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Daniel81

Where are You on the Lens Hygiene Spectrum?

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Where do you sit on the Lens cleanliness spectrum?  Are you ultra-fastidious?  Leave and let be?  Paranoid?  Carefree?  What matters and what doesn't matter?  Dust, smudges, films, oils, spots, specks, fungus, scratches.  How much do these actually make a difference?  Thoughts, opinions and experiences with blowers, wipes, wet wipes, lens cleaning papers, microfibre lens cloths, carbon lens pens, camel hair brushes, lens cleaning fluids, UV filters for protection . . . particular brands?  things to do?  things NOT to do?  how often?  your best experiences?  your nightmares?  How do you store your lenses?  I would really like to hear what you consider to be best lens practices and worst lens practices.

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8 minutes ago, mediumformula said:

I buy a a UV/Haze (for film lenses) or Clear (for digital lenses) B&W Nano filter for all my important lenses. 

+1   I occasionally wipe the filter, and even less occasionally remove the filter and wipe the front lens and rear of filter,,  L

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I never use UV/clear filters for my lenses.  Modern multi-coatings are very scratch resistant, and if I'm worried about impacts or scrapes I'd rather use a lens shade.  I also tend not to worry much about dust and dirt on the front of a lens.  It lowers contrast infinitesimally, but It has to get pretty bad before I feel a need to clean it.  I worry much more about dirt and oil on the element nearest the CCD.  In my experience, that is more likely to have an effect on image quality (though, of course, it also tends to stay cleaner).  For example, I clean the eye lens on my telescope eyepieces frequently--often more than once per night--but clean my telescope's objective lens less than once per year.  Same general trend for camera lenses, though the inner most lens is generally protected and so needs cleaning only rarely unlike with my telescope.

I am fairly obsessive about dust spots on the CCD/CMOS chip itself.  Really don't like having to deal with dust spots on tens to hundreds of images.  Just adds another post processing task that I don't want.  So I am careful (as much as possible) about where I change lenses, which way I keep the camera pointed when changing lenses, blowing dust off the sensor with a blower, and maybe once a year or so (or as required) using Eclipse fluid to clean the sensor itself.

I have yet to scratch any lens with modern multi-coatings through cleaning.  In fact, the only lens I have scratched in the past fifteen years or so was the objective on a set of Ultravid binoculars when I accidentally left them in a bag/pouch with the objective placed on top of  my house keys.  That was a sad day, but Leica generously fixed it under warranty (though I was honest about how the scratches happened and was fully expecting a charge).  Magnesium Fluoride was very fragile back when lenses were single coated.  That has not been the case in decades.  As a result, UV/clear filters just add a cost without adding a benefit in my view.

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Lenses

Lens wise, I have a UV filter on all my lenses and clean those whenever they are dirty. They're b+w filters so i use my shirt and anyway they're just filters. Very easy to clean.

If I spot larger specks of dust on the front or rear element, I use a blower. Only very rarely do I give the front and rear elements a wipe down with pec pads+ lens solution or zeiss lens wipes. This is reserved for stubborn dust and sometimes some grease which appears to be from the helicoid or rangefinder cam (not sure how it gets there but not uncommon for my M glass). I find the zeiss wipes a bit too moist for my liking and sometimes let some alcohol evaporate before wiping more. Sometimes my pec pads leave a bit of lint. I haven't found a perfect brand for cleaning my lens elements. I should also add I don't use/like lens pens as the ones i've tried leave residue. I have on occasion used a microfiber cloth with breath/microfiber cloth with lens solution to clean the elements (i.e. no pec pads/lens wipes). As Jared mentioned the coatings on the elements of many modern lenses, especially the front and rear ones, are very durable and quite easy to clean. I could probably shoot without a filter and clean them with the same ease (e.g. the 50APO Summicron SL). 

I use a brush for cleaning the outside of lenses (dirt and dust gets stuck between grooves). Works quite well.

There's conflicting info about how to store one's lenses. I store mine upright and wide open, without pouches etc. For SL lenses, the aperture stays half closed so there's not much you can do about wide open or not, AFAIK.

Nevertheless despite all this lens cleaning talk, I would be hard pressed to evidence any discernible difference in image quality between my lenses pre-clean and post-clean as the elements are rarely filthy. I've also used lenses with scratches and fungus and you'd need a very badly damaged lens (fungus, bad fogging, severe scratches) to see the contrast between the damaged lens and a brand new lens more clearly, pun intended.

Cameras

For cameras, I only clean the sensor with a blower and usually when I do so I also clean the lens mount with a damp cloth/alcohol wipe. I tend to shoot wide apertures so spotting dust on the sensor only happens when I set out to check for dust before an important shoot or a holiday. Been thinking of trying to wet clean my sensors again as I used to do so (bad experience in the past) but would rather not touch them given I derive no practical benefit from a sparkling clean sensor since I shoot with wide apertures. Even if it's easy to do, the less you do the better it is. For sensor wet cleaning, VSGO and Visibledust seem like good brands.

