Saturday, December 22, 2007

Opening Up a Sony Cybershot DSC-L1

I purchased this little guy three years ago, but the lens cover stopped working, displaying the message "ERROR: TURN THE POWER OFF AND ON AGAIN" on the LCD. After searching the web, I only found useless manuals for sale or just basic consumer reviews. Since my fiancee and I already have two other Sony's, I figured I'd open up this one just as a saturday-afternoon adventure. Last time I opened up a consumer electronics device (other than a computer) I was probably 6. It was my first vinyl player whose plate suddenly stopped spinning. As usual, we took it to the nearest electronics repair shop, and they said they'd have to order this new motor, and that it'd cost a lot (sounds familiar?). So I got pissed and I just opened it up on my own at home, and starting touching random electronic components while the thing was still plugged to the wall. Finally, I touched something and the record player started spinning. It was a ridiculous potentiometer (a mere variable resistor)! Couldn't be easier and cheaper to fix, my dad just spent a few cents and I could hear my music again. Although I could have electrocuted myself that day, my mom still prides herself of her son's feat, more so than anything else I ever consciously did. Anyways, I figured I don't need to be an expert to be able to fix today's electronics. They have become more complicated but I am not 6 anymore, and sony electronics engineers haven't become all that much smarter, believe me, you'll see how cheap the shutter cover is. So lets start the step-by-step quest to open the Cybershot DSC-L1. (Do it at your own risk!)

First of all, go to radio shack and get yourself a set of precision screwdrivers. Get good ones since you need good grip here, as the screws will be really tight. Remove the battery from the camera. Now lets unscrew it, literally. There are 4 pairs of screws in total - 2 pairs on the bottom, 2 pairs on each side. The side screws become visible once you open the compartments for the batteries and the compartment for the DC power.

Ok, now that you removed the 8 screws, snap-out the plastic cover on the side where the DC input is. Then try to pull apart the two halves of the camera, the front cover from the back cover. One of the corners is kinda tricky, but just force it a little and it will snap open. Be careful but firm. Now you have the camera opened-up, it should look like this: You can now hook the camera to the outlet as the figure shows. Turn on the camera, and it should work as before. In my case, the shutter cover is stuck, so the lenses don't open or extend. Now notice that there are two switches that sense whether the shutter cover has retracted or not: In the case of my camera, I can fool it to extend the lenses by pressing the top left switch with a screwdriver:
Now unplug the power chord. The next step is to remove the plastic connectors from the front of the camera, so we can detach the two halves of the camera. First remove the two screws that hold the strap, one in the middle, the other near the motor. Do this by carefully using a precision screwdriver to help take the strap from under the plastic holders along its track. After some careful but trivial process, you obtain: Good. Now lets take care of that front cover. If so far it felt like you're performing a careful brain surgery, the next step will be more of an orthopedic surgery, except that you probably don't need a hammer. The problem is that the freakin' asses at sony actually glued the mechanics of the lens cover onto the front steel case. I thought I was doomed at this point, that the only way would be to order another front case, if sony still manufactures them, which I doubt. I got pissed and went for a high-risk brutal operation: to forcibly detach the black part from the steel case. Yes, it feels grotesque but it is the only way. Use a precision screwdriver to help you detach the two parts by "carving" into the glue. Sounds laughable, and looks even more laughable: Notice all the glue? Yeah, now you realize how the lens cover mechanics is by far the crappiest part of this camera. I don't know why sony tried to save money by doing such a shitty job at this, given that it is nothing compared to the cost of the software, signal processing and lens optics. Anyways, this is why probably every owner of the DSC-L1 will have problems with the lens cover at some point. Ok, back to business. Notice that there is a rod with a spring. Be careful with that little spring, it'll easily fall or jump all over the place. Anyways, the problem with my camera was that this rod wasn't perfectly in place, it seems, and that the gears weren't able to grasp the shutter cover. Now try to put that rod in place. First take the lens cover off and slide it all the way to the right of the rod. Carefully place the lens cover back in the track on the black plastic base by first fitting the bottom of it, then the top-right part of the rod, then, by squeezing the spring, fit the left part of the rod into the plastic case. You should feel it snap, and you need to put some pressure to get it to fit. After some patience with the damn spring, it is now time to reconnect the orange strap back into the black plastic support. Start by fitting and screwing the motor tight and move your way to the end of the strap. Plug the camera on the wall. You should end up with this: Now there is a subtle trick to it. The switch in the middle has to be pressed-in. Use a screw driver to press the switch and your finger to snap it in, then screw the middle switch: Ok, now you can turn your camera on to test the shutter cover. It should work! If not, post a comment and I'll try to help. If it worked, now you have to stick the black plastic component back into the metal cover. Do this by positioning it carefully then pressing firmly so that the glue sticks to the metal again (argh this horrendously cheap). Make sure the little transparent LED plastic on top of the shutter cover is in place. Now put the two halves of the camera back together, and screw the outer 8 screws back in. Snap the side plastic cover and you should have your >$100 value reward (>$250 back in the days):

