iPhone 5 Camera Not Working? A Light Press May Fix It

Jun 22, 2014 - 11 Comments

iPhone Camera not working randomly 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:

iPhone 5 camera not working possible fix by pressing

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):

Fix a not working iPhone 5 camera with a light press

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.

iPhone 5 camera loose causing malfunction

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:

  1. Quit out of any app that can access the iPhone camera – things like Camera, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Afterlight, etc
  2. 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
  3. 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!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

11 Comments

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  1. AJ says:

    This is clearly a hardware malfunction that needs to be repaired or swapped out. The fact that many iPhone users on that Discussion board thread have experienced the same problem is suspicious, indicating a hardware flaw.

    You may recall that some early iPhone 5 models also had loose batteries that would jiggle around in the iPhone enclosure and make noise… so it would not surprise me if a camera was also loose on some models. Millions of these things get produced, a few thousand will surely have flaws.

    http://gizmodo.com/5945818/what-is-the-weird-rattle-in-these-brand-new-iphone-5s

    I would say call Apple, but sending an iPhone in for repair is a major inconvenience as very few of us can go without having a phone for a few hours, let alone days or longer. For those who are not near Apple Store locations, this is a tough one to resolve… maybe just upgrade when the new model comes out…

  2. Chris Cheng says:

    Yea that’s not normal. Take it for repair. Should not move at all

  3. Will Chao says:

    This happened to me but I just took it to apple store and they replaced it for free

  4. InTheory says:

    I notice the finish isn’t in the best of shape. Has this phone been dropped often? What about the phones of the others reporting this problem? Did any keep their phones in protective cases?

    • Paul says:

      Yes the iPhone here has had heavy use, with occasional drops that are probably in the level of normal wear and tear. That could be a factor, certainly.

  5. Agneta says:

    At this occasion I would like to mention another hardware problem I have encountered: the vibration just stopped working.
    Solution: shake your iPhone for a while vigorously!!!

  6. Joseph says:

    I have the same experience before, I have tired to install Sys-Activity to release the memory, and reset the iphone 5 to system default few time. After that the Iphone5 camera can only success to work few times and go back to same symptom. Finally, I need to carry my iphone to my service provider. Lucky my iphone’s warranty is not yet expiry, so my service provider replace a new iphone to me and it is working fine up to now. If your iphone is still under warranty, don’t wait to carry it to your service provider.

  7. Elaine says:

    I have to wonder if the author of this article kept his iPhone 5 in a protective case? These tech devices are very sensitive to being dropped or used hard (stuffed in a purse, being sat on when put in a back pocket, thrown down on a desk, etc.), and a protective case really helps. I have mine in an Otter case. When I first purchased my iPhone 3G, I put it in a rather bulky protective case (Otter). My kids referred to it as my “bumper phone” (reference to bumper cars). However, almost the first day I bought it, I dropped it, and it was just fine. Now I have a iPhone 5, but with a nice protective case that isn’t quite so bulky, but still protective. That should really be your first line of defense against a malfunctioning iPhone – a protective case.

    • Paul says:

      For the first 5 months of use the iPhone had no case, since then it has been in a fairly slim case which has definitely saved it from damage during some tumbles (there’s a small chip in the case corner due to a fall, for example). Generally I’d consider the usage heavy but in the realm of normal wear and tear for an iPhone that gets carried every day and used as a primary camera, there’s no chips in the glass and there aren’t many scuffs on the device. One of my friends recently remarked that it’s actually in remarkably good shape given the age, at least compared to his iPhone 5 which has a cracked screen and a variety of dings and dents.

      But yes I tend to agree for some iPhone models a case can make a substantial difference in defending the phone.

  8. Daniel says:

    I have the exact same problem with my 5s and went to the genius(not so much) bar and they told me that i need to kill the background apps and reboot the phone every time i want to use the camera.
    What a brilliant solution!!

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