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Camera cleaning


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Something that often gets asked is - how should I clean my camera?


My process is this: 


Start with a good quality soft paint brush and gently brush off any dirt or dust from the outside of the camera. DO NOT use the paint brush on any glass ports or the sensor, just the camera body, handles and other accessories. A small artists brush can be used to get into all the little gaps and crevices, but don't poke it into any connectors as you could damage the pins. 


Most of the time this is all you need to do. If the camera is extremely dusty then I might use a small vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, but this needs to be done with care as excessive suction could damage the fans inside the camera.


The next step (when needed) is to use a soft polishing cloth to wipe down the camera. If it's very dirty then I will use a solution made up with 1 cup of warm water with 1 or 2 drops of dish soap (you really do only need 1 or 2 drops). This is very effective at removing dirt and grease but shouldn't attack the paint or damage the plastic. Don't soak the camera, just dampen the cloth and gently wipe over the camera.


If there is dirt in a connector or similar I will use a handheld puffer to try to blow it out. I do not like canned air, it can make things worse as it is quite powerful and can blow dirt and debris deeper into the camera.


What about cleaning the optical port - the piece of glass in front of the ND filters and sensor on full size cameras like the FX6/FX9/FS7 etc? This piece of glass is coated with an anti-reflective coating so needs to be treated very gently - don't use strong solvents as they can strip the coating.

To clean this I start with a handheld puffer (get one where the nozzle is part of the bulb to ensure the nozzle doesn't fly off onto the glass). I use the puffer to blow off any dirt or dust. Again in most cases this is all that is needed and I always start with this as it should remove anything that could scratch the glass if you do need to progress to the next steps. If the puffer isn't enough then I use a the brush end of a "Lens Pen". This is a very soft brush designed for cleaning delicate optics, they are available from most camera stores. Use the brush to very gently brush off any dirt. If that still isn't enough then you can use the other end of the lens pen, which is normally a flat swab to wipe the glass port. By be very, very gentle. Start at the center and work your way towards the edge in a very slow, light circular motion. You should now have a nice clean optical port. But if someone has put greasy fingers on the port and you are struggling to get it clean then as a last resort I would use 1 drop of dish soap in 1 cup of distilled water and use a microfibre lens cloth dipped in the solution to gently wipe the port. Lens pens are cheap, you should replace it regularly, especially if it gets dirty or has been used on an oily or greasy surface.


For cameras that have an exposed sensor, I will try to avoid cleaning the sensor at all costs. A puffer can be used to blow off dust, but you don't want to ever touch the sensor unless you absolutely have to. To clean the sensor buy a good quality sensor cleaning kit, which will normally consist of special swabs which are gently dry wiped across the face of the sensor. Never rub, never scrub, follow the instructions that come with the swabs.


Lenses: Again, puffer first to blow off dust and dirt. Then the brush end of a lens pen, for more stubborn dirt the flat end of a lens pen. For a lens cloth it depends on what I am shooting. For most applications a microfibre lens cloth will work well. But if you are shooting in the rain or a very damp location a soft Chamois Leather (the very soft leather used to dry a car after washing) is good for removing rain as most conventional lens cloths just tend to smear it all over the lens.


Finally: Keep your lens cloths in sealed bags to keep them clean and free of grit and dirt. Just 1 spec of hard grit on a lens cloth can ruin a lens if it gets wiped across the glass. You should be very careful to keep your cleaning gear clean. And also, a few small specs of dust on the front of a lens or filter rarely cause an issue, don't overdo the cleaning as any time you wipe a lens there is a risk of scratching it and a scratch will show up a lot more than a few specs of dust.



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