17 comments:

Ricardo Fabbri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ricardo Fabbri said...

The only other resource I found showing how to repair your camera (only casio's and canon's) is this one:

http://digitalcamerarepair.googlepages.com/

Please post other ones that you know!

Ricardo Fabbri said...

Looks like www.camerahacker.com is a cool resource. Comments?

Anonymous said...

Just experienced the same problem yesterday. First it says ACCESS on the LCD screen and experienced the same as you on the web, until I found your solution. My only problem is I am sure I will mess this up. Are there any other alternatives you suggest?

Ricardo Fabbri said...

Another website for do-it-yourself camera repairs:

http://repair4camera.org/

Ricardo Fabbri said...

Here is the camera manual from SONY for the DSC-L1, if anyone lost it:
cortex.lems.brown.edu/~rfabbri/stuff/DSC-L1-manual.pdf

carolie said...

thanks a lot for typing this up! i fixed mine this weekend and it went well. (i pulled a little too hard in the wrong place and broke the plastic ring around the lens but it's not too noticable) after i got the pin and the lens back in place and put everything together it still wouldn't work. i had to make sure the bottom right switch was in the right place. (tucked under the white thing) but after that it worked and that was exciting. so i just wanted to put this out there in case anyone gets stumped by that. Thanks again for this guide!

socjesse13 said...

i cant seem to keep the lens cover in place while pushing back the spring...it just seems flimsy and keeps falling out...does it snap in or what?
if you could elaborate on the steps with the rail and the cover id greatly appreciate it...i feel like im almost there!

socjesse13 said...

ahhh i got it....it slides into the cover...

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Had the same problem and following the above step turned a lot cause into a working camera.

ro said...

i was almost done with the repair when i tried to align the rod with the spring, the spring flew off across the office, not to be found, anyway great tutorial, thanks !

Anonymous said...

I am stuck already, maybe my camera is extra broken. When you tested the lens, I watched your cool clip on what you pressed- but I could not repeat it. You are pressing the little levers right. I found two, I'll keep playing with it.
Thanks for the instructions, I feel empowered.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a Million, i opened mine up and got stuck really, i put it away for a couple days and then tried again, once i realise how the mechanism worked to flip out and retract the lens it became all too clear. its a great cam, and i have a water proof case for it and use it alot at the beach.
Thanks again

Tammy said...

Still can't get it to work. I failed on the first step, but I'm not ready to throw it out yet (Maybe just at the wall). I can't seem to get the sensors to work. Do you think it may be due to motor not working. If that is the case, I'm I at a lost? Your instructions are great- I impressed my friends for just trying. Please let me know if I should continue the process if I can't get the sensors to react...

drool said...

Wow! Thank you for the amazing instructions and for saving my camera. This is exactly what was wrong with mine.

drool said...

Oh and P.S. I was able to get the lens cover back on track with the gears by playing with it a bit (without taking the rod out). I was too horrified of losing the spring!

Thanks again!

indigogirl said...

Brilliant just what I was looking for... got confused when I got to the glue so am very glad I found your article....