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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > iPhone, iPad & iPod > iPhone Camera Fuzziness...

iPhone Camera Fuzziness...
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harbinger75
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Feb 17, 2008, 03:52 PM
 
Has anybody experienced permanent camera fuzziness after having their iPhone for a while? I've had two iPhones now, and both have done the same thing.

After I've had them for a couple of months, I have noticed a bit of a "discoloration" on the lens. I'm not sure how to explain it, but you can see it when the lens is at the right angle in the right light. I can't seem to clean off the lens, and as a result, my pictures are fuzzy (which they weren't when I first bought both iPhones).

Here's an example:



Notice how all the lights, etc., are fuzzy?

Is there a safe way to clean off the lens? These aren't scratches, so I'm not quite sure what to do about them to restore the functionality of the camera...

Any help is greatly appreciated.

I managed to get a decent shot of what I'm talking about:

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CorpITGuy
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Feb 17, 2008, 04:01 PM
 
My iPhone has always done a lousy job in bright artificial light (or low light, for that matter).

That having been said, your second picture concerns me. That looks like either a scratch or some sort of gunk on your lens. My wife and I carry iPhones and I have two friends I see all the time whose phones are not doing that.

I use regular laptop screen cleaner and one of those smooth cloths for that purpose. Might give that a try.
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harbinger75  (op)
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Feb 17, 2008, 04:08 PM
 
I appreciate your help.

I'm just simply astounded that this has happened to two iPhones in a row, and I NEVER, EVER have it in my pocket with any other objects, nor anywhere else without it being in one of three cases. I pretty much treat this phone like a baby, and nothing has been allowed to scratch the front or the back.

Simply astounded, that's all. I can't figure this one out.
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rajid
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May 10, 2008, 02:45 PM
 
I registered with MacNN just to reply to this message. This is the only mention I can find on the net of someone who seems to have the same problem as I have. I bought an iPhone almost a year ago and I don't remember whether the camera seemed fine at first or not, but it's definitely NOT fine now. I bought another iPhone for my wife a few months ago, so I can compare the two cameras side by side, directly. There's clearly a difference. My camera seems a little over exposed and is definitely not focused correctly. Everything is fuzzy, like I'm using a soft focus lens filter all of the time. Her camera seems just fine, relatively sharp. As a comparison, you can see the difference here:

<http://98.173.25.219/iphone_comparison/>

I don't have the first idea of what could be causing this!
     
f1000
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May 10, 2008, 07:19 PM
 
I theorize that the area behind the lens isn't hermetically sealed, so the fuzziness is a result of sweat entering that area. Pants pockets can get very humid. If you don't believe me, try putting a small mirror in your front pocket for an hour or so and then take it out; it'll be covered in condensation.

If my theory is correct, then the only solution to your problem, unfortunately, is to open up the iPhone and clean the lens element.
     
imitchellg5
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May 10, 2008, 08:08 PM
 
It's either f1000's idea or what happened to my last RAZR. With my RAZR dust slowly got behind the camera lens making pictures appear fuzzy like what the OP is describing.
     
rajid
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May 13, 2008, 02:33 AM
 
Interesting idea! If it's sunny and warm tomorrow, I'll leave my iPhone in the sun and maybe it'll dry out inside. Thanks for the idea. At least it's some place to start!
     
f1000
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May 13, 2008, 02:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by rajid View Post
Interesting idea! If it's sunny and warm tomorrow, I'll leave my iPhone in the sun and maybe it'll dry out inside.
Condensation and electrostatic forces probably drew oily dust particles to the underside of the lens. Baking the iPhone in sunlight will only serve to promote further physical/chemical adhesion of said oils and particles to the underside of the lens, making the lens tougher to clean.

Just keep the iPhone away from your body for awhile to see if the lens will clear up. Unfortunately, I doubt that it will because body oils and dust, if present, aren't going to just evaporate.

