Nikon Digital Camera and Lens Information and Repair

Version 1.02 (25-Jul-22)

Copyright © 1994-2022
Samuel M. Goldwasser
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Table of Contents



  • Back to Audio and Misc Repair FAQ Table of Contents.

    Preface

    Author and Copyright

    Author: Samuel M. Goldwasser

    For contact info, please see the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.

    Copyright © 1994-2022
    All Rights Reserved

    Reproduction of this document in whole or in part is permitted if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

    1. This notice is included in its entirety at the beginning.
    2. There is no charge except to cover the costs of copying.

    DISCLAIMER

    Although working on digital cameras is generally less risky than dealing with microwave ovens, TVs, and computer monitors, there is one component in almost every camera - even the least expensive throw-away variety - that is potentially lethal. Specifically, it is the energy storage capacitor for the electronic flash. And of course even more so for separate electronic flash units or "speed lights" with their higher energy. This may charge up as soon as power is turned regardless of whether flash is called for, and may retain a dangerous charge for hours or days. If working inside a camera or flash unit, on one that has had its case damaged exposing internal parts, it is essential that you read, understand, and follow all safety guidelines contained in this document and in the document: Safety Guidelines for High Voltage and/or Line Powered Equipment.

    We will not be responsible for damage to equipment, your ego, county wide power outages, spontaneously generated mini (or larger) black holes, planetary disruptions, or personal injury or worse that may result from the use of this material.



  • Back to Audio and Misc Repair FAQ Table of Contents.

    Introduction

    The is random information and some repair notes on various Nikon cameras and lenses I've worked on. Most of it used to be in the Audio FAQ.

    Specific Nikon DSLR Camera Models

    Nikon D70 DSLR

    Nikon D70 DSLR Brain Transplant

    Of the three D70s purchased for the dissection below, two worked but one of those had Firmware V1.00, which I thought was the original. What, if any, significant difference there are between V1.00 and V2.00, which is the latest, are not known but bringing it up to date was desirable, for purity if nothing else. ;-) While there are instructions for upgrading firmware on the Nikon Website, apparently V1.00 could not be upgraded by the user as the menu option did not exist even after following the instructions for downloading and copying the files to the Compact Flash (CF) card. The third D70 had a broken pin in the CF card socket so it could not save or display photos but appeared to be otherwise undamaged and was used for the dissection. And it had later version firmware. So guessing that upgrade was possible, a brain transplant was called for. ;-)

    First, the battery was removed since various pins on the connectors will be live even if the camera is OFF. The high voltage on the electronic flash components should not be anywhere near this area of the camera so that should not be a concern. The PCB on the bottom of the D70 has the main microprocessor, non-volatile memory, and RAM. The firmware is probably stored in the 29LV160TE 16M bit flash memory IC next to the chip with the Nikon label. So in principle, it could be swapped, but that's above my pay grade. ;-) Replacing the PCB is only a matter of screws and connectors. And the donor PCB had already been removed from its host during the dissection. Of course, nothing is ever quite so simple as there are at least a half dozen screws of several different lengths and their heads look identical, so either (1) care must be taken to arrange the screws in the correct relative positions after each is removed or (2) they can be compared to the unmodified D70. All the screws around the perimeter of the bottom cover must be removed along with the one on the bottom of the front lens housing, but not the inner ones that secure the metal base/shield inside the cover. Then cover can be angled up and slid off of the USB connector on the PCB.

    There are 5 ribbon cables that need to be unplugged. For all except the large one at the end next to the Nikon chip, the black fasteners flip up; for the remaining one it slides out. If a wrong move is attempted something may break and it may not possible to assure the cables make good contact with the connector pins. Once the fasteners are released, the cables will slide out. The 4 large-head silver screws securing the PCB can be removed and the PCB will unplug from a white connector underneath and slide out of the USB housing.

    Reassemble in reverse order. There are one or two cushy gray conductive pieces that technically should be replaced but they popped out when the PCB was removed and I could not determine where they went. So be it. ;( ;-) Taking the bottom plate off the other working D70 to check is not going to happen.

    After reassembly, it was possible to upgrade the firmware so the 2 working D70 are now similar.

