AE-1 Program drains batteries! Has anyone heard of this happening?

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by HexInverter, Apr 2, 2011.

  1. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Hey guys. First poster here! I've just recently picked up an AE-1 P from my mom who was the original owner in the 80's. The camera works pretty nicely other than having the squeaky shutter release, which I plan to fix once I've located a suitable syringe for oiling it.

    My problem is that I bought a brand new Eveready 6V battery for it before shooting anything. The original battery was still in there (eep...) so I naturally had to clean up the compartment a bit before installing the new one to make sure the contacts were functioning. The battery was $15! Yikes. This was about a week ago. I have since shot maybe 2 rolls of film, and the battery is dying now!!! The manual says it should last about a year, and my Mom recalled one battery lasting her 3 years once...so this cannot be right!

    I am hoping someone on here has a known solution or possible cause for this. Could it be the squeaky shutter draining whatever electronic mechanism actuates it?

    I am an electronics hobbyist on the side, so I have tested the battery to see that it is in fact dying and not a battery contact issue or anything. It tests way below healthy voltage at about 5.7V, and drops to under 5.6 under load, so it is definitely dying (Alkalines start quite a bit above their actual rated voltages, sag to and stay at their rated voltage for their rated lifetime, and then taper off at the end)

    I also have precision tools and the careful eye to be able to do the repair myself, if someone could point me in the right direction that has heard of this happening before. Everything else on the camera works fantastic, so what could be drawing excessive current to make the battery die so fast?

    Thanks for any help! I guess I'm going to have to keep feeding the sucker batteries until I can solve this problem :sad:

    PS: If anyone has a PDF copy of the repair manual for this camera I would be forever in your debt. :cool: I cannot seem to find a free copy on the net!
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    You should be able to find the batteries for much cheaper than $15.

    Are you making sure you turn the camera of when you are done shooting? And are you keeping a lens cap on it when not in use?
     
  3. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Hi! Wow. Fast response :smile: Quite the nice community here.

    Yes, and yes! I did forget to turn it off overnight once but it was not disturbed at all (no buttons pressed) - surely it couldn't have drained entirely in that short of a time? Lens cap - definitely. Have not at all forgot that.

    This reeks of a short somewhere or something. I use TTL/CMOS circuitry all the time in my electronic designs and they draw very little standby current. Definitely not enough to drain a 100mah cell overnight, and it worked fine for a roll after that!

    Yeah, I could have found a cheaper battery but bought it out of convenience! haha.
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    My next guess would be that the compartment is maybe not clean enough, or there has been some leakage of battery goo into other parts of the camera, perhaps.

    The sad fact is that these are $25 to $50 cameras nowadays. It is hardly ever worth paying someone to repair them. I got two of them, with a 50mm f/1.8 lens on each, for $40 one time. I couldn't pass it up. I just gave them away as gifts.
     
  5. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    *Checks eBay* oh...so they are.

    I thought they'd be closer to $100. Guess not...

    In any case, I am one of those types that likes fixing things. I just did a current draw test with my multimeter and measured a current draw of .9uA when left on the "A" position. I don't think that would be enough to kill it overnight would it?

    When shutter is on and it's metering, I have a current draw of approximately 30mA. Seems nominal. Hmmm....
     
  6. ath

    ath Member

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    I have no experience with the AE-1P but your current values sound reasonable. Check the current consumption when the camera is switched off as well.
    Maybe you just got an old battery?
     
  7. Pgeobc

    Pgeobc Member

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    It is very likely that your battery was very old when you got it. I have that problem, occasionally. Retailers stock odd/expensive batteries and they just sit there for years, sometimes. Then a customer comes along and gets very poor use out of them. Try an on-line battery source, first.

    Another matter is that many of they old Canon cameras took Mercury batteries, and the battery that you bought might not have as much capacity. I can't tell, because you did not state the battery type. If it did take a Mercury battery and you used a Zinc-Air battery to replace it (a very logical thing to do), you can expect very short battery life.
     
  8. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Couple things; I just picked up a batter for my AE-1P for about $8 at a batteries plus, and I did in fact pay someone $45 to fix mine. I think they can be worth fixing, so then you know what you've got.

    Also, I've never really made a habit out of "turning it off", which I assume means putting it on the L setting. I think the 'lock' setting is really only to avoid accidental exposure, and has nothing to do with the battery. Afterall, it doesn't meter until you hold down the shutter button half-way.

    That's how I've always understood it, and I've never had any problems with excessive battery use.

    Andrew K, a member here, is very knowledgeable about Canons and might be able to give you some good starting places.
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You are probably right about the switch and the meter; the camera doesn't give you an f stop until you touch the shutter release, so probably isn't draining the battery until then. But it is just a bit of good "general" practice that came to mind, storing with a lens cap on in case you have left the meter on.

    And $45 is cheap to have a camera fixed. I'd say that is worth spending on an AE-1P.
     
  10. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Thanks for all of the awesome responses! Hopefully Andrew K or another Canon expert will chime in :D

    These are all things I have considered...hmm, it was a high grade Alkaline battery - the ultra high capacity kind.

    I just picked up a Duracell one and will be closely monitoring it. Yes, I know that I can get batteries cheaper online - I just don't want to wait :whistling: Also it's worth mentioning that I am in Canada - everything is more expensive here (despite the dollar difference) - so at a chain retail establishment it's highly uncommon to find photo batteries for less than $12 or so...maybe $9, but I'm not going to go to a bunch of different places to save a couple dollars :tongue:

    Yeah, my current measurements seem pretty reasonable. I tested it in every mode as well as switched to off and it seems okay.

    Hopefully it was just a dud battery!

