C5050

defective ccd information


*** Please see two paragraphs at bottom of page

C5050 and C730 DEFECTIVE CCD

I suspect few in the Digital Compact world reading this page will not be aware that Sony, manufacturers and suppliers of CCD's (charge coupled device) to many digital compact camera makers, have this month admitted a failure of one of their CCD's. Of the many cameras brands and models affected, only two are from the Olympus stable, the C5050 zoom and the C730. There must be thousands of other owners who don't know and probably won't or can't be contacted by the original retailer or manufacturer. It would be a great service to them to bring this post to their attention if you can.

As a C5050 user myself I've been following the unfolding debates on one or two of the digicam forums. After witnessing the furore centred around the C5060 MODE DIAL issue I was pleased to see Olympus Imaging issuing positive repairing announcements to concerned C5050 and C730 users.

Announcements have been made in United States and Japan, and very recently by Olympus Europa, but to date no statement has been independently issued by Olympus UK.

SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

At around 18~24 months old C5050's have been displaying (no pun intended) some peculiar results on the LCD screen or on printed output. In completely normal circumstances after an exposure the review screen shows an image that is heavily blue, blue/green, purple, or like liquid, or completely black. This is how Olympus Europa describe the symptoms:

In picture taking mode, the camera will produce pictures that are of a gray or purple tone or the pictures will be completely black. If the LCD monitor (or the C-730UZ electronic viewfinder) is used to compose the picture, the preview display will also be dark.

It is suggested that cameras that have been used in very hot or humid conditions are more likely to be affected, though this is unproven.

OIympus strongly hint that the defect is restricted to certain batches of C5050 production that can be identified by serial number. Their advice to C5050 and C730 owners is:

1. If your camera is already displaying these symptoms then return it to your Service Centre.

2. If you have aready had this problem and have paid to have it remedied then contact your Service Centre with a view to a refund.

3. To enquire if your camera is likely to be affected note its serial number and contact your Service Centre.

4. If your camera is in the serial number range affected but not showing any symptoms Olympus will repair it in any case; make arrangements with your Service Centre.

5. Olympus are asking that users of cameras in 3 & 4 above hold back returning their cameras until early 2006 to avoid the seasonal increase in demand on Service Centres.

6. Cameras likely to be affected will be repaired up to 4 years from date of in initial purchase.

7. Cameras falling outside the serial number range do NOT need this repair (and presumably won't get it regardless of any proferred argument). However, see final paragraphs.

GOOD NEWS?

On the face of it this appears to be good news. It's a matter for conjecture that if Sony had not gone public would any of the consumer manufacturers grasped the nettle? Who really knows? Whether Olympus will use this occurence as an opportunity to repair the other C5050 Zoom component failure issue, that of the motherboard battery or capacitor which is supposed to hold basic camera settings when changing batteries, is equally unknown. Considering the precedent it will set, I somehow doubt it. But the CCD issue gives all owners of the affected cameras an opportunity of at least discussing the problem with Olympus technicians from a point of strength as the camera will have to be stripped and presumably serviced/recalibrated as part of the CCD replacement. It makes sense that owners of defective CCD camera's also experiencing the capacitor problem might suggest to Olympus that this be renewed during the forthcoming CCD service, free of charge and of course, without prejudice. As I don't know what the company response policy is you will have to play it by ear. If your Service Centre refuse then your next tactical ploy might be to offer to pay for a new capacitor/battery if the company fits it FOC during the CCD service. (This will be relatively cheap compared to the labour charges involved in dismantling).

You may consider this unacceptable. It is a moot point whether the capicitor problem is a defect that should/should not be repaired FOC by Olympus. Study carefully the company's response to the C5060 MODE DIAL issue where Olympus simply refuse to acknowledge this as a manufacturing defect. It's pretty plain that Olympus are NOT going to move on the MODE DIAL issue and I suspect the same will apply to the capacitor too. That being the case (rightly or wrongly) it might be better to take a pragmatic stance and offer to pay for a new capacitor at the same time as the company replace the CCD. At least this way when your camera is returned you will have no worries for some considerable time. Whilst in a perfect world we might expect Olympus to replace the capacitor, it is well known that the Company and particularly the Camera Division is struggling with profitability and if the capacitor issue is one of the last straws, I'd rather pay a little now as risk not having Olympus cameras in the future. This is only my personal view; I'm sure you'll reach your own decision.