    Then I was looking at the camera and realized that the reason the firmware would not upgrade was probably that it was actually a D70S, though the V1.00 firmware may still have been out of date. There is no on-line way to upgrade the D70S firmware even though it appears as though the current revision may be something like V1.30. And some further digging revealed that the D70 V2.00 firmware is probably very close to the latest D70S firmware. So if that being totally confusing, it's staying the way it is until a reason appears to justify ripping the camera apart again. ;-) Since all functions I've tested seem to work with the D70S brain board in the D70 camera, my conclusion is that there is no difference in the firmware.

    The Franken-camera appears to work correctly and the photos looks similar to the those from the other D70. However, what is not known includes where there are actual physical differences between the D70 and D70s, and if there is a CCD defect map stored in a chip on the mainboard, which case it would not match. Nothing obvious has appeared but who knows?

    Nikon D70 DSLR Dissection

    This is called a "teardown" by iFixit but will go considerably deeper with more details. And to avoid any copyright issues, it will be called a "Tearup". :) However, don't worry, nothing (so far) has been torn accidentally. ;-) The D70 was chosen for the dissection because it is recent enough that most of the mechanical parts should be similar to those in more modern Nikon DSLRs but old enough that acquiring a sacrificial camera body was affordable. In fact, I bought 3 D70 bodies "for parts or not working" on eBay for a total of $30 delivered and half of that was shipping. Two of the three appear to be just fine, if a bit icky from congealed finger excrement, similar to what happens with remote controls collecting oily residue over time. I attempted to clean them but some ick may still be evident in some of the photos. The third was unable to access the "Compact Flash" memory card, which turned out to be due to a broken connector pin. In principle that could be repaired, but would hardly be worth it for a $10 camera that has essetially no resale value even if in mint condition. So it is the victim for this project. And to complete the circle, all the D70 photos were taken with one of the working D70s. ;-) A Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II zoom lens was used for most shots while a Nikon Micro Nikkor AF-S DX 40 mm f/2.8G lens was used for some of the closeups. The setup used a pair of 100W equivalent warm white LED bulbs for overall lighting (with fill flash for most shots), on a white cloth, overexposed by 1 or 2 stops when needed to bring out detail in the black parts and (mostly) bleach the background. A good background removal App could probably get rid of the residue. The camera was set for Aperture priority set to /f18 for a decent depth of field with minimal degration from diffraction effects. Not perfect but satisfactory short of putting together a professional photo studio. Web Album Generator was set for "Extra Large (1024 x 768) pixel resolution which limits the size to not exceed 1024H and 768V. (However, this appears to be not quite bug-free. Or more likely, I just don't understand their algorithm.) The photos were taken at 2x3K resolution and then cropped. The full-size originals are available in the same folder as the Album and may be accessed by copying the title of the photo at the top of the page (not the filename created by Web Album Generator) and adding a ".jpg" to it.

    There is a D70 repair manual on-line. Search for "Nikon D70 Repair Manual PDF". It has many detailed photos with step-by-step disassembly and reassembly, some explanations, and parts identification.

    I've actually come to like this camera despite having owned top-of-the-line Nikon F film SLRs many years ago as well as the newer D5600 and other D5xxx DSLRs. While the D70 is heavy and clunky (politely perhaps referred to as more "Solid") compared to newer Nikon DSLRs and has limitations, it is relatively simple to use with no excessive creeping featurism, excellent battery life since nothing is really running until the shutter button is pressed as there is no power hog live view mode, has a fast shutter response, and, uh, also takes decent pictures. ;-) This one has a shutter count of around 12K, so it's really only a teen as these things go. ;-) See my general comments on a "Selecting a Type of Digital Camera" (coming soon). You may be surprised at my conclusions.

