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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Website Update

Just a quick update as to what is going on, as there hasn’t been a posting to my blog for a (unbelieveably) couple of months. I’m working on a substantial update to my website http://www.digitalwaterfalls.co.uk which will consist of a number of tutorials, based on what I have learnt in astronomy and astrophotography.

Watch this this space for announcements before the end of the year…!

Posted by Wordmobi

Astrophotography with the Canon SX20IS Part 1

I’m writing this blog entry whilst still on holiday and not having any means of transferring my digicam pics to my smartphone, so I’ll present the text first and images later.

A holiday to the Scottish Highlands presented itself with an opportunity to take advantage of (potentially) clear dark skies as I usually have to put up with light-polluted skies at home.

I hadn’t really tried out my new Canon SX20IS digicam for some astrophotography, preferring to continue to use my ageing S2IS with CHDK. However the SX20IS really offered a number of advantages over the S2IS such as better ISO capabilities (ISO 800 to 3200) and better resolution. So over a couple of nights, whilst dodging some broken cloud, I managed to obtain some impressive (in my eyes and with my limited photographic ability) images that kicked the S2’s images on the first night into a cocked hat.

As a comparison, on the first night I mainly used the S2IS with CHDK and took a number of exposures 20-32sec in length, ISO400. A lot of noise was picked up and only the brightest stars were picked up. However I was able to save these as RAW images so I may be able to obtain more detail once I get back to my laptop. I took a couple of disappointing shots with the SX20 which only picked up the very brightest stars in Cassiopeia.

However the next night I decided to use the SX20 and after making some aperture changes and setting the ISO value to 1600, this really opened up the quality of the images. Once the broken cloud had nearly completely cleared, I set the camera up on a wooden table on top of the tripod (there were trees all around so I couldn’t get any horizon shots) and started snapping again and Cassiopeia. With the ISO set to 1600, aperture F2.8, manual focus and time 15″, the images taken had substantially less noise than from the S2IS and more stars were picked up by the SX20’s CCD.

As I took more shots and applied the zoom slightly to M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) which I managed to pick up in the image, the aperture adjusted automatically to F4.0. However because I couldn’t see M31 in the viewfinder, it was hit-and-miss (more miss actually) aand couldn’t get a closer image of the object. Even though ISO has more image noise, I’ve been very impressed with the SX20’s ability to take low light shots – and I haven’t even tried the ISO3200 mode yet!

Posted by Wordmobi

Moon and Mars Opposition

The 29th and 30th of January was the closest approach of Mars since 2007 and the ‘largest’ Moon of 2010. Thankfully the skies in the UK were clear (well, where I live at least!) and gave good opportunity for some observing and astrophotography.

Though my first target was Mars, because the telescope was still ‘warm’ from only just being brought out from the house, this created poor ‘seeing’ from the small air turbulences inside the telescope as it cooled down. This created a shimmering blob effect that when coupled with 2 and 5mm lens, ruined the image.

Whilst I waited for the equipment to cool down, I decided on a bigger target that would be affected less by the aclimatisation problems. So I turned to the Moon and grabbed my Canon S2IS digital camera, holding it upto the eyepiece. Because I’d already worked out some test shots with aperture and shutter speed in CHDK, I applied the settings and managed to get the whole of the Moons disc in the eyepiece. One of the shots is pictured below, though I haven’t had chance to correct the rotation of the image so that the Moon looks the right way up. I had my Moon filter attached to the eyepiece and the only post-processing applied was auto-levels in Photoshop.

moon300110.jpg

By this time the scope had cooled down sufficiently to view Mars. Even though I’d fitted various combinations of barlow lens, 5 and 2mm lenses, I couldn’t manage to quite get much surface detail imaged, except two horizontal curved bands, one of which I guess corresponds to the polar cap. There was a hint of red-orange colour around the edges of the sphere, I didn’t bother trying to try imaging it with my hand-held afocal coupling method of taking pictures with the camera, as I felt it it would result in a blurred image.

