My buddy Storz asked if I could help him out with a soldering job. His 10 year old Sony DSC-F828 camera has an external flash with a 2.5mm 4-position plug. Here’s the fixed HVL-F1000 flash with a replacement plug from Sayal installed.
There are a helluva lotta things that can be fixed with a soldering iron, a multimeter, and knowing that you can get most parts from either Sayal locally or the ever-awesome Digikey online. These tools are low-cost. Get an *electric* (not butane) soldering iron (not gun) with a sharp tip for soldering electronics. Get some flux-core solder, a stand, a desoldering sucker, and one of those cleaning pots. If you’re a patient person and can wait 5 weeks, these can be found cheaply in China here starting at $5 (be sure it’s a 110 volt unit for North America). Here they start at $20. For multimeters, you can also find these in China for about $14 or watch the Canadian Tire weekly sales for units about the same price.
Learn to solder at local classes by kwartzlab or Maker Club or self-study this guide by Mitch Altman. Just remember: apply heat first to parts to be joined and *then* apply solder. I taught my kids when they were 4 and 6, and you can do it, too.
A bit more on this particular repair…
The end broke off the flash’s original phone plug. That’s the shiny bits on the left. You’ll know this type of connector from your headphones only that one is 3.5mm thick and this one is 2.5mm thick. Your stereo headphones will have three conductors (1 tip, 1 ring, and 1 sleeve) for ground, left audio channel and right audio channel. This flash plug (normally) has 1 tip, 2 rings, and 1 sleeve. One of those conductors will be ground and the others may facilitate some serial communication between the camera and the flash to control features like flash power. There’s also a tethered shutter remote that uses a similar plug and so it appears to be a daisy chain of camera accessories. For this fix, what the pins do is irrelevant and we just need to get the right wire matched with the right conductor on the plug.
I used the continuity function on my multimeter to make this diagram from the old plug. You put one probe on a wire and touch each of the conductors on the plug. When you hear the beep, you’ve got a connection. It is good maker protocol to negative test as well which means once you find your wire-to-plug match up, you keep testing to ensure the wire doesn’t connect up with more than one element of the plug. It only takes a few extra seconds and serves as a prompt for further investigation if, say, you discovered the black wire seemed connected to both sleeve #1 and ring #3. Considering we found 4 separate wires in the cable, we would expect 4 independent conductors on the plug, too.
Here’s the camera. A solid rig.
Here’s the ACC accessories jack on the camera where you plug in the flash. The broken tip off the old plug is rattling around in there, so for now we’ll hope it doesn’t short out or mechanically jam anything. Disassembling a camera is a whole other difficulty level that I typically only tackle on my own gear and usually when the alternative is the scrap heap.
John picked up this replacement plug for about $6 at Sayal down in Cambridge.
Flash works again. Storz is happy. E-waste averted.
This is admittedly a pretty simple repair, but that’s the point of this post. With simple, inexpensive tools and a little practice, you’ll be all set up to fix your vacuum cleaner, garage door opener, blender, and toys, oh my, the toys you can fix with a soldering iron.
GSD every day.