Nikon Camera and Lens Information and Repair

Version 1.07 (10-Sep-22)

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

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


    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.


    Although working on cameras is generally less risky than dealing with microwave ovens, TVs, and computer monitors, there is one component in every camera with an electronic flash - even the least expensive throw-away variety - that is potentially lethal. Specifically, it is the energy storage capacito. 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.

    If there is no electronic flash, the greatest risk is torn flesh from sharp sheet metal or gear teeth. ;-)

    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.


    The is random information and some repair notes on various Nikon cameras and lenses I've worked on. Some of this used to be in the Audio FAQ. Originally it was supposed to be only about Digital SLRs (DSLRs) and their lenses, but it will be morphing into covering some aspects of fully mechanical cameras with at most an exposure meter. The latter are just such beautiful examples of what can be done well without high tech electronics.

    Recommended Tools

    Selecting a Type of Digital Camera

    It's possible to spend as little as $0 for a camera (if it's built into your smart phone) or more than $10,000 for a top-of-the-line DSLR or mirrorless camera with an assortment of lenses. There are many Websites with recommendations. Here my quick take on this topic:

    1. Smart phone cameras: If you don't care and don't want to care about the mechanics of taking pictures, use your phone camera. With each successive generation of smart phones, their built-in cameras improve dramatically and provide remarkably good picture quality and features often not available in expensive gear. Due to the mass appeal of smart phones, a great deal of engineering effort and money is put into their design really pushing the state-of-the-art - which in some cases would appear to violate the laws of physics given teeny lens and sensor of a phone camera. while there are far fewer options when taking pictures, the default set is often perfectly satisfactory. But there may even be some that are not commonly available with stand-alone cameras. And while it is sometimes possible to access features like shutter speed that are normally hidden, that will probably be awkward and revealed with a Web search. But your phone is likely to be with you at all times so there are no issues of lugging around extra photo gear.

    2. Point-and-shoot cameras: These are the next step up incorporating many features of "real" cameras like the ability to control shutter speed and aperture and other photo-geek parameters. ;-) The reality is that in most cases, they will be used in "automatic" mode. For 99% of your photos, the quality will likely be comparable to those from an expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera. And they fit in a pocket and weigh only a few ounces. The typical point-and-shoot camera will have 6:1 to 10:1 optical zoom which for a DSLR would mean a bulky zoom lens with the rig then weighing in at 2 to 3 pounds or more. They will also have a macro (close up) capaility typically being able to focus within an inch or less of the subject, which would require a separate macro lens or special closeup lenses with a full size camera. And FWIW, a mirrorless camera is similar to a point-and-shoot in technology, but with a smaller sensor and a price tag 10x to 100x higher. ;-)

    3. DSLRs or mirrorless cameras: Of course for professional photographers it is essential to have control over EVERYTHING. And while these will have various automatic modes, full control will be possible (if rarely used in practice). The potential picture quality can be better due to the large sensor - that's simply the reality of the laws of physics. In practice it may only matter for super huge blowups. Mirrorless cameras are essentially the fancy and expensive version of point-and-shoots with a high resolution LCD viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder (in addition to the normal LCD display) both fed from the main sensor. ;-)

    In the end, the quality of your photos will depend more on care in composition, lighting, a steady hand, and other factors not part of the camera itself. Technology can help but it doesn't replace these. No matter the cost of the equipment, if the lighting is not balanced or the depth of field is too shallow, the photos will be poor.

    40+ years ago I owned top-of-the-line Nikon film SLRs including the flagship Nikon Photomic FTN body with several Nikon fixed focal length (non-zoom) lenses. The FTN body was around $350 in 1970s dollars, which would be comparable to roughly $2,000 now accounting for inflation. In those days the only assistance was the built-in exposure meter. Focus and aperture were manual. I did my own darkroom work and ended up with a few good pictures and a lot of mediocre ones. Nowadays I have several low-mid level Nikon DSLRs purchased for either $500 new (D5600) or much much less than that on eBay (D70, D80, D3000, D5200, etc.) and several lenses, but what I use mostly is a Canon SX710HS point-and-shoot, primarily for Website photos. It was around $100 on eBay several years ago. A D70 (one of two each for $10 on eBay excluding lens but including shipping) has been used for most of the DSLR and lens dissection photos later in this document but it's not clear if the resulting photos are really any better on average than using the Canon.

    So start out with your phone. If that proves to be too limiting, try an inexpensive point-and-shoot and explore its more advanced capabilities. After that, consider a low-end or older DSLR. One that provides many features of more expensive cameras can be had for $150 or less on eBay with a "standard" autofocus zoom lens. See if that provides benefits that are not offset by the hassle of lugging around several pounds of photo gear.

    About the Photos Linked from this Document

    Most of the photos were taken with a Nikon D70 in keeping with the historical value of some of the material here. This is especially fitting for the D70 dissection. ;-) A Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II zoom lens was used for most shots and a Nikon Micro Nikkor AF-S DX 40 mm f/2.8G lens for some of the closeups.

    Specific Nikon DSLR Camera Models

    Nikon D70 DSLR

    Nikon D70 DSLR Dissection

    This is called a "teardown" by 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 as "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. They were cleaned with alcohol but a bit of 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.

    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". You may be surprised at my conclusions.

