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How I fixed the purple distortion 'can't connect to camera' issue on my 3yr old FP2

This seems to be a known issue, judging from this old post, but as that topic has been closed I just wanted to share my info here.

symptoms of the issue

  1. Main (rear) camera preview shows extreme purple-black distortion w. vertical lines (similar to this distortion, on a laptop camera)
  2. Standard camera app notices something is wrong and stops itself with a ‘can’t connect to camera’ error
  3. Most other camera apps show the same distortion issue*
  4. Rebooting, updating, clearing cache, and other software-based approaches don’t fix the problem.

what solved it
I opened up the phone, completely took out the camera module (unscrewing the 3 screws), cleaned the section of contacts that can only be reached by doing this (using rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab), then screwed the camera module back - making sure it was well-tightened.

In other words, the problem was either:

  1. dirty contacts behind the camera module (they looked clean enough, though).
  2. the camera module not having been screwed on tight (my hypothesis is that 3 years of use and the occasional fall loosened the module just enough to cause problems)

Good to know: The old topic I mentioned above did include posts advising to clean the 3 contacts outside of the camera module, which can be done without removing the module itself. This helped for some people, but didn’t help for me. So if you have this problem, make sure to clean these 3 contacts as well.

Hopes this helps someone with similar issues!

*interestingly, my two QR-code reading banking apps did NOT experience camera problems, which mistakenly led me to assume a driver problem rather than a hardware problem. Which it wasn’t.

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Just to mention: I have been having the same error message on android 9 as much under the betas as under current FPO(O)S sometimes (with different phones and camera modules), although my camera module works flawlessly under other OSes and with other camera apps.
When does this happen exactly? For me it’s when I switch from selfie to rear camera, but not always.
It would be interesting to know whether you still have the same issue after solving your distortion issue.

Coincidentally or not, I had a similar problem today with my 12MP camera after upgrading to Android 9, but only in one of my two FP2s. The original Google camera app would show the black screen with the camera icon forever, and Open Camera would give split screen image with weird colors. Additionally, the task bar flashlight icon would be grayed out, giving no access to the flashlight function. Open Camera could turn the flashlight on though through its own menu.

Like in the past, it looked a lot like a problem of rusty contacts in need of cleaning. The problem is that this time it took me much more than just cleaning to fix it. I tried rubbing alcohol, acetone (be careful, can destroy surfaces), even a dab of WD-40 a few times and it didn’t do it.

Next step was to get a hard pencil eraser and polish the surfaces. Then clean contacts again, apply a blow or two from an air duster, another dab of WD-40, and tighten the screws alternately after positioning the contact pad very carefully, centered and firmly against the contact pins. This time it fixed it.

Since rust never sleeps, it’s possible that contacts are getting closer and closer to the end of their useful life. It’s also clear that even a minimal amount of electrical resistance will impair the camera module, much more severely than it impairs the functioning of the top and bottom modules.

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