Not only a DSLR is an expensive piece of equipment but very delicate too. It is very easy for one to come home; after a shoot, dump the memory card on your computer and forget all about cleaning this fine piece of equipment. Remember, it needs good care too.
Every time I return from a photo shoot from the wilderness or after some nice clicks of landscapes, I am sure that I’m not only carrying back good snaps but also few speckles of dust on my DSLR equipment. With this post I would like to share my DSLR kit cleaning and maintenance tips. This article does not cover cleaning of the mirror and the sensor
The Weapons of my Choice
A nice clean and dust free area where I can line up my equipment and good source of light – ideally a 250W frost bulb lamp.
A gentle blower which can remove dust from any place inside or outside of the camera body, a good lens cleaning fluid, lens cleaning pen with a soft brush, cotton swabs or ear cleaning cotton sticks, and a soft microfiber lens cleaning cloth used for optics.
Cleaning the Camera Body
Any dust settled on the outside of the camera body or the lens can easily make its way inside. It is essential to try and keep the external body clean. I use the blower to blow away any loose dust on the body – ensuring all the while that the lens cap is always fitted so as to prevent the dust from going inside. Next is to wipe it with the microfiber cloth. This ensures that the dust does not go inside when I clean the inside part of the camera body.
Once all the dust has been blown away from the exteriors, remove the cap from the camera and hold it above your head in an inverted position. Using the blower, blow out any dust from the inside of the camera body. Be very careful while doing this and take care not to touch the blower’s tip to the mirror or the sensor.
Cleaning the Lenses
Now, this is the most important part of your DSLR kit and very delicate too. The first step is to blow the dust from the outer parts, open the lens caps from front and back and use the blower brush to remove the dust particles. Use the bristles of the brush to clean the lens caps as we do not want any loose dirt from the cap depositing again on the lens glass after cleaning.
The next step is to use the soft brush and clean in between the moving parts of the external barrel and the focusing rings. This prevents a build up of dirt over time and maintains smooth operation whilst helping to prevent dust from entering the internal optics. Before you start the cleaning, switch the lens to the MF (Manual Focus) position so that you can rotate the focus and zoom rings with ease. Remove the UV filter and blow away any dust or lint that you may see and keep it aside.
Its time to clean the glass. Wipe the glass with the soft bristles of the cleaning pen to wipe off any loose particles. Ensure to clean the edges nicely as that is where the most dust collects. Once, satisfied, pick up the microfiber cloth. I use the soft microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution which is designed for camera optics.
DO NOT USE ANY OTHER SOLUTION – you may cause serious damage to the optics or the prints of your lens.
Instead of pouring the alcohol solution directly on the lens glass, I recommend to apply the solution on the cloth. This ensures that the solution does not drip into the assembly. Now, making small circular movements, starting from the centre, move out to the rim. Clean the glass until you see it gleaming and shining.
Repeat the process on both the front and back of the UV filter and screw it back in place on the lens. I recommend leaving the filter fitted at all times to keep your lens free of dust, smudges and accidental scratches.
Cleaning the Viewfinder
Once again, blow out any dust using the blower and clean with the brush. Dab the cotton sticks with the cleaning solution and gently wipe the viewfinder – especially the edges as that is where the dust collects as you clean from the centre. Wipe it in smooth motions and allow the cleaning solution to vaporise giving you a nice and a clean viewfinder.
Cleaning the Accessories
Most accessories have mechanical or electronic workings so it is just as important to keep these clean too. Using the cotton sticks and the cleaning solution, I start by cleaning the contacts of the lens and the camera. Once again, dip the cotton sticks in the solution rather than pouring or spraying it on the contacts. Do the same for battery contacts and the flash (if you have an external one).
The worst in my accessory list is the tripod. It tends to collect lot of mud and dust especially at the end of the legs i.e. the ball heads and the threads. Clean it with a wet cloth and ensure that the legs fold and unfold smoothly. Please do not use any lubricant like machine oil, grease or Vaseline as these can be your worst dust attracting magnets.
Maintaining the Bag
This is something that many people wouldn’t consider but the quickest way for cameras, equipment and accessories to become dirty is if you have a dirty camera bag. I own a LowePro and it is a all weather bag. May be this is the reason why I feel free to dump the bag on the ground while shooting, or use it as a make-shift tripod when shooting with a 100-400. It does gather lot of dust, dirt, sand and even bits of leaves, grit etc..
I remove all the equipment once in a while and just vacuum the bag thoroughly inside and out. After nicely stacking all the equipment back in the bag, I drop some silica gel pouches to prevent moisture from seeping in.
The entire exercise easily takes away two precious hours, but once I have done it; I feel good and happy with myself.