I took apart my Samsung TL34HD digital camera because there were splotches appearing on the pictures. Apparently dirt had gotten into the lens or onto the photo sensor. I liked the camera because it had a large viewing screen and 16 megapixels resolution, so it was easy to make crisp well formatted pictures, but it was showing its age so I bought a new Samsung ST700. This is also a fine camera, but I have some serious complaints with it. My first complaint is that the viewing screen is functionally not nearly as large as it would seem from the specs because quite a lot of its area gets consumed with “informative icons” and blank space. These things get in the way of viewing and composing a picture, and some of the icons are impossible to get rid of, but worst of all, from my perspective, is that under many lighting conditions it is impossible to see where the edges of the photograph being exposed are located on the screen. I like to compose and preview my pictures right out to the edges, but with this new camera that frequently isn’t possible. The older TL34HD functionally had nearly twice the apparent viewing area when taking a picture, and the image viewed was to the edge of the screen, and easy to see. A super serious problem with my new camera is not a design flaw but a manufacturing flaw, which makes the upper right corner of its photos go blurry when in wide angle mode. It is okay at middle to long range, but I now shoot quite a few pictures at wide angle. The upshot of this problem was that I wanted to return to using my old camera, but that required cleaning or replacing the lens. A new lens assembly was only $45 so I got one, before tearing apart the camera. Then of course the problems began.

The Samsung TL34HD comes apart with a single micro-phillips head screwdriver. As I took the camera apart I placed the tiny screws in a pattern representing the camera itself. That was a mistake. I had cleared a table with two elbow desk lamps, one on either side, so I would have plenty of space and good light. That also was a mistake. I was using counter top for a work table so I could walk around easily, another mistake. There were lots of mistakes.

For starters, and I suspect that there’s lots more things to do: make your work area where you can sit down at a table – it gets really tiring doing tiny precision work while standing. Make your work desk white and smooth and bigger than you think you will need and with perpendicular edges raised around your work area. The tiny screws, and micro springs will get dropped repeatedly, so make it impossible for them to get away and get lost – make it impossible even for the tiny springs to vanish when they jump away because you are squeezing them into a tiny hole. A library study carrel would be a good work area, if it had really good lights.

Start by loosening all the screws a half turn, because there is no sense taking out all the screws and having one get stuck. Once they are all loose, remove them in a specific order and place these tiny screws on a piece of adhesive tape, so they stay put, in the order you are removing them. As a rule if there are ten screws to take out there will be five different sizes, and some of them will sort of fit in another hole but it ruins the threads, and then nothing will fit very well. Putting them on adhesive tape keeps them from getting lost and also keeps them in order. If possible write down the location of each screw. It seems like a little thing, and it is, but if you get it wrong, which is very easy to do, you get yourself into a problem that may be impossible to recover from. Take pictures of your camera as you disassemble it, if you have a second camera.


Samsung TL34HD partially disassembled, showing tools and a second lens assembly

Top left is the front plate, and the bottom right is the back assembly with the cover screen. In the upper right are some screwdrivers and a close-up lens for viewing tiny parts and holes. The needle was slipped into tiny springs lengthways and then stuck into the hole where the springs belonged, where they were then pushed off the needle into the hole. The Phillips head screwdriver was stroked twenty times over a refrigerator-door magnet, which temporarily magnetized it, and that allowed me to point the tiny screws into their holes easier. At the center bottom is the old lens assembly seen from the back, the new one is in the camera seen from the front. At the lower left is the 2.0 GB data card and the camera’s battery. The black diagonal object on the front of the camera is the photo flash storage capacitor; it has been lifted over from its normal position to our right side of the camera. The bright blue object is a little flashlight, which was often used to see down into the recesses of the camera where some of the screws were all but invisible.

I am glad to have had the experience of taking this camera apart, and putting it back together. But, the camera didn’t work because the miniscule electrical slip connectors no longer made good contact and the camera didn’t turn on. But while cameras are still getting better by the year it is a better use of one’s time and money to find a new one with better features. If I had viewed my new camera in a store first, I would have avoided getting one with too small a viewing screen like my Samsung ST700. Strangely, on that issue, some of the biggest most expensive digital cameras have very small viewing screens. Great lenses and crisper, more controllable sensors and capable of taking technically more controllable pictures, but:

I like to see exactly what I am getting, so I like having a big screen.