Put Some Windex on It!
Or, How To Fix the Shutter Release Button on a Battery GripThere's this great running gag in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the family patriarch uses Windex as the miracle cure for whatever ails you. It's one of the funniest bits in a very funny movie.
The electronics version of Windex is DeoxIT. You have a scratchy sounding volume knob? Put some DeoxIT on it. A button that only works sometimes? Put some DeoxIT on it. A switch that has failed? Put some DeoxIT on it. Did you burn your finger with a soldering iron? Actually, don't put any DeoxIT on that!
When you take them apart and examine the innards, electronic switches (buttons) and potentiometers (knobs and sliders) are dead simple - typically they're just two pieces of metal (or some other conductive material) that touch each other to form an electrical connection. There must be a solid, and in some cases steady, connection between the two pieces of metal or the switch/potentiometer will misbehave or outright fail. Most of the time, the culprit is either dust that lodges itself between the two metal pieces, or corrosion of the metal pieces themselves. DeoxIT works by flushing out the dust and/or dissolving the corrosion. It also leaves a protective coating over the conductors.
My latest DeoxIT patient - the Nikon MB-D11, also known as Nikon's pricey battery grip for the D7000. The shutter button for the grip had been working only intermittently. If I'd paid full retail for the grip, it would have really pissed me off. But I bought the camera used and the grip was thrown in to sweeten the deal (the combo was priced less than the going rate on e-bay for used D7000s alone), so I considered it a freebie. Anyway, first I tried spraying the miracle elixir into the tiny crevice between the shutter button and its hole in the grip. You might be surprised how often that actually works (the dust has to get in there somehow; it makes some sense that the spray could follow the same path). And it did work. For a couple days. Then it started up with its intermittent failure again. So more invasive methods were necessary.
|Nikon MB-D11 - Can't say it's worth the dough!|
I looked over the grip for how you get inside it and found 6 tiny screws that fastened the top cover onto it. Removed the screws (saving them in a container so I wouldn't lose them) and the cover. First observation: this grip is more complicated inside than I was expecting! But ignoring most of the stuff inside, if I used a flashlight and peered into a gap between the main circuit board and the grip housing, I could see how the shutter button worked. The actual switch was two slivers of metal (about a half inch long, and less than 1/8 inch wide) with "nubs" at one end and mounted so that there was a tiny air gap between the nubs (in other words, just barely not touching each other). The nubs were the contact points for the switch. When you push down the shutter button, it causes a plunger to push down on one of the metal slivers, which in turn causes the nubs to contact each other, thus closing the switch. Simple.
While I had the grip opened, I decided to do a little trick I learned for fixing the pickup selector switch on a Les Paul (which works almost identically to this shutter switch). I got a piece of 320 grit (extra fine) sandpaper and cut it into a small strip (about 3 inches by 1/4 of an inch). I inserted the sandpaper between the nubs, held down the shutter button, and moved the sandpaper back and forth a few times to abrade one of the nubs. Then I pulled the sandpaper out, flipped it over, reinserted it, and did the same thing to the other nub. The idea here is to sand away any corrosion, but very lightly. Finally, I sprayed some additional DeoxIT on the nubs and worked the shutter button several times to flush away any debris and to leave a protective coating. Worked like a charm and hopefully it will continue to work as it does for Les Pauls!
Before I close this post up, I gotta gripe a little bit about the Nikon battery grip. A Grip Gripe, if you will.
The retail price for one of these things is around $200, which is a lot of dough especially since 3rd party equivalents are available for between $50 and $100. I might consider it worth the extra money if the quality were significantly superior. But I can tell you firsthand that the shutter button on the Nikon unit is terrible, and not just because of the issue I've described here (which, to be completely fair, could have been caused by the previous owner if, say, he was a smoker or liked to store the camera in a used vacuum cleaner bag). No, this shutter button sucks because the travel on the button is way too long, there's no positive feedback on actuation, and the feel of the button is just flat-out mushy. All of this means that it's really hard to get a smooth, decisive, and shake-free activation of the shutter when in portrait orientation, which is supposed to be one of the key benefits of a battery grip. Further, the grip's multi-directional switch for navigating menus and placing the focus point is fiddly to use. The other buttons on the grip work fine, thank goodness. But combine those issues with, let's say, questionable, reliability of the shutter button switch, and I can't say the premium price of the Nikon grip is worth it. I'm glad I didn't have to pay retail for it. All that said, I do like having a battery grip! It provides more surface area for my big mitts to grip, with two batteries loaded you can shoot a couple thousand shots (!) before recharge, and holding the camera in portrait orientation is a lot less awkward even if the shutter button is mushy. So I'd rather have a battery grip than not. But if I need to replace this one, it probably won't be with another Nikon unit.