CANON HOTSHOE MICRO SWITCH FIX

It’s been a while since I made a DIY repair or modification post as I thought I had seen the last of the problems that can sometimes plague us. I’ve had my share of problems from annoying issues to camera failure at the worse possible moments. Yet no matter how careful and forward thinking you may be, Murphy’s Law follows us everywhere. I know this because the number of photographers who have encountered flash-related problems are more than a handful. Just check out the number of forum posts that link to my Speedlite 580EX-II Hotshoe Fix post including a new threads that I discovered this morning on Fred Miranda and also Canon Board and a members-only DWF.

It all began two nights ago when I fitted the now notorious Speedlite 580EX-II on the EOS 20D and it wouldn’t fire. My first reaction, Oh, here we go again. The hot shoe screws on the camera probably needed tightening.”  Careless me, after removing the whole metal assembly, I fiddled with the plastic micro-switch and the whole piece fell inside. There is no way to recover it and since it’s plastic I am not at all concerned about the possibility of shorting the circuits. This is when I came across a fantastic resource by wedding photographer in Philadelphia, Conrad Erb. While the idea of using something so readily available such as a paper clip sounds so inviting and practical, I’m concerned about it getting lost (again) so I looked around the house and found a hairbrush bristle made of strong plastic and it fitted perfectly as a replacement to the original item.

hotshoefix-01

How about that eh, an American solution (USA made hair brush) to fix a stupid Japanese design flaw that’s caused by the carelessness of a Chinese owner? I say stupid because there has got to be a better way to design a micro switch that isn’t a piece of unsecured 0.5 cm plastic. Incidentally, professional SLR bodies such as the EOS 5d and 1 series do not have this switch as they don’t come with a pop-up flash. This micro-switch tells the camera if an external flash is being used so that the pop-up flash isn’t activated either automatically or intentionally.

hotshoefix-02

I have done a number of tests while I was looking at fixing this. In the camera’s confused state (should the micro-switch trigger is missing like mine), pressing the pop-up flash button while an external flash is being used, the camera attempts to pop the onboard flash up but after 3 failed clicks on the actuator, you’ll see ERR 05 on the LCD. This is designed to prevent damage to the mechanism (the person behind this logic was smarter than the one  responsible for the 0.5 cm plastic idea)

So here we have one of the freshly snipped bristle (my wife has not noticed her brush’s newly acquired defect and she doesn’t have to either). Note that it should be precisely 0.5 cm and no longer. Not even a wee bit longer as I discovered that it didn’t work so I had to have it filed down to the exact length. According to Conrad’s article, 0.4 cm worked too. ** To avoid any confusion as a reader pointed out, 0.5 cm is how long the bristle needs to be cut, not the thickness of it.

hotshoefix-03

Note the stub that appears through the metal bracket. This picture was taken before I filed it shorter. In my tests, this is what I noticed. If this micro-switch trigger or stub goes missing, power to the hot shoe contacts is cut off. ie the Speedlites do not fire at all. I tried the 580EX and 580EXII and they consistently failed to fire. I think in most cases users may have a stuck stub in which case the pop-up flash would not pop because camera thinking an external flash is present.

hotshoefix-04

Now, these four screws tighten the entire hot shoe and hold the flash in place. Over time, they work themselves loose and you’ll notice the bracket has a tendency to wobble. Of course, you don’t normally see the screws as they’re covered by a metal shim (picture below). You can refer to Conrad’s article on how to get the shim off.

hotshoefix-05

hotshoefix-07
hotshoefix-06

If you have a Canon EOS 300D, 350D, 400D … 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D and future  four, three and two digits models, this post applies to you although I sincerely hope you never have to fix yours this way. There is a saying that creativity is born out of isolation and where I live, I’m fairly isolated from where I might get this DIY mess fixed. However, I would be happy to hear from non Canon owners to post their finding as to whether their camera’s hotshoe has the same brilliant design.

Trivia: The Goody hair brush has (yes I counted) 60 bristles. Each bristle is good for two fixes so one brush (quite possibly an obsolete model too) gives you a solution for 120 micro-switch replacement. Hahaha—keep your woman’s hair brush away from me—when I run out of spares, I might have to go look elsewhere! 🙂

38 thoughts on “CANON HOTSHOE MICRO SWITCH FIX

  1. dang…wonder if canon tech team is looking…hard and fast and quickly go back to the drawing board… in bad economic times like this, even a hairbrush bristle might be the cheapest solution to a very high tech speedlight… you da man…. cheers, mate…

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  2. Wrong units: replace all occurrences of “mm” with “cm” to fix the description.

    Roger that, Mark! What was I thinking? Possibly the deadline of a newspaper column among other things that I was unrealistically trying to accomplish in a very short span of time. Thanks for that, good to know someone’s paying attention. Problems fixed quicker than a Microsoft bug.

    By the way, “occurances” is spelt occurrences 🙂

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  3. Yesterday I found out my 580 EX II isn’t working proper on my 400D anymore. It only works when I put a little pressure on the external flash. Hopefully I can fix this tomorrow with your advice so I don’t have to send it to Canon and get it back 4 weeks later. Thank you for your blogitem. If it works, you’ll will be hearing from me.

    If there are more people with this problem or could give me advice, please leave a comment.

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  4. Hello Jan Shim,

    Yesterday I brought my camera with flash to a company specialized in camera repairments. Hopefully they can help me out. Today I will get my camera back if they’ve got it repaired, otherwise they will call me. In this case I will tell them about your experiences.

    If they can’t get it fixed after these tips, may I be free in contacting you again?

