I had my old XTi in the 9th month of a very long time lapse when it started giving me mysterious Error 99 messages. After hunting around the internet, it became apparent that it is a catch all error when something goes wrong with very little detail. It tends to happen with bad lens connections, bad battery connections, or shutter failures. Shutter failures? As it turns out, I had racked up over 35,000 actuations (as I recall) on this camera before dedicating it for the time lapse project, and it had taken a further 22,000 for the time lapse. The shutter on the XTi has a rated MTBF of 50,000 actuations, so it was due to fail. MTBF is the Mean Time Between Failures, without any information about variance, so your mileage may vary.
There is a quick and easy way to check for shutter failure (other than the obvious strange shutter noises). Put the camera into BULB mode, take off the lens, lift up the mirror with your finger, and press and hold down the shutter button. Sure enough, the shutter curtain was not moving at all.
I emailed a reputable camera repair place, but apparently they won’t give you a quote for the repair, even if you know exactly what is wrong. They want you to bring the camera in for a $25 diagnosis (which is refundable from the cost of repair), and the diagnosis is going to take a week. After that, they will tell you how much it will cost for repair, and even then I don’t know whether they will do it in house or send it out and it will be gone for weeks. This is an easy diagnosis, and I presume a not uncommon failure mode, so if they said they could fix it for me within a day I would have been willing to pay a premium repair price. But they didn’t, so screw them, and I bought a replacement shutter from eBay for $40 including shipping.
The shutter arrives, and I collect information from various places on the internets on how to do the repair. Had I realized how long and complicated the procedure was, I probably would have reconsidered sending it in to a professional. After more than 12 hours over 2 nights, I finally got it done and the camera is fully functional again. Much of it was spent figuring out how to do things, handling small parts, documenting it, and staring at it trying to find shortcuts. Lucky for you, I’ve distilled all the essential steps and gotchas in the video below. If I had to do it again though, I think I could do it in under 3 hours. If I were a pro, I think it could be done in under an hour.
Before starting the procedure, here are some helpful tips:
- At a minimum, you will need a p000 Philips screwdriver (the smallest size), a fine tipped soldering iron, and desoldering braid (or a fine tipped, high power solder sucker). I cannot emphasize how much easier this would be with better desoldering equipment; I just had a crappy desolder braid which never gets the solder completely out so parts are stressed as I heat and pull stuff off.
- There are many small parts, a fine tipped needle nose pliers or tweezers would also be helpful.
- Figure out a way to keep track of the screws. There are dozens of them, and they are many different lengths.
- Make sure the flash has not been used in many days so that the flash capacitor has been discharged. There is a way to discharge it after you open up the camera, but I didn’t get around to figuring that out since my flash had not been charged in months.
- Be familiar with anti-static procedures, especially when handling the sensor. If you don’t have a grounding strap, touch ground before and frequently during the procedure.
- I did not have any thread lock at home, so I skipped it. If you are going to abuse this camera in the field, use thread lock for the screws.
- Shutters fail because of mechanical breakage, make sure there are no parts rattling around inside after you remove the broken shutter unit.
- A key resource was the 400D service manual that I found here: http://thydzik.com/downloads/canon-service-manual-eos-kiss-digital-x-eos-digital-rebel-xti-eos-400d-digital.pdf
- This will VOID your warranty. However, if you’ve had more than 50,000 actuations, you’re probably out of warranty anyways.
Without further ado, here is the procedure in 12 easy steps: