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Introduction

As I noted in my last post, I’ve recently bought a Nikon DSLR camera, which has sparked my interest in the interchangeable lenses. Notably, trying to find cheap lenses on EBay and repairing them. I’ve gotten lucky on a couple, but even broken these lenses can still go for almost 50% of their original value, depending on the lense. And with some lenses retailing from $500-1000 USD, even a deal can be a bit pricey for the non-professional photographer. So I’m starting with the basic lenses, the common ones that are around the lower end and often come with the camera bundles. These can be had on Ebay from $20-30 including shipping if you are patient enough.

Today’s specimen is a an AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 VR lens. This one I got a deal on, as it was listed as “attempted to fix myself, but couldn’t do it.” Well, after receiving it, I decided this was a good one to tear completely apart, you know, for science. More specifically, to record all the internal parts, such to examine the used part market on these items, as well as to increase my understanding such that I can perform more complex repairs in the future (my first couple attempts were easy).

First, a bit of post-mortem on the part, and where the original owner messed up the repair. The listed reason for the damage was a drop. Very common, the camera is dropped (use the neck strap people!), the lens hits the ground and the plastic mount ring on the lens gives way to the metal ring on the camera. A simple repair provided the rest of the lens survives.

00_BrokenParts

01_GlueResidue

I recieved the item still in it’s dissasembled state. The mount ring is off the lens, with too glaring issues. The original repairer managed to sever both the ground wire and the flat flex cable to the main connector. You can also see evidence of the first attempt at a simple fix, as there is cyanoacrylate (SuperGlue) residue around the connector. While using glue could be considered the first mistake, as the plastic rings are very cheap to acquire, I feel their second and fatal mistake may have been an simple one. Once the rear mount ring screws are removed, the rear housing is no longer fastened to the main part of the lense. If the connector was still attached via its screws to the mount ring, they may have lifted the lens by the rear housing and, in a mear moment, the lens fell apart and the weight of the lense broke the wire and the flat flex. New replacement connectors on EBay run around $20, which is more than what I paid for the lense and almost 25% of what a similar lens would cost new/refurbished. For the purpose of repairing the lens, I may be able to clean the glue residue off and with some kapton tape and delicate soldering, maybe repair the flat flex.

Already Disassembled

Lets start with the parts that came in the box, since these are already off the lense. For info on properly removing these pieces, see my last post where I repaired a similar lens. I’ll be reusing the screw card I made in my last repair (they did include all the screws in the shipment!). Note, I’m going to be making up names for these parts, as I don’t have an official reference.

Rear Cowling


02_RearCover

This part is located in the center of the mount ring and I think serves as a dust cover, or possibly just aestetics to the rear of the lens. It’s held by 3 screws in the mount ring.

Mount Ring


03_MountRing

This is the rearmost part that interfaces mechanically with the camera. Three screws hold it to the lens, and two more hold the connector in place. A third screw on the inside of the lense holds a pogo-pin type connector that serves as a ground connection to the camera body via it’s metal mounting ring.

Mount Ring Shims


04_Shims

There are multiple of these parts in a thick silver and thin brass. As far as I know, these are some type of shim devices to manage how far the mount ring sticks out.

Aperture Arm


05_ApertureLeverRing

This part manages the mechanical interface to the camera body for control of the lens aperture. The small arm protrudes out the back of the lense while the long arm extends into the lens and opens/closes the aperture. The ring fits into a grove on the inside of the mount ring and the spring also anchors to the mount ring, providing a return mechanism.

Continuing with the Teardown

Picking up where the original owner left off, after remove the rear mount ring and associated parts (and pretending the connector was still attached), the next part to remove is the AutoFocus and Vibration Reduction switch assembly. This is attached to the rear housing by one screw, and there should be a flat flex cable holding on as well. After removing the screw and carefully lifting it off the housing, you should see the flat flex connector close to where the screw was. These seem to be a ‘flip up’ type, and the cable should remove easily after flipping the black part of the connector. This can be done with a small flat screwdriver, but be careful, as the connector is mounted on another piece of flat flex, so it will feel a bit loose.

06_Switch

You can remove the rear housing now, which exposes the two main electronics boards and allows you to disconnect the main connector. The flat flex connector for the main connector is a simple push/pull type without a lock, so you can just slide it out. There are two tabs on the side of the ribbon to help with that. I’m going to continue by removing the two circuit boards.

