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Recently mother obtained a second-hand off-brand compact camera about which the seller didn't know pretty much anything. Surprise-surprise, the camera is broken. Everything works, except the preview image (of bright day scene) is almost completely black, with only extreme highlights appearing as deep purples and violets. Shooting a photo takes a long time and still results in a photo that is completely black.

Thing is, mother bought a pretty much identical camera from a different seller a couple years ago, and it worked fine until last summer, when electronics (probably on power side; it was plagued with charging problems) died - the camera won't switch on. So, I can cannibalize it for spare parts and attempt to repair the new one - if I know what is to be replaced.

Can you help me identify this kind of fault, and possibly tell me how to approach repairing it?

Edit: The camera with these weird images is Vivitar ViviCam 5105s, the one with shot power is Premier DS-5080, but they seem like rebranding of the same product - slight differences in plastic case, different branding of the firmware but exactly the same construction details (button layout, battery, sockets layout, lens, menu layout, even the same plastic shield on the LCD screen.

Attaching one of the photos that didn't turn out all black. Unlike the photo, the preview on the screen does have some focus. enter image description here

Photo of the camera LCD screen preview: enter image description here

The scene it was taking: enter image description here

I tried tuning the settings to max brightness (maximum ISO and EV), to no avail. Nothing apparent to obstruct the lens can be seen.

  • The contrast in the scene is still quite visible, so light is reaching the sensor, and the sensor is at least functional. My first instinct would be to check for some custom settings that may be running, try to do a factory reset, or update the firmware. If you have access to the interior, you could try giving it a gentle cleaning. If it has a bulb mode or longer exposure, try a longer exposure and see if the image comes out any better. – Mitch Goshorn May 18 '14 at 16:22
  • @MitchGoshorn: It's a very simple 'idiotenkamera', very few settings, no 'bulb' or any exposure setting at all, definitely no obscure forgotten settings that could do this. And as the manufacturer is hard to find, reflashing the firmware might be difficult. It seems this kind of damage is not unheard of; it happened to one of Google StreetView cars. – SF. May 19 '14 at 8:45
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    It's not worth it to try and fix it. Be a good son and buy her a new one. – JenSCDC Oct 9 '14 at 18:51
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    Wouldn't it be easier to canibalize the power parts into the dead one? – Vincent Hubert Jan 13 '15 at 22:29
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    A guess: the circuitry that manages the gain for the sensors has failed, so the part of the process that takes the tiny differences at the sensor is being interpreted as very low. i.e., the camera is broken as if the EV was set to some very large negative number. It might help to say if the camera itself has working light meter, and if that meter says it is ok to take a shot -- that is, some cameras refuse to take a photo if they know nothing will come of it (unless over-ridden in some manner.) – user31502 Apr 13 '15 at 20:52
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As outlined by @JenSCDC:

It's not worth it to try and fix it. Be a good son and buy her a new one.

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