    The photos so far may be viewed at: Nikon D70 DSLR Dissection. (This opens in a single new tab or window depending on how your Browser is set up.) Some of the photos may be rather gory. So send the kids and pets to another room. ;-) These shots start with an intact camera similar to the one being discombobulated, and then the core, various covers (including the back one with the LCD), the microcontroller PCB - essentially almost everything that can be detached with only the use of a screwdriver and by unplugging cables. Reassembly would be straightforward, at least in principle with adequate notes, closeup photos, and some luck. Beyond this point, except for removing the CCD assembly, wires have to be unsoldered or cut. As can be seen, this has now commenced as the necessary chants and incantations to the gods of dead cameras have been issued and notarized. ;-) And yes, a close examination of the photos will reveal that a pair of buttons did disappear before they should have during the disassembly and I didn't notice. Live with it. ;-)

    Here are the descriptions:

    Nikon D80 DSLR

    Nikon D80 DSLR Dissection

    The Nikon D80 is generally similar to the D70 in appearance but with a 10 MP resolution instead of 6 MP and also has a much larger LCD on the back panel, which is actually useful for reviewing photos (though no "Live-View" mode). It uses an electronically timed focal plane shutter rather than selective readout of the CCD as in the D70. Ironically the mechanical shutter has advantages, particularly with respect to minimizing blooming of highlights.

    There is a D80 repair manual on-line. Search for "Nikon D80 Repair Manual PDF". It has many detailed photos with step-by-step disassembly and reassembly, some explanations, and parts identification.

    The $25 D80 selected for the tearup has problems with the gears driving the mirror and displays "Err" in the top LCD after valiant whirring attempts to reset it. This is repairable based on various Web videos, but requires an almost total teardown ;-) of the camera to be able to replace the motor assembly and/or large white gear. So while the tearup will reach that point, reassembly is probably not going to happen. ;-)

    All photos were taken with the same D70 used for its portraits. ;-) I do have a working D80 which works fine but that may eventually be sold. Since its shutter count is over 66K, adding to that was not desirable. The shooting conditions are similar to those for the D70 with the same settings for Web Album Generator.

    The photos so far may be viewed at: Nikon D80 DSLR Dissection. (This opens in a single new tab or window depending on how your Browser is set up.)

    Here are the descriptions:

    There may be more photos to come.

    If what you want is entertainment with a bit of useful information, check out the YouTube video Prime Studios - Destroying a Nikon Camera or Web page with still shots PetaPixel - Step-by-Step Teardown of the Nikon D80 Shows You What's Inside a DSLR. Thankfully, both of these are the same D80 and it had already been fatally damaged before he got a hold of it, so the gore is tolerable. ;-)

    For the specific problem this D80 has, namely the whirring gear error, there are a pair of more serious YouTube videos at Nikon D80 ERR Split Gear Part 1 which covers the disassembly to access the gear motor and Nikon D80 ERR Split Gear Part 2 which covers the installation of the replacement and then reassembly of the camera. And of course since there are a lot of shots of the camera in various stages of discombobulation nearly to the bare bones, it also serves as a decent dissection, though attempting to keep track of what screws were removed at each step may be rather challenging.

    For this camera, the black gear attached to the motor shaft is indeed fractured so the motor spins with fully doing what it's supposed to do, but whether that happened on its own or was the result of excessive torque driving the mirror / shutter mechanism due to some other issue such as a faulty encoder position sensor is not known and I'm not really inclined to go to all the trouble of replacing the gear and reassembling the camera to find out. Sorry. ;-) Though the expense at least wouldn't be much as the gear in my dissected D70 is the same. Even if I didn't have that, there are over 100 listings on eBay for the gear, some under $3. It must be a common failure. And for someone with an attention to detail in keeping track of everything during disassembly (especially the locations of the solder joints for the dozen or so wires that need to be disconnected), repair should be straightforward if not cost effective. ;-)

    And to top it off, I accidentally removed the motor mount (not just the motor and gearbox itself via the two large-head screws) and lost one of the rollers without even realizing it until the mirror would not come all the way down. Miraculously, I did find the roller later on the workbench and reinstalled it, but that's the reason why the mirror is in the fully up position in the Mirror Box photos rather than down as would have been preferred. ;( :-)

    Nikon D5300 DSLR

    The D5300 is mid-way through the "entry-level" or "upper entry-level" class of Nikon DSLRs depending on who is doing the classifying. The D5600 is believed to be the current version (as of 2022) but the D5300 is fairly close with the same resolution and most of the same capabilities. Among the differences are that the D5600 has a touch screen (which IMO responds when not expected more than often than not), lacks GPS, and has a normal Micro USB instead of the Nikon UC-E6 connector. ;-)