11_RearHousingRemoved

12_RearHousingRemoved

10_RearHousingRemoved

First, remove all the connectors. Pictures are helpful for reassembly, as the design is starting to get a bit ‘busy’. This can be a bit delicate for the CPU board. Note that the AF controller is wired right to the AF motor, no connectors. There is only one screw in each board, so that part is easy.

At this point the CPU is removed, but the AF controller is still attached to the AF motor. Without a better option, I’ll proceed by attempting to remove the AF motor, and its associated gears. I see two screws that seem to be holding the assembly around the motor together, so I will remove those.

16_AF_Assembly

Thankfully, the whole thing comes off as one piece, no gears spilling all over the place, which was a nice surprise. Now you should be able to see four screws around the inside that seem to be holding the front housing in place. This seems like a good next step.

17_Screws

After thous are removed, the front housing is almost free, as there is a silver tab holding it in, that appears to serve as a limit for the zoom twist. Two screws hold that on, but before you remove that, there is also a silver tab holding some wiper arms, which is part of the zoom position sensor. Remove that first to avoid damaging the wiper arms. The silver zoom tab was a bit tough to get out as the arm appeared to bind in the various barrels it is intersecting with. After both of these are removed, getting the front housing off is still a bit of a challenge.

I’ll have to admit I was stuck for a bit at this point. No matter how you rotate any of the assemblies, it will not come apart. As it turns out, you need to remove the rubber grip on the outside, which exposes a tape seam on the outer zoom barrel. This certainly seems odd to me, but hey, it must work. After the tape is removed, the front part of the assembly comes off. This exposes a couple tabs, which when pulled outward, allow the front lens assembly to be rotated clockwise off of the inner lens barrel.

20_FrontCoverTape

21_FrontZoomRing

Once the front lens assembly is off, it becomes clear I had no hope of removing the outer housing. Even though loose, it was firmly trapped by an inner barrel. This appears to be attached by 3 sliver screws along its perimeter. Removing these proved to be difficult, as the screws were very tight. A good #00 or #000 phillips driver is recommended. I destroyed the first of drivers I had been using trying to free these screws. Once removed, there were also the anchors they were screwed into sitting into a channel in the inner lense assembly. These anchors may freely fall out once the autofocus helix ring is removed, and you will need to remove the anchors to make enough clearance for the zoom ring to slide off. I attach the anchors to the backs of the screws in the screw card so I don’t lose them. The zoom ring assembly also contains the focus position sensor and the sliding ring used to connect the autofocus motor to the focus ring. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to further deconstruct this part.

22_FrontLensElement

23_FrontLensRemoved

24_ZoomRingRemoved

25_FlatFlexGuide

Next, looking back at the other side of the lens, we’ll remove the two metal guides that are attached at the back of the lens and follow the inner lense down inside. This won’t free the inner assembly though, as there are three screws visible along the outside of the assembly which attach posts that guide the inner assembly back and forth as the in between barrel is twisted. We’ll have to remove these to allow the inner assembly to come free. With these guides out, ensure that the metal guides and attached flat flex cables are free, because we will have to rotate the in between barrel.

27_ZoomBarrelTabs

There are three spots on the front of the assembly where it will have to align to slide the inner parts out.

28_ZoomHelixBarrelRemoved

Again now the inner lense is held into the inner helical barrel by three guides that are screwed in. We’ll have to remove these to get the lense out of the helical barrel. When these screws are removed, there are small cylinders that will pull out. The threads in these cylinders are deep and the screws sit recessed, so we can’t attach the these parts to the back of the screw sheet. You’ll have to think of a better way to not loose them. The helical barrel should slide off the inner lens.

26_ZoomHelixGuide

29_ZoomHelixBarrel

30_InnerLensRemoved

Since I’m this far, I’m going to go ahead and keep disassembly. Next I’ll remove the rear most lense element. You’ll notice the three screws that hold this on are dabbed with some red locking glue, meaning you are probably not supposed to remove them, but at this point they are the only exposed screws. Plus the other side of that lense element is dirty and dusty. Note, that small amounts of dirt, residue, and dust typically will not affect the quality of the pictures you take. Disassembly to this point just for some cleaning would not be recommended.
When the screws are removed the lens should just pop off. Always be careful with the lens elements.

This seems like a good place to stop. While I really wanted to take a look at the vibration reduction mechanism which appears to be in the remaining assembly, I don’t seem any way to effectively continue a non-destructive tear down.

31_RearLensElementRemoved

Switch Assembly

07_SwitchRemoved
The switch assembly holds two switches for controlling the autofocus as well as the vibration reduction functions. The autofocus switch also has a mechanical part that disengages the gear for the autofocus motor to allow manual focusing.

