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I've had a Canon PowerShot A1100 IS camera for almost a year now.

About a week ago, I went on a trip, took pictures the whole trip, everything was ok.

When I got home, and tried to turn the camera to move the pictures to my PC, I got an error: "Lens error, restart camera"

The lens doesn't even start to open, doesn't make any sounds of trying even.

What can I do to fix this?

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If the problem is keeping you from moving your photos to the PC, you can remove the SD card from the camera and use a card reader to read it. If you don't have a card reader in your computer(s), they are available inexpensively, for example: amazon.com/Mini-Memory-Card-Reader-Writer/dp/B000FNDWLQ/… –  coneslayer May 6 '11 at 13:54
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I got this issue with my camera too, when my son dropped it in the sand. The lens mechanism retraction is very fragile. One grain of sand is enough to break the camera. In our case, we got the camera for less than a week, so we returned the camera for an exchange. –  decasteljau May 6 '11 at 14:01

10 Answers 10

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Lens errors are fairly common. Usually it's sand or grit interfering with the lens extension mechanism. Or the camera's been dropped with the lens extended. Or the camera has been powered on, but the lens had been blocked preventing its extension.

I have written a blog post about some things that you can do to try to correct it. They only seem to work for about 50% of lens errors, but they're worth a try.

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Welcome to Photo.SE! Your blog post seems to have helped many people, so I edited your answer to include the disclaimer required in our FAQ when linking to one's own site in hopes that your answer won't be flagged as spam. –  Imre Oct 6 '11 at 5:02
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The link helped me. Number 7 tip eventually solved the problem (Tapping it lightly on the back a few hundred times) –  Yochai Timmer Oct 6 '11 at 12:12

This can come up for a variety of different reasons, typically it happens after the camera is dropped. If the camera was dropped, compressed in your luggage too tight, gathered a grain of sand while on the beach, or had a similar occurrence, you can find yourself with this error message. These cameras are mostly made of plastic, and it can even happen under regular use where nothing was done wrong.

Don't fret, you have options. Some people have luck with removing and replacing the batteries multiple times, so you could try that. But if you are still within the warranty period I would do that before taking more invasive measures such as giving the lens a nice hard bump. Head over to Canon's repair website here.

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Less than a year? Cool. Send it to Canon for warranty service. The lens mechanism on compact cameras is one of the most vulnerable points, and it can get damaged even under normal use. They should fix this for free.

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While in many cases this error may indeed be caused by sand interfering with the extension mechanism etc. and you should try solutions suggested in the other answers here, it may also happen that your camera has a manufacturing defect.

While I was travelling in the Middle East, the lens of my Canon PowerShot S100 got stuck and I received the message: "Lens Error, Will shut down automatically, Restart camera". I contacted Canon and received the following answer:

It has been confirmed that some PowerShot S100 digital cameras encounter a lens error caused by a disconnected part inside the camera.

In particular, this lens error may occur when the camera is used in certain environmental conditions such as high temperature and/or humidity.

The error is affective for cameras with the serial number starting with the number “29” through “41”. For example: 29xxxxxxxxx , 32xxxxxxxxxx or 41xxxxxxxx.

I sent it to a local Canon representative for warranty service, and received it back a couple of weeks later, fixed.

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I own a PowerShot A495 and recently the lens was stuck in the fully extended mode. Each time I tried to power up the camera I got "Lens Error, automatically shutting down - Restart Camera" - and it would turn off.

After visiting a number of locations on the internet, and trying a number of fixes I became desperate.

Realizing the camera was out of warranty, and the cost of repair would equal or exceed the price of the camera, I tried a desperation move.

After removing the batteries and SD card and letting the camera sit overnight, I replaced the batteries and card in the morning. I then powered on the Camera and while holding the Function/OK key and the Shutter Button, I gave the extended lens barrel a couple of face-down light taps directly on a hard desktop. I was truly ecstatic to hear the lens motor whirl and to see the lens barrel retract.

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Seems like a similar issue to this question

As I said on there, remove the battery (batteries if it has a small watch-style one too for keeping the time etc), and leave for no less than an hour. Then put batteries back in and see how it goes. Ensure lens mechanism is clear of dirt/sand/etc...

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While tapping the camera with the lens side up turn on the camera in play mode. If this doesn't work turn it on alternating between video, auto, and camera modes (while tapping). This worked for me. I had to switch to video prior to tuning it off a few times before the lens reset.

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This happened to me. Put your camera upside down, screen side down. If your camera won't even begin to open, then GENTLY push the lens down where the gap is. If successful, you will hear a click. Now take out your battery, and replace it. THIS WILL WORK!!!

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This will work in some cases. –  mattdm May 18 '14 at 17:31

I had this happen on my Canon G12. From reading, many sites say it's from sand getting in the lens or dropping the camera. Neither happened to mine and I still got the lens error. I wound up getting it repaired through this site: http://www.camerasandparts.com They only work on the Canons and no other brands. For $89 they repaired it and covered both parts and labor, they cleaned and serviced the camera, and they automatically do some no image fix if you have a G12 like I did. Not too shabby, camera has been flawless since getting it serviced. I was completely happy with their service! Thought to share for those going through this lens error problem.

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This is your second answer in a few minutes to recommend this site. Are you affiliated with this vendor? Please see photo.stackexchange.com/help/promotion –  mattdm Nov 25 '14 at 0:19

I would have made this a comment but I don't have enough reputation yet, so I'll make it a little more substantive.

My Powershot S100 had a similar problem. Beep beep, "Lens Error", shut down. I definitely didn't drop it because I was holding it when it happened. And I didn't get sand in it (as far as I know). It was just a year after I bought it so Canon wouldn't fix it. Even though they have a recall notice, my serial number wasn't within the range specified on their site. I've owned several Canon's before but no luck getting any support from them after warranty is up. They do reject you very politely to their credit. If you google "lens error s100" you actually see that this error happens quite a number of times. I think that's surprising, considering this camera was $420 purchased new.

Out of desperation and abandoned by Canon, I decided to fix the thing myself. I ordered a replacement lens assembly from eBay, and a lot of little screws later I had a working s100 again. It was amazing, I felt like some kind of genius and bragged to all my friends. Unfortunately that only lasted about 2 weeks. Then, even more surprisingly, beep beep, "Lens error".

tldr; I think it's probably a great camera just made with crap parts

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