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Cleaning Your Camera Gear

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Hamid Amirani - 6.4.20


You've invested lots of time and money on your camera gear. You’ve probably made a photographic record of your equipment and kept all essential information like registrations, warranties and proof of purchase stored and backed up in the event of theft or repair and you need evidence of ownership and product guarantee.


But what about keeping the gear itself clean? Marks and scratches look good on a leather Cecilia Messenger Bag, not in your camera’s mirror box. But while it’s important to maintain your camera in good condition, it is a potential danger zone if not done right!


So before we dive in, your guiding principle must be: Don’t attempt anything you’re not 100% certain you can do safely and, even then, use extra caution!


Image Credit: Jan Bittger from Pexels




Olympus provided some professional advice in response to a customer who had some dust on his E-500 SLR's focusing screen. He feared that blasts from a can of compressed air would freeze the sensor and that the dust spot would be cloned when he changes lenses.


Olympus responded that dust visible in a viewfinder won't appear in the final images. But since it's an annoying sight, they suggested using the camera’s built-in Supersonic Wave Filter to vibrate dust off the imaging sensor (other dust reduction systems are available in other camera brands).




If dust ends up on other surfaces in the mirror box, Olympus suggested the following method to clean it out:


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  • Gently blow out the surfaces of the mirror box with a blower bulb that doesn't have a brush on it. Squeeze the bulb slowly in order to create a gentle flow of air. When doing this, use your camera's cleaning mode to raise the mirror (refer to your camera's manual for its cleaning mode).
  • With the mirror raised, blow off the sensor and the autofocus sensor well in the bottom of the mirror box.
  • Turn off the camera before you blow off the mirror and the focusing screen in the roof of the mirror box.



Olympus also offered some stark warnings on what NOT to do when cleaning the mirror box.


Canned Air is a no-no

Olympus said, “If the can is being moved while blowing out the mirror box, it may spit the liquefied gas and leave a mark on the mirror, sensor, autofocus sensor, or focusing screen. If this occurs, it will require a repair to replace the damaged component. In addition, the high pressure of 'canned air' may actually blow dust into the viewfinder system where it cannot be removed with a blower bulb.”



Image Credit: Pixabay


Never use a brush or lens tissue to clean the mirror and never touch the mirror with your fingers

Olympus explained: “The mirror in a digital SLR is what is called a 'first-surface' mirror, which has the silvering material on the front surface of the glass, unlike your bathroom mirror which has the silver behind the glass. The silvering on a first-surface mirror is susceptible to damage and should only be cleaned using a blower bulb.”




Image Credit: Steve Johnson from Pexels


Digital Camera World has a mantra about cleaning lenses: “Only do it when you have to. You don’t have to do it every time you go out, or even every week – unless you are live in an area that is particularly dusty or sandy.”


DCW suggests this approach:


  • Use a hurricane blower to blast the recesses of your camera with air to remove specks of dirt. Pay particular attention to the filter ring.
  • Use a microfiber cloth – not a lens tissue - for the front of the lens, taking care not to rub you too hard. Use a gentle circular movement to wipe away dirt. Start from the middle and work outwards.


Lens Contacts


Image Credit: Fun Tech Talk


As Digital Trends explains, “newer lenses have electronic contacts on the lens mount that drive the focusing motor, the image stabilization setup (if present), and help transfer information about the image and lens to the camera body.” It goes on to recommend avoiding cleaning them as much as possible because they’re made of sensitive metals.


However, ”…in the event you’re getting a constant error code regarding the connection between the lens and the camera, your safest bet is to clean the camera with a standard pencil eraser. Make sure the eraser you’re using is made of a soft rubber, as certain erasers may contain abrasives that could scratch the contacts. Furthermore, ensure the lens is facing down so that shavings don’t find their way into the internal components of the lens.”


Digital Trends again stresses: “Only do this as a last-ditch effort.”


Lens Barrel


Digital Photography School recommends buying a new paint brush to remove dust from lens barrels. “You don’t want this to be super soft either, as it’s just being used on the outside of the cameras and lenses and not on anything that needs to be protected.”




For the camera body, DPS says to give it a once over with the paint brush, followed by a thorough wipe down with a microfiber towel.


Alternatively, but similarly, Lifewire suggests using a microfiber cloth to clean the camera body, and slightly dampening the cloth with distilled water to remove any persistent grime.




For basic cleaning, Canon says to clean the battery terminals with a dry cotton swab that has a fine and soft tip.


For the task of cleaning battery erosion, this video by Modern Design Elements demonstrates the process using Q-tips, white vinegar and sandpaper.





There are commercially available SD slot cleaning kits, such as XSories' cleaning kit.


For damaged or jammed slots, the YouTube photography vlogger The Photillustrator has made a video showing how he fixed the SD slot on his camera.





When it comes to cleaning the dust out of the tiny gaps around shutter buttons and mode dials, Light Stalking recommends you use a new hard bristle paint brush.


Camera Hot Shoe

Image Credit: Pixabay


For your camera’s hot shoe, it suggests a standard pencil eraser.




If you have a vintage film camera with a leather case that you want to clean or restore, Allan Burgess of Rangefinder Cameras explains how he cleaned his old Minolta 7s rangefinder’s leather using Kiwi brand instant liquid wax shoe polish (other wax shoe polish brands are available).




There are some things one should never do when cleaning camera gear.


  • NEVER put any type of cleaning fluid directly on a lens
  • NEVER loosen or tighten a screw
  • NEVER oil any part of a camera


Photography Talk has its own list of DON’TS for lens cleaning, including:

  • Don’t use water
  • Don’t steam the lens with your mouth and then wipe it
  • Don’t use your shirt or sleeve to clean the lens



The information provided herewith is general guidance. It’s essential that you conduct your own research and seek expert advice before you embark on any cleaning. Cecilia cannot be held liable for any damage that may arise from incorrect cleaning methods.

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