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Home arrow Photography Tips arrow What To Do When Your Camera Stops Working
Photography Tips For When Your Camera Stops Working
Photography Tip Courtesy Photo Review magazine

Although most cameras today are well built and reliable, occasionally a camera will stop working unexpectedly or start to display a few minor operational faults. You can actually do quite a lot to eliminate possible problems before you take the camera to your local camera store for repair candida treatment.

The idea is to identify minor problems that are easily fixed and deal with them so the repair technician only receives cameras with more serious faults. This will save you both time and money in the long run.

Step 1: Start by checking the camera's batteries. Ensure they are good quality batteries with adequate charge levels. It's often difficult to test a battery correctly, as this has to be done under load in some cases. If in doubt, replace the batteries and see if the problem persists. If it does, check that the contacts are clean and try again. If the camera has a mid-roll rewind button, examine this to see that the conductive rubber button hasn't accidentally been pushed in and jammed under the bottom cover. If you have been able to power-up the camera and it still has a film in it, rewind the film and remove it. This will eliminate film-loading and transport problems as a cause of the malfunction.
If the camera still doesn't work, it will require further examination by a repair technician.

Step 2: Also take a quick look at the camera body, checking the condition of the door seals (the rubber padding around the opening back panel on a 35mm camera).  If they are spongy or flat they should be replaced to eliminate problems with light leakage. A repair specialist should do this job.

Step 3: Point out any intermittent or potential problems (cracks, dents or ingrained dust or sand) to the staff member who handles the transaction at the store so these can be listed on the repair work sheet. This will draw the technician's attention to possible problems and make it easier for them to restore the camera to full working order and meet your expectations.

Be realistic. Some problems are expensive to repair. It may be cheaper to buy a replacement camera if the following incidents occur:

1. If the camera has been immersed in water. Electronics and water don't mix and virtually every camera sold today relies on electronic components to operate. If you've dropped your camera in water and the water has got into the circuitry, the only reliable solution is to replace it - regardless of its original cost.  (Tip: If you're involved in lots of water-based activities, it can be worth investing in a waterproof or underwater housing to protect your camera against this kind of damage.)

2. The camera body is cracked. Small cracks in a camera body may be overcome by replacing the damaged cover but, this may also indicate possible further damage to the body or components under the cover. Dismantling is often then required to check for damage other than the cosmetic appearance.

3. Damaged lens elements and zoom barrel parts will need to be replaced after serious impact damage. If this has happened, the focus and/or autofocus functions will probably need to be reset to manufacturer's tolerances by adjustment. A repair specialist should do this job.

4. Sand gets into the controls or seals. Sand is a big problem for both film and digital cameras. Not only can it can affect certain control functions, but one grain on sand left dormant inside the body can (according to Murphy's law ) later lodge itself into the fine teeth of a gear, delaying or stopping a mechanical function and confusing the cameras electronics. If you often take your camera to the beach, have it inspected regularly by a repair specialist.

Be guided by the camera shop staff, who have been trained to identify potentially costly faults. They should be able to advise you if the repair is likely to cost more than a replacement camera and will probably be able to recommend a suitable replacement.

In most situations, you also have the option of sending your camera to a repair technician to get a detailed cost estimate for the necessary repairs. However, if you choose this option, you should realise that it will normally take some additional time. (the camera has to be sent to the technician, examined and a cost estimate prepared and sent to the store, which then has to contact you to obtain a 'go ahead'). It is more time consuming and can cost more overall - and you will be without a camera during the entire period.

Instead you should authorise an upper limit to the repair cost as suggested by the shop staff especially if an estimate cannot be given without dismantling. Leave the camera on the understanding (preferably written) that if this amount is likely to be exceeded, you will be contacted for authorisation as to whether you wish to go ahead with a more expensive repair. In most instances this is the most practical approach.

Be prepared to leave some kind of deposit (generally a credit card impression or cash) with the store when you authorise a repair. If your camera is still under warranty, you must supply proof of purchase (generally in the form of the receipt from the store you purchased the camera from) and the warranty card supplied with the camera. The repair cannot be commenced until these are received.

Make sure the store notes down any accessories you have supplied with the camera (case, filter, flash gun, batteries, etc). When the equipment is returned, check that all the items sent to the repairer have been returned and the camera has suffered no damage in transit while you are still in the store. Both situations are rare, but problems are best found before the repair is paid for.
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