    Thank you in purpose,
    Arjan

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  5. Jan Shim,

    I’ve met you during the highland games, btw.. is speedlite constant giving and overpowered or overexposed picture once it fires? * referring the problem above* i’ve been asking around and some of my frens also had the same problem. overpowered (exposed picture). is this the solution? the problem is with the 580EX II…

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    1. Hi Dean,

      This hair brush bristle fix won’t to fix your over exposure 580EX-II occurrences. Check out this post instead and also make sure your camera hot-shoe is tight too to eliminate all possible causes. Good luck.

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  6. Using a paper clip is not a good idea at all. I need to fix the flash mount of my 1000D after a small drop… and I pushed the plastic switch into inside the camera too. Unfortunatelly I the same thing happened to a metal switch made from a paper clip because it was too small, and I really don’t think I’ll be able to remove this metal piece from inside the camera.

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    1. Ouch. Just hope it’s small enough not to cause annoying rattles and possible short circuiting. I imagine the famous rattle from the pop-up flash mechanism would drown any rattle that would emanate from such tiny piece.

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  7. Thank you for this article, Jan.

    I have a 450D and its hot shoe’s micro switch is broken. I know this because when i turn the camera upside down, a white plastic thing comes out of the hole and when i put the camera back up right, the plastic thing goes back inside. I’m not brave enough to unscrew the hot shoe (for fear that i might break it even more) so I pushed a brush bristle (genius, really. very inventive and clever) down the hole and now the external flash works.

    the only problem i have now is the built-in flash won’t pop out because the micro switch is obviously telling the camera that an external flash is mounted even after i’ve taken it off.

    any advice? thanks again.

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    1. Hi Rainee,

      Perhaps the original piece is still stuck inside? The only logical step I recommend at this point is to get someone to help you remove the hot shoe or if that proves to be difficult, maybe it’s time you attempt it yourself. Follow the instructions carefully, you only need to slide out the metal clip under which you’ll see four screws. If you can handle a screw driver I think you’ll do OK.

      I guess what I’m saying here is, to be sure the original piece is removed so you can insert a new bristle that’s exactly 0.4cm (as per Conrad’s article) or 0.5cm which I used successfully. I’m surprised you managed to insert one without dismantling the clip.

      p.s. You probably don’t need to know this but it always help to make a mental note how the items come apart so you won’t have to guess how to put them back later.

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  8. I just repaired my 7D as suggested. Brilliant suggestion. Thx. My 7D took a 0.6cm. 0.5 was too small, when I got the housing back on, it buried it. Also I had issues getting the screws back on. The metal plate where the thread rests is on the same plate which is pushed down by the micro switch. I wrestled with the problem for a an hour or so. Then, I held the camera upside down, and the plate got pushed to the top, and thus the screw was able to reach. I was careful not to tighten it hard. Thanks again!

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  9. Thanks for this post! After trying to free my microswitch so I could activate the pop up flash, the plastic switch fell inside the body. I started to stress that I couldn’t use my speedlite 420exii anymore, and then came across your page. Was able to activate the switch using the bristle method. Although it does not trigger the pop up flash again, ‘d rather have it speedlite compatible anyhow! Thank you!

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  10. Perfect!
    The solution with a brush “Made in Brazil” also works with two additionals:
    – The bottom of the pin must be slightly smashed with a pliers, so as not to leave the stall.
    – The top of the pin was left with 0.6 mm, but then little melted with a hot screwdriver so that never again sink into the camera body.

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  11. Aman Singh, Bob Harper, David M Neves … thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and the success of your own attempts. I’m glad it worked for you guys too. Makes my day!

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    1. I’m afraid there’s no way you can retrieve it without opening up the camera body. When you DIY to replace the factory item, be sure to use a non conducting item such as this brush bristle so just in case it falls inside, risk of possible short circuiting is kept low.

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    2. “I accidently pushed the micro-switch and it went inside. Where does it go? Is there any way to get it back?”

      The piece that fell was not the micro switch, only the plastic pin that triggers it.

      Cut one piece of plastic bristle as we said, place, melt the tip top so it does not fall more into the body (do not worry, the part that falls will not influence at all) and you’re done!

      The same thing happened to me …

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  12. Hi Jan Shim,

    I have a canon eos 20d, and I have the same problem with the plastic pin. It is stick either too high or too low. The flash will not pop up. How do I get the plastic pin out? I tried pulling on it with a tweezer, but didn’t budge. The I tried pulling on it with a needle-nose pliers. Still no movement. Help!!

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    1. Did you try to pull the pin out while the hot shoe bracket is still mounted on the camera? From your description, it sounded as though you tried to extract while the horizontal metal chassis is in the way.

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  13. You are the man Jan! My plunger was stuck down and would not come up. I followed you instructions above and it worked like a charm. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide these instructions.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. my canon 7d microswitch was stuck down, i removed the shoe and raised it with a pliers and the internal flash released and worked once (sping seems to be gone also), but after i put the shoe and shim back on the camera still thinks there’s an external flash attached, i raised and lowered the pin but it still won’t use/release the internal flash again. my camera was used in a dusty environment so i suspect the button is stuck down that the pin presses against. anything i can do? or just return to canon to repair at this stage?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pin on my 7D stuck down after trying a wireless flash trigger on the camera.
    Used your method to raise the pin and pop-up flash now working.
    It was very stiff to lift so there must have been some debris in the hole.
    I couldn’t remove the pin however as I guess it must have a head on the inside end.
    Never mind I’ll just take daylight with a bit of fill-in from now on…
    Thanks for your help.

    Liked by 1 person

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