    Nikon D5300 DSLR Dissection

    The following uses photos of 2 different D5300s: One was purchased as "Parts" - literally - as it had already been partially disassembled, apparently in a serious effort to repair it that went wrong. The sets of screws were separated into individual baggies and whoever was doing this did try to avoid damage. Some parts were not included though like the SD cover and front-right hand-grip. The other one was purchased as "Dead", which indeed is an accurate description. It does absolutely nothing but looks nice. ;-) My fantasy is to take the parts camera mainboard and swap it into the dead one and have it come back to life. But there's no way so far to know if mainboard is the problem, the "parts" mainboard is any good, or even went with the other parts.

    The photos were taken with the second working D70 / D70s following its brain transplant. ;-)

    The photos so far may be viewed at: Nikon D5300 DSLR Dissection. (This opens in a single new tab or window depending on how your Browser is set up.)

    Here are the descriptions:

    More to come, perhaps.

    Specific Nikon DSLR Lenses

    The following are more descriptive than repair. On a scale of 0 to 10 modern lenses like this rank around -10 in ease of repair. ;( Anything requiring more than the simplest disassembly is almost certain to make things worse and likely result in the thing turning into a high-tech paperweight - at least the first few times it's attempted. Where manual focus doesn't work on an autofocus lens, live with it. ;-) Even being able to lubricate the proper surfaces is likely to require extensive disassembly and the opportunity to tear a ribbon cable, break a connector, or lose itty-bitty screws or other almost invisible parts. For many Nikon lenses like this, there are (supposedly) original Nikon repair manuals on-line but don't expect there to be much in the way of real help. They make many assumptions, don't even go deep into some major assemblies, and suffer from poor English translation. In addition, depending on what was disturbed, some specialized test equipment and software may be required to tweak alignment. In fact it is hard to imagine that repair of a relatively low-end lens like these is ever really done by Nikon or an affiliate! And now with eBay, fully functional used specimens can be had for a fraction of the cost of the simplest professional repair.

    The only repairs that aren't totally unreasonable for a first attempt are to replace the plastic Nikon F bayonet mount on smaller lenses that can get damaged easily (but even this may risk breaking a wire, tearing a ribbon cable, or losing a tiny part), or to replace a bashed front or rear lens group (though on many, doing the latter requires realignment, which is not possible without the proper high tech equipment and training), or the rear housing. The mounting ring may be available at reasonable cost but anything else is likely to have to be cannibalized from a similar lens. So what's the point other for the challenge or excitement value. ;-) If you do decide to take the plunge on a more involved repair, take photos at every step even if there is a repair manual available evem of how it goes back together seems obvious when taken apart. It may not be obvious an hour or day later. Label parts that fit together with "match marks" of some sort like coded scratches or white paint. Many assemblies may appear to have 3-fold (120 degree) symmetry, but that doesn't mean they will work correctly if the wrong choice made. Segregate screws as well since not all the teeny-tiny screws are identical. Work on a surface where tiny parts won't go bouncing off to oblivion. There are unique screws for plastic and metal, and of different diameters and lengths. A padded surface may be useful as well as a magnetic pad to "store" screws and such. Many of the threaded holes are into soft plastic so stripping them is always a risk. If a screw seems tight, it's probably the wrong size. A set of quality Jeweler's or miniature precision Philips screw drivers with magnetic or magnetizable tips is a must.

    If a dozen of the identical model lenses need repair, then after the first 8 or so, this will become straightforward. ;-) But "identical" really means the same. For example, the AF-S 18-55mm and 18-70mm (both described below) are totally different beasts.

    These aren't like your uncle's SLR lenses - and even those were basically impossible to repair without proper precision tools, most excellent eyesight and/or a microscope, and a steady hand. There are serious electronics in Auto Focus (autofocus or AF) Vibration Reduction (VR) zoom lenses including a miniature motor and possibly a gear train, angle encoders for zoom and focus, MEMS gyros and voice coil actuators, PCBs with highly integrated ICs, and many fragile flex-cables and connectors. In short these are complex electro-mechanical systems, not just a bunch of optics! And they have their own computer chips built-in.