    The photos 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. ;-)

    And as noted in the introduction, to complete the circle, the photos were taken with another D70. ;-)

    Here are the descriptions:

    Nikon D70 DSLR Brain Transplant

    Of the three D70 DSLRs purchased for the dissection below, two worked but one of those had Firmware V1.00, which I thought was the original. (The third one had a broken CF card socket and became the victim.) 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, NOT a D70, 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 D70 brain board (with V2.0 firmware) in the D70S camera, my conclusion is that there is no difference in the firmware.

    The Franken-camera appears to work correctly and the photos look similar to the those from the other D70. However, what is not known includes whether 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? Most of the pics linked from here were taken with this camera so it appears to work well enough. ;-)

    But a while later when attempting to set up a separate LCD monitor for viewing the photos after shooting, this camera does not recognize that a video cable is plugged in while an original D70 worked as described in the manual. It is not known whether this is a preexisting condition, damage caused by the transplant, or something else. Since the video plugs directly into the brain board, which is from a D70, it should behave like a D70. Lack of video is not a great loss though since the output from the camera is low resolution with mediocre quality and would be just barely useful anyhow - perhaps to confirm that the picture is framed correctly but not much else.

    Nikon D70 with Corrupted Memory Data

    This may occur with other models but happened twice with a D70. When the battery charge is marginal, the camera may work erratically. For the D70, the top LCD displayed "CHG" but didn't lock out all functions. For example, AF may beep but the shutter won't trigger. And if it does, data written to the memory card may end up being corrupted. The camera will then display "There is no Data", "Memory Card is not Usable", or some similar error. Previous photos may not be accessible. And, USB transfer to a PC is likely to abort part way through or just hang.

    Don't panic as the previously recorded photos should still be present. But a suitable USB memory card reader may be required to recover them. Multi-format memory card readers are available for a few dollars on eBay and elsewhere if your PC doesn't have the capability built-in. Confirm that the model you select supports the memory card format! Many may not support the old CF format of the D70. Write capability is not necessary as it should be possible to format it in-camera, or in a Canon camera ;-) if that doesn't work. Formatting is recommended after the photos have been recovered to assure the card's file system is not corrupted.

    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 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 D3000 DSLR

    The D3000 is the first of the D3xxx series of entry level DSLRs. But it still has enough features to make it a worthwhile camera. And it's a bit smaller and lighter than many or most of those before it like the D70 or D80 and the slightly fancier 5xxx series.

    Nikon D3000 DSLR Dissection

    This will be coming once I acquire a suitable sacrificial D3000 body. So far, both of those I've gotten don't qualify. One worked fine and the other was easily repaired. ;( ;-)

    Coming soon. Photos of an intact D3000 may be viewed at: Nikon D3000 DSLR Dissection. (This opens in a single new tab or window depending on how your Browser is set up.) But that's so boring.

    Nikon D3000 with Dead LCD

    This may apply to other models but was seen on a D3000 sold for next to nothing because the LCD did not display any text or graphics, though the back-light was working.

    There is an internal flex cable running from near the center of the back panel assembly inside the rear cover of the camera to the LCD itself. It attaches to a "zero insertion force connector" - the ones with the thin lid that has to be flipped up to insert or remove the cable. In this case the cable is short and just barely reaches the connector. So even though additionally secured with a piece of tape, it apparently pulled out over time or more likely was never inserted quite correctly in the first place as that is a bit challenging. Voila, nothing on the LCD, only the back-light.

    The rear cover of the camera is secured by 2 screws on either side, 2 screws near the viewfinder (partially hidden by the rubber eyepiece cup if present), 4 screws along the back edge of the bottom, 1 screw further in, and 1 screw under the rubber cover next to the battery compartment latch. There are several different size screws so make sure to set them aside labeled as to their origin. Once the screws have been removed, the rear cover can be popped off, perhaps with the aid of a thin blade. CAUTION: It is connected to the main board via another zero insertion force connector near the bottom so take care not to rip it.

    With the rear cover separated from the body, the problem will be obvious. Remove what's left of the small piece of tape, flip up the latch, and carefully insert the cable so that it extends underneath the edge of the connector as far as it will go, and then flip the latch down. Then add a larger piece of Kapton or similar tape to help secure it. Or a bit of 5-Minute Epoxy. Camera operation can be carefully confirmed with the back in place but before installing the screws.

    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 great 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 high tech parts in Auto Focus (autofocus or AF) Vibration Reduction (VR) zoom lenses including a miniature motor and possibly a gear train, angle encoders and other sensors for zoom and focus, MEMS gyros and voice coil actuators, PCBs with highly integrated ICs including a microcomputer, and many fragile flex-cables and connectors. In short these are complex intricate electro-mechanical systems, not just a bunch of optics! Though even the basic "kit" AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR zoom lens has 11 individual optical elements including one that is aspherical, and others like the Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II may have 16 or more.

    And while modern lenses in this class are amazing feats of mechanical design with sophisticated electronics, they do NOT have the look and feel of older "dumb" lenses with milled aluminum focus and aperture rings on well lubricated tracks. ;-) Rotating parts in these lenses are nearly all molded/formed plastic constructed with mostly sliding parts with minimal lubrication and a few rollers (but without ball bearings) in a few key places. There is no precision machine work to admire and forget silky smooth operation. Even on a brand new lens, this is obvious when rotating the zoom ring. Having said that, they work remarkably well and provide features like autofocus and vibration reduction that one could only dream about with older gear. I do not know whether high-end modern lenses are constructed any differently, but these are what most of us can afford. ;-) And even they typically have a cost if purchased new of several hundred to over a thousand dollars.

