Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Life Through a Clear Lens

Your camera lens is worth protecting. Here are steps you can take to keep it clean and safe.

By Earl Nottingham

You spent a lot of money on that new, tack-sharp lens for your camera, and now you have a long-term investment. Chances are, the lens will outlast your current camera body and will be compatible with future camera bodies. As a delicate optical device, your lens deserves the same sense of care and protection that you would give your own eyes. Sadly, over time, most lenses are exposed to dust, grit, fingerprints, dings, drops and scratches. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true in the care of lenses because, with minimal prevention, your investment will perform flawlessly for years to come.

There are simple, inexpensive steps you can take to protect your lens. But first, you need to make sure your lens surfaces are clean. Always start by using a lens blower brush to gently blow and brush any loose particles off the surface. Avoid canned air products! If smudges or fingerprints remain they can gently be cleaned with a good quality lens cleaning cloth. Never use a shirt or other clothing — especially polyester cloth. Also avoid using solvents to clean a lens; they will deteriorate the delicate lens coatings. A gentle breath onto the lens followed by a lens cleaning cloth is usually all that is needed to get the job done.

Once clean, consider these items for lens protection. If possible, use them all.

If, for some reason, you have not employed the tips mentioned below and end up with a major scratch on the front or rear of the lens, all is not lost. Typically, a scratch will not degrade your photograph to a noticeable degree. However, you could notice some unwanted flare or reflection from a large scratch when shooting in the direction of a strong light source such as the sun. Here is where our friend the lens shade can help out by blocking the sun from the front element of the lens. Small scratches and rubs caused by using improper cleaning cloths usually manifest themselves by lowering image contrast and adding soft halos around lights. Fingerprints or smudges will have the same effect. As a last resort, most lens manufacturers can replace the front lens element — for a price. A filter is cheaper.

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Lens filter: Invest in a good quality clear or UV filter for protection. If the camera is dropped or hit, it is much cheaper to replace the filter than to have the lens repaired or replaced. Use the same cleaning technique for the filter that you would for the lens. Avoid using a polarizing filter for general protection.

Photo © Sergei Pivovarow | Dreamstime.com

Lens Shade: One of the most underutilized protection methods is something you should be using at all times anyway — a lens shade. A shade does double duty by not only shading extraneous light off of the lens and filter but also absorbing the shock that would normally go through the camera and lens if the lens is dropped.

Photo © Sergei Pivovarow | Dreamstime.com

Lens cap (front and rear): When not shooting, get in the habit of replacing the front lens cap, even over the filter. This will give an added level of protection and keep the lens filter clean. When storing a lens in a bag, always attach a rear lens cap. The rear lens element is just as important as the front.

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Lens Bag/pouch: Always try to store your camera and lenses in a good-quality padded camera bag or dedicated lens pouch when not in use. This helps avoid potential dings and drops while in the field. Protective bags and pouches come in all styles and sizes for any photo assignment.

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