Solution: “Stuck” Canon Flash Problem

The built-in flash on my Canon 40d has not been cooperative lately. It refused to pop open and play. Ordinarily, this isn’t a problem, as I use my Speedlite most of the time. But alas, the one time I needed it, it refused to open. I’m writing this post so that anyone else searching for this same problem can get the flash working again.

The symptoms of my problem:

  • Pressing the flash open button wouldn’t open the flash.
  • Putting the camera in any of the basic zones in dark lighting would not open the flash
  • Under the “Flash Control” menu option, going to the “Built-in flash func. setting” would return an error stating “This menu cannot be displayed. External flash is attached” even though no flash was attached.

The problem, as it turns out, is related to a switch located under a plate in the hot shoe. The following picture is from this Flickr thread:

That little ‘External flash detect swith” is tiny (on the 40d it’s black, not silver), and from what I understand, is found on most of the Canon SLRs. If dust or sand or something gets in under the metal strip, it can hold the switch down, which makes the camera think a flash is attached.

In my case, it was an easy fix. I used the end of a finger nail file thing from a nail clipper, slid it in there carefully, and kind of blew air in. That cleared the obstruction and the switch popped back up. The camera was then able to pop open the built-in flash.


17 Responses to Solution: “Stuck” Canon Flash Problem

  1. SPF August 11, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Thanks for this post. Had the same problem with my new T1i.

  2. RJ September 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks, excellent advice, worked for my T1i also.

  3. deb regan September 30, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    I have the problem of the external flash not going off at random times?? Any idea may be related to the flash switch on the hotshoe??

  4. Jake Reinig September 30, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Deb-

    I’m not really sure what that could be. Is it perhaps not recycling as fast as you’re trying to press the trigger (indicated by the green/red light on the back)? That is to say, the flash needs to recycle before it can fire again. So, if you’re trying to get off a second exposure before the flash has recycled its charge, it won’t fire.

    If that may be the problem, I believe there is a custom function you can set that will allow you to fire before a full recycle has occurred.

    If those aren’t the issue, maybe there’s a problem with the sleep settings on the flash?

    And, one other item: there may be a connection and or voltage issue. Make sure the contacts are clean on the camera and the flash. If it’s a non-Canon flash, maybe the voltages are mix-matched and not working 100%?

    Sorry I can’t be of more specific help. Good luck, and if you figure it out, please let us know!

  5. JK October 8, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    I had the same problem with my 40D. It started after my I used my 580EX II on it to test a Gary Fong diffuser. It looks like the shoe needs to be replaced as the black button is stuck in the down position. I was able to trace the issue down to this, but now I need to send it to Canon for a repair.
    Thanks for your help.
    Very helpful..

  6. Dorin August 27, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    Thanks, it solved my problem with Canon 550D :)

  7. VA November 3, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Great! It solved my problem! Thanks

  8. Emanuel March 27, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Great, thanks! Fixed my problem too on the Canon Rebel T2i (550D).

  9. josh May 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Thanks for posting, same issue with my 60D. You saved me a lot of time.

  10. JOhann June 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Thanks for this, at least now I know where to look for the problem!
    (Brand new 60D) :o(

  11. johnson June 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    my brand new 60D the built-in flash won’t pop up what can i do to resolve this?

  12. IdZ September 5, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Brand new 550D here, exactly the same problem after first time with external flash.
    This solution worked! I’m gratefull!!

  13. Laura October 16, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Same exact problem with a new Canon 60D. Your solution worked perfectly! I appreciate it!!!

  14. Heliopolis April 14, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    El mismo problema tenia con la 550D le pasé un alfiler y problema solucionado

  15. Nélida April 27, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    Muchas gracias por la información, con ella logré que el flash funcione !!!! Mil gracias

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