    Where there is a Nikon repair manual available on-line for the specific model lens, 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. If there is no exact match, a repair manual for a slightly different model lens could prove useful even if the details are not same. But these "repair" manuals are really just disassembly and reassembly manuals with little to no diagnostic information. They are partially in Japanese and make many assumptions about the user's level of expertise. And info on alignment assume the use of Nikon proprietary jigs and software. But there are numerous diagrams and photos. However, none provide the level of detail below with respect to AutoFocus (AF) and Vibration Reduction (VR) implementation.

    The largest collection of on-line repair and parts manuals for Nikon equipment appears to be at Learn Camera Repair. That Web site can be searched which will probably be quickest and the manual downloads are all free.

    Comparison of Nikon "Kit" Lenses

    No, these aren't assembled using step-by-step instructions like Heathkits™. ;-) The term "Kit" applies to lenses bundled with entry to mid-level DSLRs, specifically AF-S or AF-P DX 18-55 mm zoom lenses. DX refers to the sensor size, around 2/3rds of the dimensions of the full frame (FX) format of more expensive DSLRs and similar to those of antique 35 mm film cameras. The zoom range of DX 18-55 mm goes from modest wide angle to modest telephoto - equivalent to approximately 24-83 mm for FX format. If you're old enough to recall the days when zoom lenses were a high priced luxury, 50 mm was the "Standard" lens, in the middle of the effective range of the 18-55 mm zoom lenses. For the casual photographer (who still wants to deal with a DSLR at all!), one of these lenses is probably all that is needed. (Or two, one as a backup!) They are relatively compact, light weight, have similar and very acceptable optical performance, and cover most shooting situations without fuss. They all autofocus quickly, quietly, and reliably. The "Vibration Reduction" (VR) is a "SteadyCam" of sorts built into the lens, which is definitely worthwhile. Although list prices may be in the $300 range, in 2022, any of the three lenses covered in the sections below can be purchased used on eBay guaranteed working and in decent cosmetic condition for under $60, and with luck and patience, under $30. Although versions may be available without VR, it makes little sense to bother with them as the cost won't be much lower, if at all. Of the three, the AF-P VR lens is probably the most reliable but will not work with older DSLRs. Runner up would be the AF-S VR II.

    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.

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

    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. The differences between the VR and VR II lenses are fairly significant so the repair manual for the VR version may only be useful the gross anatomy. ;-)

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

    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 uses 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. ;-)

    Out of curiosity, I puchased a supposedly defective sample of this lens where the trim ring had popped off as shown in: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens with Loose Trim Ring. It looked bad and for that reason the price was right, but was easily repaired. See the section: Repairing Loose Trim Ring on Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f /3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens.

    While I search for another one to dissect, measurements of the SWM frequency may provide a clue as to the design changes. 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).

    When 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, because it permits faster focusing, or because of complaints from local bats. ;-). 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 its drive gears are similar in 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 next to it.

    So mostly clever packaging. ;-)

    Here is a summary of the Nikkor 18-55mm AF-S DX f/3.5-5.6G VR II lenses I've acquired so far:

    1. ID #1 (SN: 20750167): The lens with the loose trim ring, above, repaired with tape. The good aperture tang was transferred to ID #3 and replaced with the one from ID #6 (the dissected lens).

    2. ID #2 (SN: 22341241): Then I bought another 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 crud on the base that looked bad but was easily cleaned up. Zoom may not be quite as smooth as for some other similar lenses but that doesn't seem to affect anything and could just be a sample-to-sample variation. Darn, another working lens. I hate it when that happens. ;-)

    3. ID #3 (SN: 22643651): The next supposedly faulty AF-S VR II lens was indeed defective. The plastic tang that operates the aperture (iris diaphragm) broke near its base, and engages only when zoom is below around 24 mm. Discombobulating an otherwise good lens with a known straightforward repair - likely with no hope of reassembly - would be a shame. So it would be better to find a totally smashed lens with that part intact. But the bayonet mount plates were swapped between this lens and the one with the re-taped front ring (ID #1), so ID #2 and ID #3 are totally good now. ID #1 has the tape and broken tang.

    4. ID #4 (SN: 22017590): Another supposedly faulty VR II lens was also definitely defective, working only over a part of the focus range. And it's absolutely perfect otherwise. See the section: Autofocus only Works over Limited Range on Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens. I'm still hoping to dissect a certifiably dead lens first to become familiar with the innards before attempting repair of this one. But since the aperture tang is fine, that part could be transferred to taped ID #1 which now has the broken tang from ID #3.