Instead, I fixed the camera to the mount on the telescope and took a shot of the Moon and Mars (which was directly overhead), displayed below:-

moonmars.jpg

The image has been rotated and cropped due to the angle that the camera was viewing the scene. A small amount of red’ blue, brightness and contrast has been applied to the image.

Final shot for this post is the equipment setup:-

SkywatcherCanon.jpg

Mars is at closest approach to Earth for the whole of this week, before receeding until 2012.

Posted by Wordmobi

New Years Partial Lunar Eclipse

Thanks to some of the information gained from reading my new digital imaging Astronomy books, I’ve managed to capture a few shots of the moon, in partial lunar eclipse on new years eve, the best of which is:-

(Click the image for a slightly larger version).

The image was took with my Canon S2IS running CHDK, attached to a mini tripod sat on the roof of my car. This the best of three shots, I didn’t get any more time to take any more as I was supposed to be getting ready for new years party! It was took at time of greatest partial totally, approx 19.22 UTC.

I also managed to get some shots around 1am of Orion in the western sky. Unfortunately they turned out to be overexposed so much that the sky was a light grey colour. The stars created a trail because I left the shutter open far too long (40 seconds). However, I still think this was a result as I caught the Orion Nebula on the image, something I never manged to achieve. I think I’ll need to shorten the exposure time by half to eliminate the star trails and exposure brightness.

Throwing these images into Registax resulted in all sorts of alignment errors, due to the rotation of the earth. Time to read some tutorials how to align stacked images I think!

Update to Raytracing Gallery

Just a quick post to say that I’ve updated my main website www.digitalwaterfalls.co.uk with a new index page logo and new raytraced spacecraft image, for 2010. I’ve been raytracing for around 17 years and recently its been getting harder and harder to get images completed, due to real-life commitments. So when a new image gets posted, its a big event for me!

Why not have a wander over to take a look?

Oh, by the way as mentioned in my last post, the Canon S2IS intervalometer test I ran to capture expected snowfall was partially successful. It was programmed to take a shot every 5 minutes for a total of 100 shots. The camera performed brilliantly, running from around 12.30pm to 9pm. Though it didn’t capture any shots of the snowfall, due to the snow not arriving until 7pm (ie. in the dark!) the camera kept going on for nearly 9 hours on 4 fully-charged 2100mAH batteries and had 1% remaining!

I just need a clear night to apply these techniques to some low-light photography of the skies. Easier said than done with the current weather!

In case you didn’t know, there is a partial Lunar eclipse tomorrow night (new years eve) – check your local timings for when it will start and finish and how much will be on view. In the UK, it will be on view around 5.30pm to 7pm. Clear skies!

Posted by Wordmobi

Experiments with CHDK for the Canon S2IS

Over the past few days I’ve been mucking around with CHDK (Canon Hackers Development Kit) for my digital camera and a couple of scripts I downloaded from the CHDK website. One in particular, the ‘ultra-intervalometer’ is proving to be particularly fun.

I’ve been trying to catch the weather when its clear for some low light photography, unfortunately its been too cloudy early evening and I’m still to get a decent opportunity to get some low-light shots that I can try with Registax, the astronomy image-stacking program.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to put together a 100-frame time-lapse animation of the sun setting. The images were saved as JPEGs and compiled as an AVI with the free ‘PhotoStage’ application from NCH. The camera was set to take a frame every 30 seconds, for a total of 100 frames. Because the camera was set up on a mini-tripod in an upstairs room, there is some reflection from the window which I’ll have to overcome in future ‘inside’ shots, possibly by angling the camera direction more.

The results can be seen by going to the following link…

Sunset time-lapse video

You’ll need Quicktime installed in order to play the video (MPG format).

Next? There is heavy snow predicted where I live in the next 24 hours so I think this will be a good opportunity for another animation.