Troubleshoot Camera Lens Problems

Many camera-lens problems admit to an easy solution

Because digital cameras offer intuitive menu structures and big LCD screens, they deliver informative error messages. Unfortunately, most of those error messages are as clear as looking through a viewfinder when you forgot to remove the lens cap. These tips can help you deal with camera lens error messages and help you troubleshoot camera lens problems.

DSLR in front of a field
Avel Shah / EyeEm / Getty Images

Common Error Messages

  • An F-- error message, where the F is followed by two letters, is typically a lens-related error message. When you see this error message, make sure the lens is properly attached to the DSLR camera body. It's possible that the lens and camera can't communicate. Additionally, this error message can be related to an aperture setting at which the camera cannot shoot the photo you want under the current lighting conditions. In this case, use a larger aperture setting. The F-- error message is usually only found with Nikon cameras.
  • An E-- error message, where the E followed by two numbers, relates to a stuck lens housing. Try using some of the tips listed below to help the lens housing move more freely. The E18 error message is usually only found with Canon cameras.
  • A lens error, restart camera error message that occurs on startup can indicate a malfunctioning battery or a firmware problem.
  • Most cameras give you a low battery message well before the battery is too weak to move the lens housing, but in rare cases, a battery that is running low on power could have trouble making the lens move. Try inserting an A/V cable into the camera before you press the power button. This process keeps the LCD powered down as it starts, providing extra power to the lens housing.

Tips for Dealing With Lens Problems

Many lens errors stem from a dropped camera. If the camera lands on the extended lens housing, it could jam the housing. Another lens problem occurs if you accidentally push the power button while the camera is in a pocket or jammed in a camera bag where the lens cannot fully extend. Gently try to help the jammed lens move by applying gentle pressure, pulling or pushing on the lens housing.

If the lens is sticking and you haven't dropped the camera, visit the manufacturer's website. Find the Support link and search for your camera model. The manufacturer's website may offer a list of fixes for the specific lens error messages you're experiencing. While you are visiting the manufacturer's website, check for any updates to the software or firmware for your particular camera model. A change in the firmware could fix the problem.

Remove the battery and memory card for at least 15 minutes. With some cameras, this action resets the camera and might clear the lens error message, as long as something isn't physically broken on the camera.

Check your camera's user manual to see whether it offers a manual reset procedure, which may work better than removing the battery. A manual reset could clear the lens error message, so the lens operates properly again.

Another trick to clear a lens error message is to press the power button at the same time you press the shutter button. This is a long shot, but it works occasionally.

If you recently shot photos in poor weather, such as blowing sand or wet conditions, use a brush, a microfiber cloth, or canned air around the lens housing to clear away any debris that could be jamming the housing, preventing it from moving. Keeping your DSLR clean extends its life.

Get a Professional Opinion

If you cannot resolve the lens error issue, your camera may need professional repair. If it's a relatively new camera and you purchased an extended warranty, it may be repairable for free. If you only have the manufacturer's warranty, it's worth contacting the manufacturer to see whether other photographers are having a similar problem with that particular model of camera.

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