    5. ID #5 (SN: 23353989): Fully functional but that is how it was described, so won't help in the search. ;( ;-)

    6. ID #6 (SN: 24030966): This is bad enough to go inside (at least somewhat) and possibly totally dreadful. ;-) It is not recognized by a camera and there were white deposits on the rubber focus grip though no where else on the exterior. There is no visible evidence of serious water damage or anything like that and the electrical contacts show continuity to internal components. But there is definite contamination on at least one of the inner surfaces of the rear lens element(s), if those are removed for cleaning, recalibration may be required by Nikon equipment and proprietary software, this is probably similar. Therefore it would almost certainly not stand a chance of meeting factory specs even if functionality could be restored. The only downside to dissection is that after cleaning the rubber, it looks quite nice with the only blemish being some mottling on the silver stripe of the trim ring. ;-) But I have a feeling its destiny is sealed.

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

    With care, the following procedure may be used to take one of these lenses apart in a (mostly) reversible manner. The only slight exceptions will be a few places where double-sided tape or adhesive is used to secure cables or connectors and they may need to be replaced.

    Note that for the following, the Main Barrel, Fixed Shell, Metal Ring/Shims/Insulator/Spacer, and Bayonet Mount Plate are all one structure secured from the back by the 3 larger screws. The Zoom Ring rotates around the this and the lens groups move with respect to it.

    1. Remove the 3 screws securing the small ring in the center of the bayonet mount and take it off.

    2. Remove the 2 screws securing the ball strip.

    3. Remove the 3 screws securing the bayonet mount plate and carefully take it off without stressing the contact strip cable.

    4. Lift off the thick metal ring, thin shim ring(s), and plastic spacer spacer/insulator ring.

    5. Carefully remove the flex cables from their connectors. They pull off with no locking levers. If any are inaccessible, wait until PCB1 (Main/CPU PCB) has been loosened.

    6. Remove the two screws securing PCB1 and gently lift it up, removing any remaining connectors to free it from the lens housing. A black grounding wire will need to be unsoldered from the PCB.

    7. It should be possible to now pop off the fixed shell. This may require some careful twisting motion. As it comes free, the metal Focus M/A switch fork will probably take the small black SWM gear with it. Regardless, remove that gear along with the long focus gear and set them aside so they don't just go flying off to oblivion when you're not paying attention.

    8. It should be possible to slide the main barrel around 1 inch out of the focus ring.

    9. The SWM is now accessible and may be taken out if desired by removing 3 screws and its connector.

    10. PCB2 (SWM drive) may be taken off by removing 2 screws. Don't lose the short flex cable that connected it to PCB1.

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

    Most of the photos referenced below and more are available as a Web Album at Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR_II Zoom Lens Dissection Web Album, which will be a more-or-less step-by-step disassembly like that of the camera dissections. So from start to finish it goes from the fully intact lens to the naken parts. ;-) Most photos were taken with a D70 using lens #5 except for a few of the closeups using the Micro Nikkor AF-S DX 40 mm f/2.8G. The original mostly white backgrounds have been allowed to remain for the majority of the photos since that gives them more of an authentic look. Where they couldn't be bleached adequately via exposure or gamma/contrast adjustment, the inPixio On-Line Background Removal Tool was used.

    Most of the photos are now present in the Web Album. Except for the first 2 stock photos, all are of lens #6 except for the few showing the back of the lens with the bayonet mount and associated parts removed.

    Other than the front of the 7th lens group and back of the 6th lens group which has some mottling (which was easily removed with 90% isopropyl alcohol), the interior including the PCBs, connectors, SWM, gears, and everything appear to be pristine with no evidence that contamination caused the lens's failure. So perhaps it was zapped by static.

    Some conclusions so far: The VR II is somewhat cost reduced but in a good way. ;-) For example, only one wire needs to be unsoldered to totally disassemble it to the level of major components. Most flex cables plug into the CPU PCB (PCB1) and are the push-in type with locking levers to break. Many have a small hole near the end of the cable for a thin instrument to aid in removal. There is a minimal number of pieces of double sticky tape or adhesive which would need to be replaced if re-assembled.

    Focus implementation is generally similar to that of the AF-S VR lens but the SWM gear train is part of the main structure and NOT a separate assembly. The tachometer and its gears are gone. Speed sensing has been implemented with a magnetic strip as in some other AF-S lenses. The good news is that the SWM itself and the two remaining gears are replaceable without major disassembly.

    The focus encoder coding is of course different than the one in the AF-S VR and all other lenses I've checked. But is that a surprise? ;-) See Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens Focus Encoder Coding. This encoder has 6 data bits with 22 states. The spacing almost makes sense being fairly similar in the central region and further apart near the ends. The extra tracks in the photo are pass-through for the magnetic read head.

    The Zoom Encoder does NOT run axially as in the the AF-P 18-55mm VR lens (which has a similar lock button). It runs around the perimeter of the inner surface of the Fixed Shell and is extended to cover the locked area with a constant code. (Take care not to damage the brushes if the Fixed Shell needs to be reomoved.) At the location where it becomes unlocked, there is a very small length where the common conductor extends to the next one over, but that would not result in a different code, so its purpose is mystery. See Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens Zoom Encoder Coding. This encoder has 8 data bits with 36 active states and the locked state. In the main portion of the active zoom region, their spacing is similar but not precisely the same. For the locked region, the code is a constant 00110001. Note the 8 data bits rather than 6 data bits for all the other lenses analyzed so far. Yet again, we have a change to the encoder coding and now even the number of bits for no fathomable reason. 6 bits would be plenty. It almost seems as though the designers of these lenses (1) are not privy to documentation on other lenses, (2) have a serious case of NDITD (Not Developed In This Department) syndrome, (3) never heard of lookup tables, (4) are smoke'n sump'n, or (5) all of the above. It makes no sense whatsoever.

