Photography / Hands-on Review

Holiday 2012: Camera and Lens Care


Once a new camera is chosen, purchased and received, the depreciation clock starts immediately. Regular light maintenance is important in order to keep a camera in optimal working condition and ready for any situation. Although periodic shop visits for cleaning, lubrication and adjustment are highly recommended for working professionals, amateurs can generally get by with basic preventative measures.

Protective filters

UV, clear, and skylight filters have long been used to protect the front element of a lens. As a cheap form of insurance, buying one of these filters is much less expensive than having to replace the front lens element. They also keep the front element clean, thus preventing undue wear and tear from having to clean the lens element itself. But do yourself a favor and don’t buy the cheapest filter you can find. Putting a low-grade uncoated filter on a high-quality lens is akin to putting cheap tires on a sports car and wondering why the handling is substandard. Coated filters complete the system by preventing needless degradation of the image entering the lens... similar to the better footing afforded by using higher-grade tires on a sports car. For more information on protective filters, read the B&H In Depth article UV Filters, and for more information on filters in general, read Filters for Lenses.

Camera Skins

For exceptionally challenging environments, there are protective skins available, such as the Delkin Devices Snug-It Pro Skin Camera Protector, to enclose and protect camera bodies and lenses from physical abrasion and light impact. Typically made of silicone rubber, these skins are brand- and model-specific in order to accommodate dials, buttons, rings and viewfinders without impairing normal operation. Although they can sometimes be tricky to get on the camera or lens and positioned correctly, the reward is a better grip and less worry about rough handling in chaotic settings.

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Screen protectors

As soon as digital cameras started featuring scratch-prone LCD monitors, the need to protect them quickly became apparent, particularly for working professionals. Even just regularly cleaning the LCD will eventually cause scratching and hazing, and might also wear off anti-reflective coatings. Custom fitted LCD screen protectors, such as the Giottos AEGIS Pro Glass Screen Protector for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 1D X DSLR, will prevent such wear and tear. Better-quality versions feature multiple laminations for strength and anti-reflective coatings to preserve contrast and definition of the image. If you protect the screen of a digital camera for as long as you own it, the camera’s resale value will be maintained. Some screen protectors attach mechanically, such as the Vello Snap-On LCD Screen Protector for Nikon D7000, but others like the Giottos protectors are anchored with adhesive strips which can be released with a moderate application of heat (say from a hairdryer) and gentle prying.

Blasts of Air

Many photographers like to use “canned air” products such as Difluoroethane or Tetrafluoroethane to clean lenses and image sensors. While these products are much better for the environment than the ozone-depleting chlorinated fluorocarbons used in earlier products that have since been banned, they nonetheless can still release liquid in the spray if shaken or not held in a vertical position, and this liquid can sometimes leave a stubborn residue on delicate components. That’s why synthetic rubber blower bulbs such as the Giottos Rocket Air Blower are preferred for safe cleaning. Fitted with long, rounded nozzles, these blowers can reach into nooks and crannies in digital cameras and safely blow off dust. For more aggressive cleaning, products such as the Vanguard PLC Air Blower feature removable brush tips to help dislodge stubborn dust in the crevices of a camera chassis, but should be used with care near delicate sensors and coated optics.

Brushes and Lens Pens

Using air to gently remove dust from lenses and mirrors is certainly the safest method, but some particles are stubbornly held in place with static electricity. The next best method is to use an approved brush such as the Giottos CL1310 Retracting 2 Position Goats Hair Brush or the LensPen Lens Cleaner to physically break loose these particles. Better brushes are made out of anti-static materials such as carbon fiber, or else coated with anti-static compounds to prevent the buildup of static electricity while cleaning. The key to using these successfully is to never touch the hairs of the brushes to avoid contamination with finger grease, and to always keep them covered or retracted when not in use.

Microfiber Cloths and Lens Cleaning Tissues

The Pearstone Microfiber Cleaning Cloth is ideal for cleaning eyepieces, LCD screens and outer camera surfaces. Made from fibers smaller than one denier, microfiber cloths provide exceptional cleaning due to their much greater surface area than conventional textiles. Conveniently, they can also be hand washed periodically with mild detergent and warm water, making them an economical alternative to single-use lens cleaning tissues for less critical applications. For more demanding photographers, there are also combo kits such as the Zeiss Lens Cleaning Cloths kit, which includes both microfiber cloths and optical-grade pre-moistened lens cleaning tissues.

Sensor Cleaners

Digital SLRs have unique maintenance issues due to the nature of the medium. Since a sensor is electrically charged and doesn’t move as film does, dust and residues can accumulate, creating spots in captured images that require time-consuming retouching in post production. Meticulous cleanliness is the best prevention for this situation. But no matter how careful you are when changing lenses, dust will eventually reach the inside of the camera and settle on the image sensor. Sensors are similar to eyeballs in that the best policy is to never touch them at all if possible. But if you have to clean a sensor, be sure to use a cleaning swab and fluid made specifically for cleaning sensors such as the Visible Dust 1.6x Sensor Brush Cleaning Kit. Be sure to use either a freshly charged battery or AC adapter to ensure that your camera does not close its shutter and drop the mirror while you’re cleaning the sensor; this could potentially ruin both components. Because image sensors are easy to damage, be sure to read and follow the included instructions carefully.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact a B&H Sales Professional via live chat, over the phone or in the B&H SuperStore.