It’s that time of year again. That time where we show those nearest to us how much we love them. Perhaps you’ve been neglecting them a little recently? Maybe it’s time to show them a little affection and give them a good scrub?
This video from the folks at COOPH offers up some good care and maintenance tips for keeping our cameras running in tip-top condition. While we can’t always protect them the way we’d like – after all, gear’s for using – there are things we can do to help reduce the chances of early death.
Many of us will already do some of these things as a course of regular maintenance, but it’s always good to have a refresher to remind us of those things we might’ve forgotten to do for a while.
Dust is one of the biggest annoyances with camera gear. It gets everywhere. We just can’t avoid it. But it can cause havoc with your kit. It can get onto your lens, causing unwanted flare, or worse it could get inside your lens where it becomes extremely difficult to remove. It can get in between the contacts of your lens or camera, getting ground into the surface over time as you regularly remove and switch out lenses, causing connection issues.
Dust is also notorious for gathering on sensors, causing dirty spots in your images – spots that become immediately obvious if you shoot any kind of video or timelapse. But these spots can also make themselves well known in regular photographs, too, especially if you stop down your aperture to get a good landscape shot with lots of blue sky.
Swapping lenses is often just a pain for many photographers, especially those who shoot weddings or events. So, they usually have a couple of camera bodies with their two most commonly used lenses attached. But occasionally even they might need to swap out for an ultrawide to get a group shot or to a macro for those detail images.
Try to minimise the risk of foreign objects entering into the back of your lens or inside your camera body by making sure you’re sheltered from the elements. And don’t change your lenses outside in the rain, no matter how good you think your jacket might be protecting you.
I’m going to disagree with COOPH a little here. While they can be excellent occasionally when you’re working in particularly hostile environments where you expect to be sprayed by dirt and dust – they’re quick and easy to clean without really taking much care about it – they’re not great for overall protection.
If something isn’t going to scratch the filter then it certainly isn’t going to damage the lens. And most incidents I’ve seen that have killed lenses, a UV filter wouldn’t have helped anyway.
Like I said, they can be great when you just know your lens is going to need to be repeatedly cleaned throughout the course of a shoot, because if you are careless and scratch it yourself, it’s no big deal. But they’re really not much protection in general.
A hand strap
Many of us walk around with our cameras without any kind of strap at all. I know I’m guilty of it. A lot of people just don’t like neck straps. Personally, I’m usually switching between stills and video so often that it’s just not practical to have a big strap attached to my camera all the time. On a tripod, they can get caught by the wind and introduce blur into long exposures. On camera sliders, they can catch on the end of the slider and ruin your sequence. And on a gimbal, shooting video, forget it.
Hand straps can be great, though, for when you’re just walking around and slip or fall and might otherwise hurl your camera smashing into the ground. If you lose your grip, you can always still just raise your arm up and be reasonably confident that the camera will be ok. Of course, nothing’s completely fool proof.
While I’ve never really used a lens hood for protection, either, they are infinitely more useful for the task than UV filters. Most lens hoods are made of some kind of plastic or polycarbonate composite. So, they have some flex and bounce to them. If your camera or lens hits the ground or brushes against a wall, much of the impact is going to be lost to that flex that lens hoods offer. With a hard rigid UV filter, any impact is still going to be translated through the entire lens and camera body as if the filter wasn’t even there.
Personally, though, stray light is the only thing I protect my lenses from with lens hoods.
Dry bags are one of the most useful things I ever decided to add to my kit. Often when I’m shooting on location, I’ve got all my gear and a spare change of clothes all together in one backpack. A dry bag lets me keep my camera safe from wet clothes at the end of the day, or it can contain the wet clothes to keep the rest of my backpack dry.
The Dust Blocker
This goes back to that first tip, except instead of getting rid of dust on our kit, we’re preventing it from building up in the first place. Cheap plastic transparent shower caps can make for fantastic dust protection when you’re not using your kit and it’s just sitting on the shelf waiting to accompany you on your next adventure.
I typically store most of my kit inside camera bags, but I’ve picked up at least a dozen bags over the years, so I might as well use their internal space for something when I’m not using them. But occasionally kit does get left out for a while. I should probably pick up some shower caps.
What are your favourite regular maintenance tips that you do?