    Where there is a Nikon repair manual available on-line, a set of search terms is provided to find it. Should they fail to return anything useful because of decayed links (which is unlikely), I have copies available for the asking. However, the repair manuals are really just disassembly and reassembly manuals, with info on alignment using Nikon proprietary jigs and software (when required). None provide the level of detail below with respect to autofocus and vibration reduction implementation.

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens

    There is a repair manual on-line for this lens. Search for "Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Zoom Lens Repair Manual" (without the quotes). It's may be the first hit using Google.

    The following description applies directly to the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens and probably to the non-VR version (with obvious simplifications) if there is such a thing. This was the "standard" lens on older D3xxx, D5xxx, and other low to mid range Nikon DSLRs using the DX format (1x0.6 inch) sensor But there seems to be little standardization among lenses that may appear to be very similar like the AF-S 18-55mm and 18-70mm, which have very little in common in terms of construction. The AF-S 18-55mm has now been replaced with the AF-P version which uses a different type of autofocus motor and is slightly more compact. A description and dissection of that lens is in the next section. But while larger lenses like the 18-200mm are generally similar in construction, the details will differ substantially. A section on those may be forthcoming but there is already a Nikon repair manual on-line.

    Further, many lenses like the one in this section are made largely of plastic. The only major structural part made of metal is the cylinder with tracks to guide the extension of the focus and zoom lens groups. (Right of center in the photo above.) So it's easy to break parts or strip threads for tiny screws. In fact, the guide rollers which control the extension of the focus and zoom lens groups are plastic, and at least one was found to be fractured in the discombobulated lens used for the photos. It can be seen among the pile of teeny hardware bits.

    But these are very high tech devices.

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens Photos and Description

    Most of the photos referenced below are also available as a Web Album (though possibly at slightly lower resolution) at Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens Parts Web Album.

    As if that wasn't exciting enough, here is the good (VR) stuff. ;-)

    There must be some pretty fancy footwork going on in the algorithms on that CPU board to actually implement the VR. And the lens element must be maintained centered electronically when VR is on using the Hall-effect sensors for feedback. There is no restoring force so it will tend to sit at the lowest point. When VR is off, it will be more or less centered using the locking collar. The springs only keep it against the surface of the front cover.

    And you thought camera lenses were boring. ;-)

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens>

    I have not found a repair manual or even an exploded diagram for this lens. If anyone has one, please contact me via the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.

    This is the newer version of the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR zoom lens. It appears to have a similar (but not identical) optical design but is smaller and lighter with a lock button so it collapses for storage like the AF-P lens, below. It is still supposed to use the same SWM technology so it was not immediately clear how this could be possible. It is just slightly larger in diameter than the AF-P lens and approximately the same length. I originally thought it might use a worm gear drive like the the AF-P lens but with the SWM rather than a stepper. However, that would not explain how the focus ring can move on its own during autofocus operation since the AF-P uses "fly by wire" control system for manual focus. Hmmmm. ;-)

    I have not dissected one of these lenses yet, but measurements of the SWM frequency may provide a clue. A 6 turn sense coil was placed under the lens, which as before was determined to be the optimal location for a strong signal, probably in close proximity to the ferrite HV transformer(s). Rather than 77 kHz as in the original AF-S lens, the frequency for the AF-S II is around 290 kHz (!!) which was originally assumed to indicate a much smaller motor (though this turns out not to be the case, more below).

    While the focus ring is moving, the pulse width may be up to around 700 ns. But there is still a detectable very stable ~100 ns spike at the same frequency with similar amplitude for several seconds after the camera has beeped indicating that optimal focus has been achieved, not only while the focus ring is moving. So it is likely from the same source and not just pickup from the logic, perhaps a sort of dither to minimize stiction in the mechanism between focus operations.

