How to Fix the Sanyo VPC-HD1 & VPC-HD1A black screen problem


The Sanyo VPC XACTI is a great little camera until it stops taking pictures.  Everything else works but all you see is a black screen (or maybe the exposure never changes or changes very slowly).

Well, you're not alone.

What may have happened is that the iris stopped working because the iris leaves stuck together or stuck to their housing.

The good news is that I'll tell you how I fixed it.  The bad news is that it ain't simple and there is absolutely no guarantee it will work.

WARNING:  If you have a pacemaker or similar implanted electronics where a shock could be lethal do not even consider making this repair!

Now that you understand the risks, read on if you still want to try the repair.


What you need

Time, a gentle touch and plenty of patience — and no coffee jitters.  The tools are pretty simple:

  1. A good quality, fine, Phillips tip jeweler's screwdriver.  Look at the screws on the camera housing.  The slots are all roughly the same.  Find a screwdriver that fits snugly without having to press the tool into the screw slot.  You can probably find one at a hobby shop or a well stocked hardware store.
  2. Tweezers with a fine point.  The kind used for cosmetics or plucking eyebrows might work in a pinch; but, you really need a precise thin tip for maneuvering the tiny screws.  I like tweezers that are at least 6" long and slightly magnetic.  Look for them in hobby shops and really well stocked hardware stores.
  3. Something flat and slender like a hobby knife (Xacto for example) but without a sharp edge or point.  I used a stainless steel weighing spatula left over from a chemistry laboratory.  A not too sharp small pocket knife might work — you just don't want anything that might cut or scratch very delicate pieces.
  4. An ounce of isopropyl or methyl alcohol.  You can get isopropyl in the drug store where it is sold as rubbing alcohol — just make sure it does not contain anything but isopropanol and water.  You can get pure methyl alcohol (methanol) in a liquor store (get the 200 proof grain alcohol) or denatured in a paint store or hardware store.
  5. Some paper towels
  6. A ceramic saucer with an indent to center the coffee cup.  This indent will come in surprisingly handy when actually de-grease the delicate iris.
  7. A small piece of tape.  Electrical, cellophane, or masking tape == it doesn't matter as long as it does not conduct electricity.
  8. Some lint free swabs.  Generally available in electronics stores for cleaning video and audio heads.  In a pinch you can use cotton swabs (Q-Tips) but they tend to leave lint that will completely undo your careful work.
  9. Even if you have our video and even though these instructions are massive, you may want to take a few pictures or make a few notes to help jog your memory during reassembly.
  10. I like to have a good light and a magnifying glass handy.  You will be working with some vary small stuff in tight spaces.


Removing the Lens Barrel

The "lens barrel" is a sub-assembly that holds the lens, iris, focus, zoom and CCD.  It will be obvious once you get the camera housing open.  You have to get the barrel out and then disassemble the barrel to get to the iris.

During this process you will have to keep track of lots of tiny parts.  A large well lit solid work surface like a desk top or dining table is absolutely necessary.  Be aware that a gust of wind, curious cat, toddler, or accidental swipe of the hand can scatter these parts into another dimension.

OK, let's get on to the camera repair process:
  1. Remove the memory card and battery.  Put the door to the battery compartment with the battery.
  2. Inspect the camera and make make a sketch of the black screws you see.  There will be two on the top.  Four on the battery compartment side.  Two on the bottom.  One on the front below the lens (not the one on the monitor that we don't touch).  The sketch should include a place to put each screw.  The screws are tiny.  I sometimes tape a sticky note on the sketch, sticky-side up, so the screw will stick in place and can't get knocked off.  There are at least three different types of tiny screws so you absolutely positively will regret it if they get mixed up.
  3. Remove all 9 housing screws.  Do not remove the screw on the edge of the swing out monitor or any screws visible when the monitor is not stowed.
  4. The housing splits like a clam-shell with the seams down the middle of the thin side.  Here's where that slender blade I talked about as the third tool is useful.  Start gently prying the seam open on the side under the lens along the chrome strip.  Take your time. The seam on the thin side away from the lens has a plastic latch in the middle that will snap open when all the other sides are slightly open.
  5. STOP as soon as you open the housing to reveal the green circuit board.  Don't touch any electronics.  Visually locate the chrome strip on the thin side of the housing below the lens opening.  Parallel to the chrome strip is a roughly 2 1/2" long black component about the diameter of a small felt-tip marker or fat pen.  The component is attached to the green circuit board by two bare metal leads.  Touching those two leads can be a shocking experience, because the black component is the flash capacitor that stores electricity long after the battery is removed.  Carefully put a piece of tape securely over the leads so you don't touch them when handling the board.
  6. If it hasn't fallen out yet, just lift out the chrome strip on the thin side below the lens.
  7. Locate the speaker and remove the screw and bracket holding it.  The speaker is slightly smaller than a dime, just below the lens barrel at the top of the camera and just above the capacitor leads you just put tape on.  The speaker wires plug into the board but the speaker can simply dangle from the board for the rest of the repair.  Add the speaker screw to your screw location sketch and store the screw.
  8. Now tease up the big green printed circuit board.  There are a bunch of wires soldered to this board.  They are near where you removed the screw for the speaker bracket.  For reassembly purposes, note that the wires are routed to the lens side of the plastic pillar the speaker assembly screwed onto.  Just use those soldered wires as a hinge or tether to the "upper circuit board."  Annoying as it is, you can still get at the stuff you need to by moving this tethered upper circuit board with the flash capacitor one way or the other.  There is a second, or "lower circuit board," underneath.
  9. Behind where the speaker assembly was, and towards the lens side edge of the housing, is a shiny bracket with one screw holding it to the remaining side of the camera housing.  Remove that screw, add it to your screw location sketch and store the screw.
  10. Now tease off the bezel that surrounds the lens opening.  It may take a bit of jiggling but no force.  It was held in place by one of the 9 screws you removed in the first step and the screw deep below the speaker assembly you just removed.
  11. Remove the front ribbon cable from the lower circuit board.  The ribbon cable is roughly 1/2" wide.  The ribbon cable is a paper-thin, copper colored, strip that comes down from the lens barrel just behind the lens.  It's really a flexible printed circuit board.  The ribbon cable attaches to a novel white and black connector on the green lower circuit board.  The key is the black strip at the long edge of the connector where the ribbon cable enters.  This little black strip is a lock that lifts to release the ribbon cable.  Here's where excellent eyesight or a magnifying glass come in handy.  It lifts like a coffin lid from the side the ribbon cable comes in. Use your slender blade (yup, the space is awfully tight and you might want to simply snag it with the head of a straight pin) and very gently lift the black strip vertical.  Don't worry about pulling the ribbon cable out yet.>
  12. On the other end of the lens barrel, opposite the lens itself, a wider rear ribbon cable snakes to the lower circuit board.  Its connection to the circuit board is totally different from the front ribbon cable.  Attached to the end of the ribbon cable is a roughly 1/2" by 1/4" printed circuit board with a micro plug on the side you can't see and a piece of black elastomer (a thin foam-like strip) on the side you can see.  Gently lift this assembly straight up from the lower printed circuit board.  When it's free, you can see the amazingly fine pitch plug and socket.
  13. Remove the lens barrel.  It should be lose but it will take a bit of teasing and gentle tugging to get it free from the housing.  Put the remainder of the camera aside.  From here on we will be concerned solely with the lens barrel.  This is also a good time to take a break before we take the lens barrel apart and actually repair the iris.


