I drove to the Tree of Life this afternoon in order to get good sunset shots with the Old Lady in them.
Almost at the site, I parked the car by the side of the road and got out in order to take the wide shot of the locale and other general shots to sweeten the edit. So I took out and set up the newly delivered tripod then enthusiastically (and gingerly) took the new superduper camcorder out of its also just delivered hard case, put it on the tripod and switched it on. After the customary greeting (it just reminds you that it is, in fact, a Sony and that you are indeed in a camera mode – proving that technology does talk condescendingly to mere mortals) a couple of beeps and an unusual message started flashing on the screen with a couple of weird icons to accompany it:
Eject the cassette
Lovely. I’ve just driven in rush hour and got here in more than an hour and I get this. Yes it was hot. Yes the camcorder was in an air-conditioned office and yes it is a bit humid today, but you would think that it would be resilient enough for these “normal” operating circumstances in Bahrain!
Ah well. Checked the manual and all it said is eject the cassette and leave the compartment empty and the camera turned on for an hour before use. Huh? Okay, if that’s what Mr. Manual says then that’s what’s got to be done. I pressed the Eject button and the bloody compartment only rose half way and it was solidly stuck! What the hell. I tried to console and cajole it a bit for it to release the tape but no joy. Back to the manual and it said that if the mechanism does suffer from condensation then the tape might get stuck and it will take about 10 seconds for it to eject it completely. Okay, wait for a little longer, but not joy.
So I left it as it is in the case and continued my drive to enjoy the view of the Old Lady for a while. It was pristine and quiet, only a couple of cars which drove off as I approached, so it was quite peaceful too. The heat and humidity were bearable, it is the end of August in Bahrain after all.
In a while I looked at the camcorder but was surprised that the bloody thing was still flashing at me. I relented, I thought there is no way that that would go away yet. It seems like a real infestation of water in there that it might have just as well been at the bottom of a swimming pool.
I drove back to the office and Googled the error which resulted in various references, none as novel as this:
solved the problem very easy in 5 seconds…
by remove all batteries (inclusive the very small one (maybe behind the screen shing).. then hit it very hard..
now the memory can’t hold that there is an error and with the hitting things get better
I have in fact seen with my very eyes, repair people (independent not at Sony) take a camera in, wait until the customer was out the door, take the main battery off, whack the camera VERY HARD and turn it back on. This has worked so many times I am embarrassed to mention it. They then put the camera on the shelf for a couple of days and call the customer back and charge them for a complete (and expensive) cleaning. The camera was usually fixed before they got to the car.
WHAT? NO BLOODY WAY!
But it was yes bloody way throughout the comments after that one with none showing any dissent on that point of view! I couldn’t believe it, I thought that this must be a major leg pulling exercise.
I searched some more (while the camera was still comatose with its compartment door open and the cassette still jammed) but couldn’t find any further references. It’s been more than 2 hours now and this bloody thing is still dead.
Exasperated, I judiciously (I’m an electronics engineer and been around cameras for a while, so please don’t try anything of the following things I’ve done unless you want to irreparably damage your camera and invalidate its warranty – you have been warned!) applied pressure on the compartment down and fortunately the camera restored the compartment where it should be and I could hear the head engaging again. But unfortunately the condensation message was still lit. I tried ejecting again but the compartment once again got stuck. I repeated the process quite gently and tried ejecting yet again, fortunately I was second time lucky. The tape came out. Phew!
But the condensation message was still lit!
I removed the battery and re-inserted it in again only to be rewarded with the same error continuing to be displayed.
To hell with it (please don’t try this!) I turned the bitch upside down and wacked it (gently and judiciously!) put the battery back in and viola! It worked!
An afternoon was wasted, but I learnt a couple of things:
- Don’t keep tapes in the camcorder; only insert them when you need to and remove them when the shoot is over.
- Don’t store your cameras in a cold (or hot) location, certainly not in direct air-conditioner stream of cold air. If you do, you will most definitely invite condensation into your camera and will lose its use in no time. At best you will waste half a day waiting for it to re-acclimatise with the surrounding environment. They are not as good as we are in adapting to situations and they are expensive beasts (not just physically but in lost time and expenses).
I’m quite happy that it’s fixed and can look forward to going out and shooting… but bad luck hasn’t finished yet, my daughter just called to say that our whole neighbourhood has been blacked out! No power!
Filed in: Technology