Oh no! You've dropped your digital camera. And it's out of warranty. And repair costs more than the camera is worth. What to do short of tossing the camera (or selling on ebay)? Well, believe it or not the average person has a good chance of diy fixing that camera themselves. All they'll need for most cases is some patience, and a little background knowledge. The intent of the posts on this blog are to help provide that knowledge.

But now for the WARNINGS! Many of the repairs posted here should only be considered as a last resort for a broken camera that would otherwise be considered for disposal. Also please consider those repairs that require removing the camera case to also require some electrical background and knowledge, and should not be attempted by anyone unfamiliar with basic electrical components and safety precautions.

Make sure you read this post and are aware of the potential DANGER OF SEVERE ELECTRICAL SHOCK should you decide to proceed with a "do it yourself" repair that involves removing the camera case.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Important Warning: Camera Flash Capacitor Shock!

Any repair that requires opening up the camera case requires some electrical background and knowledge, and should not be conducted by anyone unfamiliar with basic electrical components and safety precautions. If you must open up your camera in an attempt to repair it, it is very important that you understand that there is some risk of SEVERE electrical shock. All digital cameras contain a flash capacitor. This device stores quite a bit of electrical energy from the camera's batteries. This energy is utilized to power the camera's flash. The device itself looks a little like a battery, and in turn draws its power from the camera's batteries. In order to work on your camera, it will be necessary to safely drain the capacitor of any residual charge it may have.

Flash Capacitor

The following link is downloadable procedures for safely discharging the flash capacitor to greatly reduce the risk of electrical shock. Before downloading, the usual warning of “Follow these procedures at your own risk. These procedures should only be considered as a last resort on a broken camera with an expired warranty. I take no responsibility should you damage your camera in following these steps. Also note that there is some danger of electrical shock. I also take no responsibility if you accidentally zap yourself while following these procedures.” Here's the link to the procedures:

Flash Capacitor Safety.pdf (from skydrive)

Disassembling the Canon Powershot A650 Digital Camera

Sample Pic !

What follows is my guide in words and pictures to taking this camera apart. Read it over before starting the disassembly.

Tools needed:

- Set of small screwdrivers. The screws have Philips heads. A thin flathead screwdriver is useful for prying apart the plastic latches in the camera.
- Can of compressed air.

Take off the filter adapter silver ring around the lens by pressing the button next to it. Look at the camera from every angle and take out all the screws you can find. You should come up with a system to track where each screw came from because the screws that you will remove have several types of threads and several lengths. For each screws or group of screws, I ripped a small piece of paper and wrote on it where the screws belong. I formed it into a "container" by creasing it with my thumbs and my index fingers. The problem is that halfway through, you don't know how to name the locations anymore. Probably the easiest thing is to print the images on this site and number the screw holes in the pictures as you remove each screw. This will also make sure you put all the screws back in when you re-assemble the camera.

Next, pry off the back half of the case. Notice it's held in place by three latches, so you have to raise the top a little:

This is how the back looks without the case:

and the front (without the lens assembly):

Next, remove the piece that has the shutter and the zoom controls. The main obstacle is the latch and the ribbon cable:

To remove the LCD, unscrew the two screws shown below and unplug the yellow and the blue connectors:

While you're at it, also remove the ribbon cable that you see in the corner next to the yellow and the blue connectors.

To remove the LCD, there's also this screw and one or two others:

Look at the metal case and remove the screws that hold it together. When you get the flash unit loose, short-circuit the capacitor to discharge it so you won't accidentally electrocute yourself. I used a pair of scissors WITH PLASTIC HANDLES. Touch the two points shown below to discharge the capacitor and to see a decent-sized spark in the process:

NOTE: This is the bad way to discharge a capacitor because it creates a very large current for a brief period of time, possibly destroying the capacitor. You're better off using a resistor to drain the capacitor over ten seconds or so.

Take out the screws that hold the viewfinder in place.

Now comes the fun part: disassembling the lens assembly. Start by taking off the little cover on top of the lens held by a spring if it hasn't fallen off already:

This should leave you with the following pieces held together by cables:

Slowly play with the back cover of the lens assembly. It's held together by a few latches so try not to break them. I broke one or two but I reassembled the lens assembly without any problems. The back cover snapped back into place.

Once you remove the back cover, a few gears will fall out that were connected to the little motor:

Taking apart the lens assembly is by far the trickiest and most painstaking part. The lens assembly is composed of a few plastic cylindrical pieces that have diagonal tracks to guide the other cylinders. When one of the cylinders reaches the end of the track, it pops off because the end of the track is open. Try to remember how every piece looked and fit in before you remove it. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Note, Piece 4 can be decomposed further.

Also, be very careful with the two ribbon cables that go into the lens assembly; I managed to break one of them at some point. I moved to another house while the camera was apart, so I stored everything in a few plastic bags and when I took them out two weeks later, one of these two ribbon cables was ripped.

It's also useful to have a can of compressed air to clean the lens of dust as you are reassembling it.

At the end of the process, you will have the following pieces:

As you see, I removed 37 screws to get to this point.