    Then I found photos supposedly of replacements for the AF-S VR II SWM and also one with the gear train in eBay listings and they look similar to those in the non-II version, but the gear train at least must be slightly smaller as the original would not fit the VR II lens. The size of the SWM has probably not changed though. And a listing for a replacement PCB showed that at least one of the PCBs is a ring rather than the rectangular as in the original. An eBay search using the terms: "nikon 18-55mm vr ii lens (motor,parts,pcb)" should turn up listings with these photos. It's not likely they will go away give the ridiculous prices the sellers are charging for replacement parts. ;-) Based partially on the photos, my conclusion now is that the higher frequency may have been selected primarily so the size of the electronic components like the ferrite transformers could be reduced or because it permits faster focusing. And that the physical size reduction of the VR II lens is accomplished by three primary changes:

    1. The gear train was shrunk by between 10 and 20 percent. The SWM and gears are probably the same size but the mount is on a tighter radius.

    2. The outer diameter of inner barrels of the lens were reduced so the SWM can be moved more toward the center.

    3. The ring-shaped PCB replaced the rectangular CPU PCB. The POW PCB with the SWM drivers and ferrite transformers is mounted elsewhere. They must be present since the pickup coil worked to detect the signal.

    So mostly clever packaging. ;-)

    Then I bought a second supposedly broken AF-S VR II lens also to dissect if it could not be repaired easily. But nothing was found to be wrong with it except for some contamination on the base, which looked bad but was easily removed. Darn. I hate it when that happens. ;-) So the search continues. Stay tuned.

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens with Loose Trim Ring

    Both the AF-S VR and AF-S VR II lenses have a trim ring at the front whose main purpose seems to be to help keep dust out of the mechanism. They are both held in place with strips of tape wrapped around the entire lens, but the tabs that the tape sticks to on the trim ring are very narrow on the AF-S VR II so after awhile they can come loose and it then detaches. The trim ring on the first AF-S VR II lens I acquired was floating free. See Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens with Loose Trim Ring. It looked really bad and that lens was destined for dissection if it could not be repaired. But of course it would probably work just fine if the loose piece were pulled off entirely. But fixing it simply required removing the rubber grip by lifting it away from the body pulling it off, and then replacing the tape. But Nikon must use tape with super-strong adhesive as ordinary tape probably won't hold for long. It might also be possible to use a few dabs of adhesive like 5 Minute Epoxy or industrial strength rubber cement between the trim ring and the barrel it seats against, but this has not be attempted - yet. So far it's been behaving with just some Kapton tape, and most of the photos for the dissections have been shot using this lens.

    Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens

    I have not found a repair manual or even an exploded diagram for this lens. If anyone has one, please contact me via the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.

    The AF-P lens is believed to be optically very similar to the AF-S version, above, but with one additional lens element. However, it uses the Nikon so-called"Pulse" technology (thus the "P" in AF-P) for autofocus instead of the "Silent Wave Motor" (SWM, or S in AF-S). Pulse autofocus is based on a stepper motor and does indeed appear to be quieter than silent. ;-) While SWM uses a piezo motor driven at an ultrasonic frequency (above human hearing) which in itself should be very quiet, the motor's rotating surface plate in contact with the actual PZT element, associated gear train, and other rotating parts makes detectable noise.

    The AF-P lens is also narrower which could be in part due to the more compact drive setup. The piezo motor has a relatively large diameter (almost 1/2 inch) and the complex gear train also takes up space. For smaller lenses like these, the only option is to increase its overall diameter. The stepper motor with its direct worm drive can greatly reduce the required space.

    The lens destined for analysis is definitely well worn. The lock button doesn't work properly and in addition, one of the three tabs on the bayonet mount is broken off. Nonetheless, it still still seemed to work well on a camera. But from the start, its days were numbered. ;-)

