A LITTLE MAINTENANCE GOES A LONG WAY
Welcome to a guide on camera lens cleaning. In the many years of my photography journey, I have heard quite a few horror stories about how some people destroyed their lenses by “cleaning” with rough chemicals… Or just outright let the lens “rot” without any maintenance.
Yes, most camera lenses are made to be pretty rugged, but they are not indestructible. So here are a few cleaning tips to keep your lenses sparkling clean, and go strong for many years to come.
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT YOU NEED
- Tooth Brush – Get one with soft bristles.
- Lens Brush – Good to have.
- Lens Blower – If you intend to buy a new one, beware of those rocket and grenade shaped ones. Strict custom checks in certain countries will confiscate and dispose of them.
- Microfiber Cloth – To wipe off fingerprints and smears.
- Lens Cleaning Paper – These are much more absorbent than cloth.
- Cotton Bud – For reaching those corners.
- Wet Wipes/Cleaning Solution – For super dirty lenses.
To save yourself from the hassle of getting these one-by-one, you can just get a lens cleaning kit on eBay… They are not that expensive anyway.
CLEANING THE LENS BODY
Most other guides only touch on cleaning the glass elements, which I don’t understand why. The lens body is dirtier than the glass itself – This is where all the sweat, oil, salt, and dirt gathers. Is it not disgusting to handle a dirty lens? Sure, the lens body is rugged, but it still needs to be cleaned once in a while.
B-1) BRUSH AND BLOWER
Keep the lens cap on while cleaning the lens body. Use a toothbrush to clean out as much dirt as possible, especially on the aperture/focus rings. Do not brush the glass elements, the electronic contact points, or even pull the rubber rings out for cleaning – Leave those to the professionals.
B-2) WIPE IT
If your lens is extremely greasy or been splashed with some sea water, wipe your lens with a piece of damp (not wet) cloth. I use a little dish soap with the water, and that has worked pretty well so far. Do not use alcohol, polish, or harsh abrasive chemicals that can cause damage to the lens. Remember to dry the lens out properly, or fungus will grow on it.
B-3) ELECTRONIC CONTACT POINTS
Modern lenses come with electronic circuits these days, and normally, you will not need to clean the electronic contact points. But if you are having “connection” troubles with the lens, you can try to clean the contact points with a cotton bud.
Do not use soap or water. Spray some electronic contact cleaner onto the cotton bud first, then use it to clean the electronic contact points. Lastly, if you have a zoom lens, do not attempt to lubricate the joints by applying oils or lubricants – Send the lens back to the service center if you have trouble with the zoom ring.
CLEANING THE GLASS ELEMENTS
How often do we need to clean the glass? It all depends, and if you are an active photographer, I would say every day. Cleaning the lens is not as much of a hassle as some may think. In the simplest form, you just need to blow the dust off the elements.
C-1) DUST OFF
Start by using the lens blower to remove the bigger pieces of dust and dirt. Although not many people seem to care, but the trick is to face the glass downwards and blow upwards. The reason behind this is simple, more dust will settle on the glass if you face it upwards, but gravity will take the dust off if you face it downwards. Remember to clean both the front and rear elements.
C-2) LENS BRUSH
Normally, a quick cleaning will only involve blowing the dust off. But if there are stubborn pieces of dirt, you will need to use a lens brush to clean it off. Don’t jam the brush onto the glass, just gently brush it… you do not want to scratch your own lens. One more small thing to take note – The lens brush itself becomes dirty over many uses, you might want to wash it occasionally.
C-3) SMEAR OFF
If there are oil and fingerprints on the glass, you can wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. Shine a LED or torchlight on the lens to help you see the smear better. In the case of stubborn smears, use the dry lens cleaning paper, they are much more absorbent than cloth and can clean up oily stains quickly.
C-4) WET WIPES TO THE RESCUE
Have a super dirty lens? Smears that will not come off? Use the wet wipes or lens cleaning solution. But personally, I avoid using any form of cleaning chemicals. Chemicals do clean up and sanitize the lens, but it may also take a toll on the lens coating. Use these as a last resort.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
All right, we have come to the end of this lens cleaning guide and I hope it has been useful to you guys. As the last piece of advice – Why risk directly cleaning the lens elements and scratching it? Just spend a couple of bucks on a UV filter, and put it on permanently to protect the lens.
Sidenote, if you already have scratches on your lens, you can try out some of these “Internet remedies” in my other guide.
Have questions? Please leave them in the comments below and I will try to answer them. Cheers!