The Panasonic DMC-ZS40 (TZ60 in Europe) is a pretty awesome camera: compact, user friendly, long zoom, great image stabilization, and excellent image quality. I've been really impressed with it since My Lovely Wife and I bought it back in the spring of 2014.
That is until a couple of days ago when we turned it on and got this:
System Error (Focus)
That's not good. Not good at all. Especially since it went off warranty around four months ago.
Looking around the Net, this seems to be a pretty common problem with Panasonic. Fortunately, a few people have had the gumption to tear these things down. This blog post is great. Here is a fantastic YouTube video on disassembling the camera, and here is another on cleaning the lens assembly. All great information. All for cameras much older than the ZS40.
OK, I thought. There must be a service manual out for the ZS40. The closest I could find was this one for the earlier model, the ZS30. Unfortunately, I could not find anything for the ZS40 that I wouldn't have to shell out for. And I wasn't in the mood for shelling out. I know my way around inside a computer. How hard could tearing apart a compact digital camera be?
As it turns out, pretty damn hard. Digital cameras are at a completely different level of complexity and integration compared to a PC. The five hours I spent in the guts of this thing trying to restore it back to life were kinda terrifying. But I went into it pretty blind, and I made a few mistakes along the way. It would have been a lot better had I had a guide to follow like the one I am writing for you now. Take on the following procedure at your own risk. If you do take it on, read it through not once but twice, to get an idea of what you are getting yourself in to. Also read the blog and watch the videos I've linked above.
What you'll need:
- a computer nearby to read this blog and the others I link to
- a clean work area free of dust
- a very small Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) screwdriver. I didn't have one so I had to use a Philips 00 screwdriver instead. Read this to see how they are different, and beware that the risk of this repair goes up if you are like me and don't have the right screwdriver.
- a very small flat-bladed screwdriver
- a piece of paper, scotch tape, and a pen for keeping track of which screw went where
- a Tupperware container for covering the disassembled bits of lens to keep the dust off
- a flashlight for shedding some extra light on the subject, especially if your eyes are as crappy as mine. A magnifier wouldn't hurt either.
- maybe an air bulb to blow dust and lint off things
This was my setup.
What I didn't use but you might want to have handy
- a bible, prayer book, or something like that.
OK. Let's get down to business.
Remove the lanyard, battery, and memory card from the camera. This is the easy part. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Next, remove the seven screws holding the back on. There are four on the bottom, one on the left (when looking from the back), and two on the right. Panasonic uses a bit of Loctite to help keep the screws from coming out so be prepared for them not coming out easily. I wasn't, and I screwed up (ha ha) one of the screws on the bottom, probably because I didn't have a JIS screwdriver. I was fortunate though that it came out halfway. I was able grab the screw head with some pliers and turn it the rest of the way out. I was probably pretty lucky that this was the only one I messed up. As a friend of mine likes to say, I'd rather be lucky than good.
Here is maybe a good time to say that there are a pile of screws holding this thing together, many of them different sizes. I suggest doing what I did. Get a piece of paper and draw a little picture of what it is you are about to take apart. Wrap some scotch tape in a loop so the sticky side faces out and stick that on the paper. As you remove each screw, place it on your picture so you know exactly where it goes. I'll warn you ahead of time that some assemblies will have two screws right next to each other of a different thread and / or length. If you think you'll just be able to remember, you're probably wrong. And this is an expensive camera to gamble on. How many screws hold this thing together? This many.
Once the screws are out, the back cover will stay in place thanks to a set of plastic clips all around it. Unlike previous versions of the camera, nothing is attached to this cover. Carefully tug at the back cover and the clips should let go. Set the cover aside.
Next, the circuit board with the control dial needs to be freed up. Push it down gently from the top to free it from the two plastic clips. It will slide down a bit and come loose. Fold it up and out of the way.
Now the display has to come loose. Put gentle pressure with your finger on the left edge of the display and push it to the right while you gently pull up on the right edge of the display. There is a thin piece of metal sticking out on that left edge. Pushing to the right will get that metal piece past two heavier metal clips holding the display down. The display will then fold over to the right.
Remove the four screws holding the gold-colored frame plate down. BEWARE. These screws are different sizes, so keep track of which one went where. The screw at top right has a finer thread than the other three. Once you've removed the frame plate, you should see something like this.
Removing that frame plate is a little tricky. There is a long metal tab on the bottom left corner of this plate that extends deep into the body of the camera. Use a small bladed screwdriver in this corner and lift up from there. The right side of the frame is going to try and stay in place as you do so. This is because the frame plate acts as a heat sink for the camera's image processor. There is a sticky thermal pad under the black tape on the right side of the frame. As you pull up from the left, the sticky pad should pull away from the processor on the right. Set the frame aside once it comes free. Don't let the sticky pad touch anything because you'll want it to stick on to the processor again when you replace the frame. I covered the frame up with a small piece of Tupperware to prevent any dust in the room from landing on it. This picture is the frame plate after removal. The sticky heat sink stuff is that beige rectangle on the left. You can also see that long metal tab I was talking about on the right.
