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I have the same problem. It resulted when we used the camera is windy conditions with very fine sand blowing around. Some of those grains are lodged in the automatic lens cover and in the autofocus/zoom mechanism in the lens. I can actually hear the grinding as the camera tries to open.
Now, how do I fix it?
I brought my cybershot 7.2 to the beach, and stupid me did not have it in a proper camera case, and I am sure that a grain or two of sand got into the zoom lens. I used a sewing needle to no avail to try to probe this out, and in the end all I did was use my fingernail to help pull the zoom lens out, when turning the camera on, this worked perfectly after a few try's and the camera is now functioning as good as new.
The grain(s) of sand were obviously preventing the motor from opening the zoom lens.
It may be that the zoom function is still on, and that the lens is still
extended? Make sure that you our not zoomed in.If this is not the
problem, than it is possible that a small grain of sand or some other
material has become lodged in the outer sections of the lens when it
was extended, and that it is now jammed and unable to withdraw into the
camera once more. You can try to blow any dirt out. However this might
force the dirt farther back.
It may be that the zoom function is still on, and that the lens is still extended? Make sure that you our not zoomed in.If this is not the problem, than it is possible that a small grain of sand or some other material has become lodged in the outer sections of the lens when it was extended, and that it is now jammed and unable to withdraw into the camera once more. You can try to blow any dirt out. However this might force the dirt farther back? When I was faced with this issue, there was nothing I could do, and simply sent the camera back for a full refund. I hope that this is helpful. God bless...
Sand is a killer to cameras. If sand becomes lodged in the lens bellows it will jam. I have never after thousands of repairs had any lasting success in trying to repair. When taking a camera around water and sand buy some sandwich bags to place camera into protects against water and sand.
We had this problem for about 2 weeks, we discovered that having the camera auto retracted after the "ZOOM ERROR" message, giving the camera couples of light slaps (slap the camera's LCD side and aim the camera down), this fixed the camera right away
It sounds like your lens's focus element is stuck. Given the events you describe it is possible that a grain of sand has worked its way into the focus motor's gearing and jammed it up. Normally the small motor moves the focus optic in and out to achieve proper focus, if its movement is limited or completely jammed you will experience blurry pictures.
The camera will have to be disassembled and the sand cleaned out to restore normal function. There are repair providers you can find online who can work on your camera.
Advance Camera Repair