The Best Way to Care For Your Camera Equipment

Like any item of complex technology, your digital camera will only keep working at peak efficiency if you look after it. Of all the abuse that a camera can suffer, perhaps the most pernicious is dirt. From dust on the lens to grubby fingerprints all over the LCD monitor, dirt can seriously impair the operation of your camera.

Of course, you can’t chuck your camera in the sink with the washing up (you can, but don’t expect it to work afterward), so just how should you keep it clean?

Lens cleaning

The most vital part of your camera is also the most delicate. If your lens is damaged then all your pictures will suffer. The first rule of lens care is to never touch the surface of the lens with anything that can scratch glass, which includes some rather unexpected things. For example, soft tissue papers, or toilet paper, are among the worst things you can use. Even the softest paper contains hard grit that will leave tiny scratches on the surface of the lens, which builds up over time. Don’t use your pocket-handkerchief either. Even a clean one will contain dust and lint that can leave your lens dirtier than when you started. Care should be taken when using cleaning fluids.

cleaning camera lens

The surface of your lens has a special coating, which can be damaged by spirit, or solvent-based cleaners and they can also seep around the edges of the lens and get in between the elements. It will then be impossible to remove without having the lens dismantled and professionally cleaned. Only use proper lens fluid and apply this sparingly to a lens cloth rather than directly to the lens.

Dust on; dust off

Don’t wipe dust off with a tissue or cloth. Dust particles may include tiny grains of sand, which are extremely hard and will scratch your lens. The correct way to clean a lens is to remove any dust using a proper lens brush. You can also use a can of compressed air, or a blower. Don’t blow on the lens with your mouth, because you’ll inevitably get small droplets of saliva on it.

Only wipe the lens once the dust has been removed. You can get special lint-free lens cleaning cloths from your local camera shop and these are the only things you should ever use for this. Wipe the lens from side to side, never in a circle. A circular motion merely moves dirt around the lens without removing it. A word of caution about compressed-air blower cans. Always direct the first blast away from your camera, since it may include a small spray of condensation.

Monitor your LCD

Although scratches on your LCD monitor aren’t as serious as scratches on your lens, they are still best avoided. You can get away with cleaning your monitor with a handkerchief or other soft dry cloth, but in general, anything that is good for your lens will also be good for your monitor.

As with the lens, solvent or spirit-based cleaning fluids should be avoided. If the screen is particularly dirty, use a lens tissue with a little lens cleaning solution on it. Again, as with the lens, use a side-to-side motion rather than a circular one.

Dirty pictures

General dirt on the body of your camera should be removed with a soft dry cloth. It is OK to use a slightly damp cloth for stubborn grime, but make sure you dry it off immediately afterward. Do not use cleaning sprays or abrasive scourers as these will damage the finish and may get onto the lens, with disastrous results.

Moisture protection

Unless you have a weatherproof camera, moisture can get inside and mess with the electronics, or condense on the CCD or the inside of the lens and ruin your pictures. If, for example, rain splashes your camera, wipe it off at once with a soft dry cloth. It’s also a good idea to keep a bag of silica gel in your camera bag. This substance absorbs moisture, sucking it out of the air. Keeping some with your camera will help keep it dry.

Keep in contact

With digital cameras, it is vitally important that the electrical contacts between the camera and the memory card are clean. If you get any dirt on them, it can prevent your pictures from being recorded.

If you think that there may be dust on the contacts in your card slot, give it a quick blast with a compressed air can. If that doesn’t work, it’s probably best to have the camera professionally cleaned and serviced. Don’t be tempted to try squeezing things like cotton buds or pipe cleaners into your card slot, since these stand a very good chance of permanently damaging your camera.

Camera Cleaning Tools

Lens-Pen cleaning brush – This handy pen-sized gadget is available from all good camera shops and combines a soft brush with a special lens-cleaning pad.

Micro-fibre lens cloth – These soft micro-fibre cloths are the best way to clean your lens and come in a handy pouch that clips to your camera strap.

Camera cleaning kit – The perfect gift for any camera enthusiast, a good cleaning kit will include abrasive-free lens wipes, a blower brush, non-solvent cleaning fluid and more.

Dust-off air can – Ideal for getting rid of dust in hard-to-reach places with a blast of compressed air, this latest version is ecologically safer.

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Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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