[Travel]: DSLR Camera Care & Maintenance - cleaning kit & techniques

8/30/2015


Note: all informations are filtered and summarised into this post after researching on various sites. 




A DSLR camera is an expensive piece of gadgetry that can still get damaged and dirty - if you do not tend to its cleaning requirements.

With a good clean and inspection now and then, you can keep your costly gears in great condition for years to come. Take a few minutes to read through the below relatively inexpensive cleaning / maintenance kits - before it is too late!

Why Clean Your Camera & Lenses?

The number one concern will be learning how to keep the image sensor from garnering dust. How does dust get there? Each time you change your camera lens, dust and debris will have the potential of getting in the camera body or the lens itself. When dust settles on the camera sensors, it leads to specks or bad pixels that shows up throughout the image. If too much dust gets into the camera, it would cause mechanical problems that could be serious enough to keep you from taking pictures.

Introducing Camera Cleaning Kits: 

0. UV / Skylight Filter

Before I get into cleaning techniques, let me share a tip that all DSLR users should consider. For each lens you own you should consider purchasing a UV or skylight filter. Keep it attached to your lens at all times. Filter protect lenses from UV light as well as scratches and breakage. It also means that you clean the filter instead of the lens (unless dust gets right in). Keep in mind that filters come in different level of quality - of you have a high end lens consider investing in a higher end filter.
Lens hoods can also protect the end of your lens caps for both the front and back end of your lens that come with it - always use them!

1. lens caps (body cap & lens cap)

This is perhaps one of the most important thing to remember: Always make sure that there is something protecting your sensor from dust and debris! Store your camera with front cover on if your lens is removed. Lens cap keeps lenses clean, scratch-free, safe inside out, which means you can prevent lots of crap all over your images!

2. blower  & brush (only for light dust situation)

Although dust doesn't do much harm on the outside, the more dust there is on your camera, the higher potential it has to get into your sensor and lenses, so a clean camera body is a good thing to have! Normally, I use blower everytime after I am done with a photoshoot. Remember to squeeze your blower a few times before applying to your lens to remove any dust that might be inside it. Blower helps in removing dust on lens after removing front cap as well as blowing grooves of lens before removing lens from camera. An alternative to blower will be a fine soft brush (camel hair) - gently brush over the lens surface to remove any debris or dust. This helps to prevent spots and craps to appear in your images!
However, avoid using a blower if your camera sensor collects too much dust, as it may put dust onto your sensor! Instead, consider professional maintenance.

3. LensPen

LensPen works the same way as a microfibre cleaning cloth - but better as the more stubborn marks will come off! LensPen has a retractable soft brush on one side and a soft cleaning pad on the other, which you use to gently buff away any smears. It is handy and convenient to bring along. Personally I do not have a lensPen yet, but it is in one of my must-buy list.

4. Microfibre cleaning cloth & lens cleaning tissue

The last thing you want to do is to have your lens scratched by a grit on your lens! So after using a blower / brush, your can start rubbing your lens gently with a clean microfibre cleaning cloth or a cleaning tissue. Now, the cleaning tissues here are referring to lens tissue, not the normal facial tissues - those are rough and will scratch your lens!  Unlike the washable microfibre cloth, cleaning tissues are one-time use thin tissues that should be thrown away after using.

5. lens cleaning Fluid

Lens cleaning fluid is an alcohol based fluid that comes in different forms such as single pack / multi-packs, sprays and wipes. Use the fluid if there are remaining smudges / fingerprints on your lens that your clothes doesn't get rid off! Make sure to use a specifically designed for camera lens cleaning fluid to prevent rubbing off the anti-glare special coating of your lens. Wipe your lenses and other camera parts (both front and rear elements, eg: viewfinder, live viewscreen etc.) after using it in a shoot, especially a dusty one. Keep in mind that you do not need too much of this fluid at a time - simply drop one or two drops onto a cotton swab / a cleaning tissue and lightly swipe over your viewfinder to remove unwanted smudges.  Remember, apply the fluid to a cloth / tissue instead of the lens itself.

Alternative: Many photographer believe that by simply breathing on your lens and wipe with a cloth is a safer method than introducing harsh cleaning fluids.

