iPhone 5 Camera Not Working? A Light Press May Fix It
My iPhone 5 camera completely stopped working recently, and appeared to stay that way despite forced resets, killing camera apps, and every other traditional troubleshooting trick in the book. What do I mean by stopped working? I mean the Camera app loads, but the camera viewfinder shows nothing at all just a black screen, and other apps that’d tap into the iPhone camera also fail to function entirely. Instagram throws an “Error: Error Launching the camera. Please try again.” alert message, while most other apps just show a blank screen.
Because the camera seemed unresponsive to software based intervention like quitting apps and rebooting, I started to suspect a physical hardware problem with the iPhone, perhaps with the actual connection of the camera hardware itself. This is where things get interesting; the iPhone 5 camera hardware on this particular device is a bit loose and can actually be physically depressed slightly by applying some light pressure against it… certainly not normal behavior of a properly functioning piece of hardware, and not what you want your camera to do. But guess what? Pressing against the physical hardware camera actually made the Camera app able to work again, as well as all the other camera apps in iOS. Curious.
The images below demonstrate what the physical rear camera hardware looks like on an iPhone 5 with a camera that is not working. Upon visual inspection it looks normal enough, there is no indication of loose hardware or any issues at all:
But by applying some *very* light pressure against the rear camera, the actual camera hardware depresses into the iPhone 5 enclosure, as shown here (to reiterate the obvious, this is not normal camera behavior, and this should not happen):
Admittedly it’s hard to see in photos, but these before and after pictures show the slight change if you look carefully. And more importantly, the Camera now works again after it was pressed lightly… hmm.
Why does this work? Maybe it reconnects a slightly off connection, who knows, but this is a pretty odd troubleshooting trick, and if you have this problem you should take your iPhone in for professional repairs. Doing this yourself could be risky depending on what’s going on behind the loose camera, so you’ll have to decide if it’s safe on your iPhone, you could easily make things worse. If you are going to try this yourself, it’s hard to overemphasize that light pressure is all that is required when applying a slight press against the camera. Too much pressure could easily break something and make things worse, so don’t do that. For the curious go-getters out there, here are the basic steps to take that worked for me:
- Quit out of any app that can access the iPhone camera – things like Camera, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Afterlight, etc
- Flip the iPhone over and apply very slight pressure against the physical camera hardware using a finger, it may depress slightly indicating this loose camera issue
- Now try to use the Camera app as usual (from lock screen access, or third party app is fine), it should work fine now and take pictures as usual
So, a malfunctioning camera, no camera apps are working, and loose physical camera hardware on the iPhone? That clearly indicates a hardware issue, and whether or not it impacts many iPhone 5 users is not entirely clear.
Wondering if I was alone in this camera failure, and if having a slightly loose piece of hardware is unusual, I discovered that other users on the official Apple Discussion Forums have the exact same problem and discovered the exact same solution of physically pressing against the camera to get it working again (some users report squeezing the Camera from both sides – front and back – worked for them). The cause of this is unknown, however. Perhaps a certain production run of iPhone 5’s are vulnerable to having the camera jiggle loose over time (I’ve owned my since it was released), or perhaps the camera gets loose due to user issues like dropping the iPhone or heavy device usage, this isn’t known, but it’s certainly an interesting observation that a fair amount of users are experiencing the same thing. So, if your iPhone 5 camera seems to stop working entirely out of the blue, basically a total failure of the camera and any apps that try to access the hardware, and you think it’s dead, try this weird press trick out, then either kill all camera apps or restart the phone and try to use the Camera app again… if it works you’re likely impacted by the same issue, whatever the cause.
If you do have this loose camera problem, or just a failing iPhone camera in general, you should try to get the phone looked at by Apple’s official support channels. That means either taking it into an Apple Store and letting a Genius look at it, or if you can somehow afford to go without your iPhone (and camera) for a week or so, you could even mail it in for repair and/or diagnosis. As long as the iPhone is still under warranty they should fix it for free, and Apple sometimes makes exceptions for out of warranty repairs as well, particularly if they think the problem is not cause by abuse or misuse.
If you’ve encountered this problem yourself, and if the weird press trick resolved it, or you took it in for repairs, chime in the comments with your own experience, we’d love to hear from you!