies Time.

When it comes down to removing the back of the lens assembly you're getting down to the figurative wire, along with exposing the CCD sensor - it's actually very pretty by the way, but keep it covered, a speck of dust will wreck it because they're much smaller than an SLR sensor and designed to never be exposed to the outside world, like Wow players. 

Anyway once you've taken the sensor out the most likely broken thing is the strange lens on a spring loaded swing arm, that can pop of the rail very easily and getting that spring back in place is insanely difficult, like consume a glass of wine in the process difficult.  

At this point I'd like to just ask what the fuck? Anyone who can give me a decent reason for throwing such a pointless fragile element in to the middle of a compact camera instead of the plethora of technological options that could easily and cheaply replace such a nuisance piece gets a patch. 

If it's not that little swing arm inspect for misaligned gears and pieces sitting skeewiff, try and realign them, sewing needles are handy for the poking. 

If there's nothing visible then you're free to attempt complete lens disassembly, granted it's nigh on impossible and putting it back together is an endeavour I simply couldn't complete without losing my patience, sanity, will to live and probably a digit or two. 

However there's other stuff to try yet. 

Step 6: Helping With Force.

Picture of Helping With Force.

Only do this is the lens is stuck open, with the little end shutter open that is. 

fire the camera up and watch which way it tries to turn, wait until it goes back and turns off then turn it on and help it move that way, start gently and build up to a still gentle but firm twist, if you can get it to turn through and go on normally put an arrow on the lens barrel to show which way to turn it, put the thing back together and do that each time it jams, after a while it may well work normally again. 

Step 7: The Little Shutters

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If these are jammed closed even as the lens opens forwards then they're likely broken, depending on the mechanism they work by, which does change removing them can solve the problem, unless the damage is inside the lens barrel. 

These are wretched little things to work with and if they're just knocked off the pivots then putting them back on and reattaching the tiny, miniscule little springs to them is a nightmare, if they're bent or broken chuck them and reassemble the lens front without them or the springs etc. inside.

Step 8: The Limits of This Instructable

Picture of The Limits of This Instructable

The camera below had been fixed before, however my friend decided she would then destroy it for good by standing on it after dropping it, so it features twice in the 'ible, this was the end for it. 

I still had a crack at it but the actually rails that the lens parts spin on were destroyed so it wasn't going to work. 

However a solution to this could be to spoof the sensors on the side of the assembly with a clever bit of soldering or some such, you'd probably lose the ability to zoom but essentially the camera could function again if the firmware can be made to believe it's not broken. 

Comments

mikeasaurus (author)2010-06-30

I have the same exilim camera and my lens barrel bent from being dropped (doing this instructable).

I used the same methods as you show in Step 6 for both opening and closing the extruding lens for a few times until the camera was able to operate under its' own power. Camera still works, though has some 'personality' now.

Nice job explaining the options to fix this (and similar) cameras, always neat to see someone braver than I take apart their camera.

Good stuff, though it's certainly the easiest option that one has the most chance of screwing the lens completely, on completely giving up on one before I it smalled the front of the lens and by pure luck popped it back on track, luck plays a part...

Hmm, most of my stuff has a personality by now, thanks for the comment, it's good hearing that other people are succeeding with the techniques...

Turns out the exilim isn't water proof, mine just went swimming on a recent trip. Looks like it's time for a new camera

Oh dear... The one in the photos got dropped again, about to take it to bits though they kept trying to turn it on so the gears may be ground up too much to fix...

T3h_Muffinator (author)2010-07-30

This is a pretty great guide! Don't be afraid to open up your fancy electronics, especially if they're already broken. I just dropped my fancy camera in a river, but wasn't able to rescue it. Any tips?

Dry it out after removing the battery and give the battery a charge up if it won't go open it up and look for any corrosion or trapped water, if there's none you can try reflashing the bios from computer because the chips aren't too good at surviving water with memory intact

Phil B (author)2010-07-02

I was taught early to wrap a neck or wrist strap around my wrist before picking up a camera, or around my neck if that is possible. Then I may still drop the camera, but it will not fall as far and damage is less likely. Most small cameras have a loop for a lanyard if they do not have a strap. There is also the possibility of making a strap that attaches to the tripod mount socket. Also, when working on a camera it is a good idea to find the shallow lid for a cardboard box and turn it upside down. Place the camera inside it before taking out the first screw. When a small part, like a screw, rolls or bounces away, it can go only as far as the edge of the box. It sure beats scouring the piles in the carpet for a lost screw.

killerjackalope (author)Phil B2010-07-02

You're right about making use of a strap, the best way I've seen so far is putting the lanyard around the strap your watch then closing the watch strap. Thats always a good plan for screws as well

Kaelessin (author)2010-06-30

I want to thank you in advance (of me trying this) for pioneering these uncertain waters! I already replaced the camera in question but couldn't bear to throw it away so now, thanks to you, I've got a "no risk" opportunity to repair it and perhaps gift it to someone! I was actually 1/3 of the way through a backpacking trek, riding a bus from Manchester to Carlisle when we hit a bit of a bump and my somewhat sleepy fingers let it slip to the floor . . . thankfully there was an awesome camera shop in Carlisle!

Glad to be of service, I may do the same for those little digital camcorders, they're relatively simple compared to a stills compact inside and usually easy to repair.

carlos66ba (author)2010-06-30

Nice! If only I had seen this a year ago... Sigh! :(

Eh, life... Ah well everyone drops cameras, I just dropped my new phone, insurance is a god send, week in and it's cracked in the corner and a bit upset with itself...

ton2303 (author)2010-07-01

This is a very helpfull instruction! I also saved quite a few cameras this way. Just for information, if all the steps in this instruction don't work and your camera is still worth a few dollars.....spare or refurbished lens units can be ordered through eBay and/or AliBaBa.com in China for $ 10 to $ 20 a piece. I have meanwhile replaced about a dozen of these freaking things (I have very clumsy friends and family members!), which I ordered at http://sunrisecell.en.alibaba.com Just send them an e-mail, cause their website is a bit puzzling. I always got a prompt reply from a nice Chinese lady with an assumed english name ;) Good luck

killerjackalope (author)ton23032010-07-01

This is good to know, handily the instructions should explain how to remove and replace the lens unit as a general guide.

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