Cameras Need Lovin' Too

Camera Maintenance and Cleaning

As a videographer or photographer, you might have multiple lenses and filters that you lug around wherever you go and change whenever the shot requires their use.

Over time and even with proper storage and care, your gear begins to wear out from use. It is always good to maintain your equipment well, by properly cleaning and storing it before and after you use it.

Body Care

The first part to address in caring for your camera is the largest part of your camera: the body. While the body collects the majority of dust and debris particles from the air, it is a fairly simple process to keep clean. One way is to use compressed air to blow debris from your camera's body. But be careful using this technique, because you can blow debris deeper into areas you are trying to clean.

Another is to use a microfiber cloth or a natural-fiber cloth of some kind to wipe off the excess debris from your camera body. Being cautious, you can continue by very lightly dampening a cleaning cloth and swabbing your camera's body surface, but be very careful around your camera's dials, buttons, lenses, viewfinder and controls. Next, immediately dry all surfaces of your camera with a clean and dry micro-fiber or natural cloth.

Lens Cap/Hood

Never leave your lens cap off for longer than required or your lens hood open after shooting—ever! This is extremely important, because the lens is the "precious" piece of equipment thatLens also is the most difficult to properly maintain and care for in the long term. It can easily be the first thing to go. That is why the use of lens filters really safeguards your actual lens from the elements.

Filters

Keeping a filter or skylight over your lens is a great way to insure added protection and enhance your images. With a fixed lens camera, however, cleaning your lens can make you nervous, especially if the lens has fingerprints on it, which can happen from time to time and potentially can damage your lens. The oily residue from fingers can spot the touched area to a degree that could lead to permanent fogging. If you never use interchangeable filters, we still recommend at least keeping a fixed clear filter on the lens, it's cheaper to replace than the lens itself.

If your camcorder doesn't have the threads to attach a standard filter to it we discovered a new device you might want to check out: magnetic filter holders by Cokin. You have to first attach a lens frame to your camcorder using a special adhesive that comes with the kit. This is permanent, and you never remove it. Then the magnetic adapter attaches to the frame and you slide the filter up and down within the magnetic lens holder. Check the website for your camera's compatibility.

Be forewarned, though, with using any filter, some camcorders have detachable lens hoods, and you might not be able to reattach them over the lens that is sporting a few filters.

Solvent-Based Cleaners

In the past, lens cleaners have contained various harsh and abrasive chemicals that can strip away the protective coating on lenses of all types. Such chemicals include alcohol, ammonia, acetone, silicone, glycerin and chlorine. These are coincidentally bad for your health and are generally things you don't want to come in contact with, especially not on your lenses and camera gear. In our modern era of seemingly unlimited information, high technology arid, more recently, sustainability, it seems fitting that, if you spend the money to purchase an HID camera, you should be able to preserve its ability to capture images clearly.

Applying Cleaning Solution

When applying a lens cleaning solution to a lens surface, the first thing to do is to blow off excess dust and debris from the lens surface. A hand-pumped blower made specifically for camera comes with a small brush attached and is a perfect device to add to your camera care kit. The bristles on this special brush are soft enough not to scratch your lens. and the hand-pump blows air softly to blow off most surfuc dust (see micro-tools.com and migicmicrocloth.com)

Like the camera body care we mentioned, you can use canned air, but be very careful with it, as you can't control the direction you blow, and it's quite powerful. In the worst case scenario, you can blow the debris off with your mouth, but don't get closer than about four inches, or you will get condensation on your lens, and don't blow so hard that you start spraying your lens. Just use short gusty breaths like you would use to gently help a fire get started without putting it out.

Cleaning Cloths

When applying a lens cleaning solution, don't apply the solution directly to your lens. Rather, apply the solution directly to your cleaning cloth, and then gently wipe the lens surface in a circular motion. Follow this action by using a dry area of your cloth to polish off the solution in the same fashion.

Stay away from solvents in general. Now that natural lens cleaners exist, there is really no reason to keep using solvent-based lens cleaning solutions. If you do not have access to a lens cleaner, then some warm and soapy water will do the job. Always make sure that you completely and immediately dry off all parts of your camera that encounter any liquid.

After you have blown off your lens surface, you want to proceed by wiping your lens clean with a cloth. A microfiber lens cloth is the best choice.

If you do not have access to a lens cloth, then the next best thing is a clean natural fiber like a lint-free strip of cotton fabric. Don't use cotton Q-tip, as it will leave behind more lint than you're removing. Some engineering shops use a device similar to a Q-tip, but it's made of a microfiber-like substance and is lint-free.

Once you have your lens cloth in hand, proceed by gently wiping your lens surface in a circular motion. When your lens surface is clear of excess debris, you are ready to use a lens cleaning solution. I recently tested a product called Purosol Optical, which is a completely natural and non-abrasive lens cleaning solution. I was very impressed with Purosol: it did a great job of cleaning my lenses (of varying types) and is non-solvent-based, so there are no harsh chemicals that strip away protective lens coatings. Purosol is supposed to work in a way that neutralizes the molecular charge of the lens surface. This acts as a repellant for dust and debris particles, for at least a little while. Purosol is one of the few products that are good for cleaning your LCD viewfinder and even plasma TVs.

Guerrilla Cleaning

No matter how much you prepare, plan and obsess about all of the different things that can happen when you are using your camera gear, you will sometime find yourself in a situation when you need to clean your gear off immediately and just don't have your cleaning supplies with you, such as in a rainstorm or dusty environment. Use your best common sense and whatever resources/ tools you have available to you to gently resolve the situation. If you have to wipe a lens with some piece of clothing, use the cleanest, softest and/or most natural piece of material that you have available. A used cotton T-shirt or "tightie whities" are the best non-lint cotton fabrics you can grab. Additionally, try to use a fabric that is dry, or you will likely do more damage than good, as you won't be able to successfully capture additional footage through a saturated lens.

Storage

After you go through the cleaning and maintenance part of caring for your camera, put it away safely. Having a secure place to put your camera gear is one of the best ways to properly maintain equipment for as long as possible. The best place is not your desk or closet, but a secure hard-shell camera case with a foam interior that can be custom-molded to your camera. When you store your camera, don't place cleaners or any potentially damaging materials or items in the case with your camera, as a single leak can be catastrophic to your precious equipment. Another option is a simple camera case. A bag with some ample padding will work as a camera case, but there are also numerous varieties of camera bags made specifically for different-sized cameras.

For get-up-and-go shooting, I use a LowePro camera backpack that fits a Digital SLR still camera, lenses and accessories in the bottom section, a mid-sized video camera and accessories in the upper section and a laptop computer in its top section. It is water-resistant (not waterproof), but it really holds a substantial amount of equipment and protects it while it is in immediate use. I still remove my equipment from the backpack and store it properly in a hard case after I use it.

Conclusion

There is no substitute for proper care and maintenance cameras and lenses. Taking the time to clean and properly store your equipment before and after each use will make activities like lens cleaning less arduous and will ultimately result in having your equipment last long enough to be outdated by a newer technology or format. Remember, It is profitable to be a bit obsessive about keeping your camera equipment in the cleanest and best overall condition possible.