THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION- DID REPLACING MY MAINBOARD FIX MY CAMERA
I get emailed this question all the time
The short answer is no but I fixed my camera with more parts.
I ordered the memory card and rear LCD parts and did those replacements (parts are listed at the bottom of the post) and my camera has been working perfectly since April 2017, so 2 full years now. I use it for commercial photography as well as my personal projects and have never had 1 single issue with my Sony A7r since the repairs. Replacing the mainboard left my camera in the exact same state it was before the replacement and you can see that state at the start of my video. So, I knew the mainboard I purchased was legit as it was turning on and I could take photos through my EVF and thats why I went further in my hunt to discover what the issue was and I am glad I did because I saved a $2,400 camera with about $300 worth of parts.
BACKSTORY FOR MY SONY A7R
In this blog I go through the pain of having to replace a Mainboard on my Sony A7r.
The camera is 3 years old now so there was no warranty on the camera, but you’d expect it to last longer than this! A photographer friend of mine owns many many cameras from the classics to the latest, including a Sony A7r ii, and he considers modern cameras to be throw away cameras that have a short used by date.
What went wrong with my camera? Well these issues all came about for no reason at all and just happened all of a sudden!
- Firstly the memory card light was playing up and was constantly on (little red light at SD card slot door)
- Then it couldn’t read the memory card at all, which meant it couldn’t save a photo after taking it. The camera could take photos and you could review that 1 photo in the buffer but not save it.
- Finally the rear LCD stopped working as well!
The camera was still working though inside the viewfinder, I could see in the electronic viewfinder and I could navigate in menus and take photos. There was/is an error message inside the viewfinder across the top saying “NO CARD“.
So, I took into a camera repair store in Sydney and they took a quick look at it and could see that everything like autofocus and lenses were working except for all the issues I stated above. The store had a backlog of work and wouldn’t be able to get to take a proper look inside for at least a month!!! He said that it looked like it needed a new mainboard replacement and this was a part that costs around $800 minimum. So, he recommended a camera repair store around the corner for me so I could get a proper diagnosis done quicker.
At the second store the repair guy took the camera and each week I would call up and ask what the diagnosis is. He told me had 4 sony A7r’s in the store all with different problems and all giving him troubles. He did tests and ordered transistors from hong kong to help give a proper diagnosis. After about 3-4 weeks he came to the conclusion that it most likely needed a mainboard, which was what I’d expected as this is what the first guy had predicted. BUT he said he couldn’t guarantee that the new mainboard would fix the problem, this was only what was worth trying out to fix it. Cost for parts and labour was going to be around $900, so pretty much $1k.
I had to decide if I would pull the trigger on a $1,000 repair or not. The problem for me is that this was nearing the value of a used Sony A7R and the repair guy agreed that it was a big risk for such a high % of the value of the camera.
In the end I took my camera home, very sad… to think about it and try to figure out what to do next. I scoured the internet looking for solutions and found very little at all! In fact it almost seems like the information on repairing the Sony A7r didn’t exist at all. There was a tear down and someone had posted images on how to replace an A7r LCD screen in a forum, but that was it! When I dug deeper I started to find that many Sony users had had issues with their cameras and usually Sony just replaced the cameras under warranty instead of doing repairs.
We are now coming into that time, 3 years after its release, that many more cameras will start to breakdown and it will be interesting to see what plan of action Sony and the photographers take.
TOOLS NEEDED TO REPLACE MAINBOARD
The Sony A7r Mainboard can be purchased a very affordable price. He can ship globally for you and there are 4 shipping options including free shipping. I went with Express DHL though 🙂
I used this 45 in 1 kit of tools when I replaced my Sony A7r Mainboard. Pretty handy for other repairs as well and has a valuable set of tweezers included.
If you wish to replace anything like the top unit, SD card slot or camera main sensor unit you will need a longer cross head driver to continue taking the camera apart. This is not needed for mainboard replacement though.
