17 Dec
2013
Ian Plant By
Posted in: Tech Tips    5 Comments

5 Fixes When Your Camera Fails

It happens more often than any of us care to admit: the dreaded error message blinking on and off, or worse yet, your camera simply locking up and refusing to do anything. Digital cameras are amazing pieces of technology, but even the best designed system is prone to mechanical or electrical confusion from time to time. What can you do when your camera suddenly betrays you, and you’re racing against time to get the shot? Don’t just hang there with a stupid look on your face—take charge of the situation! Here are five solutions that are likely to get you up and running again.

Fix #1: Turn off your camera

This one usually works to correct most malfunctions. Simply turn your camera off, and then turn it back on again. If you camera still isn’t working, move on to fix number two.

Fix #2: Take out the battery

Sometimes simply taking out the battery and putting it back in will get things back to normal. You might even try swapping in a fresh battery if this doesn’t work.

Fix #3: Take off your lens

If something interferes with communication between the camera and the lens (the lens isn’t mounted 100% correctly, or there’s some dust in between the contacts), this can cause the camera to seize up. Try taking the lens off, and then putting it back on again. If this doesn’t work, try a different lens, just in case it is the lens (and not the camera) which is malfunctioning. Another thing to try is to turn off your autofocus. In certain shooting modes, if your camera can’t lock focus, the shutter won’t fire. If working in low light or contrasted backlight, your autofocus might have problems locking on. In such situations, switch to manual focus and you should be good to go.

Fix #4: Unplug your electronic remote shutter

Unfortunately, your electronic remote is your camera’s Achilles Heel, the point most likely to fail. If nothing else seems to work, try unplugging the remote. More often than not, a faulty remote is the culprit when your camera wigs out (especially if you are using a cheap off-brand remote). Problems with the remote usually manifest in one of two ways: either the camera seizes up, or the shutter starts firing continuously. Just having the plug in at an odd angle can cause problems, and simply taking it out and putting it back in (correctly this time) will get you up and running. A wet remote can cause problems too, but should be okay again once it has had a chance to dry. If the remote is failing, unplug it and switch over to the camera’s self timer to eliminate vibrations after you manually trigger the shutter.

Fix #5: Take off your lens cap

Okay, I’d be kidding if I didn’t see this so often. I’ve actually had workshop clients ask me why everything looks so dark through their viewfinder. We’ve all had those moments when we forget to do something basic and obvious, like leaving the lens cap on or forgetting to turn the camera on. When all else fails, go back to the basics and make sure you haven’t simply made a rookie mistake!

"Hanging Out" - Spider monkey, Costa Rica

“Hanging Out”—Spider monkey, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. The Osa is world famous for its epic diversity of wildlife. Canon 5DIII, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/200 second.

Ian PlantAbout Ian Plant (389 Posts)

Ian Plant's photographs and instructional articles have appeared in a number of books, calendars, and magazines, including Outdoor Photographer and Popular Photography. Ian writes a regular blog column for Outdoor Photographer online, and he is the author of numerous instructional eBooks and videos. Ian leads several photo tours each year.


5 Comments

  • Great tips Ian!
    I had my remote get dunked in a stream and the shutter started to fire a continuous burst. I had to unplug it and let it dry for a day.

  • And here I was going to return my brand new DSLR….. I have to take the lens cap off?? You’d think in this day and age it would be automatic no? On a serious note, I purchased your new Visual Flow add on and it too is wonderful. Great stuff Ian.

  • […] It happens more often than any of us care to admit: the dreaded error message blinking on and off, or worse yet, your camera simply locking up and refusing to do anything. Digital cameras are amazing pieces of technology, but even the best designed system is prone to mechanical or electrical confusion from time to time. What can you do when your camera suddenly betrays you, and you’re racing against time to get the shot? Don’t just hang there with a stupid look on your face—take charge of the situation! Here are five solutions that are likely to get you up and running again. MORE […]

  • Haha! Ian this is too funny. The worst problems I ever had with my camera (my older 5D II) were on the Osa. It was so hot and humid that it just would shut down. It would work in the early morning for awhile but I had to keep letting it cool down the rest of the day. I was shooting near or over its published limits of course. But still a big hassle and cause for quite a few missed shots there. It’s just a funny coincidence you picked this photo. Did you go out at night there?
    Michael

  • The lens and remote stuff are news to me. My Nikon has a tiny little, recessed, re-set button on the bottom that is supposed to be the last option.

    A friend of mine dropped her D70 into the Colorado River. She instantly retrieved it, pulled out the battery, opened up what she could to speed drying and every day it worked better and better until it was fine for about four more years.