The statements issued by Olympus are below; you may wish to keep a copy for reference (PDF's).

From OlympusAmerica press here

From Olympus Europa press here

MY EXPERIENCE:

In December 2005 I phoned the Olympus Service Station in UK to make the basic enquiry. After being transferred several times to other persons who could not deal with my query, including Olympus Europa (who were annoyed that the UK service personnel were re-directing calls to them), I simply gave up. I was on the phone for around 45 minutes. The experience was dreadful.

On January 4th 2006 I tried again. This time I was more fortunate. After only 4 minutes of waiting I spoke to a lady in the Service Centre. After quickly explaining my enquiry I was told that "we do not have the serial number information." I politely asked why not as this information seems to be central to Olympus' recommendations for dealing with possible defective CCD's on the C5050. Her response was "we were supposed to have the serial numbers but we haven't got it."

I then asked what was I supposed to do now? The lady asked if my camera was working satisfactorily and if so there was nothing to worry about as if it did fail in the future and it proved to be the CCD Olympus would repair it under warranty in any case.

Am I happy with this response? Only partially. It would have been more reassuring to examine a list of serial numbers and see if my camera was/was not amongst them. There is now a nagging doubt over the C5050 which has not been addressed by my experience. Yes, I agree my camera is working fine BUT if I knew my particular example was no where near the suspect batches I'd feel better. I find it hard to believe that Olympus UK do not have the serial number information. It seems like a brush-off tactic to me.

The UK Service Centre number is 0207-253-0513 then press 2 then 1 for menu selection.

LATEST UPDATE:

Dissatisfied with the response from Olympus UK I emailed Olympus America on 4th January 2006 with my serial number (243748582) and asked them to confirm if it fell within any batch of defective CCD's.

Being an impatient soul and as I'd not had a response after 48 hours I sent them a second mail. This is their response to mail 1:

Dear John,

We value you as an Olympus customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you with this situation.

No, your serial # does not fall within the batch of defective CCDs

This is your Email Response Tracking Number : 850***996. Please use this number if you need to refer to this email for further assistance. You can also browse our website by visiting http://www.olympusamerica.com/

Regards,

Jeffrey

Digital Technical Support

Olympus Imaging America Inc.

www.olympusamerica.com

When responding on this issue, please reply with email history or copy the entire body of this email and paste it into your reply to ensure that all information is retained. Not providing the email history could delay our response time.

And this their response to mail 2:

Dear John Foster,

Good news! The Repair Service Advisory is not applicable to your camera.

No repair service is necessary for your product.

Regards,

Olympus Imaging America Inc.

www.olympusamerica.com

NOTE: If you would like to reply back to us on this issue, please do not edit or remove the text in the subject line. Also, please reply with e-mail history or copy the entire body of this e-mail and paste it into your reply to ensure that all information is retained.

I repeated this exercise very recently for a colleague of mine (243110250) who has no Internet facilities. The reply from Olympus USA was back in 36 hours - with a similar outcome. Most satisfactory.

So there you have it. At least someone in Olympus has checked my serial number against the list and confirmed there's nothing to worry about. Why couldn't Olympus UK do that?

I emailed cpgwebmail@olympus.com try it, at least you'll get a definitive response.

POSITION - as at 10th JANUARY 2007 - A PERSONAL LOG

My C5050 has suffered the other fate - its rubber grip has come off. I've put up with this for months but suddenly recalled it had an extended warranty, so back it went to Jessops (UK based camera retailer). I specifically asked the staff to list on the 'work required' section of the return docket that the CCD be checked and replaced and the internal setting memory function to be checked and if found deficient to replace the capacitor. (My camera displays neither problem). Whether Olympus takes the opportunity to replace these two items and charge it to the Insurers, remains to be seen.

Will I get an new CCD? In USA, if I recall correctly, CCD's will be replaced whether or not it is showing signs of failure. The position in Europe is less generous though understandable - no symptoms, no replacement. So I can tell on its return what's been done, I noted my C5050's firmware version (v79) as a new CCD requires the latest v83 to be installed; all else will be v82. It's been away for ten days out of an estimated repair time of 14-21 days. I'll keep you posted.

