How to clean your lens properly - a tutorial

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by absolut_mac, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. absolut_mac macrumors 6502a

    absolut_mac

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2003
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    #1
    Too many of you seem a little confused on how to clean your lenses properly, so I thought that I would put together a short tutorial based on my few decades of experience with cameras, binoculars and now watch crystals. Yes, most of them come with anti-glare coatings today, and they are a pain to clean and keep them dust and lint free until the watch is cased up. FWIW, repairing watches is my day job.

    Use a squeeze blower (or your breath, if you can do so without spitting) to remove as many large particles of dirt and lint as possible. Now give a few short blasts from one of those Dust Off pressurized cans of clean air. My reason for not using the higher pressure blast of air first is because the force of it might cause larger particles to scratch the AR coating. One tip that I've found useful is to always do a quick short blast into the air before pointing at the lens, because sometimes the first blast contains some propellant residue.

    Spray a tiny amount of lens cleaner, or 91% alcohol, onto the corner of your microfiber cloth and wipe the lens clean. Now you can go ahead and use a clean part of the same cloth to wipe away the residue from the cleaner in small soft circles, as if you were polishing the lens.

    Voilà! Your lens should now be spotlessly clean, save for any scratches that you picked up through carelessness.

    In all my years of trying out who knows how many different types of microfiber cleaning cloths, I have yet to find one that does a better job than the Microdear, which is available from Adorama - see the link below. This was highly recommended many years ago by Herbert Keppler from Modern/Popular Photography, and I tried it out based on his enthusiastic recommendation. It is very thick, exceptionally soft and washes out well when dirty. Rinse it in clean water without any fabric softeners.

    http://www.adorama.com/CPCML.html?searchinfo=microdear

    Name brand lens cleaning fluids and dust free pressurized air blowers are all pretty much the same, but I have included a pic of the products that I usually use.
     

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  2. anubis macrumors 6502a

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  3. DNA930 macrumors member

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    Sep 24, 2009
    #3
    And always make sure you hold the can of air upright. You don't want any of the ice cold propellant coming out.
     
  4. uptherighttree macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    #4
    and as a quick fix...

    Buy a packet of cigarette papers (the ones you use when you roll your own smokes)

    a light breath over the lens and wipe with the paper clears up the lens and leaves no dust or debris

    it's a quick and easy fix if you need to clear a bit of grease off the lens
     
  5. absolut_mac thread starter macrumors 6502a

    absolut_mac

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    Oct 30, 2003
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    #5
    I personally would NOT, under any circumstances, use any paper, to clean a lens that costs thousands of dollars, or even one that cost me only a few hundred.

    Regardless of what Charmin and Kleenex say about how soft their paper is. Besides, cigarette paper, like the later two, is also made from wood pulp, and doesn't compare to the softness and efficacy of the synthetic materials used in microfiber cloths. I work too hard for my money to risk rubbing micro scratches onto the AR coating.

    FWIW I always examine my lenses with a 5X watchmakers loupe after cleaning them, and I've yet to scratch one using the method I described above.

    DNA930 - thanks for bringing up a good point. These cans of air should not be shaken prior to use, or held upside down, as this will result in the propellant being sprayed onto the lens, instead of clean dry air.
     
  6. tpjunkie macrumors 65816

    tpjunkie

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2002
    Location:
    NYC
    #6
    How about lens paper :p ? I've got several booklets of that kicking around, they seem to do a good job not scratching the lens when used as directed.
     
  7. JoshJosh117, Oct 8, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2016
  8. David G. macrumors 65816

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    #8
  9. chiefroastbeef macrumors 6502a

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    May 26, 2008
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    Dallas, Texas/ Hong Kong
    #9
    I have Pec Pads, which are made to clean lenses, they suck don't really work that well compared to microfiber cloths, microfiber cloths are the way to go, they are soft and soak up everything dust and oil stain! Where as the pec pads will spread the oil around the lens. I use my microfiber cloth to clean all my lenses ($5000+), and it works great!
     
  10. tooz macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2009
    #10
    If the lens is particularly dirty, I would suggest cleaning git first with some (disposable) lens tissue. Then, If needs be, go over it with the micro-fibre cloth.
    (I work in a camera store. We sell a pack of 20 for about $3)
     
  11. georgemann macrumors regular

    georgemann

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington & Siem Reap, Cambodia
    #11
    Anybody know where I can buy a microfiber T-shirt (XXL)? Being an old photo-journalist, I just can't get out of the habit.

    Just joking (I wish), lots of great advice on this thread.

    George
     
  12. pukifloyd macrumors 6502a

    pukifloyd

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    #12
    awesome thread...very informative..thanks to everyone :)
     
  13. absolut_mac thread starter macrumors 6502a

    absolut_mac

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    Oct 30, 2003
    Location:
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    #13
    I used Kodak lens paper for years before microfiber cloths were available. I wasn't as finicky about my lenses back then - what 16 year old kid is?

    Having said that though, I don't recall having any problems with them scratching the AR coatings. I stopped using them and switched once the microfiber cloths became available.

    FWIW I don't think that the lens cleaning tissue sold under the various brand names is made from wood pulp, like toilet and tissue paper is.
     
  14. absolut_mac thread starter macrumors 6502a

    absolut_mac

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2003
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    Dallas, Texas
    #14
    It's always good to examine the lens carefully as soon as you can, because something like that can only be taken care of by the factory, whether it's a factory defect or not. But as pointed out in the link provided by David G., tiny specs of dust or lint are not going to make or break the quality of the photo. However, scratches on the AR coatings will definitely reduce the resale value, especially on the more expensive lenses.
     
  15. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #15
    As the AR coatings on lens optics are quite hard and very well bonded to the glass, I am not sure that using a soft paper or kleenex is going to be a problem as far as scratches, unless you happen to get dust underneath the cloth. But this is an issue with any cleaning cloth/paper/material, not just tissues or kleenex.

    I think however the issue is that lens paper is specifically designed to not leave fibers or dust residue behind. If you try to clean a lens with some tissues or kleenex it might leave behind a lot of cotton/paper fibers behind and be difficult to clean off, whereas a microfiber cloth is not going to leave anything in its wake.

    Here is a good resource I found about lens cleaning.
    http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tutorials/lens_filter_cleaning.html

    Ruahrc
     
  16. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    Apr 26, 2008
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    Alaska
    #16
    Some of the soft tissue have lotion. It's added to the tissue to aid with skin dryness, something that's very common when one has to blow one's nose often. But lens-cleaning tissue is designed not to damage glass nor lens coatings. However, for decades now lens cloths have replaced most lens tissue, and are much better than lens cleaning tissue in several ways. For example, they can be washed with lotion-free liquid soaps, and reused many times.
     
  17. wixberry macrumors member

    wixberry

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    Oct 8, 2009
    Location:
    Jakarta
    #17
    Glad found this threads,

    I usually use blower, the wipe (polishing) teh lens with it :)
     
  18. Elixer macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    #18
    Personally I just use a UV filter over all my lenses. I don't want to even chance them getting scratched. I would gladly replace the filters any day. That being said I still use a blower and a microfiber cloth to clean the filters.
     

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