Removing a Stuck Canon 50mm f/1.8 Camera Lens

Check it: Christmas Eve. Snow Storm. Wouldn’t it be great to take some pictures of the snow falling? Sho nuff! You grab your camera bag and swing it emphatically over your shoulder and there’s an immediate un-weighting, a loud clunk and an expensive camera sitting lens-down on the floor. Note to you: keep your camera bag zipped at all times!

When operating a food blog, camera mishaps can engender T-Rex tears and necessitate half a gallon of pistachio ice cream. You may never experience a stuck camera lens, in which case you can use this post as a source of entertainment, but in case you do ever get a lens stuck, this post may save you a lot of time and money…and T-Rex tears.

When my camera leapt out of its bag on Christmas Eve, I did what I always do when something un-awesome happens – I ignored it without assessing the full damage. My boyfriend and I left the house to pitter patter around in the storm and when I turned my camera on to snap photos, it came on just fine.  I thought I had gotten away with my mishap. But when I went to take a picture, the camera wouldn’t focus. See picture below – this is how you learn you broke your Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens:

After sitting in dumbfounded silence and repeating the f bomb more times than necessary, we inspected the lens and found that the plastic ring that moves in and out to focus was lopsided and would not retract all the way. Goodbye cheapo lens.  I then tried removing the lens and it would not budge. It would only twist part of the way and would not rotate to the position it needed to be in for removal. I can deal with a broken lens, but I can’t deal with a lens that won’t leave my camera upon command.

We went back to the house and I started googling to see if I was the only dork on the planet that couldn’t remove a 50mm lens. Turns out there’s a ton of us dorks out there and it’s by no fault of our dorky selves but due to the fact that the lens is cheaply made. The part of the lens that mounts to your camera is plastic on these $100 beginner lenses, which drastically increases the probability of it getting stuck if impacted.  The first thing I found was a youtube video of a guy manhandling his camera to try to force the lens off. This made my insides laugh and hurt at the same time. Pass the bowl of pistachio ice cream, please. I would not be trying the removal-by-force methodology in spite of the comments below the video which stated you can indeed remove a lens by force without damaging the camera. We discovered later that even though some people had successfully removed their 50mm lens by force, others did not have the same result and broke part of their camera.

I also googled camera repair shops and there was only one in the area, which was an hour’s drive but they were closed due to the holiday. The other option would have been to send my camera to Canon and wait for three weeks to have them fix it and send it back. Not. Gonna. Happen. No way, no how. After more googling, I found a couple of tutorials for removing a stuck 50mm lens. This and this site were what ultimately saved the day.

Since my love bird is very mechanically inclined, I urged him to remove the lens while I read directions to him in spite of his fear of messing something up and having to endure my red-headed wrath of anger. After producing the get-out-of-jail free card, he and I got going on lens removal. Here’s the recipe for safely removing a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens:

Removing a Stuck Canon 50mm f/1.8 Camera Lens

Author: Julia
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Ingredients

  • 1 small Philips screw driver
  • 1 small pair of needle nose pliers
  • 1 bar of chocolate or ½ chocolate cake for comfort purposes

Instructions

  1. Keep your camera powered off and don’t try to take pictures. Your lens is broken, the pictures won’t be pretty anyway.
  2. Breathe and remember this loss is your perfect excuse for purchasing a better lens
  3. Collect your tools (small Philips screw driver and small needle nose pliers).
  4. Remove the guts of the lens (glass and plastic ring) by pulling them out or simply turning the camera over to allow gravity to let them fall out (mine just fell out because the lens was already broken). Note: In the first picture of the post, the "guts" are the piece of the lens that is closest.
  5. The outer part of the lens will be attached and there will be a big hole where the guts used to be. It is important that you don't let anything fall into this space because now your camera is unprotected.
  6. Using a small Philips screw driver, unscrew the two small screws on the inside of the lens
  7. Turn your camera over (lens down) or tilt it downward so that no dust or camera parts fall inside of the body.
  8. Turn the lens to where it stops.
  9. Using needle nose pliers, lift the piece of plastic that is hitting the gold-plated studs (which is the electrical connection between the lens and the camera).
  10. You can see in the part of the lens that I'm holding (below the gold stud part) that there's a badly chewed piece of plastic. This piece of plastic broke when Garrett was pulling the lens up over the connection. It doesn't matter if you break parts of the lens since it's already toast but you want to be sure nothing happens to the camera.
  11. Pull the plastic up over the gold-plated studs while turning the lens.
  12. The lens should come off.
  13. Hallelujah, order a better one, that’s what the ol’ credit card is for!

