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Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Gadget Bag: Cleaning Accessories

How to keep your camera and lenses clean for best performance

Cleaning Tips

How To Clean Your Lenses, Filters And Camera Eyepiece

1 Use the blower to propel dust and particles off the glass surfaces.

2 If the dirt won't come off, use your brush to remove it.

3 If the glass has fingerprints, first remove dust as above, then breathe lightly on the glass surface and use a cleaning cloth or tissue to wipe it. Work from the center to the edges with a circular motion.

4 If the fingerprints or other marks won't come off, put a drop of cleaning fluid on the cloth, and repeat the wiping process. Never use cleaning fluid directly on your lens.

5 Don't forget to clean both surfaces of your filters. On SLRs and D-SLRs, it's important to keep the rear lens elements clean, too. Although they don't get dirty as often as the front elements, the rear elements play a more critical role in forming images. Dust also could find its way from the rear elements to your D-SLR's image sensor.

How To Clean Your Mirror Box
After you've removed the lens, use the air stream from your blower to gently remove the dust inside. Make sure to get the dust hiding in the light baffles along the sides and bottom of the mirror box. Hold the camera above you and blow upward so that freed dust will fall down out of the open lens mount and away from the film or sensor. Be careful not to touch any part of the camera's interior with the blower's tip.

How To Clean The Film Chamber
Open the back of the camera and blow out the entire area. Take special care to get rid of film chips hiding on the take-up side, and don't forget to blow out the trough that forms a light trap for the back. Make sure to clean the pressure plate also. It's okay to use a brush for stubborn particles, but keep the brush and the air stream away from the shutter blades.

How To Clean A D-SLR's Image Sensor
In order to clean the sensor, the mirror has to be up and the shutter has to be open. Many D-SLRs have special settings for cleaning in their menus; alternatively, you can set a time exposure of 30 seconds or so to uncover the sensor. The latter method has the disadvantage of keeping the sensor "live" so that the electrical current running through the chip may attract the dust back again during cleaning.

Either way, once the sensor is out in the open, use your blower very gently to dislodge the dust. Don't touch the sensor surface—it's very easily damaged.

When cleaning your sensor, make sure your camera's battery has a full charge, or that the camera is plugged into an electrical outlet, so that it doesn't run out of juice and lower the mirror onto your air blower unexpectedly.

Cleaning The Outside Of Your Camera
Get rid of dirt with a spare brush, using it gently to whisk the offending material away. Be careful to avoid pushing visible particles inside crevices farther into your camera. Don't forget to brush out your hot-shoe, PC flash contact (if your camera has one) or other electrical connection points. For tough areas, a lightly moistened soft cloth will help; never use liquids directly on the camera body.

Carry a small pack towel in the field to dry your camera quickly if it gets wet. Snowflakes will melt onto (or into) your camera if you touch them with your fingers—always use a brush.


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