No one likes having dirty lenses and filters. It’s so painful when you go home download your photos to your computer and realize from the spots on your images that your lens or filter was full of dust and dirt.
Dirty optics can and will affect the quality of your photographs.
If you don’t clean your camera lenses and filters you will spend a lot more time editing and trying to clean the image from those annoying dust spots on your lens or sensor. You can save yourself that time and probably save your gear too if you deal immediately with dirt and learn how to clean them properly. Here’s my tips on how to do it.
Pay Attention When Cleaning Your Camera Lenses and Filters
First of all, I want to keep things simple and make sure you can learn how to clean and take care of your lenses without damaging it.
For this reason I recommend you to not clean your gear too often.
Especially with chemicals. The glass of your lenses and filters is durable, but by using chemicals you risk damaging its resistance and making it more prone to scratches.
Stay away from any chemicals that’s not a dedicated lens cleaning solution. And even then, my word of advice is, use it sparingly.
Dust and dirt are going to be normal when you use your gear especially if you travel or use it outdoor. Dust is everywhere and it will get onto and inside your lens.
Store Your Gear Safely
A good use of your lens caps when you store your lenses and some attention when you attach a lens to your camera body, will reduce the amount of dust they collect. Especially on the rear of the lens.
I repeat again. For a little bit of dust here and there you don’t need to clean your lens.
Smudges and oily finger prints though are another type of problem. They can really cause your image to be blurry and lose its quality. Let’s see how to proceed.
Blowers are a my first choice when cleaning my gear.
Please note: make sure you don’t use it to blow your sensor. It can be done, but it takes particular attention and I’ll explain it in another article.
Let’s focus (pun intended) on your lenses and filters.
Blowers are the best way to avoid scratching your glass. I recommend using the blower a few times before using it on a lens to get rid of the dust it might have inside. They can be very efficient with small particles and very gentle with your lens.
Blowers are a mandatory tool for a photographer. Get one now and it will serve your needs for a very long time!
Cleaning Pens and Brushes
My second choice are brushes and cleaning pens. I recommend getting a cleaning pen since it has a brush on one side and a felt tip on the other. Really useful for slightly heavier particles that a blower can’t get rid of. The felt tip is particularly useful for small finger prints. Pay attention not to put too much pressure when you use it to avoid scratching the lens.
Cloth and tissues
When it comes to use a cloth use only microfiber. I keep one or two always in my bag and I make sure that I only use it for my lenses and for nothing else. Cloths will be re-used multiple times so the secret is to keep them clean. Wash them if you need and make sure to not use chemicals or it will leave streaks on your lenses and filters.
Now before talking about cleaners let me tell you that I never had to use it. I keep my lenses safe at all time and also clean the inside of my camera bag sometimes to avoid carrying my gear in a dirty environment.
Then I always use blowers, brushes and cloth. The only liquid I use is water and in very extreme cases. Just damping a cloth if needed and it will be just fine.
Sometimes though, proper chemical cleaners can be good if oily fingerprints are not getting away easily. Make sure you use only dedicated cleaners and read carefully on the manual of your lens what chemicals to avoid.
When using a cloth or a brush make sure to wipe your glass in concentric circles. Doing so will reduce the chances of leaving streaks.
Try to move impurities away from the center of the lens to the edges. That way if some particles are not removed your image won’t suffer too much and it’ll be much easier to edit.
Don’t apply too much pressure when wiping, just enough to remove impurities and avoid damaging the lens or filter.
Rear optical element
I want to you to be very careful when dealing with this part of the lens. First of all make sure you are indoor in a dust free environment. I know dust is everywhere, but you get what I mean. Don’t do it while you’re at the beach!
The rear of your optics is particularly important because impurities and dirt on this part will have a big impact on your images.
Use your air blower first and remove potentially abrasive particles. The second step is using a dry cloth (I have one that I use only for the rear of my lenses) clean smudges and grime away. Always work from the center outward. If you see that despite your cleaning, you still get bad images, don’t keep trying to remove dirt from your lens. Bring it to a professional. There’s only much you can do!
Recommended Cleaning kits
You have to have a cleaning kit with you. Lenses and filters are expensive tools and they will do a better job if you keep taking care of them in time. Here are two of my favorite cleaning kits.
And you? What technique or tool do you use to clean your lenses and filters?
Let me know in the comments below!
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.