Today we’re learning how to clean a camera lens the right way. There’s nothing worse than having dirty optics. If you’ve been having difficulty with the quality of your images, it could be that your lens is a little dirty. The best way to solve the problem is to clean the lens quickly and without damaging it.
But there’s a proper way to clean a camera lens. You can’t just spit on it and rub it with your shirt. You need the right tools and the right methods to clean your lens properly to continue taking amazing photographs. Let’s take a look at how to clean a camera lens properly and what tools you’re going to need.
How To Tell If A Camera Lens Is Dirty
Sometimes, there can be microscopic dust or dirt particles on your camera lens that sully your photographs. To check, you need to perform the dirt test. This will let you know if it’s time for a routine lens cleaning.
The first step is to adjust the focus. Change your camera to manual mode, turn the focus ring until you reach Infinity, and then you can check for tiny specks of dirt and dust by using the viewfinder.
Another way to check for dirt is to take a photograph of any plain surface. Take a picture of a plain light surface and a plain dark surface, then search for dust particles in the photos. You will easily be able to see any dust particles against the light or dark background.
You can even check recent photos for any sign of dust on the lens. Inspect a few of your recent pictures and see if there are any fuzzy spots or obvious dust particles. If you find any, your camera could need a clean.
Lastly, check the lens. Look at the rear element to see if there is any dust. If you see anything on the lens that doesn’t belong, it should be cleaned.
How Often Should You Clean A Camera Lens?
Your camera lens should only be cleaned when it’s dirty. This isn’t just glass we’re talking about, it’s specialized glass with highly sophisticated coatings to create a surface that is highly prone to scratches and even damage from cleaning chemicals at the slightest contact. Because of this, you want to touch your lens as infrequently as possible.
Keep your lens free of fingerprints and don’t try scrubbing it with a random cloth when you think it’s dirty. The front and rear lens caps will keep the glass clean while your equipment is stored. However, it will inevitably get dirty when you’re outside shooting. It’s an unavoidable fact. After a heavy day of shooting, it’s a good idea to sit down and clean the lens properly. But you don’t need to clean it every time you pick it up, otherwise, you could actually be doing more damage.
As a side note, it’s also important to keep your equipment clean, things like your camera bag and all attachments. Don’t forget to clean the lens caps, as dust can sneak inside when they’re not being used. Anything that comes in contact with your camera should be thoroughly cleaned to keep a sterile environment for your expensive lens.
What Makes A Camera Lens Dirty?
Dust is the main culprit when it comes to what makes a lens dirty. Dust is literally all over the place and it will inevitably sneak both onto and into your lens. At the factory, your lens is manufactured in a very clean environment. But the minute the lens leaves the factory, it’s swarmed with dust.
The good news is that a few specks of dust won’t actually have a huge impact on your photographs. It’s more of an accumulation of dust from storage that can really damage your equipment. A cleaning every once in a while should be sufficient to ensure dust is never a problem.
A much larger issue is actually finger smudges. Your fingers are covered in gross oils, and when you touch the rear element of the lens, you smear the glass. This has a huge impact on the quality of your pictures because of the way that light enters your lens. Smudges can distort that light, creating problems.
How To Clean A Camera Lens
There is one main way to keep your camera lens clean. You can remove the bulk of the dirt and dust by using a blower or a brush, then use several drops of lens cleaning solution with a specialized cleaning cloth to scrub off the oil, the fingerprints, and whatever other gunk has gotten stuck on the lens.
It’s actually very easy to clean your lens, even while out in the field. Always carry the cleaning equipment with you and stop anytime you notice too much grossness on your lens. However, it is fine to not clean in the field and wait until you get home, cleaning all your glass at the same time.
It’s also important to note that you don’t need to wear rubber gloves or to be in a very clean space. You can clean your camera lens anywhere.
Using A Blower:
To clean the dust off your lens, we recommend a blower. This is a small instrument that you squeeze to shoot air onto your camera lens. It’s the same thing as blowing on the lens, except the stream of air is more powerful and works to get the tiny scraps of dust out from around the edges. Just never use compressed air, as that’s a bit too powerful.
Why not use your own lungs instead of a small blower? It’s because when you blow on your lens, you’re actually spitting on it as well, covering the lens with your slimy saliva.
Using A Brush:
When it comes to the right brush for cleaning your camera, quality is everything. The best material for a brush is either camel or goat hair. Don’t cheap out on this one thing, as the brush is super important when getting rid of tiny particles from the glass. Because your camera lens is so sensitive, it’s easy to scratch with a normal brush. Camel or goat hair won’t damage the lens.
As a side note, be sure not to touch the bristles of the brush with your fingers, especially if they’re oily. This will result in you smudging the glass when you use the brush since the oil will go from your fingers to the bristles, then to your lens.
Cloths & Cleaning Solution:
The most important thing to remember when using a cloth and cleaning solution to wash your lens is that these things are not reusable forever. A microfiber cleaning cloth can be used for multiple cleanings, but eventually, it will get stained with dirt, which will end up scratching your lens.
Another way to go is lens tissue. Lens tissues should be used only once and then discarded. These are fairly inexpensive, though some people consider them wasteful. If you want to wash your microfiber cleaning cloth, make sure not to use any kind of fabric softener or chemical that can leave a residue that will later streak your lens.
Another thing to note is that you can, in a desperate situation, use your shirt. It should be 100% cotton and clean. If you have no cleaning supplies handy, your hot breath and the tail of your shirt will suffice.
But what cleaning solution is best for cleaning a camera lens? Almost every lens manufacturer sells their own special lens cleaning solution designed specifically to clean their own glass. It’s not even as expensive as you might think. You can easily pick up a small 60ml bottle of cleaner for a few bucks, and it should last quite a while.
To use the cleaning solution, simply apply directly to the tissue or the cloth, never on the lens itself. This is because you don’t want streams of liquid going down the edge of the lens and getting into the actual body of the lens. Always spray directly onto the cloth.
With the cloth wet, wipe in circles to reduce streaking. Begin in the center and slowly work your way out to the edges. This will ensure that the center of the image circle is clean above all. Also, be sure to only use enough pressure on the cloth to remove smudges, not to cause more smudges.
With these excellent tips, you can now keep your lens clean and clear to always have the best photographs. The blower and the brushes for cleaning a lens are affordable and small enough to take in your equipment bag. Also, the cloth and tissues, and the cleaning solution, are inexpensive as well. You can even use cotton swabs, making cleaning a camera lens one of the most affordable parts of being a photographer!
Be sure that you don’t clean your camera lens too often, that you don’t blow on the lens with your mouth, and that you keep all your equipment clean. And don’t forget to utilize lens caps when possible, even if just walking around the city looking for photo opportunities. You want to keep the lens covered as much as possible.