Now the control board and the display can be removed. Use a small flat-bladed screwdriver to lift up on the black tab on the rear of the connectors, opposite to where the ribbon cable enters the connector. The black tab will flip up. This black tab is the clamp that holds the ribbon cable in place. Gently pull the ribbon cable out of its socket. Note just how far that ribbon cable goes in there. It will be important when re-assembling the camera to make sure these ribbon cables are pushed all the way back in, and that they are nice and straight with respect to the connector. If the cable goes in crooked, it won't push in far enough and there will be the chance of a short-circuit. This is what you'll see once the control board and display are removed.
There is a black plastic thingamahooie between the lens assembly and the main circuit board. Wiggle it around a bit and it should come loose. Set the thingamahooie aside.
There are three ribbon cables crossing over the lens assembly and another two on the assembly itself. Remove them from the connectors on the circuit board at the right of the camera by lifting up on the connector tabs as before with a small flat-bladed screwdriver. Note that there is some tape on the fat cable going to the middle of the lens assembly. You'll have to loosen this off before this cable can be removed. Once all of these cables have been removed, there is nothing else holding the lens assembly in place. Gently pull up on the assembly to remove it from the main body of the camera, and set the body aside.
Now things get really tricky. Take a deep breath and keep going. Above all, stay sober. Alcohol at this point won't make things go any smoother. Patience is a virtue. Wait for it.
Face the front of the lens towards you and remove the small screw near the top of the zoom motor close to the lens. There is another one at the bottom right holding down the focus motor (said screw is not visible in the picture below). Remove it too. This second one will be much longer than the first.
If you look at the bottom of the zoom motor, you'll see that the ribbon cable is soldered in place. I was really worried for a while that I'd have to unsolder the thing to proceed with the disassembly. Fear not. You don't need to. You'll have a lot of other things to be fearful of in a minute, though.
Turn the lens to face down. Remove the seven screws around the outside edge of the lens assembly. Keep track of which one went where! The screw holding down the ribbon cable is smaller than the rest. DON'T remove the CCD which is attached on the other side of the silver disk in the middle of the rear of the lens assembly with three weird screws. The CCD (or image sensor as it is otherwise known) isn't necessary to get at the focus or zoom motors. I would recommend NOT removing the CCD unless you absolutely have to. I get the feeling that taking it off could throw things out of alignment and result in crappy pictures later. That is more a theory than a fact, but don't risk it if you don't have to.
Turn the lens so the bottom faces toward you. There are two screws to remove here at the top left.
Pry the ribbon cable off all of the little black posts on the rear of the assembly with a small flat-bladed screwdriver. The cable will pop free from the post with a bit of pressure. Be REALLY careful here - you really don't want to damage these cables.
Next you will see a connected piece of cable that is folded over and deviously connected to a black plastic tab helping to keep the bottom of the back cover of the lens assembly from coming free (I got stuck here for the longest time before I figured this out). You also have to pop the ribbon cable off the little black post on the very left side of the bottom of the lens. The picture below shows the devious little tab popped out and laying over top of the back of the silver disk. There is another one like it to its left that has to come out too.
Once that is off, the back of the lens assembly should pull away cleanly. Put this someplace clean where dust can't get at it. I again covered it with a piece of Tupperware.
Here is another look at the rear of the lens assembly, this time from the side. If you look carefully, you can kind of see the hole where that devious little clip fits into.
Now we can take a look at the motors. This is the zoom motor on the left.
If you were getting a "System Error (Zoom)" message, you want to be looking here. It seems that grit can work its way into the lens and cause this part to lock up. Mine still looks pretty good here. Pay particular attention to the screw holding the zoom motor in place that is only accessible AFTER the rear of the lens assembly has been removed. Other teardowns of older cameras have you pulling the zoom motor fairly early on in the disassembly process. That screw makes doing so impossible on this camera.
This is the focus motor.
The lug at the end of the thread pushes a little lens assembly up and down. Take this little assembly off and put it under a chunk of Tupperware. Nothing is holding this assembly in place, and it is bound to fall out as you look around the lens to figure out what is wrong with the damn thing.
Now I was getting a "System Error (Focus)" message so I figured my problem was somewhere around this focus motor.. But the real problem was I couldn't see anything wrong with it. The drive was clean, greased, and the lug on it moved easily on the thread. This was kind of depressing. I had gone this far and found nothing. I thought maybe that the lug was a little too far near the end of its travel so I spun it back down the thread a bit. But really, I thought the motor was probably fried and there wasn't much I could do. So, I just started putting the thing back together.
Assembly is the reverse of disassembly (just read this post backwards and you should be good). I was really worried that reassembly would be the hardest part of it, but it went back together easily. I was glad I had taken a lot of pictures along the way and that I had been pretty meticulous in keeping track of which screw went where.
With everything back together, I put the battery back in and powered on the camera. I hadn't fixed anything, so I wasn't expecting anything.
It asked me to enter the time and date.
That's weird. I can see how it could have lost this information with how I'd taken everything apart, but it wasn't giving me an error message. So I entered the time and date. And it worked.
So I used the now working camera to take a picture.
And the thing is, I have no good idea why it works now. Maybe threading that lug on the focus motor a little further down did the trick. Maybe one of the ribbon cables had worked loose a bit, and the reassembly straightened things out. Don't know, don't care. Because it worked. Time to celebrate with a little something a kind relative dropped off the other day on her way through town. And I took a picture of it too. Because I have a camera that works.
See you next time, here at Mad Scientist Labs.