1/23/2013

DSLR Maintenance

DSLR Maintenance and Lenses

After investing all that money on your amazing new camera and lenses, you need to spend a little time on DSLR maintenance to make sure that they stay in tip top condition. This is mainly so that you continue to get the best image quality and extend the life of your equipment, but it also helps should you want to sell on some of your equipment at any time. 


My guide for DSLR Maintenance....




1) Keep Your Lenses Clean
Your lenses need to be cleaned regularly to ensure the best image quality and also to cut down on dust and particles that could potentially scratch your lens surface.  Here's what you do:  Gently brush over the lens surface with a soft brush to remove any debris or dust.  (The reason to brush the lens first is to make sure that you are not rubbing a bit of grit across the lens when you clean with your cloth. This could potentially scratch it - the last thing you want to do!) Once you have any grit off, just give the lens a gentle clean with a Microfiber Cleaning Cloth or tissue, or the soft padded side of your LensPen if you have one. Most marks will come off with this (especially with the Lenspen) but if you have smudges on your lens that the cloth doesn't get rid off on it's own you can use a Lens Spray Cleaner - make sure you use one specifically designed for camera lenses so you don't rub off the special coating that lenses have to reduce glare etc. You don't need to use a cleaning fluid all the time though, just if you have smudges that your microfibre cloth doesn't wipe off.  You should be doing this with both the front and rear elements if you have a DSLR. 

For cleaning my lenses, I use a LensPen. It has a soft brush on one side and a soft cleaning pad on the other, which you use to gently buff away any smears. There's no liquid so it doesn't dry out. The Lenspen is handy, quick and works really well - I like the fact that I have my brush and cleaning element in one, and it's easy to store in my bag and use when I'm out about (should Callum put his finger on my lens - this does happen frequently!)   

LensPen


2) Keep Your DSLR Clean 
Dust and debris can easily make it's way into your camera sensor, especially if like me you change lenses a great deal, so it's good to keep your camera clean. Although the dust doesn't do much harm on the outside, the more dust there is on your camera, the more has the potential to get into your sensor and lenses, so a clean camera body is a good thing to have!  Just give the body a clean on the outside with a microfibre cloth to pick up any dust particles, and clean the viewing screen with a bit of lens cleaning fluid if it has a lot of smudges on it. You might also want to give your viewfinder a bit of a once over - you can simply use a cotton swab dabbed in a little lens cleaning fluid, or if you can buy a smaller sized Lenspen, the LensPen MicroPro which is perfect for this. (This size also works better for point and shoot cameras which have a smaller lens size) 

3) Get your Sensor to Be Professionally Cleaned 
You will occasionally need to have the sensor of your camera cleaned - you can do this yourself but I really wouldn't recommend it, you really need to know what you are doing as you have the potential to do so much more harm than good.  It's much better to wait until you get a build up of dirt - when you start noticing specs appearing on your images (one or two can be easily cloned out but when it becomes troublesome) take it to have the sensor cleaned professionally by your local camera repair shop.  How often you need to do this depends on how often you change lenses and how careful you are when you change them. Probably every year for a non-professional - even longer than that if you don't change your lenses terribly often.   To check if you need your sensor cleaned you can do the following: 

1. Set the aperture to f/16 or higher (large apertures tend not to show up the dirt)

2. Take a picture of something white - a wall, ceiling or piece of foam core (You may need to do this outside as you will struggle to get enough light inside. Either that or use a flash) 
3. Check the resulting image for grey spots -  if there are any this is probably going to be dust on your sensor. Take a few different shots in different areas to be sure. 
As I say, if there are just one or two on the outside of the lens you can wait until they start to build up a bit - you will probably always get a little bit of dust in the sensor. 
If you really, really want to learn how to clean the sensor yourself, you can - I've found this site that seems to give a lot of information on the subject - cleaning digital cameras.com - but bear in mind I send mine in to get done by a professional so cannot personally vouch for this! 

4) Clean Out Your Camera Bag
At least every three months take your camera and lenses out of your camera bag and give the bag a good clean - hoover on the inside to pick up any dust on crumbs that might find their way into your camera and lenses.  If your camera bag also doubles as purse or nappy bag, I would clean it much more regularly than that - it's amazing how much crumbs can accumulate if you are carrying around snacks etc.  

