Troubleshoot Camera Lens Problems

Use These Tips to Fix Camera Lens Error Messages

Use these tips to figure out how to fix your camera lens problems. William Andrew / Getty Images

As digital cameras become more powerful with more intuitive menu structures and bigger LCD screens, they can communicate with the user more easily. That means when the camera has a problem, it can deliver an error message. Unfortunately, most of those error messages are about as clear as the look through a viewfinder when you've forgotten to remove the lens cap. These tips can help you deal with camera lens error messages and help you troubleshoot camera lens problems.


  • Many lens errors are related to a dropped camera. If the camera lands on an extended lens housing, it could jam the housing, leaving it unable to function properly. Another lens problem can occur 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 a little pressure pulling or pushing on the lens housing.
  • If the lens is "sticking," and you haven't dropped the camera, consider visiting the manufacturer's Web site. Find the Support button and search for your camera model. The manufacturer's Web site may have a list of fixes for the specific lens error message you're experiencing. While you are visiting the manufacturer's Web site, check for any updates to the software or firmware for your particular camera model. A change in the firmware could fix the problem.
  • Try removing the battery and memory card for at least 15 minutes. With some cameras, this will reset 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 and make the lens operate properly again.
  • In rare cases, a battery that is running low on power could have trouble making the lens move. (However, most cameras will give you a "low battery" message well before the battery is too weak to move the lens housing.) Try inserting an A/V cable in the camera before you press the power button, which will keep the LCD powered down as it starts, providing extra power to the lens housing.
  • Another trick to try clearing the 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 does work on occasion.
  • If you recently shot photos in poor weather, such as blowing sand or wet conditions, use a brush, a microfiber cloth, or some canned air around the lens housing to try to clear any debris that could be jamming the housing, preventing it from moving.
  • An "F--" error message, with an "F" followed by two letters, often is an error message related to a lens. With this error message, make sure the lens is properly attached to the DSLR camera body; it's possible that the lens and camera are not communicating. 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. Use a larger aperture setting. (The F-- error message is usually only found with Nikon cameras.)
  • An "E--" error message, usually an "E" followed by two numbers, relates to a "stuck" lens housing. Try using some of the tips listed above 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.
  • 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 repaired for free. If you only have the manufacturer's warranty, it's worth contacting the manufacturer to see whether other photographers are having the same problem with that particular model of camera.
  • Finally, I have seen an Internet "fix" for some camera lens errors or with a jammed lens housing after dropping a point and shoot camera. According to this idea, smacking the camera in the palm of your hand a few times will cause the lens housing to unstick. At best, this is a temporary fix, and I would start with a gentle "jolt" to the camera to lessen the risk of causing permanent damage. I wouldn't recommend this "fix" unless all else has failed because of the possibility of causing further damage. But, if you have no other options, this may work.


Hopefully, one of these fixes will work for your situation. Otherwise, you may be left with no option but to buy a new lens.