Friday, March 29

Fixing a jammed focus lens in a Panasonic Lumix camera

The Issue

The Camera (Panasonic Lumix HDC TZ10) developed a fault displaying the error as shown in the photograph below – “system error (focus)”.  When turned on and off, the lens would not retract, and it showed the error message. What was uncertain was where the problem was – for instance was the problem in the cams of the zoom lens (there are three sets of lens that slide in and out on cams) or was it within the focusing element which focuses the light on the light capture device – a CCD in the case of the Panasonic? It turned out to be grit on drive of the 4th focus lens which jammed it.

I found a service manual for the camera at (assessed 29 March 2013) which made repairing the camera very much easier. Other models might be found on
Dave Baar has a detail description of his ordeal at the link below, for a slightly different  camera - Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Camera on (accessed 29 March 2013), but well worth the read.

First attempts

Using his and other’s suggestions I tried

1.    Low batteries - a camera may not function properly when batteries a low. Insert a fully charged set to see if things improve.
2.    Full memory card – when a memory card is full, a digital camera may not turn on (not my problem as it could turn).  Download all the photos, back them up and delete them from the memory card.

Other ideas tried

1.    Remove the batteries, followed by the memory card. Then install new batteries/freshly charged batteries, and turn on the camera.
2.    Place the camera flat on its back on a table, pointed at the ceiling. Press and hold the shutter button down, and at the same time press the power-on button. The idea is that the camera will try to autofocus while the lens is extending, hopefully seating the lens barrel guide pins in their slots.
3.    Blow compressed air in the gaps around the lens’ barrels with the idea of blowing any sand or grit that may be jamming the lens out of the camera. My camera shop warned me not to do this as they believed this procedure would drive dust further into the camera, however, I did try it with no avail. In my case the grit was on a screw-drive lug that raised or lowered the focus element, which had grease on it – no amount of blowing would have removed it. Don’t use a hair dryer!
4.    Repeatedly tap camera onto some soft padding with the intent of dislodging any particles that may be jamming the lens. Other variations include hitting a side of the camera against the palm of your hand. A lot of people have reported success with this method. Do this with utmost care – for although I found the Panasonic camera was very well constructed, hitting or knocking the camera it could dislodge important components!
5.    Take a still piece of thin strong paper say 2 cm x 8 cm and slide this between the gaps in the lens elements at an angle, with the hope that grid/sand that could be jamming the lens elements can be dislodged. When I tried this I recovered a small amount of dust and hair.
6.    Try forcing the lens – this worked for me, in that the lens closed up, although it automatically extended when I turned it on, and would not close on power-down. I did this my gently twisting and pushing the lens elements into the camera – it closed the lens but did not fix the problem. Apparently more people have reported success with this method than with any of the other methods. HOWEVER, there's obviously some potential for damaging the camera.
7.    Dismantle the camera – which the rest of the blog is about.

Dismantle the camera


You will need a very clean and as dust-free place to pull apart the camera – homes are notoriously full of dust – from skin and hair particles, to traffic derived dust, and soil & organic matter. An office at work may be cleaner else chose a room where the door can be closed for a few hours prior to use and if possible one with a short piled carpet. Homes are usually very very dusty. I have both worked in clean rooms and monitored dust in homes, including my own. The very act of walking on carpet will entrain dust into the air. I used my home office.
Obtain a number of clean containers to place screws, electric cable and camera parts.
You will need a triple zero (OOO) Phillips head screw-drivers. I found 000 difficult to find – in the end a cheap Chinese set provided the necessary tool.
I photographed the exercise – in order to write this blog – but more importantly to tell me where the pieces went. If you can borrow a second camera (I used my-own, the camera I was fixing was my wife’s). I found this useful as although the manual had good diagrams, they did not always provide enough detail, such as how far the ribbon-cable needed to insert into each attachment.

Pulling the camera apart

1.    Begin by removing the battery and memory card out.
2.    The front and back cases can be removed by unscrewing the retaining screws noting that the back has a cable attached to it – use care.

Front cover

Rear cover

3.    Unplug the flex-cables. I found by flipping the rear case around 180ยบ I could access the flex-cable plug. The cable is removed by flipping up the locking tabs on the plug retainer (from the left side in the photo below – arrow) with a fine flat screwdriver and pulling the cable out gently. The cable is wiggled free horizontal to the camera body – do not pull it upward.

4.    Once the flex-cable has been pulled out of its plug the back can be removed totally, exposing the frame-plate assembly.

5.    The frame-plate (silver plate) then can be removed by unscrewing the three silver screws.

 6.    Remove Gyro flex cable, very carefully – it is plugged-in at both ends, on the left of the camera, as pictured above, and in the middle. Flip the locking tabs carefully up, and wiggle the cable free – photo below.

7.    The lens unit can be removed once the two large flex cables are unplugged. Once again the flex cable locking tab is flipped up with a small flat screw-driver and the flex wiggled free. The photo below also shows the two of the three screws that holds the lens unit in place which need to be unscrewed.