Here's my Crazy Glue job:

The plastic here doesn't work well with Crazy Glue. One solution is to go to CVS and among the instant glues they sell is a brand of glue that is packaged together with a tube of primer. The primer made the plastic surfaces hold together much better.

Okay, time to re-assemble everything! I'll refer to the cylindrical parts of the lens numbered in red in the previous pictures. The green line shows the ring edge of Piece 4. Rotate the ring until the opening in the ring lines up with the opening of the track in Piece 3. Place Piece 5 inside Piece 6 and rotate them until Piece 5 slips in. Take the combined piece and place it so that the pins from Piece 5 slips through the openings in the ring of Piece 4 and the openings in Piece 3. Push Piece 6 down so that its pins slip through the openings of Piece 2. Here's how it looks:

Rotate all the pieces back into place so the lens assembly shrinks into the retracted position.

Place the three gears inside and snap the back into place. To complete the lens, put the cover with the spring back in place--without permanently deforming the spring. Now go the steps in reverse order to re-assemble the camera.

Good luck!

Canon A560 Point-and-shoot Camera

I bought a two month old Canon A560 camera from ebay with a broken battery door, and broken tabs which hold the door down. After registering the camera, Canon customer's support gave me the phone number of Canon's parts sales department. I was really surprised how cheap the parts were (almost half the price of OEM parts). Canon customer support were really helpful, and from my explanation, suggested that I needed to replace the front of the plastic outer casing, the battery box, and the battery door. Including shipping, that was coming to $40. However, they said that they will not be able to give me repair/ service manual.

Further research indicated that there wasn't much difference between A550 and A560 body parts. From different photographs that I saw on internet, I figured that apart from the LCD, there wasn't much difference, at least from the outside. So I took the chance, and bought a broken A550 from ebay for $20, including shipping.

I did the project quite late at night, so couldn't be bothered to use a tripod to reduce camera shake. Some of the photographs are a little blurry. However, you should get the general idea of how to open the camera.

The following picture shows the A550 camera how I got it from ebay. From the seller's explanation, and the physical appearance, it seemed that the lens assembly was damaged:

NOTE 1: Be very very careful. The camera has components (for flash) which store high voltage. If you're not careful, the shock that you might get is not powerful enough to kill you, but definitely remember it for a long time. Despite being warned by many people on the internet, I got the shock anyway, but I thought that I'll still warn you anyway. My writing these notes is proof enough that it's not strong enough to kill you.

NOTE 2: I took these photographs just as sort of breadcrumbs to guide me back in assembling the camera if needed. I have tried to capture every detail, but if I've missed something, I'm quite sure that these notes give you enough information that you'll figure out what to do in order to take it apart.

My aim was to salvage the battery box, the front plastic casing, and the battery door. The battery door was hinged in the battery box, so I figured I need not disassemble it.

Even though I just needed the battery box, I decided to dis-assemble it completely to see how it's been put together.

First of all, you need to open the camera. For this, you have to unscrew the screws on the outer body. I took the bottom screws out first:

Next, open the battery door, and unscrew the one inside. All the outer body casing screws are the same size, but this one is somewhat longer:

Next, the screws on the sides come off:

The screw on the other side:

This is the tool that is recommended to open the equipment (being plastic, won't harm the plastic body), but I seldom use it:

Once having removed the screws, you need to take the front and back cover off. The battery box is a good starting point. Force the front and the back cover apart by applying force in the direction shown. You won't be able to open it using your forefinger and thumb, as shown in the pic. This is just for illustration. I held the camera, and applied (restricted) force by both thumbs, and forced it open:

I say restricted, because I just opened it until the latches holding it let go. Then, using a screwdriver, I wedged the other side open. You might have to use some "persuasion" for it to open up Don't be afraid to use some force when it is required. What do you have to loose? It's already broken

Still, don't force it open all the way. Here's how much you should open it once the latches holding the two halves let go:

Using only slightest force on the top of the camera will make the front of the camera come off. Be careful in putting it back on, though. The part indicated by the arrow consists of a very thin copper plate. It can easily bend (happened to me), and will cause the zoom button stop working. You will then have to straighten it again.

Next step is to take the back plastic case off. You can start on the end shown. Put the screwdriver (small one) in as shown, and wedge it open as indicated below. Also note that the camera strap will have to be taken off. Otherwise, the back cover won't come off.

Again, don't open it all the way, because the camera mode select button will still be held to the main body by a cable ribbon. See the hole indicated by the arrow? Put a needle in the hold, and pull the cable ribbon away from the camera to dislodge it.

And the back cover comes off:

Next, I wanted to take the main ribbon cable assembly off. For this, I had to remove the shield holding it down. The top of the shield is held down by the screw indicated here. Once the shield is off (not shown here), I had to pry the cable open with a watch screwdriver. The cable was being held down on the battery box with several plastic tabs. Slightly prying the cable (as being shown) will make the cable come off.

Part of the shield is being covered by the buttons PCB (left side in the pic below). To remove it, the LCD had to be taken off (secured with two screws indicated below):

The LCD will still not come off, since it is attached to the main PCB via a ribbon cable. Prying open the flap (indicated with the arrow) will make the ribbon cable come off with a slight pull.

