Fixing a Lens Error (Stuck or Jammed Lens) on a Digital Camera
(Last Update: 13 February, 2014)
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This has to be THE most common failure mode for a digital camera, a stuck lens, jammed lens, or a malfunctioning lens. Some common error messages that might show up on the LCD's of cameras with this problem include "E18 lens error" (older Canon Powershot), "ACCESS" error (Sony Cybershot), "Zoom Error" (Fuji Finepix), "Lens Obstructed" (Kodak Easyshare), "lens error, restart camera" or just "lens error" (Nikon Coolpix and some other camera makers lately are using this variation). Some cameras might show nothing at all, but merely make a beeping noise as the lens goes out, then in, then the camera shuts off. Sometimes the lens won't even move.
The problem is actually quite common throughout all camera brands. Usually it's sand or grit interfering with the lens extension mechanism. Or the camera's been dropped with the lens extended. Or the camera has been powered on, but the lens had been blocked preventing its extension. Or the battery ran down with the lens extended. Believe it or not, one BIG contributor to lens errors is using a camera case. Sand, gunk, case fibers, etc... accumulate at the bottom of the case. These materials love to cling to the camera by electrostatic build-up from the camera rubbing against the side of the case (especially those cases with soft fibrous intreriors). Once these materials work their way into the lens mechanism, that's all she wrote. I have many Canon's, and NEVER use a case for this very reason.
Note that this problem applies to ALL cameras with telescopic lens barrel (optical) zoom. With Samsung's release of the Galaxy S4 Zoom, I'm really curious to see if this will also be a issue/problem with this camera phone (and other phones with optical zoom). I predict (on June 16, 2013) that it will, as most people carry their phones in pockets and purses. If it occurs, Fix 5a would likely be the best technique to correct this problem.
A camera owner that suffers this problem may have no recourse for having the camera repaired. Many camera makers will not honor repairing this problem under warranty as they claim it is due to impact damage to the camera, or sand or debris getting into the lens gearing mechanism (neither of which is covered under warranty). The quoted repair cost is usually close to or more than what the camera is actually worth.
Fortunately, about half the cameras that suffer this failure can easily be fixed by one of the following methods. None of these methods involve opening the camera, although some have potential to cause other damage to the camera if excessively done. If the camera is still under warranty, before trying any of these, please please first contact your camera's maker to see if they'll cover the repair, or to determine how much they'll charge for the repair. Who knows, you might get lucky. But if they quote you a number that's higher than the value of your camera, you may want to consider the following methods.
First here's a video summary of most of these fixes, and following that a detailed text description of the fixes. Recommend reading the text first
(along with the reader's comments and tips section) as these provide additional tips for situations that the video does not. For example, the video focuses on repair fixes for a camera that does not have obvious damage to the lens barrel (such as from a fall). Thus it does not cover straightening the lens barrel if it is crooked, which the text does. Use the video primarily for further clarificati