Camera lenses can get filthy when they’re used a lot. Even if we try to take care of them as best we can, smudges and grease/oil can end up on the glass and other foreign objects can end up inside of the lens itself. If you’ve ever turned your lens to zoom into something and heard a grinding or scratching noise, you should stop using it immediately and have it cleaned.
If you’re like me (and just about every other photographer on the planet), you’ve noticed a smudge on your lens and used your shirt to wipe it off. I mean, that’s what we do with our eyeglasses, so why not camera lenses? While I’m not saying this method isn’t effective for cleaning lenses, I am saying that you should take caution if you employ it. Shirts can have harmful dirt or sand embedded into their fibers and that dirt can easily scratch a sensitive lens. Also, and this is from personal experience, clothing can contain oils from our bodies on it and if we use that clothing to clean some lens glass, we may be transferring the oil from the clothing to the lens. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it will only make the glass dirtier than it was originally.
If you want to clean your lens properly, you can use a microfiber lens cleaning cloth. These cloths have been and are used throughout the world to clean all types of optics, from camera lenses, to eyeglasses to binoculars. They’re safe and effective. I’ve got a bunch of these things and they work well, year after year.
If all you have on you is a lens pen, you may surely use that to clean your glass. That’s why these things were created in the first place. Just remember, they somewhat annoyingly transfer dust to a lens as you’re cleaning, so gently blowing the surface of the lens as you’re cleaning it can help with that. Also, if you’re going to use a lens pen to clean, please, please, please make sure it’s not been tumbling around in your bag unprotected. Like your shirt, lens pens can have dust, dirt and sand stuck to them and those objects can scratch the heck right out of the glass.
If you’re getting an error message on your camera that tells you something isn’t connected properly, your lens contacts may need to be cleaned. If you’ve got a pencil handy, you can lightly rub the eraser on the contacts and that might help you out. If the error message is persistent, you may need to have a photography repair shop check it out.
Finally, photography can get dirty. If you find yourself hearing a crunching or scratching sound as you’re zooming in or out, you probably want to send the lens out for a thorough cleaning by a professional shop. This isn’t something you want to ignore and keep using. The noise is most likely coming from sand that’s caught in between the fine crevices and it can do a lot of damage if left alone.
How do you clean your camera lenses? Do you have any tricks you’d like to share? If so, please contribute down below.