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Basics – Part 3: 6 Tips for Cleaning your DSLR Lens

19 Apr Posted by Matt in Basics, Guides |
Basics – Part 3: 6 Tips for Cleaning your DSLR Lens

For part 3 of our Basics series we’re going off on a bit of a tangent – rather than talk about taking great shots, today we’re looking at six different ways you can safely clean your lens. Of course prevention is better than cure, so following our tips on How to Protect your DSLR Lens & Image Sensor will help make sure you don’t need to do this maintenance too regularly.

If you haven’t done so already, why not check out Basics – Part 1: Composition and Basics – Part 2: Exposure for some great practical tips on taking stunning photos.

Why should I clean my camera’s lens?

Muddy Motorbike

Sometimes dirt is unavoidable!

Cleaning the lens on your DSLR or compact camera is a very important bit of routine maintenance that will help ensure you continue to take crisp, clear shots.  With DSLR and compact system camera’s it’s especially important to look after your lens, as being bigger and generally more exposed it’s more liable to pick up dirt and dust.

That said, don’t go cleaning all your lenses for cleaning sake.  You should only really clean your lens when it’s dirty, else you risk doing more harm than good.

If you haven’t cleaned a lens before then the thought of doing so can seem a bit daunting, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. You’ll need to exercise some caution and make sure you have the right cleaning tools before you start though.


Six Ways to Clean a DSLR Lens

If you’re lens is already a bit dirty then try one or more of the following tips to get it back into tip-top condition. If it’s clean already then don’t be tempted to have a go anyway (don’t worry it will get dirt on it eventually!) – instead why not check out our tips for keeping your lens clean.

1 – Breathe on the Lens

If there’s just a light coating of dust or a minor blemish, breathing on the lens (to steam it up) and then wiping with a cloth should be your first point of call.  It’s also the most convenient when you’re out and about, but isn’t going to stand up to removing stubborn marks.

One word of caution for this low-tech method is to make sure you use an appropriate cloth – don’t go wiping the breath off with any old rag you find in your pocket!  For cleaning a lens of any kind you need to make sure you use a good quality lint-free cloth or tissue.

Nikon Microfiber Cloth2 – Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

A microfiber cloth is the type you might already use to clean your glasses/sunglasses, and is designed to pick up dust and oils without leaving any residue or marks.  You can also try simply wiping your lens with a lint-free tissue.

As with any kind of wiping be sure to get rid of any large or rough bits of dirt before you start wiping – the last thing you want to do is rub bits of grit around your lens and cause more harm.

3 – Use Lens Cleaning Fluid

Available from most camera shops for little money, lens cleaning fluid is a great weapon of choice for removing stubborn stains, greasy or oily fingerprints, and other bits of muck from your camera lenses.

To use it simply put a couple of drops on a suitable lint-free tissue and wipe that in a circular motion onto the lens, exercising caution not to rub any grit or abrasive dirt into lens as this may cause scratches.

4 – Cleaning Tissues

To follow either the lens fluid or breathing on the lens methods above, some lens cleaning tissues are a must.  You should never use normal tissues on a camera lens as they can be both abrasive and prone to disintegrating as you use them, both of which will cause more harm than good.

Each tissue should only be used once.

Hama Lens Pen5 – Lens Cleaning Pen

A lens cleaning pen is a neat and portable solution for cleaning your lenses that is both less messy and less cumbersome than using tissues or wipes.  The pen has a flat brush on the end coated in a moisture-chemical solution that  helps the cleaning process.

For an all-in-one and hassle-free solution then an inexpensive lens pen (they can be picked up for about £5/$7) is the best choice for most photographers.

6 – Lens Blower/Brush

For removing larger bits of dirt a lens-blower can be handy, although cheap versions don’t have enough blowing power to really make much of an impact and can suffer from shedding brush bristles everywhere.

Your mileage with a lens blower may vary, but really it’s only useful as a ‘first step’ and will normally need to be followed up with some other kind of cleaning.

Watch that Sensor…

Whilst we’re talking cleaning we should also mention the other very sensitive area of a Digital SLR camera, the image sensor.  A dirty image sensor is harder to clean and more of a problem than a dirty lens (a dirty sensor will affect all of your images regardless of which lens you’re using), but you should take care of both.

Top Tips for Preventing Dirt on your Lens and Image Sensor
  • Be careful when changing lenses.  The most common time for image sensors to pick up dust is when you’re changing lenses. Help minimise the chances of dirt affecting your pictures by avoiding lens changes in dirty or dusty environments where possible, and by pointing the camera downwards whilst you change your lenses over (it’s much less likely that dust will travel up into your camera).
  • Use the Lens Cap. When you’re not taking photos, make sure you remember to put the lens cap back on your lens – it’s all too easy to pick up muck, scratches, and scuffs if you walk around with your lens exposed to the elements, especially in busy places or harsh environments.
  • Keep a Lens or Body Cap on the camera. When you store your camera, be sure to either leave a lens attached to the body (with a lens cap on of course) or use the body cap that came with your camera to ensure no dust can get into the image sensor.
  • Store your camera properly. If possible it’s best to store your camera in a place where dust won’t be an issue – either in a camera bag, in the box it came in, or in a drawer or some other non-exposed area.


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