Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Did I Break My Camera?

I have had a Canon T2i (right) since around June of 2011. It's a very nice camera, and I'm still learning the complexities of all its options - my previous high-quality camera was a Fujica ST605 totally-manual 35-mm SLR film camera (below) that I bought in 1979. I ended up with two ST605 bodies, one with a 28-70 Tamron lens and the other with a 70-210 Tamron one-touch zoom lens.

Back to the T2i. As I say, I've had it a couple of year now, and gave myself a birthday present of a Tamron 70-300 lens a little while ago.

So I was on holiday with the AG in Germany over Christmas - we stayed in Köln - and, of course, I brought the camera for holiday snaps. All in all we had a great time, as Köln has several Christmas Markets (Markt am Dom right) and also far more yarn than the AG was expecting.

After a day of taking pictures I settled down and uploaded them to Dropbox using my new Acer ChromeBook. I did some work on the ChromeBook and saved the files out to the SD card (it had 64 GB so plenty of room). A little later I picked up the camera and went out to take more photos, only to find that the info screen didn't light up and that I got a message "Err 80" in the viewfinder. Back to the ChromeBook to research the error!

A lot of people reported this as being a general error message, but often a shutter problem. I certainly had a shutter problem - it was being a Shut, not a Shutter! Pulling the battery and replacing it reset the camera and fixed it for a short while; using my 70-300 Tamron lens exacerbated the problem, with frequent "Busy" signs in the viewfinder as it hunted for focus, and eventually the camera started to take a picture, flipped up the mirror, and froze, mirror-up!

After going through every camera-related trouble-shooting operation that I could think of, I recalled that I had once owned an Olympus Z-3030 digital camera. The problem with the SmartMedia cards that it used was that if you didn't format them in the camera, and/or if you used them for certain types of file, they became unusable. The beginnings of a light over my head started to glow!

So I pulled out the (64 GB) card I was using, borrowed another (1 GB) from my wife, and the problem vanished. Err 80 was suddenly history. On looking (with the ChromeBook) I found that I had left two or three .pdf files on the card after using it in the Chromebook. Removing these restored the camera operation!

Tech Notes

  • SD Cards for Cameras. There's a class rating for these. If you want to use your camera for taking video then look for class 10. You'll find it marked on the card as an amazingly tiny number inside about 80% of a circle. Very difficult to read!
  • ChromeBooks. I have an Acer 710-2688, in a boring grey colour (offset now by colourful stickers from Köln !). It has a very good screen res., 4 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of SSD. I really like it for browsing the web, etc., and the AG has one too now, as her Asus Eee1000 has reached 5 years old and its Windows XP is becoming more of a liability than an asset. It's also getting very slow, especially compared to these Acers. 
  • Windows XP (1). Time to leave it behind, everyone. If your machine will run it (i.e.  not a netbook and less than 5 years old) then go get a copy of Windows 7 and replace Windows XP!  If you have custom programs that really really won't run on Win7, get a copy of VirtualBox, install it, and install your copy of Win XP inside that (see here). Without the browsers! 
  • Windows XP (2). If you've an older machine that just won't take Windows 7, or an Atom netbook like the AG's that just isn't powerful enough, then take a look at what you actually do with your machine. Do you really do any more than use the web in different ways? You write papers, use spreadsheets, make presentations? You can do all those with GoogleDocs. Email? Google's GMail. Storage? Dropbox! So, with the exception of iTunes, a Linux system will give you pretty much all you need. If you don't want to spend the $260-odd on a new ChromeBook then splurge instead on a new hard drive (get an SSD, even! This one costs $70 - gasp!). Get a copy of Puppy Linux and burn it onto a CD (or get one from the cover disc on a Linux magazine in Barnes and Noble), swap the new hard drive in to your machine (hang on to your old drive!), connect the CD reader, and boot from it into Linux. Then tell it to use all your brand new hard drive and let it become your new OS. Once you're up and running with Linux you can grab a 2.5" drive enclosure (e.g. here), put your old drive into it, plug it in to a USB port, and you can get at all your data again. Linux will read and write NTFS (Windows) drives fine, so there'll be no problem getting at your files. As I said above, you can use Google Docs to read MS Office files. 
Have a great new year in 2014