You know how it goes: An ounce of prevention, and all that. The first thing you can do to prevent your lenses from getting dirty and scratched, and your sensor from getting dusty, is to take some basic steps toward keeping everything from getting gross in the first place.
Keep the lens cap and the rear cap on your lenses when you aren’t using them. It’s also worthwhile to put a basic UV filter on the front of each lens so that if the worst should happen and it comes to harm, the filter bears the damage, not the lens. The downside of this approach is that you’re adding an extra element to the lens and creating an opportunity for image quality to drop, specifically in terms of getting more lens flare and color fringing.
Also, don’t do that thing where you breathe on the lens and then wipe it with your shirt. That’s a really bad idea.
The area of a camera you’ll probably want to clean the most is the front element of your lens—the bit of glass that you point at everything. It’s the part of your camera that gets exposed to the most elements, including errant raindrops, fingertip smudges, and dirt and dust.
The next stage in cleaning a lens’s front element is to use a LensPen. These pen-sized double-ended cleaners are affordable and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
On one end you have a nice little brush for knocking away loose particles, and on the other you have a carbon-charged felt tip. The carbon end absorbs oil and other particles that may have settled on your lens. Each time you cap the pen, it recharges the felt tip with more carbon, letting you use it again to soak up even more grease and fingerprints. As LensRentals’ Roger Cicala points out in his cleaning guide, “We like several things about them: no liquid residue, simple and easy to use, gets into the edge of the lens better than most other methods. And out of the office, they’re small and easy to carry around. They come in a variety of types and sizes and we use a number of different ones. Smaller ones are perfect for camera viewfinders, angled edges are great for lenses with deep edge recesses like fisheyes, etc.”
But he goes on to point out a caveat: “The most important point, though, is to not overuse a LensPen. Once the felt on the tip gets worn, the rubber underneath doesn’t clean, and can leave marks if used with too much pressure. We get, at best, 100 cleanings from a Lenspen, but that varies by which brand we’re using and how big the lenses are being cleaned.”
I talked to Cicala about the differences between brands of pens, and he noted that the situation is murky, as not only is the largest manufacturer called “LensPen,” but the company also sometimes makes pens for other companies to spec, and then there are cheap Chinese versions too. Generally speaking, you can trust the LensPen brand, it seems. And Cicala told me, “The only thing I’ve seen consistently is screw-on-cap lens pens don’t last very long or work as well as pop-off-capped ones.”
After you use the pen, give the lens another quick puff of air to blow off any carbon particles that might still be present.
Finally, if you haven’t totally cleaned the front of the lens with that tool, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Some folks will say that a clean microfiber cloth will do a good job. But the problem is, since you reuse such cloths, it’s very easy for something to get trapped in the material and then scrape the element. People who stick with a cloth suggest washing it frequently and keeping it sealed. For safety and convenience, I’d argue that you’re better off using a disposable lens wipe.
This article comes from the-wirecutter edit released