Also, it's not a good idea to point a camera lens at the sun. Concentrated sunlight can do very bad things to a CCD.
     
rajid
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May 13, 2008, 06:14 PM
 
Good points! I looked a few different instructions on how to open up an iphone and given the correct tool, it doesn't look too hard. I have now ordered one of the "Case opener tools" from PDAparts.com, after having watched them use it to open an iphone on youtube. We'll see how it goes cleaning the camera lens inside and out, once the tools arrives.
     
rajid
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May 16, 2008, 07:34 PM
 
Let me followup on this story...

My case opener tool arrived, I opened up my iphone (carefully!), cleaned the lens on the inside and outside. Looking at the lens, it appears to be a multipart thing; having one lens on the inside and another on the outside. It appears to be glued together, however, and I couldn't get it apart to clean the inside of it, so I left it. After carefully cleaning the lens as much as I could, I could still see fuzziness just looking through it.

Searching more on the net I found a LOT of mentions of the "AR" coating on the lens getting messed up over time, rubbing off partially, getting scratched, etc. FInally, I became convinced that this is most likely what I'm seeing and is probably the source of anyone else's problems with increased fuzziness over time. Looking back at some of my first pictures, they seem fine. It looks as though it just got fuzzy over a period of time. Do some google searches on "iphone lens AR coating" or some such, and you'll find lots of references to the anti-reflective coating on the lens sometimes rubbing off in places. People even say that when they try to clean it, the spots just get bigger! Many people refer to ways to simply remove the coating completely and say that this restores the camera to working fine again.

I finally put my iphone back together and used a q-tip with alcohol to clean it over and over again, in hopes of removing the AR coating. I figured I may as well, since the camera wasn't very usable as it was anyway! It does seem better, although it's still not as good as my wife's newer iphone. I'll probably continue to try cleaning the lens on the outside and see if it gets better. I just wanted to let people know that this is definitely a "known issue" and seems to have to do with the AR coating.
     
fesdds
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May 16, 2008, 07:49 PM
 
After taking a look at rajid's pics I must say that is a striking difference. I keep my iPhone in my pocket and my pics look like his fuzzy one and have always looked that way. I didn't realize how good the pics can look with an iPhone. I never took pics the first couple of months, so I missed the window when it worked well. I just thought pics from phones were always bad.
     
f1000
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May 18, 2008, 08:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by rajid View Post
Searching more on the net I found a LOT of mentions of the "AR" coating on the lens getting messed up over time, rubbing off partially, getting scratched, etc.
Yes, this was the other, more disappointing possibility. I figured that Apple wouldn't bother using a soft-AR coating knowing that people would be putting these things directly into their pockets without putting a protective cap over the lens, but I guess I figured wrong. Ridiculous...
     
rajid
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May 18, 2008, 11:20 PM
 
I just wanted to post a quick reply to warn others. Don't use acetone! I was looking for something a little stronger than alcohol to clean off all of the AR coating. I tried my wife's nail polish remover and that seemed to be better. Of course, it doesn't have a lot of acetone but it, but it has some. When I found the hardest part to clean was close to the edge, I switched to real acetone. Yes, I ignored the "may soften or damage plastics," because the lens was already fuzzy, and if it made things worse, I just didn't care. Well, my lens now has little bubbles all over it.

I see that a few places sell replacement backs and even replacement cameras. I'm going to see if I can find a place which may sell a replacement lens. If not, I'll just purchase a new replacement back, as long as it includes the lens.

Just wanted to let others know what NOT to do.
     
rajid
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May 19, 2008, 09:36 PM
 
I have purchased a supposed replacement "camera lens cover" (some places call this a camera lens but in reality the camera is self-contained and this is really just a camera lens cover to protect the camera - I was able to take a picture with just the camera and with the back off). It should arrive tomorrow afternoon/evening (US Pacific time), so I'll report more when it arrives. If it turns out to be the part which quite a few people are actually seeking, I'll report where you can purchase it, etc.
     
rajid
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May 20, 2008, 06:52 PM
 
Ok, the camera lens I purchased:
<http://www.etechparts.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=822%2D4025>
arrived, and it was exactly the part I needed!

This is an exact replacement for the iPhone camera lens (sometimes called the "iPhone camera lens cover", because the iPhone's camera has a built-in lens and this is actually just a [somewhat] clear cover to protect it from the outside world). It comes without the little silver bezel around it, so you need to carefully lift the bezel off of your existing lens and place it on this one. I also carefully lifted the small circle of double-sided tape which adheres the lens to the metal phone back, and placed it on this new lens. After that, it was fairly simple to just put the phone back together and you're good as new!

