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Learn How to Fix a Lens Error

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/17/2009

The lens error is one of the most common - and frustrating - problems that a photographer can encounter. This article provides a basic overview of common symptoms and causes of lens errors, some easy ways to fix a lens error, and how to prevent a lens error in the first place.

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    What causes a lens error, how do you prevent it, and—more pressingly—how do you fix it? Here's an overview.

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    Symptoms of a Lens Error

    There are a number of ways in which your lens can display some sort of error. For some cameras, it might just make a beeping noise along with lens withdrawal, or sometimes the lens won't be able to move at all, or a message detailing the error might pop up on the LCD screen. Different cameras have different ways to warn a user about a lens error, so if your camera is malfunctioning in some way, it might be good to consult your camera's user manual.

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    Causes of a Lens Error

    There are a number of ways with which a lens error can be caused. Particulates might have managed to get into the mechanical bits that allow the lens to retract, a purely physical interference with the lens mechanism. If the camera was dropped, especially while the lens was extended, there's a pretty good chance something might have been knocked loose, such as the guide pins upon which the lens withdraws and retracts.

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    How to Repair a Lens Error

    As scary as a lens error might seem, there are some easy fixes. Before trying any of them out, however, first take a good long look at your camera warranty and maybe have a chat with the company. If the lens error will be covered under the terms of the warranty, go for it. Even some of the simple fixes mentioned below might void the camera warranty. Frankly, however, it's unlikely that a lens error will qualify for the warranty.

    Try just some basic things first—just to make sure it's actually the lens that's broken. Replace the batteries with fresh ones. Failing that, replace the memory card.

    OK. So it's still not working. Try plugging the camera via the audio/video (AV) cable into a computer or other USB power source. This might provide just enough of an extra boost of power to override any particulates that might be trapped within the lens mechanism.

    Still not working? Trying turning the camera on and off in a variety of positions – face up, face down, at different angles. Doesn't work? Try blowing compressed air into the gaps around the barrel of the lens. The idea is, again, to knock loose any particulates that might be getting the mechanism stuck.

    Uh-oh. Still broken? This is where these suggestions might void the warranty. Try—carefully—tapping the lens with rubber or something hard yet padded, or the entire lens barrel against a hard surface. Excessive force is a definite no-no, as you might cause more damage than the lens error itself.

    Forcing the lens open might be a good bet. Again, being careful as to not cause even more problems is an absolute must. Try manipulating the lens while hitting the power button—pulling, twisting, tugging, pushing, in the hopes of getting the guide pins to snap back into place.

    If you've got a little technical know-how and a little patience, try removing the lens and cleaning out the interior a bit with compressed air.

    You might also want to try looking up lens error repair information specific to your camera or camera brand. For instance, here is a whole site dedicated to the Canon E18 lens error and how to fix it.

    If all this fails... well, depending on the quote for a repair by the camera company, it might just be better to buy a whole new camera, if the alternative is having no camera at all. Fixing a lens error is invasive and more than a little dodgy, so you might be out of luck.

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    Lens Error Prevention

    This is all after the accident, of course. There are some steps you can take to prevent a lens error from happening in the first place, saving both you and your camera a fair bit of hassle.

    As protective as camera cases generally are, they're the number one way with which grit can get into a lens, one of the more common ways of causing a lens error. Make sure you thoroughly clean out your camera case on a regular basis—you'd be surprised how much dirt can accumulate!

    Careful handling in general of your camera is a must. As common sense as it might seem, make sure not to drop the camera, especially while the lens is extended. Make a habit of utilizing either a neck or wrist band while using your camera—just to be safe.






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