My camera doesn't work. It won't do
First, always suspect the battery on any camera where the
shutter is electronically timed. That includes just about every modern
camera. Even if the battery tests OK. Even if the customer tells you it's
brand new. Try a fresh battery.
If the camera meters light through the lens and a lens cap is on, the
proper exposure is infinitely long. Loading film and winding off the
blank shots with the lens cap on may lead to thinking the shutter's
broken. Don't load the film with the shutter speed set to A. On
some older rangefinder cameras with a meter next to the lens (Konica
S-2, for example) the same thing can happen when the lens is set to the
auto exposure position
- Make sure it's facing the right direction
- Clean the battery contacts. Even an invisible amount of corrosion can
freeze a camera. Rub the battery on a piece of scrap paper, and clean
the camera battery compartment by rubbing it gently with a pencil
- Some cameras need to have the shutter reset after a battery change.
Olympus SLRs have a reset position on the shutter ring. Some cameras
should have the shutter speed ring moved from A or from the timed
settings to "M" or "X", and then back again.
- Not all cameras depend on batteries. Older models with a pebbled glass
meter cell generate their own current.
My camera wont work. When I look through the back
and click the shutter, it doesnt open:
Maybe theres nothing wrong with it. Nikon 35mm cameras of the
dont open the shutter until the film counter gets to number 1. Obviously, when the
back is open the film counter never gets to #1.
Nikon SLR cameras with a "DX" setting on the film speed dial will lock up, in
the program mode, when no film is in the camera and you get to #1 on the film counter.
True of models 2000, 2020, probably some others.
My camera wont work. It keeps blinking "E" (or maybe
that's a "3")
Many 35mm auto advance cameras won't work at all when the film is
ended. They will rewind the film and refuse to function until somebody takes
out the used roll. Yes, this is a good thing - but sometimes the customer
thinks the camera is broken. Usually the film counter will show no number or
an "E" - sometimes blinking. Looked at backwards, the
"E" may be mistaken for a "3." Just take out the film -
in a darkroom or black bag if you're not positive that it's been rewound.
Some autofocus cameras have a computer control that occasionally goes
"bonkers." The display blinks "E" even when the film is
out. It continues even when you take the battery out, because the camera has
a small amount of power buffer that holds memory while you're changing a
battery. If you take the battery out and ignore the camera - possibly for as
long as a day - the display stops blinking and frequently the system resets
itself! Granted, it's tough to tell this to a customer…
My camera wont work. I can't release the shutter
Manual wind cameras can't be triggered until the film is wound. If the
film is at the end - say, picture 21 on a 20 exposure roll - the customer
may think she's wound it when she really hasn't. Ways to know: without
depressing the rewind clutch, gently turn the take up crank. It won't want
to turn at all! How to convince the customer: leaving the lens cap on,
depress the rewind clutch. Wind the lever the little bit you need to in
order to cock the shutter. Click the shutter. Be sure to remove the film.
Sometimes the film advance lever just wasn't advanced enough. If the
lever seems to flop back and forth, try winding it the extra few degrees to
cock the shutter.
And with modern cameras, we will always suspect the battery.
My SLR takes 2 or three pictures and then wont take another for several
minutes. When a single-lens-reflex camera has an old lithium battery (CR1/3 or
PX-28L) this is not uncommon. The battery will have enough power for two or three
shots, then freeze. 20 minutes later it will have recovered enough juice for another
couple of pictures. Solution: put in a new battery. We recommend using 2 S-76s instead of
the single lithium battery 1/3N, or a silver PX-28 instead of the PX-28L.
My autofocus camera "locks up."
When autofocus cameras are aimed at a subject that doesn't have adequate details or
contrast, they won't focus.
On some models that means they won't take a picture at all.
If a customer brings in a camera and says that it won't focus, show them how to aim it
at something on which it will focus, depress the shutter part way, and then recompose the
Don't take in a camera for repair if this is the complaint; it can't be fixed because
the problem is not in the camera, but a matter of physics.
My autofocus camera won't focus.
