How I clean my lenses

February 8, 2012
My lens cleaning gear

My lens cleaning gear

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

Hello, dust!

Hello, dust!

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).

Blowing Air

Before using this you must, of course, find someone to annoy by blowing air in their face

Before using this you must, of course, find someone to annoy by blowing air in their face

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

Brush end of the Lens Pen

Brush end of 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!

Other end of the pen

Other end of the pen

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.

Using the Lens Pen

Using the Lens Pen

The wipes and lens cleaning solution

Disposable cloth

Disposable cloth

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.

Using the cloth

Using the cloth

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.

The final product is a much cleaner lens!

The final product is a much cleaner lens!

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!

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.


Tags: , , ,
Filed under: Photography
  • prabha

    Thank you for the tips. Ordered lens pen and rocket air blaster.

  • skydvr

    You got a 5D?  Now I'm jealous.  Anyway, is the 10-22 a EF-S lens, or why doesn't it work with the 5D?

    Nice write-up - I like my lens pen, but probably don't clean my lenses enough.

    About you touching the lens though - I take it you don't use  UV filters on your lenses?  I have them on every lens, as protection more than anything else.  I'd be interested in any opinions you have on that subject....

    Glad to see you starting to be active on here again...

  • The 10-22 is, indeed, an EF-S lens.

    I don't use UV filters on my lenses. I did when I first got my camera, but eventually decided not to. My reasons were that if I have a filter on there that gets dirty, then I'd just have to clean that instead of the lens, so there would still be some cleaning going in. In addition, I was always afraid of it compromising my image quality. Especially with my L lenses, maybe if I had the top-of-the-line filters it wouldn't be a compromise, but I still don't know. Those lenses were designed to be the best, and just like a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, if my image has to pass through a filter before it hits my L lens, well... that better be a damn good filter.

    I've also heard people say that filters protect you from shattering your lens, but filters break much easier than the lenses do, and that can actually be dangerous for your lens. If you dropped your lens, it might survive on its own (I've done this, so I know it's true!), but if you had a filter on it, and the filter shatters, it could actually damage the lens itself.

    I think there are appropriate uses for protective filters - perhaps you've seen this?  http://www.diyphotography.net/...  ... if I was doing that, I think I'd invest in a filter :)

    Btw, I think this is one of those things that people on either side feel strongly about, so I'm sure you can find any number of people to argue the opposite point of me, and I think it's one of those things that you just have to do whatever you feel more comfortable with. I just happen to be more comfortable without the filters.

  • skydvr

     I appreciate the input, and I understand were you're coming from.  I'm beginning to come around to the "I paid all this money for an L (or 'quality' if sub-L) lens, and then I'm putting extra glass in front of it" side of things.  I have to get over my nervousness of damaging the actual lens though, rather than a replaceable filter.  Even cleaning - I'd rather clean the filter than the lens - the less I contact the lens, the less a chance of scratches.  Something for me to think about I guess...

  • I've never seen a lens pen before - great tip, thanks - I'll be checking it out on Amazon UK later ; )

blog comments powered by Disqus