    The VR II VR assembly has changed slightly compared to the AF-S VR (I) lens. In addition to being smaller and similar to the one in the AF-P VR lens, there are two sets of connections to components hidden under the moving armature. My conjecture is that these are replacements for the Hall sensors in the original AF-S VR lens, but they each have only two wires, so perhaps some sort of magnetic affair to detect changes in the VR lens group position. The AF-P VR lens has something similar.

    The state of affairs as depicted in the Web Album is about as far as I intend to go in the disassembly. There are still a few individual parts that have not be removed or reduced to their individual pieces, usually due to issues of reversibility of the procedures, but all key sub-assemblies have been removed and documented. This applies for example to the SWM and VR assembly. There is little point to taking them to bits as that has been done for the 18-55mm AF-S VR and AF-P VR lenses, and they are similar. While nothing had been damaged, restoring the lens to its original condition is probably not going to happen. While there is a small probability that simply reseating the connectors will have cured the "not recognized by the camera syndrome", I'm probably not that determined to find out. And if the CPU PCB (PCB1) is dead, swapping in one from another lens will not work well as VR parameters and other settings need to be optimized for each specific lens using the custom specialized Nikon test instruments and software. However, physically putting it back together seems possible without having mastered a 27 level Rubik's Cube though there are a couple of steps that could be dicey like replacing the Fixed Shell.

    Explanations of the dissection photos will be forthcoming so stay tuned. ;-)

    Parts Naming

    And should anyone actually read this before the warranty on the Universe expires and has specific questions or requests, I may be contacted via the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.

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

    Both the AF-S VR and AF-S VR II lenses have a trim ring at the front with a silver stripe. At first I assumed its main purpose was to help keep dust out of the mechanism and perhaps stabilize the focus barrel. But during the dissection (see the previous section) it became obvious that in addition to its cosmetic function, it also limits the travel of the 1st Lens Group barrel outward. I am not sure if that would just fall off from an otherwise intact lens, but it's clear that replacing the trim ring is essential.

    The trim ring is held in place only with a strip of ~1/4 inch tape wrapped around the entire lens. But while the original AF-S VR lens has a decent width area around its entire perimeter for the tape, the AF-S VR II trim ring only has six very narrow tabs that after awhile (or from an impact) can come loose as was the case with the first AF-S VR II lens I acquired (ID #1). 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 the lens was destined for dissection if repair was not practical. 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. So far though it's been behaving with just some Kapton tape, and many of the photos for the camera dissections have been shot using this lens. 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.

    And the racing stripe (which is purely cosmetic) is just a length of really thin metal-coated tape which often detaches at one end. Or corrode as in the case of the lens ID #6 used for the dissection. It can usually just be peeled off if desired, which is a lot easier than attempting to neatly glue it back in place.

    Replacing the Bayonet Mount Parts on Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens

    A sharp WHACK or overzealously attempting to attach the lens if not properly engaged can result in fracture of the cheesy plastic bayonet mount. I've also seen one of these lenses with most of the plastic aperture tang inside the lens (that actually moves the iris diaphragm) broken off and missing. (It's not even clear how that can happen.) Assuming replacement parts are available, these and similar issues require the same disassembly steps and are among the few repairs of these sorts of lenses that are possible without a great deal of prior experience.

    This procedure may apply to some other Nikon lenses. But specifically NOT to the similar AF-P lens where removing the CPU contact block screws results in the individual contacts popping out all over the place. ;-(

    A #00 or #000 Philips screwdriver is required for the 3 sizes/types of teeny screws:

    1. Remove 3 screws securing the inner ring to the bayonet mount. These screws have the smallest heads. It should then be possible to pop off the inner ring.

    2. Remove 2 screws, one on either side of the CPU contact block securing it to the bayonet mount. These are very short machine screws.

    3. CAREFULLY work the CPU contact block around so it can be freed from the bayonet mount but remain attached via the orange flex cable. It may need to be tilted or angled but there should be enough slack in the cable. DO NOT pull or stress anything! At the very least, the cable can pull free of the connector, which will then require more extensive disassembly of the lens to reattach it. The cable could also tear. ;-(

    4. Remove 3 screws near the edge of the bayonet mount securing it to the lens housing, and can now be removed without disturbing the CPU contact block. CAUTION: There is a spring-backed contact point that grounds the lens assembly to the camera body. Take care that it doesn't pop off to be lost forever. Individual parts of the bayonet mount can now be replaced if necessary, though this will at least one level up of fiddlyness. ;-)

    See Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens Bayonet Parts.

    Reassemble in reverse order. And don't force anything! All of these are tiny screws so stripping holes is possible. When reinstalling the bayonet mount, carefully insert the aperture tang straight into the plastic receptacle that moves the iris diaphrapm. Unless the bayonet mount is replaced without changes, the setting of the aperture tang may need to be adjusted. It's secured with 2 screws and sealer. I do not know what the official procedure is, but in lieu of that, make sure the aperture tab (that's activated by the camera) just touches the the edge of the cutaway in the inner ring. Then after securing the bayonet mount, confirm that the tab moves smoothly by hand and the aperture goes through its entire range.