Main Connector

09_MainConnector
This is the electrical interface to the camera. It connects to the main board via flat flex cable. A metal piece in the back of the connector can be slid out to separate the cable from the connectors. This would aid repair if you are able to source/make just the flex circuit and reuse the connector.

CPU to AutoFocus Controller Ribbon

13_CPU_AF_Ribbon
This is a 22 conductor flat ribbon connecting the CPU board with the autofocus controller board. Prited with part number E41447-SHC 2896 VW-1.

CPU Board

15_CPU_Rear

14_CPU
This is the main controller for the lense. There are 3 ICs on board, a custom Nikon branded BGA part (EI-134 108 H25), a larger quad flat pack (D70F3731GC V850ES/KG 1052EE247), and a small SOIC on the front (HC 4050A 049)

AutoFocus Assembly

16_AF_Assembly
The AutoFocus comes out as a single piece, with the associated controller, piezoelectric motor and gear assembly.

Zoom Limit Tab

18_ZoomBarrelTab
A small metal tab that appears to limit the twist of the zoom barrel.

Zoom Posistion Wiper

19_ZoomSensorWiper
This device shorts traces on the zoom position sensor so the CPU can report the current focal length to the camera.

Grip

This rubber piece serves to provide extra grip when rotating the zoom, and to cover up the tape seam.

Front Lens Assembly

22_FrontLensElement
The front most lens and plastic barrel.

Autofocus Helix Ring

This part attaches to the central lens assembly and provides helical tracks to translate the rotation of the autofocus ring to linear motion of the front lens assembly.

Zoom Ring

This part forms the outside zoom ring on the lens and contains an inner ring that connects the autofocus motor the focus ring.

Inner Barrel

This part forms the main inner frame. It has the zoom position sensor strip and the vibration sensors attatched to it. The helical grove barrel rotates inside this part and the inner lense moves inside of that.

Inner Helical Grove Barrel

This barrel fits between the inner barrel and the lens assembly and helps translate the rotation of the zoom ring into linear motion of the inner lens.

Rear Lense Element

31_RearLensElementRemoved
This is the rearmost lense element in the assembly.

I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being loose with my spending. In fact, I believe my wife has the opposite complaint. As I understand, this is a common trait of the engineering type, whether it be from the inherent desire to cost optimize my life, or from the overzealous and overconfident way I say to myself, “Oh yeah, I can do that.” Which leads us to the topic of today’s post. What is the easiest way to aquire an expensive item? Buy a broken one cheap and fix it of course!

Today’s subject is a Nikon DSLR 55-200mm 1:4-5.6 AF-S VR camera lens. Prices vary only (as I believe the VR (vibration reduction) is now on VRII in the latest lenses), but around $100-140 USD. The main reason I wanted this, was that I had just picked up a Nikon D3200 setup and that package only came with the non-VR lenses. The supposed advantage to VR is reducing blur on shaky freehand shots, particularly useful on the 200mm zoom as your movements are amplified. This in turn allows for faster shutter, etc. The VR itself works by using accelerometers inside the lens, and compensating for movement by adjusting one of the internal lense elements. I picked one up on EBay for about $30, listed as ‘for parts.’

The listed issue was a stuck aperture. This is easy to test on the unit. Despite all the fancy electronics jammed into the lense for auto-focus, zoom position, and vibration reduction, the aperture is controlled by a mechanical lever that sticks out the back and interfaces with the camera. The lever doesn’t want to move, and the aperture is fully closed. No use waiting, time to open it up and look for the problem.

Nikon Lense Aperture Lever

Nikon Lense Aperture Lever

Aperture

Aperture

First step is to grab a thick piece of paper, like an index card, and a pen. I acutally picked this tip up in the comments section of a Hackaday article on IPhone repair. As you remove the tiny screws from the item, draw a diagram on the paper and punch the screws into it at the corresponding location. Much more effective than the ‘take a picture’ method (for screws anyways), and thick paper does a good job at holding them too, so they don’t roll off of your work bench.

Screw Card

Screw Card

While the most prominent screws are the three on the back side facing up, I’m going to remove the ones around the perimiter of the mounting ring. This frees the inner plastic pieces, and importantly, the connector piece. This prevents you from pulling this up with the rest of the mount ring and damaging the flat flex cable. However, when removing the mount ring from the back, there is a separate ground pin, connected by a screw on the back side and a single wire that can be damaged if you are not careful.

