My first inclination is to assume that a lens error (System Zoom) is the intermittent problem itself, but first, there is a more likely possibility, on both, lack of sufficient power. Remove the battery, check the pins or connectors in the battery compartment, and make sure that they are positioned correctly to contact the battery. Then use a q-tip with alcohol to clean and dry them.
It is also a known issue that digital cameras circuitry can also become much more sensitive to the lower power level produced, so if you have been using the same rechargeable batteries for the life of the camera (more than 2-3 years), then the power capacity of the battery may not be high enough anymore to handle the increased load. A new battery may be the answer.If the above does not solve the issue please continue as it is very likely that the problem is a lens error.
Since it does not extend correctly it does not make it to the correct sensor point probably due to an obstruction like a grain of sand or residue build up. A lens position error will halt the camera process the error. Lens errors are a common problem. Dirt can get into the gears or the lens can become misaligned from being carried in pockets, purses or at the beach. The two suggestions below may resolve the issue.Make sure your Camera has new, fully charged batteries and it is in recording mode.
Try compressed air. With a fine tip can of dry compressed air (not a blow dryer) set the tip between the lens turret and the camera body and turn on the air while moving the tip around the lens. It should remove all dust and sand. Turn the camera on and it should function fine. If not, you can try the fixes below.With newer cameras I am usually hesitant to suggest these options since they include some more extreme procedures that may cause further damage if not done correctly, but since your camera is older, they may save you an expensive repair bill. The links below give step by step DIY instructions on troubleshooting and attempting to fix this problem. The lens structure of these compact cameras is the same so the examples do apply to this unit. These procedures are effective about 60% of the time. Click on or copy and paste the links into your browser.
Please keep in mind that my diagnosis & solutions provided are directly dependent on the accuracy of your description of the problem. As with any "do it yourself" fixes, success is a "team effort", since I can't see or touch the camera, and relies on the customer's manual dexterity and ability to follow the instructions well.
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