    Autofocus only Works Over Limited Range on Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens

    The following most likely applies to other AF-S lenses and in part to others. A Web search will turn up cases of generally similar autofocus problems. For example: Focus Hunting Problem in AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 1:2.8 G ED Zoom Lens and Nikon Lens repair: Broken Autofocus on a AF Nikkor 28-70mm Zoom Lens. These both involved a dirty or damaged encoder to be the cause, similar to my conclusions (below) based on the symptoms prior to internal examination of this lens and before finding these videos. Problems like this do tend to have simple causes.

    This lens (Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II ID #4) works perfectly in all respects from its closest focus to around 2 feet. It will go back and forth between those distances all day without issues. But beyond there, it will never move the focus ring to get closer, and at some point it will jam against the end-stop beyond infinity.

    This is a works in progress but here are some observations:

    My current hypothesis is that the encoder that reads focus position is either not working correctly or has perhaps become disconnected. So the lens's microbrain is getting confused, poor thing. ;( ;-) Among other things it's not being programmed to provide the necessary torque to focus in from near infinity, and it's overshooting infinity, hitting the end-stop and getting really stuck there. Monitoring of the SWM waveform appears to show that it is trying but almost certainly attempting to rotate the focus ring in the wrong direction. With the high gear ratio, it should have no problem backing away. The only way to unstick it if jammed is to flip the A/M switch back and forth. However, even if not jammed, it will still not focus in from more than around 3 feet to infinity. It will focus reliably from the closest spec'd distance to around 2 feet, though it may overshoot dramatically but doesn't jam. All these lenses sometimes overshoot especially if there little detail in the focus zone.

    Since there is a definite boundary beyond where it screws up, this would appear to rule out an SWM or gear train problem. The SWM rotor and all gears except the one on the focus ring itself go through multiple revolutions over the focus range. The rotor of the SWM itself goes through ~2.75 revolutions for each revolution of the focus ring drive gear and that goes through nearly 2 complete revolutions to move the focus ring from end-to-end.

    So this is probably a control problem. The only inputs to the microbrain are the tachometer (a magnetic strip with read head) and the focus encoder (which senses the absolute position of the focus ring). It's possible the magnetic pattern the tachometer uses has been partially erased, but the most likely cause is the focus encoder: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens Focus Encoder Coding with the bits color coded and labeled with the binary value at each position. More on these encoders can be found in the section: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens. But interestingly, the focus encoder in the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF Zoom Lens also has 4 conductive strips and 6 bits, but the coding differs, which really doesn't make any sense unless each new Nikon designer is required to change something as a test. ;-)

    If you're not totally confused, you weren't paying attention. ;-) But to reiterate: I believe that the focus encoder is either feeding bad readings to the microcomputer or they are being misinterpreted.

    No doubt disassembly of this lens will be required at some point, to satisfy my curiosity if nothing else. Hopefully the problem will be something obvious like a damaged focus encoder brush, loose connector, or some dirt or soda residue on the encoder strip. ;-) However, based on the dissections (See above), this requires fairly major surgery, so it may be postponed until Major Medical is available. ;-(

    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.

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

    The AF-P lens is optically very similar to the AF-S versions, 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.

    So AF-P lenses return to motor technology with magnets and coils. ;-) As noted above, the "P" is supposed to stand for "Pulse", which kind of applies. They are claimed to be even quieter than AF-S lenses and that is probably true. But the manufacturing cost is also much lower. ;-) And there have been comments on various forums about AF-S autofocus reliability, which is quite credible given their complexity and opportunities for contamination to get to the motor. So perhaps a little of both. Replacing the piezo motor with a stepper motor also allows the AF-P lens to be more compact since the motor itself is less bulky and the high voltage drive components and gear train are eliminated.

    However, AF-P lenses are not compatible with the D5100 or D3200 (or earlier) cameras that are happy with AF-S lenses. Others like the D5200 may need a firmware upgrade (but that is a free download). And since there is no VR switch on the AF-P lens, VR is always enabled on these cameras since there is no electrical contact in the camera body to control it. (The AF-P version has 8 contacts compared to 7 on the AF-S.) But this incompatibility is almost certainly due to a business decision for planned obsolescence. There would not appear to be any reason why an AF-P lens could not have been designed to look like an AF-S lens as far the the autofocus commands are concerned. Or at worst, with a way of selecting the mode via a switch

    The AF-P lens is also significantly narrower than the AF-S VR lens and slightly narrower than the AF-S VR II lens 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 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 AF-P 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 seemed to work well enough on a camera. But from the start, its days were numbered. ;-)

    After starting the dissection, I had 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 lens 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 reduction gears in the AF-S lenses 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: "Focus by Wire". Vibration Reduction (VR) is simplified as well with no Hall-effect sensors or lock mechanism. As a result, the electronics are 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 compared to the AF-S version. This may be largely due to the lack of need for the high voltage piezo drive since the large ferrite transformers and drive components are eliminated. But may also be due in part to the higher level of integration available at the time of its design. And there are no critical surfaces to get contaminated as with the ultrasonic piezo motor. So I officiatlly retract "Pathetic" because the AF-P lens should be functionally at least as capable as the AF-S version, and more reliable without the SWM, high voltage drive, and gear train.