After all the screws around the inner perimeter of the mount ring are removed (5 in total), and the three larger screws on the face of the mount ring are removed we are ready to get inside. Be cautious when handling the lens at this point, as there is nothing holding the rear housing onto the rest of the lens anymore. An attempt to pickup the lens by the rear housing (where the model number is stamped) could be very surprising and disastrous. First thing you want to remove is the piece that sits inside the mount ring. This will free up the connector peice so you can move it out of the way and get the mount ring off.

Nikon Aperture Ring Disassembly

Nikon Aperture Ring Disassembly

Now, the aperture lever has an external arm that interfaces with the camera and an internal one that does the work. These two are in different spots, connected to a spring loaded ring that rotates along the inside of the mount ring. Remembering that ground wire I mentioned, the internal part of the aperture lever is far too long to be able to simply lift the whole assembly off the lense without damaging the wire. You can separate the metal aperture ring from the plastic mount ring by rotating it to a position that allows it to be freed. However, with the aperture stuck, well have to move the mount ring instead. First, to make it easy on yourself, remove the spring. I used a small flat screwdriver to guide the one side off the plastic anchor attached to the mount ring. You should only be able to move the ring one direction, the way that would have tensioned the spring. Once it gets past its normal range of motion, it should simply fall off.

Nikon Aperture Ring Disassembly 2

Nikon Aperture Ring Disassembly 2

For further repairs, or if you are doing this to replace the mount ring itself, you should detach that ground pin. I’m leaving it hanging off to the side with a little support underneath to avoid putting pressure on the wire. Replacing the mount ring only is actually a common repair, and you can find a lot of lenses on EBay with broken mounts. Commonly the camera is dropped and the plastic on the lens gives way to the metal mount on the camera. Replacement mount rings can also be purchased on EBay in the 1 to 2 dollar range with free shipping from China.

At this point you’ll notice several pieces of metal, which I believe are simply shims. Note the position and remove them if they are in the way. Now, carefully maneuver the connector piece out of the way and slid the aperture lever assembly up and out. This is were I noticed the potential problem in my lens. The inner lever has a slot in it, and there appears to be a lever with a pin inside the lens. As I was able to pull the part right out of the lens, it seemed obvious that these two parts should be mating, but were not. A quick probe with the screwdriver proved that that the lever with the silver pin operated the aperture. So now it is time to mate these parts up and reverse the disassembly process. The only thing I’m worried about now is that someone had trying to repair this lense already and reassembled it wrong, and I was going to discover another, more sinister problem.

Aperture Lever Pin

Aperture Lever Pin

Using the precision flat screwdriver again, I pushed the pin gently to the interior of the lens to make room to slide the aperture arm in such that the pin would enter the slot. Re-aling the shims, and flip the mount ring back into position. The problem I ran into here was that it was quite tricky to get the metal ring back into its channel on the mount ring in this position. The connector piece seems to find itself in the way, and the bits you need to align are on the blind side. I ended up moving the metal ring temporarily above the connector so they wouldn’t interfere with each other, and used a long nose pliers to pull the ring up into the mount. The entrance to the channel is in the position where the aperture is fully open (counter-clockwise), so you also have some new spring resistance from inside the lense while doing this. Once it’s in the channel, let it rotate all the way to rest (clockwise). Now you can put the other end of the spring back on its anchor. I do this by putting the small flat screwdriver inside the loop and letting it slide of the end onto the anchor.

Here you can put the three mount ring screws back on, provided the shim holes are still aligned. Now you should be able to give the lever a little test. I had to remove the ring and re-adjust the flat flex cable as it was somehow interfering with the ring travel. Now replace the one other piece you removed and insert all the screws as shown in your diagram.

On first test, everything worked! My only concern is the sound the autofocus was making, not loud, but much more audible than the ‘silent focus’ is supposed to be. But hey, what do you want for $30?

Thanks for reading, good luck, and happy repairs!

This one comes from the “I’m too cheap to just buy one” project list. Having taken up rock-hounding in Montana, we found ourselves with the need to tumble some rocks. If you don’t know what rock-tumbling is, it’s the process used to polish stones like the ones they sell in gift shops.

The parts list for this is pretty short. We went to the goodwill and picked up an old inkjet printer. The parts I was after were the rollers and associated motor. Then all you need is a frame and a round container to place on the rollers. The frame is mostly improvised from screws and plastic parts from the printer, so I’ll just let the pictures do the explaining. Total BOM cost was about 7 dollars.

RockTumbler_1

RockTumber_2

RockTumber_3

RockTumbler_4

RockTumber_5