Fine camera lenses are precisely a combination of costly, often soft, optical glass elements and aluminum, chrome-plated brass or plastic mounts. Manufacturing tolerances are extremely tight for lenses in order to obtain high quality necessary to produce sharp images. Lens care consists primarily of cleanliness, avoidance of moisture and dust and prevention of damage.
Here are a few basic tips that will ensure that your valuable lenses are well protected. Much of what follows is common sense – but how many of the ideas do you actually put into practice?
These days the lenses come with two lens caps. The front cap should always be in place when the lens is not in use. The second lens cap fits the rear of the lens. It should always be put in place the moment the lens is removed from the camera – no exceptions. This will protect the rear element from damage when you put the lens down. Just as important, it will help to keep the gold electrical contacts clean. These contacts are the only link between the lens and the camera. If they become dirty, all manner of things can happen – or fail to happen – when you try to take photographs.
Dust can be a major problem in some environments, especially if you need to change lenses. Some photographers keep a damp cloth in a plastic bag and wipe the surface of the camera to remove dust before removing the lens.
If you do not attach another lens immediately, use the camera body cap to reduce the risk of dust entering. Although the sensor is covered by the focal plane shutter blinds between exposures dust which gets inside the camera can easily settle on the filter which covers the sensor during an exposure.
If you are away on location for more than a day, remember to pack a good range of camera, lens and sensor cleaning equipment and use it every evening.
You can’t attach a strap to most lenses, but you can reduce the risk of any damage by holding the lens close to a flat surface when you attach or remove it. Then, if the lens does slip out of your grasp, it will not have far to fall. Outdoors, you may have to crouch or kneel so that the camera is close to the ground as you attach or remove a lens. If the worst happens and your lens is launched into free fall, the risk of damage might be reduced if it is fitted with a lens hood. A hood protrudes from the front of the lens and may take the brunt of an impact.
The safest way to store a lens is in the correct hard case or pouch. This can then be placed inside your camera bag or case. If you don’t have a case or pouch to hand, a cheap but effective way to protect your lens is to wrap it in a clean, lint-free duster. This will reduce the risk of scratches and dents if the lens rolls around in a case and bangs into another lens, or the camera body. Many gadget bags and camera cases allow you to move partitions around to provide snug, padded compartments for each item of equipment. This is a good alternative to a lens case or pouch.
When your lenses and camera will probably be kept at work or home, keep the equipment in a bag or case so that it is shielded from daylight. Make sure the equipment is not near a central heating radiator, and avoid places that may be damp, or have damp air circulating. The ideal location will have a constant temperature all year round – neither too hot nor too cold.
If you are travelling by car, the worst place for your camera bag is on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Here, the equipment will be subject to all the vibrations from the engine, and the shocks as you drive over bumps. Although lenses are surprisingly durable, it is possible for components to loosen or shift position. Placing the bag on one of the seats will help to protect the equipment from vibrations, but is only safe if you carry the bag with you when you leave the car.
If you carry the camera bag in the boot of a car, it is a good idea to reduce vibrations by placing a folded blanket underneath
Hints and tips:
•If you use a Regular, Ultraviolet or Skylight filter as protection on a wide-angle lens, do not add further filters. The mount of the front filter may intrude into the image area and cause vignetting.
•At all costs avoid touching lens elements with your fingers. Human sweat is greasy and acidic and will eat into the delicate multi-coating of the lens, leading to your fingerprints becoming indelibly imprinted onto the lens. This can lead to problems with flare and make the lens worth less on the secondhand market.
•Fingerprints and minor scratches may not be immediately apparent when looking at a lens, which can be a worry when buying secondhand. There is, however, a way to make any marks magically appear. Simply breathe on the lens’ elements and any flaws will show up as your breath condenses on the element. The moisture will disappear in a second or two, leaving the lens unaffected.
•Looking after your camera and lens as described will help to ensure that it holds they value. In addition, you will maximize the value of your equipment by keeping the original box, packaging and any paperwork that came with it. Even though most people don’t use the boxes for storage of the camera or lens, a classified advertisement with the words ‘mint and boxed’ is attractive to many buyers – perhaps implying that the equipment has not been used very much.