Canon 10D Err 99
I fell in love with my Canon 10D the second I got my hands on it over two years ago. It’s an impressive camera. I’ve shot hundreds of thousands of photos in a wide range of environments with it: low-lit, foggy concerts; weddings; deep woods; windy hills; in air-conditioned homes, blazing-hot football fields, and icy winter storms. Overall I would say that it has impressed me every single day that I have used it.
But just a couple weeks ago I started having problems with the camera. Intermittently, it will fail to capture an image but instead flash a "Err 99” message. The only way to get rid of the message was to turn the camera off.
At first I ignored it as a simple glitch. But as the problem became a regular issue over the next week, I started doing some research. First I went to Canon’s website for information. Canon’s step-by-step troubleshooter was not helpful as it simply said the solution for Err 99 is to turn the camera off then on, or to reinstall the battery.
The issue become more troubling when I searched Google for this issue and found that it is a widespread dilemma. Worse, there is little consensus on what the Err 99 problem is.
According to what I have found on the Net, the main cause of the Err 99 problem is dirty contacts between the body and the lens. Most sites recommend cleaning the contacts. I did this with a cloth and cleaner, to no avail.
Today I contacted Canon technical support. The lady on the phone said that I may have damaged my camera by using a non-Canon lens. (I have a Tamron 28-75mm lens in regular use). I marveled at this, since the lens has served it well in the last two years. She suggested I mail the camera in to the service center for a quote.
I said that if third-party lenses really are dangerous for Canon cameras, Canon ought to warn customers that using those lenses is unhealthy for the camera. She said two things that seemed to contradict one another. The first thing she said is that Canon won’t claim that third-party manufacturers are not working properly because that would potentially offend manufacturers that create products that support Canon technology; she then said that Canon warns about using non-Canon lenses in product manuals. She also discounted the remarks from 10D users in web forums; she mentioned the 10D in her support department that has worked flawlessly for a couple years—using Canon lenses of course.
I accepted her explanation and went on my way. But I opened up all my Canon documentation that came with the 10D and I could find no mention of third-party lens dangers in the product manual. The closest thing I could find in the 183-page book was the phrase "It is compatible with all Canon EF lenses.” The only other precautions in the manual that came with my Canon 10D (printed February 2003) regarding lenses is to keep the contacts clean. Regarding "Err 99” the manual simply says, "An error other than the above has occurred. Remove and re-install the battery.”
An associate of Cord Camera, a large photographic retailer in central Ohio, told me over the weekend that I was lucky to have used the camera for over two years flawlessly. He said that the "Err 99” issue is widespread, and that some users have had the problem out-of-the-box. He said, "I think this is an issue that Canon is being very quiet about.”
After more research I found a solution that caught my eye. A few sites I found mentioned that cleaning the contacts ought to be done using a pencil eraser. I found this interesting, since I had only used a cloth.
I vigorously scrubbed the lens contacts with an eraser. Then I gently used the eraser to clean the camera contacts (holding the contacts face-down to prevent eraser rubber from falling into the body). I put the lens back on… and the camera shot a couple hundred frames without an Err 99.
While I have not yet tested the fix in a working environment yet, I am hopeful that this has solved the problem. If I don’t get the Err 99 in the next couple thousand shots, I will close the case.*
I still love the Canon 10D as a wonderful piece of photographic technology. I just wish that Canon would be a little more open and honest about this issue… not to mention stop using the scapegoat of third-party lenses. While there may be some issues with reverse-engineered, third party products, I don’t really buy the third-party argument. Some sites have stated that Sigma is remaking some lenses to be more compatible with Canon Digital SLRs… but Sigma’s website states, "All current production Sigma lenses for Canon autofocus cameras are fully compatible with the new Elan 7, Digital Rebel or EOS 10D camera.” I’m sure Sigma would not make such a bold claim if there were real reasons to believe that Sigma lenses cannot be used on Canon bodies.
I am especially concerned that Canon knows more about this problem but is not sharing it with its faithful consumers. I will remain devoted to Canon for some time… but the company owes some of the same devotion to those who use and promote Canon.
*Update 2005-09-09) : I have now tested the camera out with several thousands of shots and the Err 99 problem has not returned. It has not had a problem since I scrubbed the contacts with a pencil eraser.
*Update (2009-03-18): Since I first cleaned my contacts with an eraser back in 2005, I have not seen the Err 99 issue again. However, I do not use the 10D as much as I used to as it is now a backup camera. I now use the Canon 30D. The 30D that I own has never displayed the Err 99 message since I bought it a few years ago.
*Update (2011-11-08): The Sigma link above no longer contains the quoted information.