Canon S2IS – the Black Screen of Death (Update 2015)

I thought I’d repost this article from a few years ago as it has been one of the most popular articles on my blog. Since I changed the name of my WordPress account from techastro.wordpress.com to digitalwaterfalls.wordpress.com (bringing it more in line with my other web activities) I realise that a number of links will break. So I’m going repost the more useful and popular articles over the next few weeks with updates where appropriate. I hope my visitors will continue to find them useful!

Update March 2015

My Canon S2IS is continuing to work well with continued, regular use. Well, when I say regular use, I mean a couple of times a year to exercise the motor and lens, which occasionally exhibits the ‘black screen of death’ problem. However, it does seem to get better with age and I regularly use it for long intervalometer runs to produce some time-lapse photography. I did use it with a CHDK script to capture a lighning storm last July, I have quite a dramatic photo from the run which I’ll have to find for this blog later!

Original Article (2nd June 2010)

The Canon Powershot S2IS digital camera is getting a bit long in the tooth now, having first come out in 2005. Unfortunately it suffers from a design fault that seems to affect the camera, increasing with age.

Known as the ‘black screen of death’, it is a disconserting fault that effectively renders the camera usless. The problem manifests itself when the camera is switched on and nothing no view appears on the LCD screen. Only a black screen with the OSD is displayed. When the shutter is pressed, the camera takes a black image.

S2ISBSOD.jpg

This is a design fault with the camera where the ‘iris’ of the camera fails to open, sticking in the closed position, due to lubricant that starts to thicken over time. If the camera is not used for some time, this oil causes the iris to stick and the CCD sees the back of iris, being black.

However, there is a way around the problem which costs nothing, though it does not cure the problem permanently.

I hope this tip may prove useful to other S2IS owners, though I should say I take no responsibility for any damage incurred for any advice given in this article – use at your own risk.

1. Turn the settings dial to ‘Tv’ mode.
2. Use the left cursor control button to set the Tv value to 15″.
3. Press the shutter and wait about 7 seconds.
4. Open the battery cover and let the batteries out of the camera, the camera will ‘bleep’.
5. After about 30 seconds, re-insert the batteries back into the camera and close the battery cover. The lens will retract and the camera will power off.
6. Power the camera back on in ‘record’ (ie. take a picture mode) and press the shutter several times, taking some pictures.
7. If the black screen reappears, repeat steps 1-6 until the camera takes pictures repeatedly and reliably.

Note you may have more luck in running the camera in ‘Tv’, ‘M’ or ‘C’ modes (taking multiple images), it seems to take longer to get out of the black screen problem rather than switching immediately back to ‘Auto’ mode.

By taking some pictures, probably every day then less so, this will keep the iris ‘exercised’ and stop the lubricant from gumming up.

One method I use to keep my camera in working order is to use the CHDK script ‘ultra intervalometer’ and let it run for 100+ shots, which will give the camera a good work-out.

Canon and photographic companies can ‘repair’ the camera, though I don’t know what form this takes.

Posted by Wordmobi

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25 thoughts on “Canon S2IS – the Black Screen of Death (Update 2015)

  1. Hello, I tried these steps and nothing has happened. It is still the black screen. I don’t know if I am doing something wrong perhaps, or its just very “stuck”.

  2. Hi Patricia, it may be that the ‘oil’ used in the iris mechanism has solidified too much for the technique in my article to work. You may need to repeat the process several times, or get the camera to a service centre. Good luck!

  3. I think I have the black screen problem along with the problem of the lens not extending when called to change. The camera takes good pics, though. Where is a good repair shop in the Tulsa, Ok. area (or do I have to ship it some where?) Lens speed on open and close looks normal.

    • Hi Troy sorry I can’t advise you where to take your camera for repair though I hope you have found the article useful in identifying the problem.

