Repairing a Canon S100 ‘Lens Error’

A few weeks ago, over Labor Day weekend, my Canon S100 stopped working. The barrel wouldn’t retract — something ticked rapidly inside for a second and the back panel reported a Lens Error. I tried turning it on while twisting one way, pushing down, etc. but aside from one time where it retracted and came back out, nothing seemed to change.

Canon S100 Lens Error

lousy webcam image, new assembly in foreground

This doesn’t appear to be the same error experienced by certain serial number ranges of the S100; mine is a 45xxx whereas the original lens error recall was for serials 29xxx through 41xxx. Also the original error seemed to be related to a flex cable getting loose.

Searching led me to a couple posts by bigboss97 on the DPReview forums. He appeared to have the same error, and more importantly, fixed it by getting a new lens assembly.

Thus I went to eBay and ordered a replacement lens assembly for about $20 (including shipping). What’s interesting is that what I received appears to be a remanufactured/refurbished part, complete with QC stickers. I was only able to preserve the bottom sticker, but I tried to write down the characters on the top one. Intriguingly, the top sticker was dated 9/20/2015, and the bottom one 9/18/2015, which implies to me that these refurb assemblies are produced in relatively small batches. It would be interesting to find out how exactly the pipeline works.

qc sticker

notesTaking apart the camera was pretty straightforward; I mostly followed the video but took off the front early on. A pair of tweezers helps with the flex cable snaps and such. The click ring on the front of the camera is much more substantial mechanism-wise than I expected it to be.

in progress (blurrycam)


As you can see, my replacement assembly works great. Cosmetically it’s got a few scratches, and the top part of the I in ‘IS’ is scratched off. It’s also missing the top screw in the metal slug that’s attached to the sensor.

While I was at it, I decided to tear apart my original assembly.


It’s remarkable what’s inside this thing, and it’s also remarkable that it’s made out of plastic. Unfortunately that also means eventually something will wear down inside the zoom assembly and create too much resistance for the motor to drive. That’s my impression based upon playing with mine, as it required quite a bit of force to move at a certain point (specifically, around the zoom level where the inner barrel backtracks a little before going back out).

I’m a little disappointed that my camera developed this problem after only two years (I bought it used). My previous camera was an SD1000, and it’s still working just fine. My upgrade cycle is closer to 5 years, so I guess I’ll pick up another lens assembly, just in case.

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