Flex PCB Saves Lens From The Junk Pile

There’s a piece of tech that many of us own, but very few of us have dissected. This is strange, given our community’s propensity for wielding the screwdriver, but how many of you have taken apart a camera lens. Even though many of us have a decent camera, almost none of us will have taken a lens to pieces because let’s face it, camera lenses are expensive!

[Anthony Kouttron] has taken that particular plunge though, because in cleaning his Olympus lens he tore its internal ribbon cable  from the camera connector to the PCB. Modern lenses are not merely optics in a metal tube, their autofocus systems are masterpieces of miniaturised electronics that penetrate the entire assembly.

In normal circumstances this would turn the lens from a valued photographic accessory into so much junk, but his solution was to take the bold path of re-creating the torn cable in KiCad and have it made as a flexible PCB, and to carefully solder  it back on to both connector and autofocus PCB. We applaud both the quality of his work, and thank him for the unusual glimpse into a modern lens system.

Lens repairs may be thin on the ground here, but we’ve had another in 2015 with this Nikon aperture fix.

16 thoughts on “Flex PCB Saves Lens From The Junk Pile

  1. “almost none of us will have taken tits lens to pieces because let’s face it, camera lenses are expensive!”. I think you mean “disassembled the lens” instead of “taken tits lens to pieces”.

    1. Hey Steven,
      I am in the process of soldering tiny bodge wires between the terminal block pins as a temporary fix so I can still use the lens in the mean time. I was after a more professional not-bodged repair, so I made a flex pcb. Since it is so easy to rip that flex cable, I figured It is something that should exist in time and space, so now other folks can at least have the option to make a replacement flex pcb as well.

  2. YouTube have some dis/assembly videos from guys who rent lenses and fix them if damaged by customer.

    I would not take lens apart because, let’s face it, I would never assemble it back.

  3. Nice work! Love that flexible PCBs are now readily available to the masses.

    I’ve not had the need to repair the electrical bits of any of my lenses, but I did drop one (a nice Canon lens), and it buggered up the aperture petals, with several popping out of place. I managed, but holy heck was that a challenge to get all back together! Still works fine to this day.

    1. Thanks! luckily, I did not have to dig that far into this lens for the repair, but lens repair can certainly get hairy. I’m currently experimenting with a SMT vacuum pickup device for placing lens elements in lenses and so far so good. It works fairly decently with small SMT parts, but I have not ventured smaller than 0603

    2. I dropped a canon lens 3’ onto tarmac with no lens covers. Bent the mount ring, and alignment undoubtedly shot. Sent it to the local good camera shop for repair, and they fixed it for ~10% the cost of a new lens.
      Fixing lenses is all well and good, provided there’s no optical issues as very few of us would be able to diagnose or fix them.

    1. I have repaired several lens assemblies from Panasonic point-n-shoot cameras, including fabricating new support dowels to replace broken ones. Touchy but doable.

  4. I’ve repaired a sigma 18-50 f/2.8 ex for canon once, I dropped it with the camera attached. The camera didn’t survive but the lens had a plastic mounting post snapped, which was one of two. It still worked but the sharpness across the image was off due to the skewed part. I managed to open it, taken out the shims shi glued the post back in. It still works after 10 years. The camera was repaired under insurance but sold it many years ago. Bodies are like conumables, lenses are forever!

    Another time I opened a lens or camera was removing the ir filter from a webcam, tricky but fun to do. Not quite as costly if something went wrong as with a delr lens though.

    1. Nice! I’ve had a few camera lens mounts crack on me too. Sometimes superglue is enough to re-attach the broken plastic binding posts back in place, but not always. I think it works best when you leave the broken plastic posts on the lens mount and just glue them back in place and press the assembly together. I’ve tried to superglue just the plastic posts back in, but whenever you try to reinsert the mount screw it just cracks off the body again.

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