In Praise of Electronic Wizards

Lazarus, the camera

I’m a big fan of the Canon Powershot series.

I’ve had three.  I lost one, an S80, broke one, a G9 and  stared in hurt bewilderment at the third, a G11, which stopped working for no obvious reason.   These are great little cameras, offering functionality approaching an entry-level DSLR but without the bulk.  You can shove them in your pocket and come home with some fairly decent snaps, which is exactly what I did the day my Canon G11 died, but before I go on about that I must tell you what happened the previous version, the Canon G9.

canon g11

You know my dog, Satan, the Hound of Hell.  A highly-intelligent little bastard who once climbed the garden wall and tightrope-walked a 20mm plywood edge to escape and lie in wait for postmen.  A rational dog who sits down and analyses problems.  A smart dog who doesn’t make a break for freedom until I’ve driven away from the house and the sound of the motor has faded  in the distance.

There’s only one way to outsmart a dog like that: set up video cameras on tripods and see how he’s escaping, a trick I pulled successfully many times, until the last when I came back to find my tripod knocked over and the lens at a scrotum-tightening angle of dislocation.  As I said, a problem-solving sort of dog.

I’m not sure the dog had anything to do with the demise of the G11, but it’s possible, as I’ll explain.  Nothing traumatic happened to it.   I was out and about as usual taking snaps but  when  I got home and  switched it  on, nothing happened.  The lens refused to come out, even though it hadn’t  been bashed, battered, dropped or soaked.  It didn’t even respond to cursing.

Very annoying.  Infuriating.  My only surviving decent compact gone for a shit.  What could I do?  All the websites said  something along the same lines: it’s buggered.  Throw it out.  I even bought a nasty, plasticky little consumer Canon compact to replace it but of course I was just fooling myself.  Nothing would match the G11.

And so, for a full twelve months, we sat looking at each other, each of us as baffled as the other until one day a chance Facebook interaction alerted me to the possibility that an electronic wizard friend might take a look at it for me.  Bring it out, he said, so I did, without getting my hopes up.

And right there, in front of me, he stripped it down into its minuscule parts, every last screw, nut, ribbon cable, and logic board spread out across the table in much the same way they would be if I’d dismantled it myself – with a hammer.

Hmm, he said.  The lens barrel seems to be stuck.

Hmm, I echoed.  Stuck.

I’ll check the galvos, he said and disappeared upstairs to his little workshop before returning with a glum face on him.  Galvos are shot.  Must have been the strain of trying to move the lens.  Burnt out.

Galvos? I muttered.

Little motors, he explained.

Does that mean the camera is fucked?

God no! he said.  Get a new barrel on eBay and we’ll stick it in.

canon g11 lens barrel

So I did.  I sent away for a new barrel from some character in Hong Kong and in due course it arrived out of the internet.  It now sits in my fully-functioning Canon G11, thanks to the technical wizardry and nimble fingers of my technical wizard friend.

As I was leaving, my curiosity got the better of me.  Any idea what made it stick?

Oh yeah, he said.  It had a tiny hair jammed  in it.   Could you imagine that?  Just a little hair wrecking a whole camera.  I can’t understand how it got in there.

Hmm, I said.  Would you by any chance hazard a guess if it was human or animal?

Oh, he said, I couldn’t be certain, but I’d say it was a dog hair.  Do you have a dog?

Oh yeah, I told him.  I have a dog all right.  He’ll be delighted to know the camera is fixed.

3 thoughts on “In Praise of Electronic Wizards

  1. We have EXACTLY the same prob here, a G11 with a stuck lens. It’s the 2nd time on this particular camera – had the barrel replaced about 16 months ago, and it’s gone again. They’re prone to sand, dust, and now it seems hair! Herself is distraught as she loved the thing!

    Last time the fix cost e120 so been debating whether to go round the same loop again. (e200 I think if you get Canon to do it). I’d given up on it but if you’re cheapie from Hong Kong holds up I might be tempted to get one and strip the thing down myself. Out of interest how much did the replacement cost?

  2. i had a similar problem with a kodak camera. went to maplin, got a can of compressed air and blew the dust out. works fine since then. dust had gotten under one of three metal strips which rest against the barrel. (i’m guessing the strips act like sensors and because of the dust the camera did not know what position the lens was in)

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