Fixing a lens

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

In Gear by Jim Harmer63 Comments

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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About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..

Comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. My eos30d developed the error 99.
    I found it is due to the apature mechanism in the lens.
    I can avoid the error 99 by setting the camera into the apature
    priority mode and manually setting the apature to 5.6.
    The apature is stuck at 5.6 and as long as the body is not trying to change it
    The error does not occur.
    So I gave up the auto apature feature.
    Good luck.

  4. Just bought a used one on amazon and of course this message popped up. Luckily it was just the memory card the seller gave me. Thanks 🙂 !

  5. Efs 18-55 is notorious for aperture trouble. Try setting aperture to f22 then repeatedly press stop down button, if it doesn’t stop down or appears to stop down by varying amounts it’s most likely the aperture. Easy fix with parts from eBay at £10 a go. Check and clean all contacts first though, just in case.

  6. This problem started from the very beginning since I got my Rebel Xti way back when (!), and never bothered to ask anyone why. Yes, it is frustrated when the subject starts looking at you funny while posing and this happens over and over! Does this merit just buying a different brand, or does it happen this frequently with every brand???

  7. I brought a secondhand d400 on ebay no problems till I brought a Sigma 70-300 lens off ebay put my old canon 18-55 back on no more error

    1. Hi i ha ve a cannon 300d took some picks in a park took the cf card out and download the picks tried to put the cf card in the camera again it wont go also took it out again camera turns on again saying no cf card what would the problem be thank you Rone

  8. Yup. It was the camera lens. But after trying a different lens (no more Error 99) I decided to try–just in case–to put the offending one back in. Now that works too. But I’m not holding my breath. Sigh. This camera is about ten years old. My Nikon FM is probably thirty years old, and still works like a charm.

    1. Big difference between a Nikon Pro film camera with no electronics and a modern digital eh?

  9. Have a 28-105 Sigma lens on My 400d, the issue with ERR99 I solved by reducing the picture quallity. (Renoved RAW). Think that my memorycard was the problem.

  10. Brilliant have been banging my head against a wall trying to sort err 99 out manual focus works thank you

  11. Thanks very much, it turned out that I’d managed to put my lens on in the wrong orientation so the contacts weren’t lining up properly. I put the lens back on more carefully this time and presto, I was back in action.

  12. Our Canon 400D which is 9 years old has in the last week been showing Error 99 almost 99% of the time. Do you think it is now time to replace the camera?

  13. Error 99 just appeared on a new 80D and my old 400D. So betting it goes back on a tamron lens i’ve been using. Next step will be to have that lens checked

  14. I’ve had this problem several times with my Canon EOS 50D over the years. It has always been solved by simply switching the camera off, removing the battery and then reinserting it. I’ve found you don’t even have to wait thirty seconds…

    I’d imagine phoning Canon would be a last resort and the helpful article gives me several other options to try out first should the above fail to work in future.

    Mike

  15. Superb explanations. I get err99 on and off with my very old 350D. The original lens with it 18-55 don’t work any more err99 again. but the camera works ok with other canon lenses, although err99 pops up now and again with them. Just switching the camera off and back on clears it. I will follow all your instructions to see if i can get the 18-55 working again and eliminate err99 for good on all the lenses. Many Thanks…Brilliant..

  16. It is ERR99 displayed allright. Only when I install TAMRON LENS aspherical XR on my Canon D10. It works perfectly with SIGMA lens. Could it be the TAMRON is no good for that CANON D10? Heeeeeeelp!

    1. I had Tamron lenses on all my 10Ds and a 20D with no problems. I did get the ERR 99 with my 30D and a Tamron lens. I am going to try and follow the tips above as Canon is of no help on these “old” cameras.

  17. after all …. when you, at last, still note the presence of ‘ERROR99’, take a look into the battery hole, you’ll find a CR2016 3v (!) remove and substitute 😉

  18. I hope it is this simple. Called Canon and they say they no longer support the 20D and 30D. Wish I knew that before I paid full price for them new less than 10 years ago. Gotta love technology. Will let you know how this ends. Thanks for the tips.

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