Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The (in)famous Canon E18 Lens Error problem

There are many sites around the internet complaining about Canon's poor design and workmanship being responsible for the dreaded "E18 Lens Error" problem. This isn't going to be one of them.

First, a little basic, general information. Digital cameras are complex mechanical and electronic machines.

Unlike your average cell phone, they are not built to be dropped or abused. Because they are similar in size to cell phones, many people think that they can drop their digital cameras "only a few feet" and they will keep working just like their phones. Believe me, I have dropped my cell phone MANY times and haven't had the first problem with it. I've even had the entire casing pop off and simply snapped it back on.

Digital cameras, however, contain many moving parts and switches that must work in proper synchronization in order for the camera to function. And we're talking about some pretty tiny gears and switches, many smaller than the size of the end of a pencil eraser. One good whack and the alignment between the gears, zoom barrels, and switches gets messed up. Because the lens is protruding from the front of the camera, that is the most likely area to hit the ground first. Kind of like dropping a piece of buttered bread, it always seems to land butter-side down!

Here's where the Canon E18 error comes in. Canon, in order to give the consumer a little information as to why their camera is malfunctioning, decided to display the "E18 Lens Error" code on the LCD of their cameras when they malfunction. That was their mistake. Any damage to the zoom gears or motor, or mis-alignment of the zoom barrels, or problem with the switches or sensors in the lens will display the error code.

Most manufacturers design their cameras to simply power back down when an error occurs, rather than designate the specific problem. That way, people won't complain that those cameras have faulty lens designs. Canon probably should have done the same thing. Even our cars now just have one "Check Engine" light to warn of a bunch of different possible malfunctions.

In the literally thousands of digital cameras we have repaired here, fewer than 1% of those cameras have had lens malfunctions that could be attributed to poor design or manufacturer defects. The other 99% have suffered from impact, water, or sand damage.

If the camera makers wanted to make cameras that were impact resistant they would have to make them a lot bigger than what they are now, which people don't want, or make them more expensive.

If you want a camera that is impact resistant, waterproof, freezeproof, and dustproof, you might check out the Olympus SW series of digital cameras. The Olympus Stylus 1030 SW may be the camera for you. Be prepared to spend almost double what you would spend on a comparable "normal" camera!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I think if I had my way, cameras would not be allowed on any beaches.


Sand in cameras ranks very near the top in the amount of time required to repair a camera. Of course, getting your camera wet, or spilling suntan lotion on it would be worse, but sand is really a pain.

When sand gets in most modern cameras that are made mostly of plastic materials, it has a tendency to stick to all the plastic by static electricity. You can't simply open the camera up and dump all the little particles out. They tend to get stuck in all the nooks and crannies inside the camera and get jammed in the little plastic gears that most cameras have. Getting sand in the plastic zoom barrels on a Point & Shoot digital camera causes the sand to act as an abrasive compound, quickly wearing out the plastic zoom guides.

When we repair a camera with sand it it, we completely disassemble the camera and use a special vacuum system to suck the sand out of areas that we can't reach into with tweezers. It is time-consuming, but it beats having a piece of sand reappear later and jam the camera again.

If you need to take your camera to the beach, try to keep it in a plastic zip-lock bag whenever possible and don't set it down anywhere it can come in contact with sand.

Bob Kilbourn

First Post

This will be a continuing blog about the camera repair industry, both specific to my shop and the industry as a whole.

Hopefully, you will be able to find some insights that will be of interest to you. Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have about topics discussed on the blog.

For specific questions about your photographic equipment, visit our Online Repair Request Form by clicking Here.

Bob Kilbourn