How to Clean Your Camera’s Lens

how to keep your lens clean

how to clean a camera lensOne of the main things that gets overlooked by photographers is how to keep their cameras clean. Where is the sense in spending your hard earned money on your camera equipment, but letting it pick up dust? Lenses regularly pick up smudges from fingerprints, dust and water stains.

We’ve covered how you can keep your camera’s sensor clean, but in this guide we will look at the methods that can be used to keep a lens in tip-top condition. A lot of the equipment described is low cost but very effective; it just takes time and care.

Using a UV Filter & Lens Hood

Ultraviolet filters have no real place anymore for blocking ultraviolet light. Cameras now come with their own protection that keeps out all sorts of things like infrared and ultraviolet light. Even so, they are still a worthy investment to protect your equipment. Adding that extra slice of glass to the front of your lens doesn’t have any significant disadvantages (it won’t really reduce sharpness, provided it is of a decent quality), but it may just save your skin. A UV filter will go a long way to protecting the front element of your lens from being cracked if dropped. It’ll also protect it from any stray stones chipped up into the glass, as well as from mud, water and other things. Find out the filter thread measurement for your lens and get yourself a Hoya Ultraviolet Filter.

Lens hoods have the same effect, as well as keeping out stray light and keeping your photos free of flare from the sun. They protect the front element – something that is expensive to replace, especially for professional lenses. I myself have fallen over whilst carrying my camera with Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 lens attached. I fell straight onto the lens hood and my body weight rammed it into a rock. I was scared to look at the lens because of the potential damage – but the lens hood did its job and there were no problems.

Lens Cleaning Fluid & Tissues

Some people choose to buy cleaning fluids which they can then clean the lens with using a tissue. However, I highly recommend Zeiss Lens Wipes. They come in large packs for relatively little money, but Zeiss is a highly trusted brand when it comes to glass. The wipes are already wet with cleaning fluid and you can rub the lens in circular motions to lift any greasy marks. The fluid will then evaporate in the air, keeping the lens streak free.

It’s also worth getting yourself some microfibre clothes so you don’t always have to clean with fluid – sometimes you just want to lift off dust. The cloths you get with a pair of glasses are perfect for this, and can be picked up cheap online or in stores.

Blowers

Rocket blowers blast your camera with air and move dust particles without you having to touch the glass. This is great for getting rid of grit or other things that could scratch the glass if moved with a cloth. It’s definitely worth having one in your bag as it can quickly fix any dust that isn’t persistent.

Be careful about using rocket blowers on anything but the lens. If you go to clean the sensor with this, you could dislodge and blow dust onto the sensor. This would be something you’d do to a sensor before a proper clean with fluids.

Silica Gels

If you’re working in humid environments it’s definitely worth having silica gel with your camera when in storage. It helps to prevent damp, rot and even fungal build up on your lens. There’s more information about this in our article covering using your camera in hot and cold environments.

Brushes

There are also lens cleaning pens (brushes) available. They usually have two ends – one is a brush and the other a pad to remove stubborn marks from fluids like water. Personally I’ve never used these, but it can’t hurt to try or have one to hand incase you are having trouble removing something. The attraction of a brush is that you aren’t smearing or putting pressure on dirt; instead flicking it away with the bristles.

A Word of Warning

Make sure that you don’t become obsessive with cleaning your lens. A daily clean could do more harm than good, and instead you should only do so when it is visibly dirty. When you’re cleaning with cloths, be very careful not to press too hard on any grit and drag it around the glass. You may end up scratching the glass and ruining it – just pay attention and use blowers or brushes to remove big particles first.

Also take a look at the rear elements of your lens – these can also pick up dirt that gets missed. The same goes for any rear filter elements that your lens may have (this is more for professional-grade telephoto lenses).

Good practices when handling your equipment in the field will help to maintain cleanliness too. For example, pointing the camera body downwards when switching lenses will help to keep dust out of the camera body and away from the sensor.

 

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will's images have won a string of awards, including the title of "Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year" in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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