5 easy top tips for keeping your lenses clean
Getting dust and muck on your lenses is just a fact of life. There’s pretty much nothing we can do to escape it in the real world. But, there are things we can do to help reduce its impact. And, there’s also things we can do to safely get rid of it once it’s there. When you’re out on location, wiping it on your t-shirt is an option that many take, but it’s not really healthy for your lens.
This video from YouTuber Fangs shows us five tips for caring for our lenses properly. Both how to get rid of dust and dirt on our lenses, but also helping to prevent it from building up so quickly. Keeping our lenses clean falls under general gear maintenance.
Blow the lens off upside down
Having the lens element facing downward while you use something like a rocket blower allows gravity to work in your favour. The rocker blower dislodges the dust on your lens, and then gravity takes it down. If you’ve got your lens the with the element facing up, you’ll often just blow dust into the air and have it settle right back on your lens.
Never spray lens cleaner directly on the lens
This is one I see people doing a lot, and it’s something I’ve been guilty of in the past, myself. If you’re using weather sealed lenses, this may be less of an issue. With regular non-sealed lenses, though, the cleaning fluid can seep inside. At best, it fogs up the inside of your lenses until it dissipates. At worst, it can leave water spots on the elements inside of your lens where you can’t get to them.
Spray onto a suitable lens cleaning cloth, and then use that to wipe your element. As an aside, while there are a lot of commercial lens cleaning solutions out there, I personally use a 50/50 mix of Isopropyl Alcohol and water in an atomiser spray bottle. That solution has worked perfectly for me for years, and it’s a lot cheaper than the commercial alternatives.
Also remember, if you’re using disposable lens wipes. Use them once, then throw them away. Don’t keep reusing them. All you’ll end up doing is wiping dust around your lens or adding more back onto it instead of taking it off.
Use a lens pen for small finger prints
Using a lens pen is often the quickest way to clean off small fingerprint smudges. Alternatively, many lens pouches and camera bags have built in microfibre cloths to let you quickly wipe off fingerprint grease and smudges.
Use your lens caps
Lens caps seem to have become something more of personal preference in the last few years, judging by the posts I see on Facebook. People just get sick of losing them and end up not bothering with them any more. But, they are the single best way to help prevent dust from accumulating on your lens elements.
I’m one of those that got sick of losing lens caps, especially when there’s so many different diameters of filter to account for. Most of my expensive filters (10 stop ND, vari ND, polariser, etc) are 77mm. So, to make life simple, I bought 77mm step-up rings for all my lenses. Now I just buy cheap 77mm lens caps in packs of 10 every few months as I realise I’m running low.
Use lens pouches and bags for storage
So, perhaps you want to be like Casey Neistat and just have everything laid bare on the shelf. It makes everything easily within reach, and who doesn’t love showing off their gear? I mean check out his latest video. Only a minute into it, it already looks looks like he’s filming in a camera store.
But, storing gear this way is not likely to help prevent dust. Keeping them in lens pouches or your camera bags when not in use, however, will.
I don’t think anybody is expected to keep their gear in hermetically sealed containers, but it’s not a bad idea to try to take care of our stuff. Aside from helping things last longer, it makes our pictures look better.
Of course, that back-lit dust flaring into your lens might be the exact look you’re going for.
What other things do you do to keep your lenses clean? Or do you not even worry about it unless you can see it in the final photos?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.