Repairing the hot shoe on a Canon DSLR
During a wedding shoot one day I noticed that my flash was only firing occasionally. After the initial panic, I quickly figured out that if I held the flash with a little counter-clockwise tension, then the flash worked fine. At the first break, I tried my backup camera and it was doing the same thing. When I got home, I checked it against my daughter’s 20D and it worked fine, and it also seemed that the hot shoe on my cameras was loose compared to hers.Another symptom of this is that the flash will switch from E-TTL mode into TTL mode and the exposure will usually be very overexposed.
After some research on the net, I discovered that this is not an uncommon problem for cameras that get heavy use. Typically, a quick trip to a service center will fix it, but the actual fix is quite simple and you can help ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
What you will need
The tools needed to make this repair are quite simple, although small. What you will need is a very small flat screwdriver and a VERY small Phillips head screwdriver. A typical cheap set of jeweler’s or eyeglass screwdrivers should do the trick quite nicely.
To make the fix more permanent, you may want to get some mild Loctite or other thread adhesive. I would not use the heavy duty stuff as that is only needed under heavy vibrations and someday, someone may actually need to take your camera apart for service so the more mild version should work perfectly.
You will also want a good clean work area, preferably with a towel underneath everything, if you drop one of the damned-near-microscopic screws you will be in a world of hurt trying to find it in the carpet.
I don’t know if this is the same for Nikon or other brands, but I would assume its not too different, if you run into this issue on other cameras, its worth a try before sending it to service.
When you are looking down into the hotshoe, you will not see any screws, they are covered by a removable plate that slides off. This plate is a good thing to have there as on one of my cameras several of the screws were completely backed out and would have been lost if that plate hadn’t been in place.
There is certainly a technique to popping the plate off which is a bit hard to explain but simple once you get the hang of it. The way I do it is to slide the flat screwdriver under the plate coming from the rear of the camera towards the front. You want to be gentle here and not bend the plate, it will come off with very little pressure. With the screwdriver under the plate, the goal is to lift the back of the plate (side closest to the front of the camera) so that a little lip on it clears the bottom section. With a little pressure on the screwdriver to life the backend, and a little pressure on the plate with a finger it should slip out of place slightly. A little wiggling should allow you to pull it the rest of the way out.
At this point you will have access to the four small screws that hold the hot shoe connector in place. if you just want to tighten them up, go ahead and do so and skip to the section of reassembling the protective plate. If you want to use a little thread lock, then continue reading.
The cleanest way I have found to remove all four screws without dropping them is to loosen them all up all the way and then place a magnet (I stole one off the fridge). This will allow you to lift the hot shoe connector and all four screws at once. I then clean up the connector and the camera to remove any dust or debris that is there and put the connector back on the camera. If you are using some thread lock, you just need the smallest dot of liquid on the threads, you can do a quick dunk if you have small enough fingers or apply a little to the threads with a toothpick. Put the screws back in and tighten them up.
Putting the plate back on
Oh sure, you popped off the protective plate like a pro, did a solid to your camera with a little Loctite, so putting this little piece of spring-steel back into place should be child’s play right? Its actually pretty easy to screw this part up and end up wondering for an hour what the heck you did wrong. Take special note of the picture here showiing how the plate goes back in with the little hoops going DOWN towards the camera. Those little hoops slide into two slots on either side so you have to make sure they are lined up when you push the plate into place and the rear lip slids into place. If you don’t have those two hoops in the right position, removing the plate again to reseat will be an excersize in frustration.
Trust me on this one, I am speaking from experience here. Once the plate is back in place properly, you are all finished and ready to go. If you are using some thread lock, be sure and give it a little time to dry before attaching the flash and torquing the screws, you might end up loosening them before they get glued into place which would really not be a good situation to be in.
At least you now have one thing you can fix if it becomes an issue for you.
Author: Kerry Garrisoncamera, canon, DSLR, flash, hot shoe, Nikon, repair, shooting, technique