    After starting the dissection, I have other suggestions for the "P" in AF-P: "Pathetic" or perhaps "Plastic". Nearly everything structural is made of plastic except the screws and a few tiny brackets. However, having said that, the AF-P is much simpler and may be more reliable than its AF-S cousin. Autofocus has only two moving parts - a stepper motor with worm gear shaft which moves an internal lens group over a total distance of around 7 mm using low voltage drive. Compare that to about a dozen in the AF-S lens along with the possibly tempermental ultrasonic piezo motor. The manual focus ring generates signals to the microbrain that then controls the same motor - it is not directly coupled to it. Vibration Reduction (VR) is simplified as well with no Hall-effect sensors or lock mechanism. As a result, the electronics is also much less complex. In fact, as will be seen below, the electronics is perhaps an order of magnitude simpler in terms of the number parts than in the AF-S version. This may be largely due to the lack of need for the high voltage piezo drive. The non-VR AF-S 18-70mm lens has electronics that is nearly as complex as in this VR lens. And there are no critical surfaces to get contaminated as with the ultrasonic piezo motor. Of course, part of the difference could be due to the use of a higher level of integration available at the time of its design. So between the mechanical and electronic simplicity, the AF-P lens may be more reliable.

    But it almost appears as though this particular lens must be assembled from the inside-out. :( ;-) For example, in order to get to access any internal parts, the curved strip with contacts that make connections to the camera body must be disassembled down to its individual contacts, which then pop out all over the place. It isn't self contained with the flex-cable as in the AF-S. So if the plastic bayonet mount gets damaged (as would seem to be quite common even though this is a small light-weight lens), replacing it requires some serious manual dexterity.

    Taking it to bits non-destructively isn't that bad, though putting it back together without detailed instructions would be like solving a 10-level Rubik's Cube blindfolded. ;-)

    One mystery is solved though: The silent propulsion system for autofocus. As expected and noted above, there is a very small stepper motor (~3/8" diameter) whose shaft has an integral worm gear and no other gears. That rests in a Nylon U-shaped bushing enabling the entire focus assembly with the 3rd lens group to be moved back and forth by around 7 mm with an opto-interrupter as a limit sensor at one end. The focus ring works in parallel with the manual focus electronically: There is an incremental encoder consisting of spokes on the perimeter of the fucus ring with a pair of nearly microscopic opto-interrupters in quadrature to sense their movement. So, the stepper motor can be driven either by the autofocus electronics or focus ring essentially at the same time. But manual focus will not work if power is off, which is only of academic interest unless the lens is used in an incompatible camera or for another application. This is fundametally unlike the AF-S version of this lens where the focus ring actually moves a lens group on a spiral track and the M/A focus switch selects (1) whether it is coupled to the gear train and (2) lets the microbrain know.

    Without a gear train, this should be quieter than the AF-S. The stepper motor itself may make a detectable sound but sliding noise will reduced and there is no gear train to whine.

    Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Optics

    The AF-P has 6 lens groups (unlike the AF-S that has only 4), though some may be single lens elements. The optical design could still be the same:

    The position of the 1st and 2nd-6th (in the same relative position) move independently depending on zoom setting. The position of the 3rd changes relative to the others depending on focus setting.

    Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens Photos and Description

    Most of the photos referenced below are also available as a Web Album (though possibly at slightly lower resolution) at Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens Parts Web Album.

    Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Disassembly Procedure

    Not all of the following is needed depending on whether this is for repair or curiosity. Do NOT do this if the future of the Universe depends on getting the thing back together in a functioning condition. ;-)

    That's basically it. There are now a pile of parts where there used to be an AF-P lens. ;-) Reassemble in reverse order, left as an exercise for the student or masochist.

    I have been in fact been unable to reassemble it into a fully working state - even mechanically. While it's reasonably straightforward to get the major pieces screwed into their proper place, fitting them into the appropriate combination of grooves and slots in the cylinders that control how far each one moves as a function of zoom is a challenge. There are probably match-marks in conjunction with jigs that to the trained (Nikon) eye would make this intuitively obvious. The closest I came was to get it to move the front of the lens back and forth in what appears to be the correct way based on zoom, but that was through random chance and could not likely be reproduced. Whether the other parts move correctly is not known. There are 3 separate assemblies that move based on zoom that need to go into their respective grooves and slots, and also need to be correctly oriented with respect to the 120 degree symmetry of the lens, so among other things, the zoom distance labels, and mark and lock line up correctly.

    The more I look at these, the more they appear to be marvels of engineering down to the casting/molding of the numerous circuitous groves, slots, holes, posts, blocks, and other structures in plastic. It's probably just Zoom Lens Design 101 but still impressive to the uninitiated. ;-) Unfortunately, sometimes they aren't strong enough as will be seen with the next lens. :(

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF Zoom Lens

    There is a repair manual on-line. Search for "Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Lens Repair Manual" (without the quotes). It's the first hit using Google.

