While photographing yesterday on a windy mountaintop here in North Carolina I found myself needing to clean and change lenses several times and want to share some tips and techniques I use here in today’s blog post. Although clean lenses can help you capture sharp, beautiful images, even small amounts of dust, dirt or a fingerprint on the glass has the potential to ruin a photograph. Also changing lenses always presents the possibility of introducing dirt or dust on the lens and camera sensor.
Changing Camera Lenses
If you use more than one lens with your camera, changing lenses, especially outdoors, can often be tricky since it exposes the camera and lens interior to potential dirt and dust. Here are a few ideas that can help reduce the problem. First, when changing lenses, always point the camera downward toward the ground as you remove and replace the lens. Doing so helps reduce the chance that dirt or dust might fall or flow onto the camera’s mirror/sensor.
Second, if the wind is blowing it’s wise to change lenses in a protected area such as inside a building or car. But if that’s not possible, at least turn your back to the wind or place the camera under a coat or jacket when changing lenses. Lastly, practice changing your camera lenses several times so that you can do so fairly quickly. While you don’t have to become the world record holder for fastest lens changes, the longer the camera and lens remain uncovered the greater their chance of gathering dirt or dust.
Cleaning Camera Lenses
Eventually, all camera lenses gather some dust, dirt and/or fingerprints. While a lens with only small amount of dirt or dust is rarely visible in a print, a truly dirty lens can result in unwanted dots, marks or blurred areas in every photo. Before heading out with the camera check the lens and if it’s dirty, take a few moments to clean it. Once you get the hang of lens cleaning you’ll discover it only takes a few moments to do.
Lens cleaning requires a few simple and inexpensive tools including a small brush, microfiber cloth or lens cleaning tissues, a bottle of lens cleaning solution and optionally, a squeeze-type blower. A bulb-style hand blower is a rest way to gently blow dirt or dust off a lens without anything touching the surface. Canon, Glottos, Zeiss and a number of others offer lens cleaning kits that contain almost everything you need for about $15 USD and the optional blower can be had for roughly $10 USD.
When you notice dirt on the lens, try lightly brushing or blowing it off. If dirt, dust or fingerprints remain, place only a few drops of lens cleaning solution on a lens cleaning tissue or microfiber cloth. Then, beginning at the center of the lens, press it lightly on the lens and move it in concentric circles from the center to the outside edge of the lens. (Moving in circles helps minimize streaking.)
Here are some things NOT to do when cleaning your lenses. 1) Do not clean a camera lens with paper towels since they often contain wood or fiber products that can scratch the glass. 2) Never use canned air to blow dirt off a camera or lens since its force could damage a sensitive part. 3) Never use a commercial window/glass cleaner on a lens since some of the ingredients could damage the coated optic surfaces. 4) Use caution if you try blowing dirt off a lens with your breath. While it is definitely possible to remove some dirt or dust this way, more often than not people also blow moisture/water vapor from their mouth onto the lens which creates a water spot that is can be difficult to remove. Remember, a clean lens is a happy lens