Next, unsrew the two screws shown encircled, and then after that, the only screw securing the shield will be the one indicated with an arrow.

The shield will come off as shown below. Next, you'll have to open the flap shown to dislodge the buttons PCB being held to the main ribbon cable assembly (indicated with arrow in the pic):

Next, you need to take the two screws at the bottom:

To take off the main ribbon cable assembly now, pry it by inserting watch screw driver under it in the places indicated. You'll also have to pry the LED (rightmost arrow). The arrow shown in below indicates that here, the ribbon cable might be secured down with a bit of glue. The ribbon cable won't be damaged if you put a screwdriver under the cable assembly, and slightly push it up to dislodge it.

Next, you need to unscrew the screw shown on the left side. This is the last screw you have to remove in order to take the battery box off, but since it was more of an exploratory mission, I took the screw on the right side off too. This secures the lens assembly to the main body.

As I said, you need not have take the screw on the right side off. The only two screws that were left that need to be taken off to remove the battery box are indicated in the pic below (already removed here):

Next, flip up the flap indicated below to remove the ribbon cable. The portion of the ribbon cable assembly which has two LED's will be held on to the body with plastic tabs, and you can slightly push under it with a screw driver to dislodge it:

The following photo is overexposed (forgot to turn the flash off), but shows me flipping the latch open on the socket:

And off comes the ribbon cable assembly:

You'll have to remove the screw (not indicated here, but shown removed on the top left corner, just below the flash bulb. The plastic cover of the flash has been removed too). You can just pry open the top which has the flash and the viewfinder assembly:

In order to remove the lens assembly (not done now, but later), you'll have to push it here to dislodge it:

Even when the battery box comes off, you'll have to desolder the two wires indicated in the picture below. This is supplying the main circuit board power from the CR1220 battery.

Next, you'll have to desolder the main battery wire terminals (indicated below). You have an option to either do that, or completely remove the main circuit board, and then desolder the wires from there. But I preferred not to do that, because I didn't want to open the other camera all the way.

The picture blow shows the battery box held to the rest of the camera through these wires only:

Remove the tape first:

Then desolder the wires:

This is enough to take the battery box off, but I went ahead to disassemble the rest of the camera. The following picture shows where I desoldered the CR1220 battery wires:

The battery box, which I really needed. You can see the wires, which go through a hole in the battery box to the terminals. These had to be pulled slightly to take them out. They were being held behind the plastic tab (shown with yellow arrow). This is quite clear in a picture above where the camera is still hanging on to the main board through these wires.

Next, the plastic piece on the other side can be taken off with a little "persuasion".

In order to take the main circuit board off, you need to remove the screws shown encircled, and flip the catch holding the ribbon wire (indicated with red arrow):

At the back, it's held to the lens assembly with another cable. Flip the catch on the socket as indicated to make it loose, and then pull the ribbon cable out:

So off comes the lens assembly. This assembly is the biggest problem with digital cameras. Even though the picture is not clear, you can notice the sand particles on the lens assembly. If you're not careful and go to the beach with the camera, and drop it in sand, this is what will happen. And if you try to repair it yourself by knocking it, as indicated in some places on internet, look at the first picture of what could happen :-) Knocking it might dislodge some sand particles that might be clogging the gears, but it won't correct the problem. The particles will still be there, and will again clog the wheels later on. Opening up the lens assembly is a separate project.

Ok, now to the other camera. The damage to the camera has been indicated. The two out of three tabs which hold it down were broken. the third tab was intact, but the part of the battery door which holds on to this tab was broken.

Opening up the camera in the same way as A550 was opened revealed that the front is almost exactly the same, but there were differences on the back side. The LCD screen is larger on this guy, and is held to the main board through not just the ribbon cable, but also a couple of wires (red and black, most probably supply power to the LCD backlight). The additional bracket to hold the LCD is also shown. The screws that I needed to take out, and the two wires connecting the CR1220 battery to the main board are also shown.

From the front, I needed to take the screws off, and desolder the wires connected to battery terminals after removing the tape:

After removing the shield, took off the ribbon cable assembly. The battery box was removed carefully, and replaced with the one from other camera (the operation not shown here, since it was simple). A couple of things to note. It wasn't easy to put the battery wires back through the hole. Second, the piezo-electic buzzer caused some problems while putting the battery box back in place. Since I didn't take the main body bracket out, I had to bend it slightly to take the battery box out. Didn't have to do it so much as to bend it permanently, though. Other than that, it was simple.
Here's another tip. I put the screws on a white paper, and mark it where they came from. You can see the screws from the bottom, front, switch PCB, top, shield and casing. There were a couple of more screws from the LCD, but they were put on another paper, not shown here. This helps me not mixing the different sized screws, and I now seldom have any extra screws left over. I do the same sort of labeling for the parts that I've taken out.

Ok, here's the working camera. The front of the camera now shows it to be an A550, since I had to replace it (one of the tabs that was broken was on the front body casing). However, it doesn't impact any of it's operation, since except for the label, the front is exactly the same.