A Digital Disconnect

A couple weeks ago a problem began to arise with one of my digital cameras, the Nikon DSLR, a D200. It was subtle at first, though not the same kind of subtlety I mention in Subtle Versus Dramatic. While shooting with the Nikon’s self timer at night, the shutter would not fire a couple times. It was a bit puzzling. Using a flashlight (electric lamp), I double-checked the settings of the camera perched on the tripod, then tried again. The camera blinked through the 10-second timing period, then the shutter fired without a problem.

A few days later, I grabbed the Nikon to shoot a group of sparrows clustered around one of the bird feeders in the back yard. Only half of my twentysome attempts to trip the shutter and capture a frame were successful. I returned to the house with the camera and checked the camera’s settings thoroughly to be sure I hadn’t turned off something critical. The settings all seemed to be right. It wasn’t an operator problem.

On the morning of the 19th it appeared that there was a good chance of seeing some subtle color at sunrise, so I grabbed the Nikon and the Quantaray tripod before riding to a good vantage point. Though I played around with the camera for around forty minutes, it seemed reluctant to make any photographs. It only fired the shutter five times.

It was alarming. It appeared that the Nikon was dying. I went home thinking about what it would cost to replace it. I didn’t want to think about what, if anything I could do to replace the camera, partially because nothing in Nikon’s current DSLR APS-C lineup looks that attractive to me, except the D7000, and that camera body is still priced well above $1,000 everywhere.

It would be a difficult-to-justify expense, particularly since I bought the D200 body new for $600, a once per lifetime bargain. I still can’t quite figure out how that deal arose. For one week shortly after the D300 came out, Best Buy, a US retailer had the D200 on sale for $600. The only way to know about the bargain was to see it on the company web site. My son happened to see the web advertisement and phoned me about it. I printed out the web page and took the printout with me to the closest Best Buy location. I ordered and paid for the camera, then waited a couple days for it to arrive at the store, since there were none in stock. I can only think that one of the retail company’s buyers screwed up and ordered too many D200s before checking to see when the D300s would arrive, then the store had to get rid of the overstock.

In any event I was quite paranoid about the malfunctioning camera. I went online and searched the troubleshooting information on several forums. The only thing I could find that was remotely similar to the problem my camera was having was someone else whose shutter was not firing at all. The proposed fix for the problem was to clean both the lens and body contacts with isopropol alcohol. Photos of the lens and body contact points are shown below. After cleaning both sets of contacts with a small amount of alcohol on a microfiber cloth of the type I use to wipe the dust off lenses, the problem went away. Now I have to kick myself for being so paranoid…

Contacts on the body mount (left) and lens (right)