5) Give Your Accessories A Clean 
This goes for flash guns, memory cards, batteries etc - a quick brush on the contact elements to keep them clean will make sure there is never enough of a dirt build up to cause problems.  Do this at the same time as giving your camera body a once over. Remember if you are not planning on using your camera for a while take the battery out - they have the potential to leak and you don't want that to get into your camera body. 



6) Store Equipment Properly 
This is definitely more of a "do as I say" not "do as I do"! My DSLR lives on my desk most of the time but that's not where it should be.  You really should store your camera in a bag to protect the electronics from dust and falls - anything that allows it to be covered, and padded to absorb the shock of a fall is good. The same applies to your lenses - ideally they should be bagged with a dust cover, and stored in your padded bag too. I'm actually currently on the lookout for a bag that will allow me to store all my lenses and camera body when not in use - sitting on the shelf as they are now is a recipe for disaster. (My current camera bag only stores my camera with lens attached and a spare lens - need a bigger one!)  If you don't already have one, look into getting a bag that will allow you to store your camera safely when not in use. If you live in a humid area, consider getting small packs of Silica Gel Packs that you simply pop into your camera bag to absorb moisture - you don't want moisture inside your camera for obvious reasons.  

7) Protect Your Equipment 
Make sure that you always have on a lens cap when not taking pictures, and that the rear element on the lens is also covered when not in use.  When changing lenses, do so out of the wind, cover the sensor as much as possible, point the camera down and do it as quickly as you can so that you are limiting the amount of dust that can get into the sensor. If you are storing your camera without a lens on it, make sure that you put the front cover on to stop dust getting into the sensor.  

8) Servicing
You should also take your DSLR to be serviced every three to five years.  It may change with different camera types but generally they will check the general functionality of the camera, the autofocus system, calibrate the metering system and upload any firmware updates.  Generally the sensor and mirror are given a clean at the same time.

I think that pretty much covers it! Here's my camera cleaning kit and some ideas to get:

DSLR Maintenance Kit

Some DSLR Maintenance "Essentials"

LensPen - Great all in one product for cleaning your lenses, and perfect for keeping in your camera bag. 

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth - Good for cleaning your camera body and general cleaning. 

Lens Spray Cleaner -  if there is a persistent smudge that my Lenspen does't remove, I'll use a lens cleaner to give it a clean with my microfibre cloth.  Also good for cleaning viewfinders with a cotton swab.


All-In-One Kits 

Camera Cleaning Kit - this contains everything you will ever need so if you don't yet have anything this kit is a great one to get.

LensPen Camera Cleaning Kit - A great little kit - comes with  a LensPen, Microfibre Cloth, and a LensPen MicroPro for cleaning your viewfinder.  

Once again, I have managed to make the relatively simple thing of DSLR maintenance into an epic post.  Yes, it looks a lot on paper, but it's actually not that much - a good clean now and again, some sensible storage precautions and some trips to an authorised service centre is all you need to keep your gear in great condition for years to come!

6 comments:

Briana Hedden said...

Great info, thanks! Question, though. I have a lens pen and the padded side has like a black ink on it? I have never used it on a lens because I am scared to. Just touching it I get the black ink like substance all over my skin. Is this how a lens pen is supposed to be or is mine defective?

Audrey said...

Hi Briana, yes, the Lenspen uses a carbon based cleaner that looks black - it doesn't show up on smooth surfaces though which is why you don't see it on your lens but will on your finger. Try it out first on a smooth piece of glass - glasses or a screen or something - and you won't see the black stuff. You are right to be cautious - I always test things out on another glass surface before using on my lenses so I suggest you try it on a smooth piece of glass (it has to be smooth) first to make sure you are happy. Hope this helps.

Tasha Meyer said...

This post is exactly what I was hoping for! I will definitely be buying a Lenspen now. And actually start being nicer to my poor camera for a change lol. Thank you so much!!! :)

Jan said...

i love my lenspen! i get handprints on my filter ALL THE TIME. when you figure out which bag you love, i'd love to hear about it!

Audrey said...

I'm just doing some bag research at the moment - I like to make sure I have covered everything! I'll be writing up some when I've narrowed them down a bit!

Jan said...

thank you! there are far too many option out there. i feel like choosing the right camera bag is like trying to choose the right toothpaste! too many options!

Post a Comment