The lens cover started being "rough" and "bumpy" when opening it ans sometimes became a little bit stuck. THen later on it just became stuck open - I could not move it anymore and therefore also no longer take photos.
I solved this and will post the solution now.
I did the same repair...however, I found that those little wheels are completely optional. All they do is keep the lens cover from prying away from the camera, but if you're careful, the lens cover will work without them.
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Get another camera. Just like a car that is involved in a major collision, it will experience many other problems later that currently will not appear. You will probably spend additional money to fix subsequent issues later. An average camera repair will range up to $100.
This is a common problem with TZ3s. Power the camera on, then puff a little graphite onto the lens cover and coax it open with a tooth pic. Do this, powering the camera on/off till lens opens normally. Add little more graphite if necessary, but sparingly.
Graphite is used because it is extremely slippery, but will not attract dust like an oil will. At the same time, it is black! so you don't want to use anymore than absolutely necessary make lens work. Even then, check to be sure lens itself is clean after, and wipe carefully with an Eyeglass lens cloth only if necessary.
Another option in to remove the lens cover altogether by just pulling the leafs out of the camera. Another option is to sell your working but lens cover problem to a repairman on ebay, and buy a good TZ3 or TZ5 on ebay used, refurbished or new. Good prices if you bide your time.
Don't put in your best bid to the very last minute of the auction. In the mean time, put a camera you are interested in on your MyEbay Watch list and set a reminder alarm on your cell phone about 5 minutes before the auction is to close, then if the price is still good, enter your best bid 30 seconds before the end of the auction. Refresh the auction page on your PC to keep track of the bidding right up to the last 30 minutes so you can see the last remain bid and if it is worth outbidding on this camera. Again, if you are not in a hurry and bide your time, you can get a great buy. There are plenty of these cameras sold every day.
I recently had the lens cover stick partly open. There are 4 segments to the lens cover, and if we number them from the top, number 2 was not closing. I gently flicked the segments a few times, in case there was a grain of dirt causing it to stick (although the camera has never been in a dirty or dusty environment). This caused the lens cover to close fully each time, but now it would not open fully, segment 1 would not open, although it would stay open if moved by finger. Anyway, after a bit of fiddling, I got it working properly again. The way that the lens cover appears to work is that only segments 2 and 3 are pushed open or shut by springs, segments 1 and 4 are pushed open and shut by tiny tabs that catch on segments 2 and 3. If the segments somehow get pushed out of alignment, then they either bind (causing the cover not to shut), or they get disconnected (causing the cover not to open fully. Now I am not sure exactly what I did to get the mechanism form the stuck open state to the not opening state, but from there the way to fix it is to: -With the lens open... - Hold segment 2 in the closed position with firm finger pressure (which will tend to push it towards the lens). - Push segment 1 towards the open position until you can see that it has cleared the edge of segment 2. - Lift segment 2 way from the lens so that it will rub past segment 1 as you... - Move segment 1 to the open position. - Repeat if necessary to get the technique right.
I can't provide any guarantees, and I am not about to repeat the excercise on my camera, but it was a lot easier than sending it off for repair.
If you're careful this problem is a relatively easy fix for many digital cameras. The design of the lens cover mechanism is usually simple and very similar throughout camera brands. Here's an example fix for a Canon A400 with similar problems:
I know this is an old post, but for those who want to fix it themselves: try blowing lots of compressed air around the open lens shutter to clean the mechanism. Or use a hair dryer for a few seconds (don't want to heat up the camera). Also with the lens barrel extended and pointed downward, tap the lens barrel with a pencil while you extend and retract the lens by powering the camera on and off. A grain of sand in the mechanism is usually the culprit, and you want to try to dislodge it.
You can open it up, but only as a very last resort. The above procedures usually work if you try them enough. But for those particularly nasty stuck mechanisms, here's an example repair on a Canon Powershot A400 (do this at your own risk):