    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. Nikon must have saved 3 cents. ;-)

    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 with respect to 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 focus 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. It's "Focus by Wire". ;-) 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 A/M 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 position of the 1st and 2nd-6th (in the same relative position) lens groups move independently depending on zoom setting. The position of the 3rd changes relative to the others depending on focus setting controlled by the stepper motor.

    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.

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

    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 Album (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.

    However, note that there is a magnetic strip and magnetic pickup that provides a signal in place of the tachometer in lenses that have the small SWM with gear train. Not only is it delicate and damaged easily, but ferrous tools can cause the magnetic pattern to become corrupted, which needless to say, would not be good.


    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.

    Nikon AF Lens Zoom and Focus Roughness

    If you're used to the silky smooth operation of a classic Nikon lens like those for Nikon film SLRs, it will be a bitter disappointment to use a modern Nikon DSLR zoom lens. Lenses like the 50 mm f/1:1.4 "standard" lens or 43-86 f/1:3.5 zoom lens were works of art in comparison. They were mostly made of machined aluminum and well lubricated. Many samples 40+ years old still perform like new.

    Modern lenses are much more sophisticated and no one would want to go back to the fully manual older ones, but silky-smooth operation is not one of their features. And it's easy to see why. Most of the moving parts are made of plastic and a zoom lens has many of them. For example, see Major Moving Parts of Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/1:3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens. These all move when changing zoom or focus. The three cylinders at the top of the photo reside nested and rotate or slide with respect to each-other with a large surface area in direct contact. The center one is made of anodized aluminum with precisely milled slots that determine the required movement of multiple lens groups with respect to each-other when zoom is adjusted; the other cylinders are formed or molded plastic. The straight slots in the upper-left (outer) cylinder guide those moving parts that must not rotate. Pegs or rollers (without ball bearings) restrict their movement to the AND of the slots in the upper left and the other cylinders, but also add friction. Some parts reverse direction as the zoom ring is turned, adding additional friction/resistance at that point. It's all rather intricate and I bet Nikon has a really nifty CAD package for zoom lens mechanical design. ;-)

    As an example of a common much larger lens, see the diagrams in Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/1:3.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens showing Lens Group Positions at 18 and 200 mm. Lens Group 3 and the VR assembly move together, but those and all the others move relative to one-another and relative to the lens structure attached to the Nikon F mount.

    Even on a brand new lens, there is detectable roughness and varying resistance over some parts of the zoom range. Over time, the lens will be exposed to dust, moisture, and contamination either from normal use or from being tossed in a storage bag, it gets worse as there are no real seals. And plastic is subject to wear. The good news is that for the most part, none of this makes any real difference in picture taking performance. That is, until the thing seizes up completely or falls apart. :( ;-)

    But if the lens is dropped or whacked, parts like those pegs can get broken off or may dig into the tracks with varying degrees of damage. In minor cases, the roughness will just become worse but with enough trauma, major functions will stop working. When considering the purchase of a used lens, carefully check autofocus, manual focus, and vibration reduction, as well as for correct operation of the aperture at all zoom settings. Don't accept a lens where manual focus doesn't work reliably even with a discount (as I once did) because the seller said no one ever uses it. While that may be partially true, unreliable manual focus can be a symptom of more major problems. One thing that is often broken on used lenses though is the Lock button if there is one, used to secure the lens in a compact state for storage. The internal lip that the button engages is made of plastic and users often attempt to twist the zoom ring without realizing it's locked, so that lip gets damaged and the button non longer works properly. That alone is probably not sufficient reason for rejecting a lens - but perhaps it may be leverage to negotiate a discount! While Lock may not work or work well, the end-stops for the zoom ring should not be affected. But this should be confirmed as bad things may happen on some lenses if the zoom ring is rotated beyond the normal range.

    Mechanical versus Electronic Shutter Complexity

    For all except camera geek types, this is probably just in the "that's interesting department". ;-) Mechanically-controlled shutters - both leaf and focal plane type - are designed along the lines of precision time-pieces with springs, gears, cogs, escapements, and levers that open and close the leaves or blinds. But whereas clocks are supposed to run at a fixed rate, shutters typically have 10 or more speeds. Electronically-controlled shutters use a pair of solenoids to determine the timing based on signals from a microcontroller. As an example, see: Comparison of Mechanical and Electronics Focal Plane Shutter Complexity. The Copal Square S shutter on the top is from a Nikon Nikkormat FTN 35 mm film SLR; the one on the bottom is from an older Nikon D80 DSLR. (The photos have been scaled so that they are approximately the same size independent of the FX and DX formats.) To fine tune the mechanical shutter requires the adjustment of the torque provided by some springs, the position of specific parts, and even the selection of slightly different parts based on actual timing measurements. And even then, the actual shutter speeds may only be accurate or repeatable to within ±10% on a good day. For the electronic shutter, it is just firmware code which could be optimized automatically after assembly. ;-) Shutters in other DLSRs where control of the sensor itself is NOT used to determine exposure at any speed would be similar. For those cameras where the sensor is used as the high speed shutter like the D70, they would be even simpler. In principle, there should be no need for any mechanical shutter in a DSLR but for practical reasons, this is apparently rarely the case. Point-and-shoot cameras generally do NOT have a mechanical shutter of any kind.