  4. After get the shutter open again it started to show horizontal lines for indor shots and overexposition for outdor shots (“washed” pictures).
    Do you have any tip on that?
    Thanks

      • When set to Auto it shots with flash on its maximum and minimizes the horizontal lines, but they still there when you show them in the computer screen.
        Somewhere in the internet searching I read someone saying that the shutter is open (don’t get closed) and this answer why the photos show whased when taken outdoor and with horizontal lines when taken indor.
        Any clue, please let me know.
        Thanks, paulo

  5. The problem with black screen (everything was explained clearly and I did exactly that) was solved and for some while (3 months) everything worked well. Then that lines appeared. Narrower or wider, but they are always in the picture.
    Please, help me; this camera is my work. Maybe there are any suggestions, please. let me know
    Thanks, Julia

  6. It seems me I have the same problem as Paulo a few posts abobe.
    “When set to Auto it shots with flash on its maximum and minimizes the horizontal lines, but they still there when you show them in the computer screen.
    Somewhere in the internet searching I read someone saying that the shutter is open (don’t get closed) and this answer why the photos show whased when taken outdoor and with horizontal lines when taken indor.
    “When set to Auto it shots with flash on its maximum and minimizes the horizontal lines, but they still there when you show them in the computer screen.
    Somewhere in the internet searching I read someone saying that the shutter is open (don’t get closed) and this answer why the photos show washed when taken outdoor and with horizontal lines when taken indoor.
    Any clue, please let me know.

  7. Hi Julia, I’m sorry I haven’t come across the lines on the screen as you describe. I wonder if any other readers of this post who have seen this problem can help advise Julia?

  8. After black screen of death removed (see abobe instruction) in the picture bright and dark lines appeared! Aspessialy they are seen on the screen. If any of you know what the matter with this, please help me, how can I fix the camera and explaine (shortly) how such thing happens.

    Julia

  9. You are the best!!! you just saved me about ~$300.00
    I was about to go and buy new camera, then I thought I will do my research first and see. What a luck. Thank you so much. This article solved my problem and I am so, so, so happy…

  10. Thank you very much.I tried the above procedure with Canon Powershot S2 IS and the problem is solved.This procedure works.I feel that we should take some photos at regular intervals may be once in 15 days.

  11. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you really understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally talk over with my web site =). We could have a link change contract among us

  12. Just came across this; was trying fix an old Canon that a friend uses, it was showing the same black screen symptoms. First several times through the exercise, nothing happened and I figured it was a goner or the exercise was just a lucky accident on the author’s part. HOWEVER, tried a few more times and suddenly I started getting a very dark image to appear. Kept doing more exposures (the 15 second ones for a while w/ the battery drop, then normal ones) and it increasingly got better. Seems to be working fine now with the caveat that outdoor shots are WAY overexposed, while indoor and flash shots (or movies, indoor or out) are exposed fine. I can’t fine any incorect camera settings so perhaps it still has issues with it’s metering system. But a major improvement nonetheless. He still needs a new camera, this one’s pretty ancient in digital dog years now.

  13. Awesome! I just bought one of these from a thrift store for $10, only to be let down thinking it was broken, did some digging learned about this problem, and after several times of repeating this. voila! the Iris has opened. thank you so much!

  14. Thank you! Tv mode and value 15 worked for me. I just kept taking pictures in Tv mode until there was an image on the screen again. The Tv mode seems to force the iris somehow. When I went back to Auto, I had an image again. It just need a little exercise! Thanks again!

  15. Take the batteries out. Leave the battery door open, place cameral S2 IS or newer on top of something warm like the computer router, or on top of the running computer for 24 hours. Don’t use a hair dryer or something lot like that. Slow gentle heat is what you want. It may be a moisture problem. That is what was wrong with my S2 IS. The camera now works fine. I was taking pictures in Cuba, then in Canada outside in Blizzards at minus 30, and hiding the camera inside my heavy winter coat. Seems some moisture migrated inside. The manual specifies not to use the camera in a damp / high moisture environment.
    Also use top end batteries and charger. The cheap chargers over charge the cells and ruin them, and cameras do not like overcharged cells. I use PowerEX cells and their high end diagnostic charger.
    Hope this helps.

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