Photography Friday: 5 Tips for Caring for Your Camera Lenses

From purchasing a camera to acquiring additional accessories, photography equipment is a pretty large investment for any photographer and it’s important to take care of your stuff. Keeping your lenses in top shape will make sure you continue to get great images out of them for many years to come.

Various Camera Lenses
Lenses should last a very long time if properly cared for

Here are some helpful tips for caring for your lenses.

1. Buy a UV filter

As soon as you get a new lens, immediately buy a UV filter that will fit the front element. These are measured in millimeters. The best ones are multi-coated, which helps to reduce or eliminate flare if light hits the front of the lens.

In the days of film, UV filters blocked ultraviolet waves, preventing images from having a blue color cast. Digital cameras with automatic white balance compensate for this, so really, the only reason to have a UV filter now is to protect the front element of your lens.

Many things can happen to the glass on a lens, from scratches to greasy finger prints. It’s much safer to continually clean a UV filter than to continually clean the front glass on a lens. And if something hits the front of your lens, it’s much better to fix a $40 filter crack than a $1,000 lens. A good UV filter gives me peace of mind that my investment will stay sharp over the long haul.

2. Use proper cleaning supplies

If you are using your lens outdoors, you will likely accumulate dust on the glass. There are many different cleaning methods for you to try, including brushes, compressed air, lens cloth and lens cleaning fluid, and pre-moistened wipes. All of these are safe to use on your lens and your success really depends on your technique and the quality of the tools.

Do not use any old cloth or a shirt tail. These things can gather small particles that are abrasive to glass and can damage your lens. I prefer to use pre-moistened wipes that are alcohol-based because the liquid evaporates quickly and doesn’t streak. Make a point of cleaning your lens glass periodically and, if the dirt doesn’t build up, it will be an easy task.

Lens Care Equipment
Typical cleaning supplies

3. Keep your equipment dry

Better lenses have some sort of weather seals to keep water and dust out. But with so many moving parts, it’s impossible to waterproof a lens completely. If you plan to be shooting in the rain or in some other situation where there’s a possibility of water damage, look into buying a rain cover, which is basically a plastic bag you put over your camera and around your lens. At the very least, put a lens hood on to keep water off the front element, and if you are in VERY wet situations, consider using an underwater housing for the ultimate protection.

4. Use a lens hood

Speaking of lens hoods, putting one on your lens is an easy way to protect it from unforeseen flying objects or even from setting your camera down too hard. Having a hood on has saved my glass more times than I can count.

5. Send your lens in for service

Trying to take a lens apart to clean it if you are not experienced in that sort of thing is a bad idea. The camera manufacturers have the equipment and skills to take a lens apart and properly clean it. I know that both Canon and Nikon allow you to do this for a reasonable cost, and some independent shops are able to clean, too. Lenses that have been in particularly harsh shooting conditions, like sand, snow or high winds might benefit from a professional servicing.

It goes without saying that storing your lenses in a cool, dry place will extend their life, as will handling them carefully. Try out a few different techniques for cleaning your lens and let me know which work best for you in the comments.

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