Basic Camera Maintenance

To get the best from your camera


Basic Camera Maintenance•To get the best from your camera Moonbeams Shop

Modern cameras are easy to use, and require little maintenance. The minor faults that sometimes occur are easily fixed, as described here.

Go to: Changing the batteriesCleaning the lens“The lens won’t pop out/go back”Re-formatting the memory cardVideo Cameras and Mobile ‘Phone Cameras

We can’t offer a full camera repair facility{1} but we are willing to help customers with camera problems and can often fix minor issues. There are a few common camera problems that are quite easy to fix, as described below. You may find it helpful to try these for yourself.

Please note: you proceed at your own risk. We cannot accept responsibility for any consequences of following or attempting to follow these suggestions.

Changing the batteries

The days of the Box Brownie are long gone, and all modern cameras require electric power. A few makes have a proprietary battery pack, but most take standard types of batteries, usually type AA or type AAA. Many will accept rechargeable batteries but some will not{2}. When the batteries start to fail the camera should give a warning, but we have seen cameras that started to malfunction even though no battery warning was being given.

So, at the first sign of trouble, try changing the batteries. And use only good quality batteries - for normal non-rechargeables we recommend Duracells, which are usually available on St Helena.

If that doesn’t work, some cameras have a second battery. This is usually one of the small watch-battery button cell types, and sits in a sub-compartment, often next to the main batteries. The purpose of this battery is to keep power to the camera’s memory, even when the main batteries are flat or have been removed. Otherwise you would have to set the date and time and all the other options every time you change the main batteries. The memory-backup batteries normally last a few years, but if your camera is older than that, and changing the main batteries doesn’t fix the problem, see if your camera has one of the memory-backup batteries and, if so, try changing that. Most common types are available on St Helena.

Cleaning the lens

Light enters the camera through the lens. If the lens is not clean, the picture will be blurred.

Cleaning the lens is not as simple as wiping it with a handy piece of cloth, e.g. a handkerchief. In fact, doing that is likely to cause permanent damage by scratching the surface of the lens. Scratches on the lens will impair your pictures and cannot be repaired. So whatever you do, you must do it very gently.

Dust can usually be blown off. A very soft artist’s paintbrush may remove what a good blow cannot. Both of these are safer than rubbing with a cloth, however soft, because there is a risk of scraping the dust along the lens.

And don’t use water to clean the lens, e.g. to remove fingerprints or spray. Water invariably has other things dissolved in it, and as the water evaporates these are left behind as a fine film which is usually firmly stuck to the lens. Wiping this off scratches the lens. And even if you avoid that, perhaps by using distilled water as sold for topping up car batteries, getting water into the lens’ autofocus mechanism may cause it to malfunction. If you have to remove anything from the lens that cannot be wiped off gently with a soft brush, use a lens cleaner spray specially designed for the purpose. We may be able to supply this, or you may find it elsewhere on St Helena.

“The lens won’t pop out/go back”

Most cameras retract the lens when the camera is switched off, to make the camera more compact and to protect it from damage. Sometimes the lens either fails to pop out when the camera is turned on, or fails to retract when it is turned off.

In most cases, this is fixed by changing the main batteries. Occasionally changing the memory-backup battery fixes it. Or it may be possible to spot a foreign object, maybe as small as a grain of sand, that has got caught in the mechanism and is stopping the lens from moving, and gently remove it. For the remaining cases there doesn’t seem to be a simple repair. The lens units are factory assembled and we do not have the facilities to disassemble them. Importantly, they do not need oiling! Oil - even fine sewing machine oil - is likely to do damage.

If changing the batteries and removing any foreign objects does not fix the problem the camera needs to be taken to a specialist repairer, of which there are none on St Helena. Or buy a new one (we often have good quality cameras on sale).

Re-formatting the memory card

Digital cameras normally store the pictures you take on a memory card, most commonly of type SD. The card eventually fills up and, after you’ve taken off the photos, you delete them from the camera.

Occasionally, the data on the card becomes corrupted. Then the camera will either refuse to take more pictures, or may appear to take pictures but actually not record them. The only way to fix this is to ‘format’ the memory card, which resets the card to its factory supplied condition, but which, of course, also erases all the pictures. So, before you format your memory card, bring it into us and we’ll try to rescue the pictures from it, putting them onto a datakey, CD or DVD for you.

If formatting doesn’t solve the problem you may need to buy a new card. We usually have cards of type XD, SD and Compact Flash.

Video Cameras and Mobile ‘Phone Cameras

All of the above applies to video cameras and mobile ‘phone cameras as it does to still cameras. We do not stock video cameras or mobile phones so our experience of them is limited, and if the solutions above don’t work we regret that we can’t help.

We hope you find these tips useful. If you have any feedback or suggestions please contact us.

Please note: we take customer confidentiality very seriously. We never share any customer photo with anyone else without the customer’s explicit permission.



{1} It would be impractical for us to maintain a full kit of spares for the many types of camera on the market, and we can’t just pop to the wholesaler for new supplies . . .

{2} This is because non-rechargeable AA and AAA batteries normally supply 1.5v when new, but most rechargeable AA and AAA batteries only supply 1.2v, even fully charged. Some cameras cannot work with the lower voltage.

•Photo tips: Photography Tips Index.

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