Recipe Notes

If you want to try to get your lens is still under warranty and you want it to be replaced, Canon will likely not accept a lens that is already taken apart so do not follow my instructions if you want your lens to be replaced or fixed by Canon. Canon’s support department will request you send in your whole camera + stuck lens in order to warranty the lens. This may take weeks and considering the 50mm lens is crappily assembled, it is my opinion that the warranty is not worth it. Plus, I think Canon discontinued the 50mm f/1.8 lens and why would you want to put the same lame lens back on your camera?

Best of luck and please respond to this post or email me if you have any questions

This photo was taken with my new 50mm 1.4 lens in Star Valley, WY. Smiley face.

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Comments

    1. Julia Post author

      Thanks girly! I’m glad it all worked out but I have to admit, I was a hot mess for a moment or two while we were trying to get the dern thing off 😉

      Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Thanks, Laurie! I figured I’d be replacing the 50mm 1.8 but I didn’t realize it would be that soon. Definitely not a huge loss but pretty sure I went pre-diabetic for a second there. 😉

      Reply
  1. Nicole

    Oh, I feel your pain. I busted the same lens when I was in Italy of all things. I had just bought the camera before my trip and it was the only lens I had, plus it was a photography workshop! Mine wasn’t nearly as bad though, it wasn’t stuck on the camera and it wouldn’t auto focus. I could focus it manually. So, in addition to everything else I ended up learning how to manually focus my camera during the trip too! I ended up going with a 40mm 2.8 when I got back. I found the 50mm not to be a very good multi-purpose lens.
    Thanks for stopping by my site today. So glad you did as I’ll be stopping by here more often too!

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Thanks, lady! I’m still in Wyoming for a nice family vacation. I love it out here – so peaceful and the pace is so relaxing. I’ve been able to take some photos of the landscape which is a wonderful change up from the typical food photos. 🙂 Thanks for the thoughtful compliment!

      Reply
  2. Eileen

    Oh NO! So glad you guys were able to remove the lens without damaging your camera!

    This also reminds me of a recipe I saw ages ago. It was for spanakopita–phyllo dough central–and included a valium and a bottle of scotch.

    Reply
  3. Kristy

    Oh my goodness I don’t know what I would have done if this happened but if it ever does I know where to come to fix it :). Julia, I love your blog and your photography is awesome. Looking forward to following your future posts!

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Janelle, I’m so glad to hear it! I about flipped when I couldn’t get my lens off my camera…I was fine with the lens being toast but just wanted to be able to snap photos. Happy to hear my post was useful!

      Reply
  4. Jakob Schuster

    Thank you so much. I was screwing around with an old 1.8 ( I have the 1.2 now) and threw it on my 5d mark iii because I thought it would look funny… It looked funny after I killed it >:) Thank you for saving my 5d mark iii <3

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Hey Jakob! YES! I’m so glad this post has been helpful to you and others in the same position. I had no clue camera lenses could even get stuck until mine did so I know how stressful the situation is when it happens. You’re very welcome and enjoy that camera!

      Reply
  5. Crystal

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH! You have just saved me so much time and money!! I am so incredibly grateful! You weren’t joking about the chocolate.. I got the guts out of the lens and then couldn’t get the rest out so I had to go for the chocolate while I was waiting for the boy to get home and do the rest! haha I appreciate this SO much!! Thank you again!!! After getting it off I was seriously the happiest girl haha

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Crystal, you are so very welcome!! I’m so happy my experience helped you unstick your camera lens…There was no way in hell I was going to send my camera in and wait several weeks for someone to just remove the lens, so I feel lucky there are other people who posted about their experiences on the internet and fortunate to have a man around to help with a screwdriver. Best of luck to you and thanks for letting me know this post helped you! 🙂

      Reply
  6. a

    Hey great website! Does running a blog similar to this
    take a massive amount work? I’ve virtually no knowledge of programming but I was hoping
    to start my own blog in the near future. Anyways,
    if you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off subject nevertheless I simply needed to ask.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  7. TIm

    This is a great post. I in fact killed my old Rebel XT and nifty fifty trying to force it off. You are absolutely right. I killed one of the gold pins on my camera when I forced off the lens. The spring mechanism that pushes the pins out doesn’t work anymore:(.

    Reply
    1. Julia Post author

      Ruh roh!! Is it just the lens that didn’t make it through the event, or is your camera damaged, too?? Those lenses are such a pain, and I’m so happy with my upgraded 1.4…I hope your camera made it through okay!!