I must say, since my lens had been completely destroyed by using acetone (it *is* a plastic lens, definitely), this new lens was a great improvement. The new lens also has a slight bluish cast which makes it appear to have the same AR coating as the original. I do notice, however, that even with the back of my phone completely off, my camera still doesn't take as clear of pictures as my wife's iPhone does! So, maybe the small camera needs to be cleaned, but that would be harder since the lens for that is basically part of the camera itself and it buried deep inside the little unit. Yes, I could replace the camera for about $30 (I've seen one for $15), but it's just not worth it to me with the new iPhone coming out in less than a month. (I use my small Garmin GPS a lot so I'd be kinda interested in an iPhone with a built-in GPS. I don't really care about the 3G that much since I'm usually in range of WiFi.)

To sum up (at last!), if your camera lens is really messed up and you want to simply replace it with a new lens, the above URL seems like the only place to go currently.

Oh, let me also mention that since my previous lens was completely crap now, I decided to see it is, indeed, two elements. Looking at it from the front and back, it looks as though maybe it is, but it's not. It's just a thick piece of plastic. If you've cleaned both sides, that's as good as it's going to get!

I think I'm done with this thread now. I hope all of this information helps someone else! I know there have been a lot of questions about this lens, how to clean it, where to find a replacement, etc., on a lot of forums.

Thanks for being a lot of help everyone!
     
laeditor
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Jun 3, 2008, 02:36 PM
 
I also just registered with this forum to reply to this topic. I have been experiencing the exact problems stated here, and plan on purchasing a replacement.

Thanks for your posts, rajid, et. al.
     
f1000
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Jun 3, 2008, 10:54 PM
 
Thanks to rajid for making this a great thread. I hope Apple doesn't use a plastic window for the camera of the next iPhone. I know that diamond*-coated polycarbonate exists, but I don't know whether such a material can be used for a pocketable cell-phone camera window. A sapphire element would seem the way to go.

*Actually, diamond-like carbon.
     
traildog
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Jul 2, 2008, 02:14 PM
 
I too registered with this forum just to reply to this thread. I have the same problem with the AR coating on my iPhone and corresponding degradation of image quality.

Has anybody found an iPhone case that covers the lens, maybe with a clear section? My Case-Mate leather flip case has been super, but does leave the corner with the camera lens cover completely exposed. Everything I could find on-line had an opening for the camera, but nothing covering (read protecting) the lens cover. An opening is convienent, but will allow dirt and grime to build up on the lens cover, which will then require cleaning (and rubbing), which will likely destroy the AR coating.

Here's what I've done about my issue.

I called Apple Care, then opted to make an appointment with the Genius Bar at the nearest Apple Store (5 hour drive one-way) so that I would not be without my iPhone. I then called the store to be sure they had iPhones for exchange, should they decide to do so. After describing the trouble with the AR coating, the Genius put me on hold while he spoke with the technicians. When he came back he told me they see this a lot. They don't replace the phone, but take it in the back and polish away the remaining AR coating with something called iClear. Apparently this is similar to a good quality cleaner sold for eyeglasses, and is used to clean computer monitors.

I thanked him for saving me a 10 hour drive (and related gasoline expense), and tried to polish the AR coating off of my iPhone using our special eyeglass cleaner. The AR coating would not come away completely, especially around the edges. The pictures are a touch better, but still unusable if there is any bright light in the image such as a window, light, or reflection.

So I called Apple Care again, and although I'm loathe to be without my little friend, will send my iPhone out for repair next week. Crossing my fingers that they will repair or replace it. Otherwise, I will be doing it myself. Many thanks to rajid for the link to etechparts.com and for the detailed descriptions.
( Last edited by traildog; Jul 2, 2008 at 02:19 PM. Reason: Added words for clarity.)

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salvadorvera
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Jul 30, 2008, 04:38 PM
 
USE GOO GONE and the Qtip technique is safer for the lens and faster
     
   
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