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Lens cover issues are generally caused by some sort of shock to the camera, such as dropping it or it getting hit against a surface. It doesn't need to be with any amount of real force: cameras are very delicate pieces of equipment, and a surprisingly small level is required to cause an automatic lens cover error. This will either short the lens cover, causing it to be stuck, or jamming or misplacing the guide pins of the lens cover.
The other major cause is some sort of particulate getting trapped in the lens cover mechanism, like a grain of sand. Such small bits of dirt and so forth are everywhere, and for all the care you take of a camera, it's very easy for things to work their way into the inner mechanisms.
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How to Fix a Lens Cover That's Stuck
Most of the time, your automatic lens cover issue can just be solved by resetting the camera. To do so, turn off the camera completely, and then remove the batteries and memory card. Wait at least ten seconds. Afterwards, reinsert the batteries and memory card, and turn on the camera again.
If that doesn't fix it, then assume that there's some sort of particulate trapped within. Using compressed air or some other air-blowing device, gently (gently!) blow room-temperature air into the cracks around the lens cover to try to dislodge the particle. Try to angle the air such that it won't just blow the particle deeper into the mechanisms, potentially causing even more issues. A low-power vacuum might work better.
If that doesn't work, try sliding a thin strip of strong paper between the shutters of the lens cover and work your way completely around the lens.
Still not working? Try very gently tapping the lens barrel of the camera – this may require turning it on, depending on your camera - tipping it at a variety of angles while doing so to attempt to dislodge the particle. You may have to repeat a few times to get it to work.
A little bit more on the invasive side, but you can try gently pressing against the lens cover, using a piece of paper as a medium, and very gently rotating the shutters in the direction that they are supposed to go. This might allow the guide pins of the lens cover to recatch themselves.
Hmm, still not working? Well, beyond those steps, any possible fixes become quite invasive and require a fair amount of mechanical savvy—and just might void your warranty. Check with your camera company to see if they will cover the cost of an automatic lens cover repair at either free or reduced costs. If not, and you're not willing to pay full price for either the repair or the replacement, you might want to consider doing a little DIY camera repair. Check online for fixes specific to your camera.
For a more detailed guide to repairing stuck automatic lens covers, as well as links to mechanical fixes for specific cameras and a number of very helpful comments, check out this DIY Camera Repair article.
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While it might be a bit late by the time you're reading this article, there are some easy steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of encountering a lens cover issue.
General common sense and camera care, such as not dropping the thing or allowing it to be jostled about too much, is the best step you can take, not just for preventing automatic lens cover issues but most problems with a camera.
Vacuuming the interior of your camera case at regular intervals is another good idea. A surprising amount of sand and other particulates can build up in the lining, against which your camera is rubbing when not in use—and potentially getting particles lodged within its mechanisms.