Repairing the Lens Barrel

Put the disemboweled camera carcase aside for the moment.  You will be removing no less than ten small screws, and should have two containers or strips of low-tack adhesive (like the back of a sticky note) to keep the removed screws safe.

  1. Remove the three screws that hold the heat sink.  It's the shiny bit of sheet metal on the end opposite the lens.  You can store all three of these screws in the same place.
  2. Very carefully remove the thin black plastic that wraps around three quarters of the lens barrel.  The stuff is like packing tape or wide adhesive tape.  The tricky part is where a second, gray strip of adhesive tape, secures the ribbon cable — but, it's no big deal to lift a small flap of the gray tape to extract the black tape.  Try not to handle the adhesive side very much because we are going to reuse it.  Once removed, I gently stuck the black plastic tape on a drinking glass to keep it out of harm's way until reassembly.
  3. There is an additional small rectangle of black tape just under where part of the heat sink was.  Remove it the same way as the rest of the black tape and save the strip for reassembly.
  4. Gently lift out the focus motor, the zoom motor, limit sensors and the iris assembly.  It's all that stuff on the long side of the lens barrel that's soldered on to ribbon cable.  No force is required.  Just use your flat and slender tool to tease out the entire assembly.  It reminded me of entrails when I finally extracted the mess.  Put the remainder of the lens barrel aside.
  5. Take your ceramic or glass saucer and pour in about 1/8" of alcohol.  You'll need it shortly.
  6. Locate the iris assembly.  It is the biggest black rectangle in the middle of the mess you just removed.  The "mess" consists of two motors that turn long threaded screws — those are the focus and zoom motors — a couple of small sensors and two nearly postage stamp sized black rectangles.  The iris assembly is the one in the middle that has a little obstructed window in it.  The obstruction in the window is the delicate iris.  We are going to disassemble the assembly to clean the iris.
  7. The iris assembly is actually a little box.  The box is plastic.  The lid is metal.  Look carefully at the narrow thin edges of the box.  At the motor end you will see that the metal top is fastened to the plastic bottom with one little tab.  At the other end there are two tabs.  Very gently lift the motor end tab until it just slips over the plastic bump that held the top on.
  8. Very gently tease off the metal lid to the iris assembly.  Be very careful not to bend the thin metal and watch out for the delicate contents of the plastic side.  If possible, try to keep the plastic side down when you open the lid and reveal the iris.
  9. The iris will probably seem like one very thin piece of black plastic film.  That's the problem.  It's actually two pieces of plastic and they've stuck together or to the iris assembly.  Do not pry them apart; instead, gently drop the plastic iris in the saucer of alcohol.
  10. Take a swab and clean the inside of the plastic side but keep the alcohol away from the motor.  Concentrate on the rim around the round window in the middle.  Swab the metal lid with alcohol or just toss it in some alcohol and rub the inside to dissolve any glaze.  If you used a cotton swab be absolutely positive you didn't leave any fibers behind.  The alcohol should dry pretty quickly.  If you speed the drying with a bit of compressed air make sure you don't also blow screws and stored parts around — or force alcohol into the motor!
  11. Give the alcohol in the saucer a gentle stir.  The iris should simply float apart into two pieces.  If it doesn't, make sure the iris is totally immersed in alcohol and wait a bit longer.  If the pieces don't separate in an hour, I would try the 100% methanol — just add it to the saucer.
  12. I imagine it is a good idea to resist cleaning the grease on the focus and zoom screws.  Odds are that the white goo is a low vapor lithium grease necessary for smooth operation.
  13. Now you are ready for reassembly.

©Win Wiencke from repairing Woody Landay's camera, 24 July 2011, all rights reserved
This nonsense is presented "as-is" and not endorsed by Image Logic Corporation