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 180º 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.


  1. I will send you mine if it breaks !

  2. Thanks for sharing this post.. i really like this camera and i clicked so many pics from this camera and i gets very clear picture

  3. Amazing Post !!
    after reading this blog. I would like to add my experience for my friends. I bought a Camera last year . Panasonic's picture is still better overall in my opinion. I guess i made the right choice and got the Panasonic Camera

  4. Thanks for this post. I fixed my Panasonic DMC SZ7 with your 13 steps. Gracias desde Argentina por este post, arreglé mi cámara Panasonic DMC SZ7 con tus recomendaciones.
    Marcelo Elorza

  5. Dude, thank you so much for your post! Just saved a couple of hundred $$, when I fixed my Panasonic DMC-SZ7 camera using your repair guide. Much appreciated info!

  6. Thank you very much! I have repaired my TZ7 with your advice on "the lug and the worm drive" and this video

  7. Thank you so much for this post, delighted to say that I have also fixed my camera thanks to you kindly sharing this information - looking forward to reading more of your blog now too

  8. I got sand in my lens (the one time I left it out of the case!) and using the #5 paper method fixed the system error both times it's cropped up. I just used a piece of plain printer paper. You could tell where the sticking was because it would slide smoothly then get caught. Thanks!!

    1. Thank you Jocelyn for your comment. I have never dismantled the camera lens elements, so I don't exactly know how the grit jams it. However, it sounds as if there is grit in the body of the camera that re-enters the lens elements once cleaned or the paper merely pushes the grit back into the camera. You need to point the camera downwards, and the paper needs to be angled in such a away that it gets behind the grit so it is moved out of the lens. This is easier said than done. Or else the lens elements will need to be removed and both lens and body thoroughly cleaned - grit is a real nuisance. All the best David

    2. Thank you very much, I was worried I might have to take the camera to bits, but tapping it in the palm of my hand did the trick. Much appreciated

  9. Many thanks, we were ready to buy a new one. Method 4 worked after a few attempts. Big success, Thanks again.

  10. I am stuck part-way through Step 9. I've got all but one of the screws out - the one on the side has a much smaller slot, and my PH000 screwdriver won't fit. I don't want to strip the head, and I can't locate another screwdriver that fits. Please advise. Great instructions got me to this point, and I don't want to give up now!

  11. Forcing the lens down did the trick for me. Heard a pop, and it started working again.

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  13. Awesome post! Thanks, I fixed mine by just bouncing it in my palm a few times.

  14. This is my third Panasonic Lumix camera and now the same problem happened again after just over one year using it. So annoying. I am worried if I dismantle it it will never work again for sure.

  15. I had the same problem with the Panasonic Lumix. I'm not sure exactly how I fixed it, but these are the things that I did: Vacuumed it, while doing the paper thing (#5), and forced the lens (#6)

  16. Just used this guide to take my TZ-8 apart as it was suffering the same issue. I didn't actually find anything wrong, but now it ti back together it is working again so happy days. Shame I bought another camera to replace it, but at least I now have a spare.

  17. The hand smack helped my TZ50's odd problem:
    Camera powered on and would take pictures fine UNTIL the zoom was used. As soon as the zoom was used in any way, the cameras focus would go to full near (0.098') and would not automatically nor manually adjust. If un-zoomed, the problem would stay until the camera was power cycled. A few good hand slaps and all is good. Thanks for the tips!

  18. I have this problem but not sure the symptoms are the same. When I turned it on it told me to turn it off and on again which I did. It then extended, a picture appeared on the screen then it reported the system focus error and the lens stayed out. If I power off the lens stays out but if I turn it one it retracts then re-extends and then the error again. If It can extend and close one might forgiven for thinking it is not dirt. The camera has had more or less no use as well. I am not sure if these symptoms are what other people had or not.

  19. Now to follow up already. In the end I turned it on and physically stopped it opening. It tried three times then shut down - clearly has programming in there for such an event. It took two goes but on the third fire-up it seemed to resume its proper program ie open when turned on not off!

  20. What worked for me is that I put the power on while pressing the display photo button. Ones I could view the pictures, the camera modus was restored.

  21. Hi - I had a 'system error zoom' on my brand new TZ60 (it has a tendency to switch itself on as I take it out of its case). I imagined having to shell out even more money for repair before I'd barely used it. Your idea of pressing the power-on button at the same time as the shutter button worked a treat. Just wanted to say 'thanks'!

  22. Thank you for these suggestions. I thought my Panasonic Lumix ZS50 was a goner as the lens was stuck. Was able to work it all the way back in and then, after spraying some electrical contact cleaner into the lens gaps for the third time, I tried the stiff paper suggestion and slipped it in the gaps between the lens and slid it around the lens. That got whatever was making the lens stick! My camera works again!!

  23. Hia. Thank you so much! I used the 2x8 paper trick and it worked! Love my dmz-tz30 to bits and was worrying as lens stuck for a few days (dropped it approx 1 foot onto soil!!!). All sorted now. Thank you again, v much appreciated. Janeymac in Manchester UK.

  24. I also used the paper trick and a couple of gentle taps and the camera seems to be back to normal. Happy New Year

  25. similar problem TZ80 tried all tricks finally worked , thanks for the encouragement. :)