8.    The lens unit then can be separated from the camera.
The lens unit consists of the zoom motor unit and the master flange unit.
9.    The zoom motor unit can be separated from the master flange unit by undoing eight (8) screws, which includes a small screw on the side of the unit that holds a flex plug unit for the zoom motor. Note that I did not separate entirely the two units by removing the flex joining them. The zoom motor can be seen on the bottom left of the photo - below, and the lens focus motor on the bottom right (arrow). The right motor drives a screw-drive that lifts a lug, which is attached to the final focus lens (4th lens) - left arrow. The final focus lens (4th lens) focuses the light onto the light collection device – called a charge-coupled device (CCD) – which can be seen in the middle of bottom unit below (arrow).

10.    Inspect the worm drive. In my case the lug would not progress up or down due to grit. I cleaned the drive with an ear-bud soaked in white spirits and hand wound it up and down the entire screw – repeating the procedure until I was certain it was free. I then applied some very light grease obtained from Jaycar Electronics (your hobby shop may have some, as it’s very useful for axels found in model cars and helicopters etc). The manual states that 3-5 mg of grease needs to be applied to the focus motor lug and the two 4th lens frame positioning poles (only one is indicate below) – shown with arrows in the photo below. Be careful that you do not place grease on the lens – I did and it took an hour to clean it off!

11.    Reassemble in reverse order. Before doing so, using a magnifying class, make sure you have left no lint or dust on the lens elements or the light capture device (CCD), both bottom and topside. It’s very hard to see dust on the 4th lens element, but using a desk light and slowly tilting the lens while looking across it, one can capture whether there is any small dust particles. I used a very fine artist brush to remove dust particles.
12.    Ensure the flex is pushed firmly back into the plugs and the locking tags are pushed flush with the plug-unit. On my second try I did not do this well, and the camera did not work!
13.    The screws are very tiny and the threads can be easily stripped. Apply enough pressure that the parts are pressed together and the screw is not loose. You may strip the thread if too much pressure is applied.

All the best! It took me three goes to get it right. The first I left lint on the CCD, the second I did not push one of the flexes into its plug correctly, and the third – the camera has been used for two months now with no issue at all.

Sunday, March 17

The purpose of Research - the H5N1 controversy (Quote from the Lancet)

“When asked about the purpose of medical research most people would hopefully reply: to advance knowledge for the good of society; to improve the health of people worldwide; or to find better ways to treat and prevent disease. The reality is different. The research environment, with its different players, is now much less conducive to thinking about such noble goals. Funders have often adopted long-drawn-out bureaucratic processes for their grant giving, and yet rarely ask for a systematic assessment of the need for the proposed research. Full costing is often demanded at first submission with enormous waste of time and resources.
Funders operate within political frameworks that emphasise short-term successes and outcomes. Decisions are dependent on opaque peers' and experts' assessments within each field and take many months. Pharmaceutical companies and industry-sponsored research seek a maximum profitable return on their investment. And academic institutions, which are more and more expected to operate like businesses, think about the economic benefit and the commercial potential of research, or about their performance in a research assessment exercise (measured largely by the surrogate of publications). Research has become an enterprise, an economic engine for nations, a necessary step on the way to economic growth. But surely the purpose of research is more than that.”[1]

And this is true, although some may argue that research must be for some tangible benefit, although at the most basic level, how research results will be applied in a beneficial manner is not often understood until the results are known. The discovery of the electron did not appear to have immediate benefit, yet it has changed the course of history - our understanding of chemistry is built upon understanding electrons and their relationship with the nucleus.

That harm to society of new  methods, techniques or insights developed during research should be weighed against the benefit is an argument used by some, which I believe is superfluous, and one that presupposes that knowledge should be censured. It is not possible to ensure knowledge will not be used for harm; and if we merely censure knowledge because there is a risk of harm, our knowledge will never move forward. Chemistry would have remainded hidden because chemicals have been used to kill millions – yet it has given us the modern society we enjoy today.


Bad behaviour and moving people towards the good?

“Nudging” the public to get them to change their extraordinary bad behaviour – the UK is apparently moving from nudge to nag: “use every contact with patients and the public to help them maintain and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing”.

Saturday, March 2

The End of Summer

Just spent the last few days cleaning up my garden after a very dry summer, although we did not have any major heatwaves. The BOM says we had a hot summer, but on the whole I found it rather mild - no endless nights above 30 °C, although we did have a few very very hot days (I was in Port Pirie for day of 48 °C). For SA: February 2013 was 0.9 °C above the long-term average, the warmest February for the state since 2009.In comparison, February 2012 was 0.9 °C below average.
The tomatoes are still bearing and the strawberries are putting out lots of runners (in the hydroponics). However, something large is eating both the tomatoes and capsicum - perhaps a possum as the animal ate one half of a capsicum - very neatly!  I put some broccoli seeds into perlite in the hydroponics, so hopefully they will be ready to plant out in mid-Autumn (I'm a wee bit late). Also very late I removed the heads of the Agapanthus, which did suffer during the >40 °C days, with the outer leaves burning. I also got carried away and pruned the Hydrangeas - all in pots, some inherited last year. One had a lot of dead wood which required drastic pruning. I need to mow the lawn, and remove the sweat corn plants, as they are well and truly finished, but its cooler inside!