Where to purchase camera cleaning kit?

All mentioned-above can be purchased from Amazon (or any camera store) at pretty low cost. You can choose to purchase as a full kit, but don't go for the very cheapest gear though - to ensure the quality for the costly gear you've paid. It's always better safe than sorry right? :)

What about camera professional Servicing?

Take your DSLR for professional services every 3 to 5 years - mine still a long long way to go! This may varies between your camera type, but basically the check will consist of checking the general functionality of the camera, autofocus system, calibrate metering system, cleansing of sensor and mirrors, and updating camera firmware (if any!)

Cleaning Procedure (& respective cleaning kit needed): 

1. clean the camera lens

Start with a blower / brush on the lens, then use a microfibre cleaning clothes / lens cleaning tissue / lensPen with (optional) hot breathe / lens cleaning fluid to clear the lens from remaining smudges and fingerprints.

2. clean the camera body

Start with a blower / brush, then move on to a soft and dry microfibre cleaning clothes on the whole camera body. No blowing on camera with your mouth is allowed, as this will lead to moisture entering the assembly of device!

3. Clean the mirror lockup

Sometimes you may find tiny dust particles trapped on the low pass filter that covers the image sensor. Unfortunately. dust will be seen in the images as spots so it becomes imperative to clean the filter. Take note that you are now working on a VERY delicate part of the camera, so you need to take EXTRA care when cleaning it. The last thing you want to do is damage the image sensor because this could cost you a great deal of money to get it repaired.

Before you start the process, ensure that you have full battery power or the mirror will close upon dead battery while you are trying to clean the filter. Next, go to set up menu, then select the mirror lock option and follow the instructions on the screen.

Press the shutter release button - the mirror should be open unless your camera is switched off / loses power. Hold the device under a bright light to see visible signs of dust accumulated on the filter. Turn the camera downwards and use the blower lightly to remove clogged dirt.

Take noted that all you need is only a blower! NO brush end, no cloth, no fluid, no touching the filter as this will damage it! If the blower doesn't help, bring it to a camera service station.
There are actually 3 methods of image sensor cleaning: air cleaning, brushing and liquid. However, I suggest you to learn only the air cleaning method, as the remaining 2 methods are too risky for an amateur like you and me (pardon me if you are a professional..)

If you manage to remove the dirt, simply turn off the camera and the mirror will go back to normal position.

4. Clean the camera accessories

Camera accessories includes flash gun, memory card, batteries etc. Use a dry cloth or perform a quick brush on the contact element to keep them away from a dust build up.

5. Clean the camera bag

Around every 3 months, I give my camera bag a spring cleaning - to remove 'things' and 'crumbs' that somehow made its way in magically. You will be surprise to found tore silica packs, animal hairs, dust, grass, snacks crumbs and even tiny stones collected during an outdoor shoot! You can do this when you're cleaning your lenses and DSLR.

6. Protect the camera

After cleaning you camera gears, ensure that you store away the camera in your now-clean camera bag for future use. Throw in a few new silica gel packs into your camera bag, and remember to replace the lens cap and UV filters to all your lenses properly before closing / zipping the camera bag. Finally, store your camera bag at a place with no extreme changes of temperatures. 


Bonus Camera & Lenses Cleaning Tips

1. Do not use compressed air

Compressed air actually force more dust into the camera body and damage small working parts of the camera.

2. Turn on Camera Sensor cleaning

Make sure to set your camera built in camera sensor cleaning mechanism on - you can find it under the menu settings.

3. Clean your Camera often

It is better to clean the camera often to avoid dust settling into the body, which makes cleaning harder.

BONUS: Lens Changing

Try avoid changing lens at dusty area or when wind is blowing! If you have to, be sure to turn your back to block the wind using your body, cover the sensor as mush as possible, point the camera down (to avoid gravity to allow any surface dust to fall into the mirrors and sensors) and do it as quickly as possible to limit the amount of dust getting into the sensor. 



Anyway, that's all for now! Hope you learn something from this post :) Stay tuned for my next post on DSLR camera care & Maintenance [part 2: storing tips]!

Do leave me a comment on what else you would like to learn about! :) I will try to answer your questions if I know about them!

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