Camera Lens Will Not Retract – Here’s What To Do

Are you an avid photographer? Are you having problems with your camera lens retracting or are you simply wanting to learn more about the issue? Then you are in the right place!

man holding camera

This article is going to discuss what to do when your camera lens will not retract including all the possible solutions.

What does is mean that your lens will not retract? This means that the lens on your camera is extended out away from the camera body and will not retract, or fold back into the camera. Whether sand is stuck in your lens or it is bent from an accidental fall there are many solutions to each issue, including blowing compressed air, using a needle, vacuum cleaning, aligning the barrel, replacing the battery, changing the memory card, and disassembling.

It all depends on the cause.  This is a common issue in all cameras and can be as simple as sand being stuck in the lens or as complicated as a broken piece. We are here to help you identify the problem whatever it is and fix it!

What is a retracted lens?

A lens extends and retracts on most compact cameras. This refers to the lens being in an extended operating state and in a storage state of retraction. Typically, when the camera is turned on the lens extends and when the camera is turned off it retracts. This differs in cameras in which a lens is detachable, but it all has similar mechanics. In a digital camera with a non-removable lens, a retracted lens usually results in a flat camera body.

When the lens is a separate piece from the camera it is fully retracted in its lowest zoom setting (for example a 25-300 mm lens would be fully retracted at 25 mm). Below are pictures of a retracted lens and an extended lens. This article will be discussing what to do when your lens will not retract, meaning that it is remaining in the extended state.

Extended Lens:

girl with extended lens

Retracted lens:

camera with retracted lens

How do you retract a lens on a properly working camera?

Your lens may not be retracting simply because you do not know how to retract it. Most digital cameras have an automatically retractable lens. The lens extends and retracts as the power is turned off or on. To retract the lens when the camera is not in use most cameras have a retractable lens barrel button that one can press.

Others require you to manually twist the zoom ring on the lens. Twist the zoom ring to the lowest “mm number” to retract it fully. Whatever way it may be, your camera guide will help you figure out how to retract your camera lens if it is properly working.

Example of a camera with a detachable lens:

girl with camera with detachable lens

Reasons your camera lens is stuck and how to fix it:

There are many reasons your lens could be stuck. This section will be discussing those reasons followed by ways to solve them.

1.     Sand and Grit

This is exactly as it sounds; sand or grit may be stuck in the lens itself. This interferes with the lens extension mechanism. This is the mechanism that controls the way the lens extends and retracts. Putting your camera in a case could cause dirt to get trapped with the camera. Also, not using a case could get dirt stuck in your camera. So, whichever you choose, just keep your camera clean. There are a few ways we are going to explain how to clean the sand and grit out of your camera lens.

Sand can get caught in your lens barrel resulting in the lens not being able to retract:

sandy landscape



Do this by blowing compressed air into the gaps around your lens barrel. If you do not have access to an air compressor then blowing it with a hair dryer on cool can also help in this situation. One could also try their own breath if it comes down to it. You will just have to blow hard on your camera lens.

Piece of paper

If blowing air does not help consider using a thin piece of paper or sewing needle to remove the sand particles. Be aware this second method can damage your camera if you are not careful. One can go about this by taking a piece of paper and lightly moving it in the cracks of the lens barrel where the potential sand is. A sewing needle could cause more damage but may be more effective for finer particles.


One could also repeatedly tap the rubber usb cover on a hard surface with the attempt to dislodge any sand particles. You could also hit the side of the camera with your palm. One could also try tapping around the lens barrel with a pen or pencil with the idea of dislodging any particles.

Vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner could also be of assistance by sucking the sand or dirt out of the camera, although this approach is more of a last resort because it could lead to the most damage within your camera. There are many ways to dislodge sand and grit from your camera, just be careful not to break your camera further in the process!

2.     Camera Has Been Dropped

That is right, if you drop your camera with the lens extended it could break the lens extension mechanism. This is best fixed by a repairman and not at home. But, if things have simply just shifted or bent they could possibly be put back into place.


Barrel guide pins

The lens barrel guide pins could have shifted from their slots, so you would try to put them back in place by straightening the lens. Do this by gently banging on the lens in attempt to straighten it. Listen for a click to indicate that the pins have been put back in place.

Align the barrel

The barrel itself could have been bent in the event of a drop. Fix this by gently forcing or banging the bent area back into place. If forcing it does not work try gently pulling, rotating, and twisting the lens barrel to align the barrel.


3.     Something Blocking The Lens

The issue could be as simple as something is in front of your lens blocking it from extending. To solve this problem simply remove the object that is blocking the extension of your lens. If sand is the reason it is blocked read the section labeled “sand and grit”.

4.     Camera Power and Equipment


The battery of your camera could have died with the lens extended. Plug in and charge your camera to solve this problem. You could also put in a fresh set of batteries and turn the camera on. Rechargeable batteries more than a year old can be worn out and not providing enough power to your camera. Replace them.

Memory card

One could also try removing and replacing the memory card. Sometimes it is a software issue and removing and replacing those items could reset the system and fix the problem.

AV cable

Your camera may also just need an extra boost of energy to power on that lens retraction. Try plugging in the AV cable to give it that extra boost.

5.     If All Else Fails

If all the solutions above do not fix your camera and get that pesky lens to retract then you could try a little more radical measure- disassembling your camera. Disassembling your camera is simpler than you think and with a proper guide or video anyone can do it. One would do this to dislodge sand or to replace a bent/broken piece.

If you feel uncomfortable taking your camera apart then it is best to contact your local camera repairman. Finding a replacement lens is also another option if all else fails.

More tips for camera lens that is stuck

As stated in the section above, how you repair your camera depends on what the problem is. If sand is stuck in it, then clean it out. If your camera is dead, charge it. Many camera owners do not want to pay to have their camera repaired because it can often cost as much as the camera itself. That is why articles like this are here to help! If your camera is under warranty contact your local camera repair shop for more information.

Below are a few more things you can try.

Turn the camera off and on

The first thing someone should do when attempting to fix their camera is turning it off and on. If that does not work move onto the next steps to fixing it.

Factory reset

One could also try factory resetting the camera. Each camera has a different way to factory reset it, so look at your camera guide on how to do so.

Forcing an autofocus

Occasionally forcing an autofocus can fix the problem. Do this by turning on the camera and pressing the shutter button at the same time.

Here is a video illustrating fixing lens problems on a digital camera:



All in all, there are many reasons your camera lens could not be retracting. A lens that will not retract is a lens that is extended partially or fully away from the body of the camera. Thankfully, this article is here to help with this issue. With a detailed discussion about what can cause a failure of lens retraction and the solutions behind it. From sand/grit, dead batteries, and even dislocated guide pins there is a solution to each problem! The solutions range from turning the camera off and on to completely disassembling the camera.


Click on the following link for information on protecting camera lenses from humidity.

By Nicholas

Nicholas is a staff writer at Photodoto. His interests include photography, collecting cameras old and new, video editing, and all things 3d. If a new gadget comes out on the market, he's sure to be the first to try it. He enjoys experimenting with low light photography, very long exposures and high speed filming.


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