You Only Live Once: Attempting to Solve Canon EOS 5D MK II Error 30 by replacing Shutter MYSELF #YOLO…

So… you got Error 30 when trying to take a picture with your fancy Canon SLR camera. What do you do ? How much internet have you scoured for this answer? Sadly, probably not enough. This will hopefully be your final stop that push to you to realize the grim reality… However, despite that, I hope this will document the trials and what I have gone through so MAYBE, you will make the right decision a bit easier... Sorry, there is no magic bullet. TLDR: you will want to send it in to Canon for service, pronto and not attempt self repair. Listen to me, and do not try to do it yourself as I did… While I did not break the camera, I certainly did not improve the situation and if you want to try your luck, consider reading everything thoroughly before you continue, especially the part about back flange distance record keeping….


Some motivation for possibly wanting to do this challenging task:

  1. You want to save money (TLDR: terrible idea…). It will cost you more, because what you break might end up cost more…(e.g. if you almost damaged main board like what I did, salvaged parts cost $200 USD alone, not far from the service cost.)
  2. You feel too cheap to call Canon to fix a 10 years old camera and you feel you have nothing to lose even if it doesn’t work (TLDR: better but still bad idea. However, have the will to be prepared to lose everything is key to zen)
  3. You want to challenge yourself to fix things no one else dare to try. (TLDR: better idea, this is what mostly motivated me, also reason 2).
  4. You are curious because you want to see inside of a SLR and understand how everything works. You will get plenty of this but it is not worth it.

Ultimately, if not for curiosity, it is not worth it. Because what Jens Bjørn Andersen said in the comment section of the original timelapse video of disassembly/reassembly and I quote below:

I’m Canon technician (for 34 years), and have replaced many shutters in EOS 5 D mk 2, BUT it is not possible to do it “at home”. The problem is, that the Cmos have to be adjusted after removement. To do this you need at Canon’s Flange Back Tester (cost $20,000) to adjust the flange back distance and to align the CMOS with the lens mount. If not adjusted correct you will have auto focus problems. This FB tester adjust the sensor with an accuracy of 0.000001m.

In THEORY, you can bypass this issue if you can record the precise number of turns and made prior marking to align the screws with the perfect amount of torque but realistic, this is the part that no one can do at home to get it right and require a flange back measuring device only available at Canon service facilities.

Major Tips:

  • You need Philips 000 and Torx 7. A precision driver set (like this) is HIGHLY recommended as the weakly magnetic kit is super helpful in tight spots. Also, those plastic pliers are less likely to damage tabs unlike metal tweezers.
  • Use masking tape (or something similar sticky but not too strong) to keep track of all the screwed in the order you removed them (see the green masking strips below). Also help to draw the location and the shape of the parts so it is easier to retrace your steps.
  • Best to videotape the entire process overhead as well.
  • Have clear, resealable unused sandwich bags ready. The moment a sensitive component is extracted, you can save them there to ensure it does not get damaged or filled with dust. This allowed me to work slower over days without worry about dust accumulation (while technically I really should do this in a dustless cleanroom but I am lazy).
  • Expect about 5 to 6 hours of painstakingly taking apart everything until the shutter box can be replaced. Another 3 to 5 hours to resemble everything IF nothing goes wrong.
  • Go SLOW. First time unscrewing those Philips screws can be so very very hard. Apply lots of downward pressure and go slow while using flatter head Philips 000 drivers (less pointy). If you strip any screws, it will be very bad for business very soon. Maybe try to elastic band trick by using a flat elastic band placed on top of the screw to substantially increase the friction. Avoid stripping screws at ALL COST.

Some Background Info about Error 30 in Canon SLR:

  • Happens most commonly related to STUCK shutter.
  • Can be a sign of imminent shutter failure, never trust that camera again for jobs unless you are prepared to lose shots.
  • Some known fixes (at least temporarily):
    • Smack the camera physically (not joking): physical shock can be used dislodge the shutter. Given that 5D2 are built like a tank, I did give it a try. No working.
    • Some have claimed replacing the 3V cell battery on the left bottom corner of the camera. Mine was still 3V after literally years post manufacturing, so no go.
    • Use the “Manual Clean” the sensor. This actually cause my camera to freeze up.
    • Ultimate fix: replace the shutter (this will probably solve 90%+ of all the Error 30. However…
    • The real ultimate fix (for my 5DII at least) is most likely one of the electronic board replacement. I replaced my shutter with another shutter BUT I am still getting the same Error 30. The most likely cause is not shutter for several reasons:
      • Error 30 at 45K shutter is too low for something normally rated at 150K.
      • The original shutter “looks normal”. Nothing bent or distorted. Although I cannot move it (have to unmount motor most likely) but if you look at other broken shutter, you can clearly tell something went wrong. For example, 1 or 2, or 3. The chance of both my “old” shutter and “new” replacement shutter are dead while “physically” looking descent is pretty small, and this coupled with the earlier point.
  • Something particular about what I tried was that when I use “manual sensor clean” the mirror is suppose to go up and shutter 100% open but it totally did not work. I get Error 30 instead. This suggest some kind of lower level motor controller issue with the shutter but I already replaced it so I suspect it is the bottom board that needs replacement. If anyone has any additional full insight, I would love to hear. I already popped 80$ to gamble on shutter and now have a most likely spare shutter…I rather not take another 80$ plunge on a board that may be in tact.

Useful References:

You probably read most of these already. If you still want to do it, at least scrub through the timeline and realize the daunting task ahead of you.

High Level Steps

At each step, check all cables and remove them slowly and carefully, when not sure, check the referenced videos.

  • Take off all superficial screws after removing glued plastic (they go back perfectly).
  • Remove bottom, left and right plastic pieces.
  • Remove back LCD integrated piece.
  • Remove top LCD integrate piece.
  • Remove main board (3~4 screws).
  • Remove top right board.
  • Remove bottom main structural plate
  • Loosen bottom board (two of them are good).
  • Remove main structural plate (7?8 screwns?).
  • Remove sensor (3 screws).
  • Remove battery/SD compartment (secured on the right side of front handle with two screws)
  • Remove shutter