The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure could easily be applied to DSLR’s (and photography gear in general). Taking care of your equipment can not only add years to it’s life, but it’s also important to make sure a dirty and/or poorly performing camera isn’t negatively affecting your photos. Even just a tiny speck of dust on your sensor can cause a blemish on every photo you take. Luckily, that can be easily avoided by getting into a routine of cleaning and inspecting your camera on a regular basis.
Caring for your DSLR isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, but there are some things that you want to be sure to avoid–like using household cleaning products or accidentally exposing your sensor to even more dust and grime while you’re trying to clean it. Here’s a few pointers that will have your camera as sparkling clean as the day it left the camera factory.
First and foremost, invest in a cleaning kit that was made specifically for cleaning cameras. There are a wide range available, and some will include more tools than others, so make sure you pick out one that best suits your needs. It would also be wise to do a little research on certain cleaning items, like wipes and towels, to make sure they are good quality and won’t end up hurting your camera.
- Clean the outside of your camera and lens with a soft bristled brush.
- Use an air blower (not compressed air, more on that later) to clean the glass elements of your camera (like the mirror and viewfinder) and the glass elements of your lens.
- Use extreme caution when cleaning the sensor on your camera. There are sensor swabs available at most online camera retails that work well and minimize the risk of damaging your camera.
Another thing to make a habit of is using your lens and body caps–they are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your gear clean! I usually have a couple extras on hand in case I happen to lose one (which I do often).
Things To Avoid
Generally speaking using any kind of household cleaner on your DSLR and equipment is a big no no. While it may seem like a good idea to wipe the front of your lens down with window cleaner, but it can leave streaks and a nasty film behind that will degrade image quality. Additionally, some cleaners, especially acetone based cleaners, can cause permanent damage to your camera, that’s why it’s generally best to avoid them altogether.
- Practice extreme caution any time you remove your lens or body cap from your DSLR–whether you’re cleaning it or just swapping it out–as it exposes the inside of your camera to dust particles that can float in. Do your best to ensure you’re in a clean area where there isn’t much of a draft and that there isn’t a lot of dust or dirt being blown around by the breeze.
- Using a can compressed air can also damage your DSLR and is best to be avoided. The camera cleaning kit you buy should include a hand powered air blower that won’t hurt your gear!
- Don’t wipe your gear down with paper towels or tissues. They can leave dust particles, chemicals, and even scratch your lens. Invest in a dust free microfiber cleaning cloth.
The photo above is of a sensor that was “cleaned” with a can of compressed air–the compressed air left behind a residue on the sensor. Remember, causing permanent damage to your gear is possible, but completely avoidable if you practice caution and good judgement.
When In Doubt, Leave It To A Pro
If you’re not comfortable performing any of the cleaning steps, or are unsure about a certain aspect of it, it may be in the best interest of your camera to have it professionally cleaned and serviced. Most of the major camera manufacturers provide a mail in service that will allow you to ship your camera to them to have it cared for by an expert. There is almost always a fee for the service, but for many having the peace of mind is worth the extra money.
That being said, there are still a lot of small things you can be doing in between major cleanings that will help prolong the life and quality of your gear. So it’s always best to try not to neglect the things you are capable of doing for safe keeping at the very least.