Some of the explanations above apply. Here are two others that apply to
autofocus SLR cameras:
If the lens, or combination of lens and multiplier, is not
"fast" enough most AF SLRs can't focus. The combination of a 2X
teleconverter and an f4.5/5.6 zoom lens has an effective maximum aperture of
f9/11 - not adequate for automatic focusing mechanisms. Solution - don't use
teleconverters with slow lenses.
If the lens or filter (or back end of the lens) is really dirty, the
contrast is degraded too much for the autofocus to work. Solution: clean the
lens and/or filter.
"The only other thing I can think of would be with a AF SLR focus problem.
They can try to lightly clean the lens and body contacts and make certain the lens is turned when attached until a CLICK is heard. Also try camera in
Manual Focus to narrow down to a AF problem area." Ken Blauvelt,
If the viewfinder looks dark, maybe the lens isn't reopening to its
maximum aperture for viewing and focusing. This almost always indicates an
expensive repair is needed. Usually the camera can be used in manual focus
mode until the customer can afford the time to get it fixed.
My backgrounds always look black (or really dark) when I use the flash.
What's wrong with the flash? Answer: probably nothing's wrong with the flash,
you're just running into that branch of physics known as "inverse squares."
Light from a point source - such as a flash gun, or a light bulb, or the sun - spreads
out as it gets farther from the source. When you're twice as far away, there's only
one-fourth as much light (remember, it's spreading out in two dimensions). When you're
five times as far away, there's only one-twenty-fifth as much light.
The background is farther away from the flash than the subject. If the background is a
lot farther away, it's getting much less light from the flash - so it will be very dark.
You can't solve this problem with a bigger flash or with a faster film.
Just take my word for it.
You can solve this problem by reducing the ratio between distance from flash
to subject and distance from flash to background. Have the person stand closer to the
wall. Or move around so that instead of having a huge open space behind him, the subject
has a light wall. Or you can move farther from the subject and zoom in with the zoom lens.
Now you'll have the same size picture of the subject (because you've zoomed in) and you'll
have less extraneous background (because you've reduced the angle of view) and the
background will be relatively lighter (because you're improved the ratio of distance from
flash to subject and distance from flash to background.)
You can also solve this problem by bouncing the light from the flash off the ceiling.
To be effective, you need a powerful flash - a fast film - and a fairly fast lens. Also,
the ceiling must be white and not too high.
My camera won't work. There's something wrong
with the date
With more and more dateback models being bought, the people with cameras that use a separate internal battery should understand that the battery
will run the clock feature even after it's too weak to light the "little light bulbs" to expose the numbers for the date. Also ask "is the time set
correctly?" when they say the date keeps malfunctioning. When I ask them this I always hear "I don't need that printed on my pictures so I didn't
bother to set it". They then go on to explain the "problem" is it keeps
changing to the "wrong date" before it's supposed to (or is that changing to
the right date too early?). It's very important that a databack is set to
the right time. When a camera of Oriental manufacture arrives in the USA,
the clock is many hours ahead of the new time zone - so it will change to
tomorrows date around noon local time. Another helpful hint from Ken
Tell customers in advance when they shouldn't spend money on a repair:
Movie cameras - why bother? They cost too much to
use for anyone but the enthusiast, and film is tough to get. 8mm film is out of
production. Unless your store stocks the film size used by the camera, why spend money on
Polaroid cameras: - most cameras cost more to repair than to replace. Unlike
most repair shops, Polaroid will automatically repair cameras without sending an
estimate, which may lead to unpleasant surprises. Only a few models make sense - the
professional model 180 or 195, the 680SLR.
Instamatic Kodaks and Disk cameras - why bother? Kodak made the last
disc camera in 1988, and repairs are at least $28. Disk film was discontinued at the
end of 1998. Youre performing more of a service by selling your customer a new APS
or 35mm point-and-shoot model.
Petri and Mamiya 35mm cameras - no parts are
Good leaf-shutter SLR cameras such as
Kowa, Retina Reflex, Contaflex, Topcon 100 - if parts can be found, the cost is still
Older rangefinder cameras (except Leica, Nikon and Canon models with
interchangeable lenses). Few parts are available. Costs are high. Many depend on
now-illegal mercury batteries for proper operation.