Fixing a lens

Canon’s ERR99: What it means and how to FIX IT!

Fixing a lens

ERR99: The dread of every photographer!

No error on any camera is as dreaded as Error 99.  If you shoot Canon and haven’t seen it yet, you will.  Canons certainly aren’t any more prone to errors than any other camera brand, but they are a bit notorious for the infamous Error 99.  Learn how to fix it now so when it happens, you aren’t stuck shooting a wedding without a working camera!

In short, ERR99 on your Canon camera is simply a general error.  What error, you ask?  That is the difficulty with troubleshooting the famous ERR99.  Since it is a general error, it gives you nothing to begin with.  But have no fear, I’ve seen the error enough times that I should be able to point you in the right direction.

To fix the error, you can certainly call Canon… but I will tell you exactly what they tell you on the phone.  First they will ask you to do a clean reboot, then try switching the lens, and then they will ask you to pay to ship the camera to them, wait four weeks without a camera and then cross your fingers that the repair isn’t too expensive.  Hopefully it won’t get to that point! The following steps address the most common causes of ERR99 and offer solutions to see if it is something you can fix yourself. Read these first before you call Canon!

Step #1: Test the Lens

ERR99 is a general error, but often the cause of the error is lens communication.  This could be for many different reasons.  For example, if the aperture assembly on your lens is broken and needs to be replaced, the camera will tell your lens to change the aperture, the lens can’t because the aperture assembly is not functioning, and so the camera will not have any confirmation that the lens obeyed it’s command.  The result?  Error 99.

Try the lens on a different camera, or try using a different lens on your Canon camera.  This way you will know if the lens is causing the problem.  If the lens is the problem, first attempt to fix it with step #2 and if that doesn’t work, you will need to send the lens to the lens manufacturer for repair.

A recent caller on the Improve Photography Podcast had the ERR99 problem and he solved the issue by performing this test.

Step #2: Clean Camera/Lens Contacts

On the back of the lens as well as the base of the lens mount, you will find a series of gold-colored metal contacts.  This is how the lens and camera communicate.  If either the lens or camera contact is dirty, communication will be inhibited.

The way that the actual Canon repair facilities fix this problem is to use the eraser on a pencil.  Lightly rub all of the contacts being careful to not get eraser dust in the lens or camera.  If the contacts are just dirty but nothing is broken, this is a simple fix.  I have personally seen this fix the dreaded ERR99.

Step #3: Reboot the Camera

This is the magic tech support solution that seems to work so often, but sometimes it is so simple that we don’t feel like washing in the river 7 times (catch the reference there?).  Turn the camera off, take the battery out, wait 30 full seconds, put the battery in again, turn the camera on again, and take a photo.

I know this sounds insultingly simple, but please try it.  Tech support always suggests this fix because it so often works.

Step #4: Perform a Complete Power Cycle

Your camera actually has two batteries in it.  One battery powers the functions of the camera, and the other battery powers the behind-the-scenes operations of the camera that remember your camera settings even after removing the battery, remembers the date and time, etc.

One possibility is that the error concerns some function powered by this second battery.  Step four is to remove two screws from the camera, slide out the tray holding this second battery, replace the battery (it looks like a simple watch battery), and then restart the camera again.

More specifically, follow these steps to perform a full power cycle: (1) Turn off the camera, (2) Remove the lens and put on a body cap, (3) Remove the memory card, (4) Remove the main battery as well as the small backup battery, (5) Wait 5 minutes.  I know it seems silly to wait.  Off is off, right?  But I have personally seen electronics work after waiting with the battery out for 5 minutes when the standard 20 seconds didn’t work. (6) Put both fresh and charged batteries back in the camera, and (7) Cross your fingers that the shutter click doesn’t revive ERR99.

For a diagram on how to remove this secondary battery, check out this very very thorough blog post about fixing ERR99 issues.

Step #5: Troubleshoot the Memory Card

There are actually a lot of ways that you can mess up your memory card, which will assuredly cause problems with the camera.  The best way to eliminate this as being a problem is to simply get a brand new card and put it in the camera to see if the problem continues after a reboot.  If that isn’t an option, at least try one other used card to make sure it isn’t a corrupt card.

Next, if you haven’t been using your cards correctly, we should make sure you aren’t doing something upon import of your photos that is causing errors in your memory card’s database.  Put the memory card in the camera and do a full reformat.  Do not just erase images, go into the menu and look for “Format Card”.  If the camera cannot format the card, there is a good chance the card is the issue.

Step #6: Blame it on Dumb Luck and Call Canon

The phone number for Canon technical support is 1-800-652-2666 or check for more support options.

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  1. Kaushik Biswas

    Personally, I haven’t encountered this ERR99 yet, but this writeup will be extremely helpful. I am sharing it for my photographer friends.