    Copal Square S Focal Plane Shutter

    The original Nikon F used a horizontally-moving focal plane shutter with fabric curtains. The fastest flash sync was 1/60th of a second. The Nikkormat FT/N use a vertically-moving Copal Square S focal plane shutter with metal "Venetian Blind" panels with 3 slats each. It can flash sync at down to 125th of a second. The Copal Square S shutter is an example of the state-of-the art in mechanical shutter design. It is described as a workhorse which really doesn't break, though as with any mechanical system, may require cleaning and lubrication after a half century or so. However, it is common to find these dating from the 1970s or earlier in perfect operating condition. At first glance, the mechanism might appear to be too complex to have ever been designed by humans. Think of a mechanical pocket watch with 11 speeds. But it evolved from or in parallel with leaf shutters that have similar timing requirements.

    See the Web Album at: Copal Square S Focal Plane Shutter Mechanism. (The Web Album photos are scaled to fit within 1024x768 pixels but the full size originals have the name under the thumbnail with a ".jpg" added.) The first 4 photos are of a beat up Nikkormat FTN in various stages of disassembly starting with most of the pieces of the lens mount in place to revealing the Copal Square S shutter in situ. These are followed by closeups of another similar shutter. The primary difference between them is the use of a less expensive Nylon gear for the speed select compared to the highly polished brass one, and some slotted head screws in place of Philips head screws. Since there is no real stress on that gear, cheaper is just fine, thank you. ;-) My black dot on the white gear lines up with the post for the 1 second setting. In the interest of full disclosure, I have swapped the gear and screws to make the separate shutter mechanism more photogenic. And in the interest of expediency, the screws that secure the body parts have been left off. ;-)

    Two manuals relating to Copal Square S Shutter repair are known to be available on the Web and hard copies may be purchased on eBay and elsewhere. Both Copal Square S Shutter Repair Manual and Copal Square S Shutter Repair Guide are interesting reads, but they may not enable you to be able to do much in the way of repair. The first one does have a 75 (!!) step procedure with diagrams for assembling a shutter. ;-) Aside from the intricate nature of these mechanisms, special jigs and instruments are required for some of the procedures. However, cleaning and lubrication of specific parts may be possible. This will involve the use of solvents like alcohol or naptha along with an ultrasonic cleaner if available, followed by lubricating specific bearing points and surfaces ONLY with the tiniest speck of special oil or grease as appropriate. A shotgun approach of simply sprayng it with degreaser and adding oil anywhere that looks appropriate will likely result in a nice paperweight. DO NOT even think about allowing WD40 or anything similar near a precision mechanical device like this! ;( ;-) A Web search will turn up suitable procedures but take them all with a grain of sand.

    Control of the shutter bears similarity to that of mechanical leaf shutters, but it needs to determine the timing of the pair of blinds rather than opening and closing a set of leaves. For the Copal Square S There are three (3) regimes of timing:

    And as a matter of interest, operation of the shutter in a fully mechanical SLR and specifically the Nikkormat is as follows:

    1. The film advance lever cocks the shutter via a rack gear at the bottom of the camera, cocks the mirror mechanism via a lever linked to the rack gear, and advances the shot counter.

    2. Pressing the shutter button triggers the mirror to flip up.

    3. When the mirror reaches the fully up position, it triggers the actual shutter to open.

    4. Once the shutter has closed, the mirror returns to the down position.

    For the "B" setting, everything is the same except that a tab on the shutter linkage prevents the shutter from closing until the button is released. The actual shutter speed is probably forced to 1/1000th second so closing would not be delayed no matter how quickly the button is released. The Nikkormat doesn't have a "T" setting, but for that operation would be similar but there would be a simple escapement that would require the button to be pressed a second time to close the shutter.

    Optical Materials used in Nikon Lenses

    Until I started to dig deeper into the construction of these lenses, I had always assumed they used individually ground and polished glass optical elements. Sure, inexpensive pocket cameras have always used plastic optics, but Nikon-branded DSLR lenses? Really? ;-)

    It turns out that a variety of types of glass and plastic may be used and the optical elements may be either ground and polished or molded. Sometimes the lens specifications will include some information on the material thought probably NOT the fabrication method if the Marketing Department thinks it will help sales. For example, Extremely low Dispersion Glass (ED Glass) and aspheric are pointed out in the info for lenses like the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm or 18-200mm. They probably won't state anything if plastic. ;-) If not specified, the material can be any either common optical glass (BK7, crown, flint, etc.) or plastic. Aspheric elements are probably molded since individually grinding and polishing them would be cost prohibitive.

    There is no easy way to determine the material and fabrication method non-destructively (or at least without some damage) on an intact lens as they appear identical. But even if the lens is disassembled into the individual lens groups it's a challenge. Glass is several times more dense than plastic so the weight of a lens group can be a tip-off, especially for the larger ones. Ground and polished lenses will generally have frosted edges while molded ones will have smooth lips and perhaps even tabs. But the overall appearance of the individual lens elements is essentially identical in terms of surface finish and AR-coating.

    Diagnosing Nikkor AF-S Autofocus Problems

    Nikkor AF-S lenses have a reputation for reliability problems. They are more complex than the later AF-P lenses, both mechanically and electronically. The symptoms may be a total failure to focus, movement of the focus more likely in or out, or erratic behavior.

    Some possible causes are:

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