    And yes, I do consider it worthwhile to fix this camera - it has been kept in near mint condition aside from the old owner trying to take the battery out. If I buy another one used I'm sure it would have problems of it's own! :cool:

    Thanks for all the ideas guys. Let me know if anything else comes to mind, and I will report back with my findings with this new battery (getting ready for a shoot as I speak)
     
  11. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Well, I haven't even left yet. I popped in the brand new battery after taking a voltage measurement of 6.894V. I pushed in the battery test button and it beeped nominally for a few seconds, and then started beeping slowly indicating a dying battery again!!! :sad:

    So, I let it sit for another minute and then pulled the battery out and voltage tested it again - 6.3V! Yikes. There is DEFINITELY a short happening. The shutter and meter work as intended, aperture ring is functioning correctly when taking an exposure...

    So now, it's time to locate what's wrong with it. At first I thought it could be that the battery sensor is messed in the camera, but the fact that I read a plummeting battery voltage from the multimeter is a sure sign that it's abnormally consuming battery power.

    Any ideas of where I should start looking for shorts?

    That repair manual would be greatly appreciated if anyone has it around in PDF or image form!!!

    Thanks!
     
  12. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    Or you could just take the battery out when you aren't using it.
     
  13. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Yes! I am doing that for now :smile:

    Unfortunately it was no more than 30 seconds it spent in there and the voltage plummeted .5V! That is insane. It will be dead by the end of the shoot tonight probably, even if I don't put it in the camera until I start shooting and take it out right after...
     
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  15. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    That sounds like more of a problem than the camera just staying on! Did you check how much it draws again?
     
  16. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Very weird. It doesn't seem like it's shorting: 27mA turned on with shutter metering, 1.2uA when turned on and doing nothing, 0.00uA when turned off.

    But, after 2 minutes of testing my battery voltage is down to 6.03V...down another .3V from the last reading.

    :unsure:
     
  17. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I think the place to start then is to replace the battery with one not identical to the one in it. That is, different manufacturer, different type, etc. I remember I had a camera which took the 6V battery that did poorly with alkaline, but well with lithium. I used to have an AE-1 Program, so it might have been that one, but I don't remember. I never had any problems with a silver oxide battery in any camera.
     
  18. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Are you sure you clean the battery compartment good? Maybe use a little rubbing alcohol.

    Jeff
     
  19. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Tried the different battery. This one was a different type than the first one :sad:

    This must have been something that developed after originally pulling it out of storage, seeing as how it's draining so rapidly now. Come to think of it, it was fine for maybe a week of using pretty much daily for brief periods, then suddenly after first using the power winder and cleaning the mirror it started draining batteries.

    I'm thinking that the mechanical interface from using the power winder for the first time in ages set something loose that is now shorting out. I think popping the bottom off and taking a look might be a good idea.

    Yes, the battery compartment is spotless! I cleaned it with rubbing alcohol already to see if it would help.
     
  20. ath

    ath Member

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    How big is the current during battery check?
    edit: don't the batteries in Canada have an expiry date on them?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2011
  21. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Have you removed the winder to test the camera?
    Access to the main switch is through the top cover. The cover around the lens mount is removed first.The back light switch is under this too.
    If you do this set the Iso to 100 and shutter speed to B. This is only reference for reassembly so all the woodjies line up.Remove the RW knob & Iso dial. It's pretty straight forward.
    On the wind side of the camera, wind lever, washers(keep in order) misc stuff. 5(?) screws and cover will lift off but there's a wire soldered to the hot shoe.
    The Lock position is actually a mechanical block to keep the meter from inadvertently turned on
    'That should give you access to the entire top section of the main board and switches.
    On occasion the main switch stack will be defective, it's a stack of contacts and insulators near the front of the camera and the insulators become defective.
     
  22. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Yes! Canada does have expiry dates on batteries :D

    Both of the batteries I bought check out according to the expiry dates. 2015 or something for each of them. I have no doubt in my mind that there is a problem with the camera. It was not a bad battery to begin with...

    That is a good question on the battery check current draw!!! I did not think of that.

    Okay, measured it with both the camera in "A" and "L" mode with the battery test button depressed. When in L (off) mode, there is no current draw as expected - in A (on) mode, it draws 57mA of current. That's almost double what it draws when metering. That seems like a nominal current draw to me though, no? I really have nothing to compare it to. I would think a short would show ~250mA (which is what the battery alone and shorted tests as).

    @ John - thank you for that information. Now we're getting somewhere! I am going to follow your guide and pull it apart tomorrow after school if I can't think of anything else before then.

    Again, thanks for all the responses guys. Your advice is greatly appreciated!
     
  23. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Okay! Missed your query the first time somehow. Yes, I did test it with the winder off, as well as on...same readings.

    So, I have started to take the camera apart as you described. I am stuck with the rewind lever though - how does the very top come off the rod? I figured how to take the clip off to release the ISO control, but the top winder/lever part I cannot seem to figure out how to remove. I've fiddled with it a bit but don't want to bugger it up too badly...
     
  24. HexInverter

    HexInverter Member

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    Okay...I'm in now! 'Figured out how to get the lever off. The main switch appears to be in tact and functioning correctly.

    What else should I be looking for? Man is it ever a crammed design! Holy moley.

    I can't visibly spot anything that would indicate a short or other malfunctioning. Some ideas would be grand! Thanks!
     
  25. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I'll see if I can find some information on current draw for you, some old natcam manuals lying around = )
     
  26. Pavel_Urusov

    Pavel_Urusov Member

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    This is a known problem... My Canon A-1 was draining batteries really fast until I cleaned the contacts and insulators around battery check button/finder LED switch. AE-1P doesn't have finder LED switch, but I think battery check button is worth looking at.