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

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