By Don Lindich
Week 30, 2018
Q. The lens of my husband’s “action camera” has a scratch right in the middle. The camera is a nice little Panasonic DMC-ZS3. It has a Leica lens that goes down to an effective 25mm wide angle, and this very wide angle is very useful. He is considering having a repair shop replace or repair the lens. Do you have any suggestions as far as repair? Could the glass be buffed or would that destroy all the optics/quality? I do know that the lens makes the camera, not the “features”.
-A.N., Minneapolis, MN
A. Your 2009-vintage Panasonic DMC-ZS3 is indeed a nice little camera. I used one of its predecessors as a pocket camera when I was in Japan in 2008, and it provided many clear, sharp and colorful images. Even today it is a viable camera if you need something pocketable with a big zoom range.
Having the camera professionally repaired is not practical. Even if parts are available (and I suspect they are not, given the age of the camera) the cost would be much more than the value of the camera itself. It may be possible to buff or polish the lens to minimize the effects of the scratch, but again, I do not think it warrants professional attention. There are small steps you can take yourself, which I will discuss before giving my final recommendation.
Most pro photographers know that small marks and scratches on the front of a lens often do not have a visible effect on the images. When they do, it is usually because the defects are on the back lens element (for interchangeable lens cameras) or the lens is a wide angle. The longer the focal length of a lens (high numbers, or zooming in closer) the less likely the smudges or scratches will affect the images. Given your camera has a very wide angle there is a good chance you will see defects in the images at the wider settings.
There are home remedies you can try to fix or reduce the problem. An old trick is to use a fine-line black marker to fill in the scratch. This will reduce light scatter caused by the scratch. This is where I would start.
Given your husband’s fondness for the camera, I suggest you replace it with a used one. KEH camera specializes in used equipment and you can get a used DMC-ZS3 there for only $69, including a battery and charger. You can use the battery and charger from the old camera with it, so your investment in the second camera will go a bit farther.
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