SONY A7R MAINBOARD REPLACEMENT
I decided to not spend $1k to get a (possible) fix for the camera and do the repair myself!!! I was nervous and excited! I ordered myself a new mainboard for $220 express post and eagerly awaited it in the mail. In retrospect, given all the information and the situation I was in I’m glad I did this, as I saved myself $800!
After doing the replacement of the mainboard myself, I can safely say that the job isn’t too difficult if you have steady hands and follow my steps. In this video I was having to work it out as I go based on very little information so it was kind of like a very technical rubik’s cube and now that I’ve done it a few times I am much more confident in doing the replacement.
Outcome: For me the repair didn’t work as you will see in the video, but I know that the new mainboard is working because I was able to get all the same functionality inside the electronic viewfinder. When I turned the camera on the language was in chinese as this the origin of the country I ordered the new mainboard from. But through an online manual I have been able to switch the menu language to English 🙂
Video is 1 hour long!
*For Fullscreen click pop-out in top right of video
ISSUES WITH SONY
Here’s an issue with Sony repair- They don’t have dedicated repair stores like Nikon and Canon. In the past when I used the Nikon D800 system I had dealings with Nikon repair centers and the service and facilities are exceptional. Sony really needs to address this issue as their current system sends you to affiliated camera repair center.
Also, after opening up the A7r, I found that the weather sealing is non existent! I’ve seen inside the D800 and 5d mark III and the weather sealing in those DSLR’s is much better suited for a landscape camera. I used my D800 in the rain a few times and never had an issue with the camera, but after seeing inside the Sony A7r I’d be worried about even using it near the ocean to shoot seascapes. They’re great cameras but offer no weather sealing at all.
On the Sony site, it originally had indicated that the camera was weather proof. Many photographers took this to mean that they could use it like the bigger DSLR’s and were shooting in wet conditions. Often they would get water damage and Sony would deny that the cameras were meant to be weather sealed etc. and a lot of users were left without a camera repair or solution.
Photographers like Matt Granger, that Nikon guy who became just Matt Granger!, switched all his cameras and lenses to Sony. And now after having to deal with all the faulty cameras and terrible Sony service centers have left Sony behind and are switching back to Canon and Nikon.
For me, I am undecided what to do. I LOVE these small mirrorless options compared to the large DSLR’s. I hope to fix my A7r and continue on being a Sony shooter, but only time will tell. I may end up heading towards the Fuji mirrorless systems as I have heard great things about the cameras and the company service to their customers.
If you know your camera needs a new mainboard and you want to save a lot of money, you can do the repair yourself. It is risky! But if you were left in a situation like myself where the risk is too high because you’ve been told the $1,000 repair may not even fix your camera then it’s good to know that this is an option.
There was no soldering or anything like that in the repair. There were a few fiddly sections that require you to have a steady hand and not to break any connectors or cables. But other than that, the camera is much like a computer and has a similar makeup.
The camera has zero weather sealing! So don’t use yours in the rain or wet conditions. I didn’t use mine in the rain, and this wasn’t the cause of the errors, but I strongly suggest you don’t after seeing inside an A7r.
Would I do it again? yes, is my short answer. I wasn’t taking the risk with anyone else’s camera except my own property and I’ve always loved electronics and how things work so the whole process was thrilling and educational.
I have decided to make one last attempt at fixing the A7r and have ordered the parts that are involved with the LCD and SD memory card slot. After spending time studying the insides of the camera I’ve began to understand its makeup a lot more. As stated in the video the mainboard replacement didn’t solve my problem, so I am going to replace these parts as well, total cost for parts was $210 AUS-
- LCD Screen replacement
- LCD Display Driver Board
- LCD Flex Cable
- SD Card Slot Board
- SD Card Cable
- SD Flex indicator light
Since I saved so much money on the mainboard replacement then trying to fix the memory card and LCD by replacing these parts is worth a try! If this fails I am officially looking for a new camera! I may end up filming the replacement of these parts as well, so stayed tuned! I actually already took all these parts out! ordered the new ones and am waiting for them in the post!
If you have any questions about the repair I will do my best to help you, but I am a photographer not a repair man!
Hope you enjoyed this and it was helpful.