  2. Ed Devereaux

    I have run into this a couple times usually when I am using my longer glass and I am not supporting it correctly. It can cause a heart to stop if it is during a paid shoot. Now I bring my trusty dusty Canon XS just in case. Not the best camera but better then no camera.

  3. RDW

    I had this infamous error on my Canon 5DII and had to send it off to Canon for repair. I tried some of everything before I sent it to them, but in the end, it kept coming back (sigh) so I shipped it off and got it back in a couple of weeks. Of course I’m a CPS Silver member.

  4. Montnegro de la Rosa

    Great tips.
    [Links removed as violation of comment policy]

  5. Alan Hendry

    Hi Jim we are a small photography company based in Namibia which is a photographers dream, wildlife, landscapes, sea, desert, & caves to nam but a few and we would love to have one of your groups here and would be more than pleased to lead the group, let me know if you would be interested.

  6. Deb

    I have the error 99 on my canon but only when I shoot photos into light all of the inside flash shots show no error can someone hell me with this problem please

    1. Brett

      It won’t BE the problem, but it could CAUSE the problem.

      Deb was comparing it with shooting indoors with flash. Shooting into the light would most likely involve smaller apertures. If there is a fault with the aperture assembly preventing it from stopping down, then that could be the issue.

  7. Gerry O'Donnell

    Hi, I may have found a solution. Yesterday I received a 350d that I had purchased on e-bay, took 2 pics and the error showed up. Man was I mad!! Turned it off and on again, it was ok for 1 pic.
    Luckily I also received an adapter I had ordered to match some old Olympus lenses to the 350d.
    I have 20/30 pics taken on manual without any error showing.
    I know it’s not ideal to shoot on manual all the time but It saves leaving your camera in it’s bag.
    The adapter cost £10 and old SLR lenses aren’t expensive.
    Hope this helps somebody,

    1. jose faria

      I Gerry, Thank you for the suggestion. I had a similar problem with a ids I bought also from eBay and “inspired” by your input, I solved it after connect it to the AC charger instead of the battery (previously i tried several other procedures unsuccessfully!)

      José Faria

  8. Walter Hobbs

    Great, helpful article. err99 with my 18-55 mm lens. Changed to long lens and all is good. Now is there a fix for the 18-55 mm lens?

    Thanks, W

  9. Michael Jaquiss

    Had the Error 99 problem on my 300D. Main battery out and back – no good. Different lens – still got the problem. Next step, clean the contacts. Found a pencil with eraser end, and cleaned both sets of contacts. All OK! Wonderful. But what I think I noticed was that when I touched one of the contacts on the camera body, it sprung up. Suspect it had been stuck down with dirt and hence not making contact with its corresponding lens contact. Anyway, very many thanks for your help.

  10. D. Jenks

    I’ve struggled with the ERR 99 on my Canon Rebel XT. The article was very helpful, thank you.

  11. Joel

    I haven’t had an issue with ERR99 on my T3i yet, and I don’t doubt that it will happen. Thanks for the article, it really informed on what to do when I have this error(which is hopefully never!).

  12. Gustavo Jersonsky (from Argentina)


  13. Avril

    Brilliant advice thank you. I did the first lens test and that is what’s causing the problem. No to move to Step 2.

    Thank you, great article.

  14. H Durer

    Step #5 seems to have done it for us. We tried #4 but failed to find the battery on the 1000D.
    Given how easy #5 is (assuming you have some spare SD card lying around) it might be better to try that before #4.

    Thanks a lot for fixing my wife’s camera!

  15. Gregorio G.

    Oh Great and wonderful “OZ”!!! I would like to thank you for the advise that you have given me on Canons..Step 4 did it for me.. Now my lightly bruised Rebel XT is as new again. Dude, you ROCK!!!!

  16. hari thejus

    my 350d canon camera totaly dead i want repair it i am a canon fan and giving classes all type of canon dslr . may i get help

  17. Jure Kovac

    Nothing worked for my eos30d, but anyways great post.
    If there are more tips i would be glad to know them.
    Thank you!

  18. mike

    Mine only comes up with the error when I try to shoot outside with no need for flash. I don’t really want to call canon. I have tried ALL the other options you listed. Any other ideas????

  19. olivia schnieders

    this has been helpful but I have a question so step 3 works for me and I can take pics all day but as soon as I turn the camera off and its been off for awhile it goes right back to doing it again then I have to take the battery out put it back in and then everything is good again I don’t want to send it in but i’m thinking I might have to what are your thoughts?

  20. Bernard

    Thanks for the help. My Err99 code has been getting worst. I ended up replacing the secondary battery and a new CF card. No more codes…..Thanks again.

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