How to clean a digital camera

You invested a lot of money in your DSLR camera and lenses. Make sure they stay in good condition with these cleaning techniques, tools, and smart practices.

Take precautions

To avoid constant lens cleanings, always pop your lens cap back in place when your camera isn’t in use. You can use a lens hood and filter to protect your lens. A quality protective filter like a Hoya multicoated UV or skylight filter can be left on your lens at all times and will protect its expensive glass while also cutting down on hazy ultraviolet rays. Inexpensive filters may be tempting, but your images will look better if you use a higher-end, mulitcoated filter.

Blow off dust

Before you whip out the cloths, potions, and gadgets for cleaning your camera and lens, try this old school device. A blower is a plastic bulb with a nozzle (and sometimes a brush) that creates a gust of air strong enough to remove dust and debris. The majority of dust found inside a camera and on the sensor comes from the camera-end of a lens. Use the blower to clean off this area before attaching the lens to your camera. If you plan on using a blower on the inside of your camera to remove dust from the sensor, make sure it’s clean and give it a few pre-squeezes so that it doesn’t expel its own dust inside. Never use canned air on a camera as it can spray liquid propellant into the device.

Practice the quick switch

In addition to keeping the camera-end of your lenses clean, you should exercise caution when changing out lenses—store the caps for both ends in clean places, put a cap back on the camera-end of the old lens right away, and quickly connect the news lens to the camera before dust particles can get into the body. Juggling two lenses, a camera, and various caps takes practice. Being able to do it quickly on the go will do wonders for keeping your sensor dust-free.

Wipe down your glass

Even the most vigilant photographer will end up with a stray fingerprint on his or her glass. To clean lens glass, first make sure it’s clear of any large particles since rubbing them around can scratch your lens (a blower or lens brush works for this). Next, gently wipe it down with a clean micro fiber cloth, soft cotton cloth, or disposable lens cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, fog the glass up with a little breath and wipe again. These steps should be enough to clean off most dirt, but if you have a stubborn smudge or fingerprint, you can whip out the big guns.

Gadgets get tough on grime

Most dirt should come off with just a microfiber cloth. However, if you have a particularly filthy lens you can use a lens cleaning fluid. Apply a small amount of liquid lens cleaner to a cleaning cloth, not directly to the lens, and gently wipe off the glass. Only use a liquid cleaner specifically made for cleaning lenses as more corrosive substances can damage the coating on your glass. Another option is Nikon’s Lens Pen cleaning system, which has a dry brush on one end and a soft round chamois tip with non-liquid lens cleaner on the other.

Fight fungus

Fungus can be a problem with older cameras and lenses, especially if they're stored improperly. To keep your equipment as fungus-free as possible, always keep it in a dry location, wipe off any moisture (ocean spray, mist, rain) immediately, and consider keeping a desiccant (a drying agent) such as silica gel in your camera bag to absorb any excess dampness. MoistureMuncher capsules, from underwater photography company SeaLife, soak up humidity and even turn pink when it’s time to change them out. If your lens already has fungus, take it to an expert to be cleaned. Do not attempt to take a lens apart yourself.

[Image: via an_agent]

Clean the sensor

Dust on a camera’s sensor will show up as a spot in the same location on all of your images. Tinkering inside camera equipment is best left to the pros. If you do decide to clean your own sensor, read all kit instructions carefully and check your camera manual for details on its sensor cleaning mode.

What you are really cleaning is the silica filter that covers the camera’s sensor. Visible Dust has a variety of sensor cleaning products. Start with dry cleaning tools like a filtered dust blower or sensor cleaning brush. Visible Dust also carries wet cleaning kits that use specially formulated solutions you apply to the sensor with a swab.

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