POSITION - as at MARCH 26th 2007 - A PERSONAL LOG

I have my C5050 back in my hands today. All told that's 77 days or two and a half months. I have been making weekly phone calls to the Jessops repair reception centre for at least 5 weeks and received responses from a curt 'Sorry that's the way it is' to more concilliatory conversations with less curt staff. I'm still not sure who was to blame for this incredibly bad service as there are three parties concerned; Jessops the original supplier of my C5050, their insurer believed to be Domestic & General Insurance PLC or Olympus. Personally I suspect it was the insurers and for that I thank them - I really enjoyed being without my camera for nearly a quarter of a year.

The camera was returned in slightly less pristine condition than it went; nothing major just some scratches under the card door that were definately not there previously, but I can't prove it. The rubber grip has been replaced and looks fine though how long it will last remains to be seen. As to the rest of the requested work - CCD replacement and capacitor check - all I can say is the camera has definately been split as many of the screw heads now show signs of removal. I note too the firmware is now v83 instead of v79. I am going to contact the Olympus repair centre in the next few days and ask for a full schedule of works done. I'd like to believe both the CCD and capacitor have been replaced otherwise why split the camera? The new firmware v83 may suggest a new CCD but I must confirm this with Olympus UK.

27th March 2007: I have now spoken with Olympus UK. My camera was not within the serial number range affected. Both the CCD and capacitor were checked and found to be fine. My comments above about 'no symptoms, no fault, no repair' seems to have been adopted by Olympus UK. To be totally fair this is all I could expect and I am now quite happy the camera has been fully checked and serviced. I also enjoy the benefits of v83 firmware upgrade of which part is believed to be improvements in low-light AF issues.

For those curious about the nature of the CCD problem I've been told that it was that the thin low pass filter covering the sensor comes loose. In a dry environment an out of focus image may be observed. Once moisture enters the sensor, the colors look as if they are running watercolors.

For those interested in what firmware upgrades do here's a short synopsis (from a reliable source):

Version 78 to 79: Color is corrected when using contrast compensation of +5.

Version 79 to 80: When the copy all files or resizing or trimming is performed the problem with the date in Exif is corrected. When a movie file recorded fully by a C-750UZ is played back in the C-5050 error 81 may have been displayed. Multiple folder creation problem when copying a selected frame with the file name set to Auto, is fixed.

Version 80 to 82: Constant current to the focus motor may cause oil on the lens from vaporized focus motor oil - fixed.

Version 82 to 83: In A mode and the LCD off, switch to P than zoom to wide angle, go back to A, turn the jog wheel and the f/stop displays only part of the character - fixed. In addition there are reports of better low light focus with a new CCD and firmware version 83. There is no indication that firmware v83 alone corrects any low light focus issues but reports say it does. An very experienced Olympus technician has tried v83 and got the impression that it helped with low light focus.

There is an article on how to upgrade the C5050 firmware on my friend Andrzej Wrotniaks site here.

CONCLUSION:

It seems the USA response may be a little more generous than UK & Europe. However, if the camera was not fitted with a suspect sensor, it is inappropriate to replace a perfectly satisfactory CCD. That the sensor is checked during any visit to the service centre offers reassurance to the owner. Olympus have already stated they will replace failing sensors for a further 3 years.

In my various discussions with all concerned I received an apology from Jessops for the inordinate amount of time it took to repair my camera. While it doesn't excuse them or the insurance company, at least they had the good grace to apologise.

If you have an Olympus C5050 or C-730 that shows any signs of being out of focus or 'running' colours on the playback screen you need to send it to Olympus for checking. Either return it to the original supplier for return or contact Olympus UK (details above) for instructions on how to pack it and where to send.

The list of affected serial numbers previously posted on this page has been removed on receipt of information from two sources suggesting it may have been spurious or incomplete. Anyone in doubt about their C5050 must contact Olympus directly. (Thanks to Ian Hughes and Chris Coxon)


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Posted 29th October 2005 Copyright © 2004/2005 John Foster