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I'm disassembling a broken old camera (an Olympus FE-110) and I've learned that I should be really careful with the capacitor inside. I wanted to follow the guide linked at the bottom of this article, though in this camera make it's not that easy getting access to the circuit board. I opened up the camera as far as this:

the camera innards

There's a bit of wire sticking out from underneath the red and black coating on the capacitor wires. I prodded the two with a voltmeter and got a reading of 0.

The camera very likely hasn't had any batteries inside it for a year. Should I assume the capacitor is empty and be as reckless with it as I want? Or, considering I'm still pretty new at electronics, should I put the casing back on and not mess with high voltages until I know a bit better?

The capacitor is 330V / 160 uF, in case the picture isn't clear enough.

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If you have 0 V across it it will be safe. Mainly because you mention it hasn't been used for a year. If you would have discharged the capacitor through a resistor (or even short it out) the voltage will go pretty low, but may rise again if you remove the short circuit. But if you measure nothing after a year that effect is completely gone.

Now the question is: what do you want to learn from it? I don't mean to discourage you, but cameras have few parts in them which are reusable for hobbyists. The sensor may be attractive, but it may be difficult to find information how to wire it up, like when it was custom made for Olympus. And I wouldn't recommend this for someone who's new at electronics.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it was being thrown out anyway, so I figured I might play around with it for a bit, get some confidence taking things apart, and maybe learn something new. Which I did! Thanks for your help. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrey Aug 18 '12 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andrey - You're welcome. If you're interested in electronics you might write something about it in your profile. Like Olin always says, that's not for you, that's for us. We'll be able to help you better if we know your level of electronics knowledge, and what you want to achieve with it. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Aug 18 '12 at 16:00
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It's most likely discharged, but to be safe:

Using one hand:

  • Snip the wires connecting the capacitor
  • Short the leads of the capacitor with a screwdriver or by pressing the leads together with pliers
  • You can now be sure it is safe
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