If you own a Canon EOS A2/A2E or the EOS 5 variant, you may have read or heard about the common problem of the control dial failure. You may well have experienced the problem yourself. The control dial is the large dial on the camera’s top deck, to the left of the prism/flash housing as viewed from the back. The assembly method used in this part of the camera is very poor. It no doubt saved Canon some assembly time and therefore money, but it is a weak spot in an otherwise remarkably durable design.
You can read much more about this on the Web. In particular search the archives at www.photo.net. (Please note that many of the postings refer to this control as the command dial. As Canon's manual calls it the control dial, that's the term used throughout this site.) During a Spring 2002 trip to Yellowstone National Park my four-year-old A2E developed the problem. It was, fortunately, on the last hike on our last day in the park, so I didn’t miss much shooting. Upon returning home I consulted the ‘Net and found a lot of information. Among all the flames and rants directed toward Canon, a few rational writers indicated they’d had their cameras repaired with varying degrees of success. Apparently Canon’s approach is to replace the entire top of the camera. The cost is reported to be quite high. You have to consider the fact that these cameras are no longer made and use 10-year-old technology when deciding to spend one-third to one-half of the original cost on a repair. Others reported some success having local camera shops make the repair, usually for much less than Canon charges. However, many complained that even after the repair was made, the camera later suffered the same failure again.
One brave soul, in a photo.net response, suggested that it wasn’t too difficult to make this repair yourself if you are reasonably handy with common tools and works carefully. That was all I needed to hear, even though he didn’t provide details of the fix. I consider myself reasonably competent with hand tools and also able to apply reasonable care when working on delicate machinery. I also didn’t have $250 available for repairs and wanted to continue shooting with this camera for a few more years. Besides, I’m comfortable with my A2E, which allows me to concentrate on the photograph rather than the equipment. Note that I work as an engineer in the electronics field, and have experience with small, tightly-packaged electronic systems. This experience proved valuable while working on the A2E.
What follows is a description of how I made the repair to my A2E. Be very clear on this: I do NOT recommend undertaking this task. You should not attempt this repair. You should not open your camera, loosen any of its screws, remove any of its covers. Doing any of these things will absolutely void any warranty that may remain, and will likely result in damage worse than the original problem. I accept no liability if you try it and make things worse or end up costing yourself more money. You have been warned!
10 June 2003: I received an email from a reader in which she said Horizon Electronics, the source for the parts I used, no longer supplies these parts. I emailed Horizon for confirmation and received no reply. Their Web site indicates they still repair the A2/A2E/5, so your best bet may be to call and ask for help. Worst case you can probably still send them your camera for repair at far lower cost than Canon's charge.
3 January 2006: I received the information below via email from JM. I've no direct experience with this company, but you may wish to check with them. The price given seems reasonable if your camera is in good condition, especially considering it includes cleaning. I found plenty of good reviews of their work in various forums on the Web.
"Yes, the repair of the mode dial on the Canon A2 camera that I perform is a better
fix than Canons. I charge $85.00 plus $10.00 return shipping. I give a six month
warranty with my work and can turn the repair around in a couple of days. This
repair includes cleaning the camera. Let me know if interested. I am now located
October 2009: I'm very late in posting this, but it should be obvious by now these pages are receiving no further updates. I stopped shooting film in early 2007. Although it still functioned perfectly, the EOS A2e described in these pages was retired to its original carton and has not been used since. If you're interested in owning it as-is, please contact me (link at the bottom of this page). These pages continue to receive a high volume of visitor traffic. Although they won't be updated again, these pages remain relevant to anyone whose camera has developed the problem, and I'm happy people have found them helpful.
Before starting I set up the work area so I’d have good lighting and a soft surface on which to disassemble the camera. All work was done on the body only, and none of the optics was touched. I put the body cap in place and left it there throughout the repair process to eliminate any danger of touching the mirror or dropping small parts into the body. I also rewound and removed the roll of film I was shooting when the dial failed. I suppose I was lucky my control dial was stuck in a “power on” position so I could do this.
The repair required no exotic tools or materials. However, I did have to order some parts from one of the repair shops about which I’d previously read. More on that later. I used several small Philips head screwdrivers for all screws. These are from a set of "jewelers' screwdrivers". They are not marked with a size, but are somewhat smaller than a #0. I also used small needle-nose pliers and other assorted common tools.
If you still want to see how I did it, go to the next page. The story requires several pages. Use the page number links or the table of contents at the left side of each page to continue. Click the email link if you'd like to send a comment or opinion. Note that some of the pages include several photos and may take a few minutes to load.
All text and photographs on these pages, unless otherwise indicated, are © 2002, 2006 by Jay Cross. All rights reserved. They may not be used or reproduced without permission.