Introduction: How to Save a Cheap Action Cam

About: Mining engineer with a jugaad instinct and good hands.

Sooooo, I wanted to see what an action cam offers, without buying something really expensive.

The opportunity arose at the Athens Drone Expo, a while ago. I found this Midland H3 action cam, going for something around 65 euros. At that price, it wouldn't kill me, even if I used it a few of times and threw it away, to join my other pile of electronics I bought on a whim.

Step 1: First Days and the Plan to Make Good Use of the Cam

So I bought this puppy and to save it from limbo, I decided to use it for some terribly cliche dashcam videos of driving long routes I usually do cause of my dayjob, most of which basically got deleted because they seemed completely pointless to me. I only kept one and uploaded it just to say "ha...I'm a youtuber now":

But this summer, vacation was planned for Lefkada island, which seemed to me like the perfect opportunity to check the cam's performance underwater, since one of the most famous beaches, Egremnoi Beach, can only be reached by boat.

Step 2: Gear Up, Get on Board and Jump in the Water

So I brought the cam with me and decided to give it a run for it's money. Turns out, you actually get what you pay for... The footage and image quality was...well you see what i mean right? But I already knew that from the dashcam days.

The first nasty surprise happened in the water.

Step 3: Surprise No1 and 2 and 3

Once in the water, i started trying to get some nice short clips, of my pals, the beautiful beach and the boat that was carrying us.

My pals, were asking to see what I had shot and while trying to do that, I started being unable to scroll down and it the relative button was seemingly stuck and would endlessly cycle through the menu.

See in the pic, how the buttons seem recessed. Well, you can see both of them recessed and that's because eventually the other button gave up as well. So that was 2.

And as if these were not enough, I noticed there was a small water ingress in the case (but thank god not the cam) and also the black sealing cap was starting to chip... So that's No3

Step 4: Once I Got Home...Well Hotel Anyway!

Once I got to the hotel, actually, I happened to have a set of small screwdrivers in my backpack, which I used to tear apart the camera and so painfully noticed that one button had completely collapsed and had turned to small scattered pieces of plastic.

The other one was still in place, but looked fully depressed (literally and metaphorically) and would not respond to my crude attempts to see if it will come out again.

Step 5: Back to Base. Resolved to Fix That!

I got back and decided that using all the tools I got at my workshop, I would resolder a couple of buttons and get this cheap little thing back in business.

I went to my favorite electronics supplier and picked out several candidates, because there are a million ways to screw up a repair, especially in electronics.

Step 6: So I Dismantle!

Start by prying the front panel.

Step 7: Oops...Before Going Any Further!

Remove the battery. Don't be a fool like me or you're gonna fry something for sure.

Step 8: Get Your Good Tools and Start Disassembly!

After you unscrew the 4 main screws (one on each corner) you must also remove the screen from the other side of the frame and then gently try and push the electronics through the black frame.

EXTRA CAUTION: When prying the screen, keep in mind that it is attached with a short ribbon cable, so if you are not that delicate, you risk damaging your screen.

Step 9: Tada!

So now we get to the repairin'...

Step 10: The Culprits!

Check out these puny buttons. When you get no positive feedback and you gotta press hard through the case to make it register, then these buttons are the poorest choice you can make.

I did not have a hard time pushing the remaining button off the pcb.

Step 11: The Substitutes

Picked those heftier ones, with hopes of better survival.

I trimmed the leads and pre tinned them to make my life easier.

Got them on the pcb, but fate is cruel and a) the solder joints were not strong enough and b) they protruded enough to make it impossible to fit back in the frame.

Step 12: So...The Substitutes Part 2

I decided to solder identical buttons to the original parts. Tadaaaaa!

Step 13: Get Everything Back Together and Turn It Back On!

If all goes well, then you should get your cheap trusty cam working properly again.

If not, go buy the cheapest GoPro you can find just to be safe...

Step 14: Sorry for the Long I'ble, Here's a Nice Beach to Relax To!