    This lens is interesting because autofocus uses a full diameter ring ultrasonic motor with no gears, which is why I bought it for dissection. These are called "SWM Ring Motors" or simply "Ring SWM". Theoretically, they should be quieter, more reliable, and faster. But in reality, they may not be unequivocally any of these. The working sample I have is definitely not silent. And they are probably more expensive to manufacture even though there are fewer parts.

    Autofocus on this lens is quick, but not necessarily quieter than on the AF-S lenses using the small motor and gears. The motor and lens has sliding surfaces which still make some sound.

    But the sacrificial victim makes abnormally loud grinding noises and fails to be able to focus correctly - either manual or auto. :( ;-)

    The cause became obvious as a huge part - the entire 2nd lens group - was loose inside the lens not attached to anything just bouncing around. ;-( Figuring that the 1st lens group would detach like the others - by unscrewing it after removing the label, that was attempted first. But either it has left hand threads or it is really tight and I don't have the needed spanner wrench, so it remains securely attached. No matter. ;-)

    Plan B was to go in from the back, where the action is in any event. This turns out to be quite simple and even reversible. Removing several screws around the side of the bayonet mount and the back allows both to be removed without damaging anything. The electronics PCB is then exposed and its cables can be unplugged easily along with the A/M switch revealing the full diameter autofocus ring motor. The contacts remain safely inside their housing.

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF Zoom Lens Photos and Description

    Most of the photos referenced below are also available as a Web (though possibly at slightly lower resolution) at Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF Zoom Lens Parts Web Album.

    Being simpler than the VR lenses, there are fewer photos for this one, but there is always the on-line repair manual to refer to:

    This lens appears to be more repair-friendly than the ones above especially if there is no need to go inside the assembly with the 3rd-5th lens groups. There should be no need to unsolder any wires and the flex cables detach easily. As noted above, just keep track of everything with photos, notes, and added match marks.

    Miscellaneous

    Nikon DSLR Doesn't Recognize Memory Card

    This may be specific to the D5x00 DSLRs when attempting to use a brand new SanDisk Ultra 32GB SDHC. The message is "This memory card Cannot be Used. Card is Damaged. Insert another card." Then nothing responds, even the configuration menus, so it cannot be formatted in-camera. And formatting it on a PC using either NTFS or FAT32 makes no difference. A Web search will return all sorts of suggestions. But the simplest is to format the card in a Canon camera. Really. ;-) The specific case here is a Nikon D5200 and Canon SX710 HS. This was not a fluke with a single card but happened on more than one occasion.

    Nikon Electronic Flash Issues

    WARNING: All electronic flashes using xenon lamps have an energy storage capacitor that can hold a high voltage charge for hours to days even with the camera off, the flash disabled, or the battery removed. The 330 V capacitor in a D70 still had more than 250 V on it after at least a day with no battery. Touching the wrong contacts can result in a shocking experience (though probably not a lethal one). But it can kill the camera if it ends up discharging through the electronics. This only matters if disassembling the camera for repair or curiosity and then mostly in areas relating directly to the flash or capacitor. It is not something the user of the camera needs to be concerned with unless the case is damaged, particularly in the areas of the flash or capacitor (whose location depends on the specific camera model). And with the flash cover removed (as might be required to repair one that doesn't pop up), both ends of the flashlamp are exposed. The risk is not necessarily between them as there is an IGBT or a similar electronic switch in series with one side to implement the energy conserving flash control, but between the live contact and other parts of the camera. And that can not only be shocking but kill the camera as well. Discharge the capacitor at the capacitor terminals using a power resistor - 10-15K recommended while monitoring with a DMM to below 1 V or so. Then short across them with clip leads and leave them there for awhile. (Capacitors can recover some charge on their own.) DO NOT just put a screwdriver blade across the terminals as there could be a rather dramatic flash-bang with collateral damage to the shorting tool and terminals. See the document: Electronic Flash Units and Strobe Lights for more details including safety precautions.



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