Sand in Camera: Heloise, Help!

Ok, here’s a good one: My 10-yr old daughter dropped her digital camera in her younger brother’s sandbox. The sand has bacially locked the (telescoping) lens in place. Since the lens stores itself in a retracted position flush with the body, the sand is preventing the lens from extending once the camera is powered up. Any ideas how to fix? My wife tried a can of compressed air to no avail.

Before I unscrew some small screws on the bottom of the body of the camera, are there any other thougts? I know once I take the body apart, I’ll probably never get it back together. So, that would be a last resort.

Your thoughts? (Luckily, this camera was not expensive.)

What about a squirt of WD-40? Might lubricate the sand grains enough to allow the lens to move.

If it’s difficult to get the WD-40 in there, maybe a squirt and let the camera sit on its back for an hour or two to let the lubricant seep down to where it needs to go.

This is an excellent way to ruin the camera.
But, it’s probably ruined already.
If it were mine, I’d carefully disassemble it, and try to clean the sand out with a brush. But, I wouldn’t count on being able to fix it.

beowulff, how would WD-40 damage a digital camera? (I’m not challenging you. I’m curious!)

It’s not hermetically sealed.
If the WD-40 drips into the body of the camera, it will likely end up on the sensor, and that will be that. Also, depending on the camera, there may be an iris in the lens. Any oil on the blades of the iris will cause it to malfunction - it’s a very, very common problem in 35mm lenses, where the grease from the focusing helix migrates to the iris blades, messing up the exposure.

The sad fact is that most point-and-shoot cameras are simply disposable items - even a nice Nikon or Canon is probably going to be more expensive to fix than it’s worth.

I used to repair these kinds of auto-focusing micromechanisms (circuit city, if you must know) and sand in the mechanism was one thing I dreaded the most. I knew that I would be spending the better part of the next few days with a jeweler’s loupe and a set of dental picks working on one measly camera and that just shot my productivity to hell (we were paid on commission).

The miniature plastic gears all have a fine layer of grease on them, and the sand clings to the grease effectively binding the gears permanently. Every little last grain of sand must be located and manually removed. It’s like picking fleas off a monkey, but harder because the camera maker probably uses sand-colored plastic to make the gears. When I finally felt that I had thoroughly cleaned the mechanism our and re-greased all of the gears, and spend another half day putting the thing back together, there would always be that one lone grain of sand still hiding somewhere in the mechanism that finds its way back into the gear chain a few days later and results in a BIFS (back in for service) claim and a pissed-off customer.

Good luck. Take it apart and have a go at it. Maybe you’ll get lucky and there’ll be just one grain locking up the focus gear and you’ll be able to pick it out with a sewing needle.

But the smart money is on the camera.