Prevention is better than cure, as they say. Performing basic camera maintenance on your bodies, lenses, and other pieces of kit goes a long way to keep your gear in tiptop shape. If you use your camera gear on a regular basis, it can be exposed to a lot of different conditions: smoky atmospheres, rain, dust, the list goes on.
With just a few maintenance items and a regular care routine, you could save a lot in time and headache down the road. Here we will go over some routine steps which you can perform regularly to keep all your camera gear in tiptop shape. Generalizing, many of these tips come under the banner of cleaning, but there are also tips for general care.
Camera Maintenance Kit
You don’t have to buy anything fancy or expensive to keep your camera gear in check. Lens cleaners are the general standard equipment, which come in either singles, multipacks or sprays. Keep a supply at home and in your camera bag, so you can reach them at a moments notice.
Q-tips are also worth keeping for drying out a lens after using a lens cleaner, also for getting into those hard to reach places. There are quite a few camera cleaning kits on the market which should have all the bits you need for regular maintenance.
A small blower, not a supercharger, but a thing for blowing the dust from both lenses and cameras. It’s the usual course after taking off a lens use the blower to remove any built-up dust. It’s also useful for removing dust or sand from your camera when you are changing lenses. More on this later.
One or two large trash bags I always keep in my camera bag. They serve multiple purposes from impromptu weather protection for my camera, to many other tasks.
It’s easy to just lay down your lens cap somewhere, stick it back on your lens and get on with your day. Over time, they can pick up grease and grime, so always give them a wipe inside and out with a general-purpose lens cleaner.
Once you get into the habit of regular camera maintenance, it can almost become obsessive. A quality lens cleaner, wipes, and a few Q-tips usually do the job.
One thing I have found helpful is to clean the lens next to a large, bright window. This really lets you see where the dirt and grime marks are on the lens. as it can look perfectly clean in low light. Hold it up next to a bright window and you’ll soon see if it’s clean or not.
Also, don’t apply too much pressure. I’ve seen people clean a front lens element like they are sanding a block of wood. Use light pressure and do a quarter of the lens at a time making sure it is crystal clear. This also goes for lens filters.
If you don’t own one already, buy one. There are loads on the market at different price points and sizes depending on your needs. It’s worth saving up and spending that little bit more on a high-quality camera bag, than lumping for a cheap alternative you have to replace in a year or two.
Camera bags should have multiple compartments with detachable Velcro pads, protective padding, and at least be water repellent. It’s an idea to lay out your current camera equipment to see how much room you will need, then look for a quality camera bag with equal capacity. It’s also worth purchasing one with a laptop compartment as it’s a handy slot for other accessories even when it isn’t stuffed with a hefty laptop.
Just like the rest of your camera gear, a camera bag will need cleaning out from time to time. Give it a clean every so often and you will be surprised with the amount of dust and other things that can collect in there.
Silica gels are key for camera maintenance as they absorb moisture in the air around them. Always have a bunch of these to keep in your camera bag and near to your camera bodies and lenses. Always be mindful to keep them out of the way of children and animals. These can be easily purchased from Amazon.
It’s inevitable that at some point in the future you will be outside with your camera and the rain will come down. Rain sleeves can be bought from the likes of Amazon or you can fashion one out of a regular Zip-Loc bag. Be sure to also use one of these for very dusty or sandy conditions. Dust and sand can easily get into rotating parts on a lens and camera body and once in are very hard to get out.
If you need a strange example, I had a photographer friend taking images of an avant-garde painter who threw paint around on a large canvas. He forgot to cover his lens and it was splashed with paint which then got into the workings of the lens. Bye-bye expensive 70-200mm lens. A simple rain sleeve or bag cover could have saved a lot of costs.
These aren’t for litter picking during a photo shoot, but they have lots of general applications. A rain sleeve, camera bag rain cover, or a handy bag for changing lenses. If you’re in wet or dusty conditions, changing lenses can be a nightmare. I don’t want even a single particle of dust to get inside my camera, so I always change lenses inside a large trash bag.
It may look strange, but opening a large bag and putting in your lenses and camera body makes sure no nasties fly in, especially onto the sensor. One other tip is to always change a lens with the camera pointing down.
I’ll be honest, I’m scared stiff of cleaning my own camera sensor. Some people are fine with lightly blowing the dust away from the inside of the camera body. I prefer to have the inside of the camera body and the sensor cleaned by a camera maintenance professional. It obviously costs money, but I also have the peace of mind that it has been done correctly.
One big no-no is to use compressed air to clean the inside of a camera and the sensor. If in doubt, take your camera to a local professional camera store.
Regular camera maintenance can go a long way in extending the life of your camera kit. It doesn’t have to be expensive or labor-intensive, just a regular schedule to keep everything nice and clean.