I acquired one of the Panasonic Lumix cameras last year, prior to our Big Island adventure, and it has been a great little camera. But shortly into the Southwest trip, I noticed some persistent dots and lines in the viewfinder and images. It looked like dust or tiny threads had gotten into the lens somehow. The Southwest is a photogenic place, and so this was more than a little disappointing. I ended up taking pictures with the dots and lines either mixed in with backgrounds that helped obscure them, or just framed the image so that I could easily crop or clone the fuzzy dots and lines out of the picture. When I got home, I started looking into this problem online, and discovered that I am not alone; the design of the Lumix lends itself to this problem – the lens telescopes out a bit when you turn the camera on, and that creates a little vacuum that will pull in any dust, pollen, or other tiny debris that might be on the lens housing, and this can adhere to the infrared filter and CCD sensor. The first few notes I read were from people who had tried to contact Panasonic for help (not covered under warranty) or had sent the cameras back to the factory for service (time consuming and expensive). Then I found a link to a YouTube video by a British chap who shows you how to fix the problem yourself. You need a tiny screwdriver and some patience and attention to detail, but it looked something I could tackle. Granted, I would be voiding my warranty by opening the camera, and there was some risk that I would render it inoperable, but I went ahead with it anyway. And it worked! Once I got all the way into the camera and looked at the IR filter, I could see the little thread that was wrecking my pictures. I cleaned that off and took care of some other less ruinous dust spots, and put it all back together. Good as new.
Here’s an example of how that little thread was ruining everything.