      Reply
  8. Alvin

    This is very helpful! Thank you for this article! Although, I am stuck somewhere.. I’m stuck at #11. I don’t know what plastic you meant exactly 🙁

    Reply
  9. Brad

    Very charitable of you Julia to spend the time helping others. I’m looking at at a camera on ebay with a similar problem. :>)
    Give the ol plastic lens credit for cushioning your camera’s fall – if it had been the better lens then both may have met an early end. :>(

    Loved the snow covered fence by-the-way.
    If you’d like some Aussie landscapes, find me on fb;
    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008628120676&sk=photos&collection_token=100008628120676%3A2305272732%3A69&set=a.1387069951590596.1073741827.100008628120676&type=3

    Reply
  10. Richard

    It happen to me also, I almost dash it in the garbage, but after some fixing and gluing, the lens made a lot of weird noise so I decided to remove all the electronic guts inside and went full plastic and glass. You can fix your Canon 50mm f/1.8 to work full manual if your lens broken… but you will be unable to control the aperture, which means your F-Stop will be f/1.8 permanently 🙁 but you will get all that nice creamy bokeh all the time 🙂 Check my video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS5ZrDWyhtg

    Reply
  11. Bernice

    Had a favourite walkabout lens stuck. 38mm to 130mm stuck on Canon 600D. Got a bit desperate and gave it a squirt with WD40 then panicked to get an error message. But message said clean contacts so just tried again and hurrah lens came off and no damage to camera sensor. Lens might be a bit smeary but it will clean so all well. Still don’t know why it was stuck. Have put lens back and tested – all OK and then tried another lens and again all OK. Happy ending but very worrying at the time. Wasn’t sure which I would sacrifice the camera or the lens!!

    Reply
  12. Alice

    Thx so much for your sharing. Well, my lens is stuck… But photo still looks fine. I wish my situation is not as bad as your old lens.. But the top of my lens the plastic circle is not attached to the metal one anymore as it fell on the floor badly…
    Still stuck in my camera ?????Helpless!!
    But thx so much for your sharing at least it does let me know I am not alone ?

    Reply
  13. Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Two days ago I just did this very same thing. I almost never use my 50mm 1.8 but I was taking pics of my cat indoors in low light, so I popped it on. I was headed out shopping and decided to just leave on the 50. Normally, with my metal-clad L lenses, carrying my camera in my lightly padded Victorinox backpack isn’t an issue but when the bag fell off the counter at JCrew, I think the weight of the 5DIII cracked the lens. When I pulled the loose part of the lens out of my bag I thought, “Oh, shoot, bummer” and went on my merry way till I got to the car and realized I couldn’t get the remaining half of the lens off the camera. [RAW SWEATY PANIC] Thankfully, we have a local repair shop run by Korean guy who used to be an exec for Canon. He’s going to charge me $60 to carefully cut the lens off. Hopefully I can go pick up my baby later today. I have 3 other camera bodies to use, and replacement insurance if absolutely necessary, but I haven’t been feeling very creative while I wait for the word on my 5DIII. I’m going to go eat (lots of) chocolate cake now.

    Reply
  14. Paige

    I am in the middle of doing this procedure and I am stuck trying to lift the empty shell off. It’s hard to see which piece of plastic to lift to make a clean removal. Can you give me any details about that part of the removal? Thanks

    Reply
  15. Amet Alvirde

    I don’t wanna give up, because even stuck, my 50mm is still able to take pictures. So I hope is not broken. Could it be? 🙁

    Reply
  16. Geneviève

    Thanks for the great post! You saved my T3i, just two weeks before an important trip too! My break was a little different and took awhile to figure out, so I’ll describe here in case it helps someone.

    Once you remove all the 50mm f/1.8’s guts, there are two parts of the lens left, the outer barrel and the funnel-shaped piece inside that has four plastic tabs sticking up (which hold it attached to the barrel).

    The funnel piece has a raised ridge-like inset at one side that frames the gold contact part of the barrel. One side of that inset had snapped off in my lens – I could see it, and pluck it out with tweezers.

    When I tried twisting the lens off the camera, those two pieces (barrel and funnel) weren’t twisting together like they should. The barrel part was riding up over the funnel part, because of the missing bit on the funnel’s inset. That meant that the underside of the funnel was getting scraped against the *camera’s* gold contacts. I’m so glad I didn’t try to force the lens off! It probably would have scratched hell out of the camera’s contacts. I have a bit of scuffing on one contact, but it seems to be ok.

    What you have to do is hold the funnel tight against the barrel while rotating the barrel off. I had to snap off two of the plastic tabs before I figured out how to do it, but that might not have been necessary. Success! Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  17. Lisa Ellery

    The wind knocked my tripod over and my 50mm got stuck on my camera. I didn’t know what to do. You saved my life! Thanks to you I was able to fix my camera just in time to take pictures of my kids in their Halloween costumes. I can never say how much I appreciate you and this article. Thank you.

    Reply

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