I want to preface this with the fact that, a few years ago, I read something in the internet somewhere about cleaning lenses, and I believe I bought all the exact products recommended by said article, and I can NOT find it anymore in order to give that person credit. So if all these tools look familiar to you and you know who wrote that article, let me know, and I’ll gladly give them credit.
So. Yes. This is how how I clean my lenses. I’ve read other articles with mostly-similar, but not always the same advice (I’ll mention a few of those things here and there as I go). You can see all my tools above, and here’s what they all are:
- Rocket Air Blaster – the link takes you to a black one because it is cheaper than the red one I have for some reason?
- Lens Pen – link takes you to the Nikon Lens Pen pictured above, though a search for “lens pen” on amazon reveals other brands, some of which are cheaper
- Pec Pads – advertised for photographic emulsion, they can also be used for lenses. This is the only thing on my list I may or may not purchase again, keep reading to see why I say that.
- lens cleaner – I couldn’t find the kind I have on amazon anymore, but this one looks similar.
Now that you know all the products, let’s go over how I use them all!
My Dirty Lens
Above, you can see the “before” picture of the lens I’m cleaned in order to write this entry. It’s my 10-22mm lens, and those of that have been following me on flickr might realize that I purchased a 5DMkII back in October. Which this lens will not fit on. Which also might tell you how long ago I took this pictures with the intention of writing this post. Regardless, this is a dirty lens. The funny part is, I knew there were some particles of dust on the lens that I could before taking this photo, which is part of the reason why I chose to use this lens as an example, but I had NO IDEA it had that much (I used my 100mm Macro lens for this shot, btw).
The first thing I use when cleaning my lenses is my Rocket Blaster. This is a great way of getting off the larger particles of dust that you can see with your naked eye. This is better than blowing on it yourself because your breath has moisture in it, and even though you don’t mean to, you sometimes spit a bit when blowing, and nothing sucks more on lenses than dried water droplets. Plus, the rocket blaster (despite the name), while forceful enough to actually make a difference, is still very gentle, so you don’t need to worry about a massive blast of air that could damage the lens (like with canned air).
Using the rocket blaster is pretty self-explantory – blow any visible junk off the lens!
Using the Lens Pen
The lens pens is a nifty little tool Above, you can see one end – a very soft brush that is safe for your lens. I start in the center of the lens and swipe outwards to remove any stubborn dust on the lens. Don’t touch the brush with your fingers, because there is grease on your fingers can transfer to the brush and then to the lens, and that defeats the whole purpose!
On the other side of the lens pens, if you take off the cap, is this soft polishing end. This is where you move from the “removing dust” to “cleaning” part (note: if I have a really dirty lens, I skip to the wipes/cleaning solution before doing the polishing). I start in the center of the lens and move in small circles out towards the edge of the lens. I don’t know how to desribe how much I’m pushing down other than “gentle force”. You don’t want to press too hard for fear of damaging the lens, but you’re not going to break it with a simple touch. Use about the same amount of force you would use to wipe off the screen of your cell phone with your shirt after you talk on it and get face grease all over the screen. Not that I have face grease and have any idea what that’s like.
The wipes and lens cleaning solution
The last step of a “full clean” is the lens cleaner solution and wipes. This is similar to cleaning your glasses if you’re lucky like me and have to wear glasses every day. Above you can see the wipe. As you can tell from the texture, it’s actually a disposable cloth, and not like a kleenex or paper towel – avoid those, because they can scratch the lens.
This, btw, is where I see the biggest difference in recommendations from other people. Many people swear by reusable microfiber cloths like this. I’m a big fan of reusable instead of disposable, in general, so I plan on buying one of these after running out of my disposable wipes, though there is also the part of me that likes the disposable wipes because I know they’re always clean.
I also know that some people like the cleaning solution, and some people use just the wipe. My opinion is, that if “just a wipe” is good enough, I’ll be using the lens pen. I like having the cleaning the solution for when something is really a mess. I’ve had rain spots and mud spots on my camera before, and I like having the solution when that happens. If it does, I use the solution + wipes before I use the polishing part of the lens pen.
If you are going to use a cleaning solution, spray it on the cloth, not the lens, then do the same small circular motions, starting in the center of the lens. I probably use a little bit less pressure here than I do with the lens pen.
How often I clean
I very rarely do everything I mentioned above. I tend to go through the whole routine periodically with all my lenses, but usually before something big – like a wedding or a vacation. But most times, I find the whole thing overkill.
Sometimes I see a big piece of dust on the lens and I’ll use just the blower to get it off. But the only thing I ever make sure to carry around with me if I’m going on a day of shooting is the lens pen. That thing is like magic. For instance, I was shooting a wedding, it was hot and sticky, and I went to check to see if my lens cap was on the lens, but for some reason decided to do this by touching the lens with my hands, to feel for the cap. Nope, wasn’t there. My hot, sweaty, sticky hands left quite a mark on the front of the lens. A few seconds with the lens pen and you’d never be able to tell. Honestly, if I had the solution with me, I probably would have used it, but even without it, You couldn’t tell by looking at the lens, and I can’t tell a difference in the photos from before and after this stupid mistake.
In other words, if you only take one piece of advice from this: buy a lens pen!
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