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While I don't obsess over dust as much as I did before, there's no harm in maintaining good practices to minimise dust in one's equipment. In short (non-exhaustive list):

- reduce lens changes if possible

- keep lens changes quick

- change lenses in as dust free an environment as possible

- keep the external of your equipment clean (blow equipment before lens changes to rid of some dust, wipe down with a damp cloth every now and then)

- keep the lens mount and lens caps clean

- tilt the camera down when changing lenses 

I use a dry cabinet because I live in the tropics and fungus is an issue. This also helps with preventing/minimising dust.

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I actually have OCD, so the process of caring and storing my equipment has come a long way from using a torch and inspecting every element, particularly the front and rear elements, as well as the camera sensor obsessively whenever the compulsion arises (and then proceeding to clean whatever I could). It took me about 15 years to get to this stage. I almost always obsessed about my lenses rather than my cameras. One driver of my OCD was the knowledge that digital cameras are depreciating assets, whilst lenses generally aren't if you take care of them, and dust and marks do affect resale value. This is despite the fact that I never really set out to sell lenses after I buy them. Another reason why I was more particular about lens cleanliness is because the sensor can be cleaned more easily than a lens can and often at lower cost, even if a dirty sensor is going to show dust far more than a lens would.

This said, in coming to terms with this I have also rationalised that everything can be cleaned and serviced. If you use the equipment, everything will have to be cleaned and serviced at some point. Also, dust is everywhere. Larger specks of dust can be seen under normal light. A torch makes it worse - fine dust is revealed as well. But this dust is part and parcel of shooting. It is inevitable. And dust will almost certainly have no effect on one's images.

My little digression was partly for those who might obsess about cleanliness like i do (did?). At it's worst, over 10 years ago, I got almost no joy from the gear I had.

At the end of the day, the process of shooting and viewing pictures is what makes photography fun. Not cleaning and obsessing about gear. 

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Lens cap on if lens in bag. Rubber puffer on front and rear element, microfibre wipe if my fingers accidentally touch the glass. Rubber puffer on the sensor; wet clean once in six years, can’t remember why.

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One thing NOT to do, that despite seeming like something nobody would do to a lens as expensive as Leicas, I have seen being done... is use your breath to moisten or “fog up” a lens before cleaning it with microfiber cloth or similar. While this appears to work ok, your breath (possibly due to acidity?) will actually hasten the removal of the lens coatings. 

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On 4/2/2020 at 9:14 AM, matted said:

One thing NOT to do, that despite seeming like something nobody would do to a lens as expensive as Leicas, I have seen being done... is use your breath to moisten or “fog up” a lens before cleaning it with microfiber cloth or similar. While this appears to work ok, your breath (possibly due to acidity?) will actually hasten the removal of the lens coatings. 

Where did you get this information?  I have never heard it alleged that acidity in your breath would lead to erosion of the coatings.  Seems pretty unlikely.  The multi coatings are literally bonded to the glass substrate to the point that they can’t be chemically stripped without affecting the glass itself. As far as I know the only way to remove multi coatings from optics is to polish them away with an abrasive.  I can’t imagine your breath making a difference over a single human lifespan.  Friction from the cloth, maybe, over enough years. Even that’s a stretch.

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14 hours ago, Jared said:

Where did you get this information?  I have never heard it alleged that acidity in your breath would lead to erosion of the coatings.  Seems pretty unlikely.  The multi coatings are literally bonded to the glass substrate to the point that they can’t be chemically stripped without affecting the glass itself. As far as I know the only way to remove multi coatings from optics is to polish them away with an abrasive.  I can’t imagine your breath making a difference over a single human lifespan.  Friction from the cloth, maybe, over enough years. Even that’s a stretch.

 

It was from a well known First Assistant Cameraman who literally wrote the book on how to perform the job on a movie set (which includes ensuring that all camera parts, including lenses, work in peak form from when they are checked out of the rental house to when they are returned at the end of production.).

I am unaware of what his source was, but as part of his job he would have dealt with many Cinema rental house technicians, reps from Panavision, Arri, Zeiss, etc that have many, many more collective hours experience than I will ever have with lenses that are orders of magnitude more expensive than anything I will ever own, so I never thought to disagree with it.
It could just be something that he assumed or something that some old DP told him anecdotally that’s has no merit, but it’s easy enough to avoid so why do it?

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No reason to do if you don’t want to—I’m not actively advocating for breathing on your lenses.  But I suspect he was just repeating advice he himself was given from years gone by.  Once upon a time lens coatings were indeed fragile.  That time is long past.

One piece of the statement at least is demonstrably false, though... The air and moisture you breathe out is not acidic.  Rain and fog are dramatically more acidic than moisture that condenses from your breath.  This is easy enough to test—in most situations it is very slightly alkaline.

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Over at RFF I just this morning published the response quoted below  to someone asking about storage practices. It seems more or less relevant here. Other than sticking to a sound storage regime I do not count myself as being overly anal-retentive about lens cleanliness. I try to avoid wiping glass much for obvious reasons but to aid this I do often use a lens hood - not necessarily for the obvious reason, but more to protect the lens if it is bumped when being carried and to keep my sticky fingers away from the front element. I tend to use UV filters for similar reasons though not always. I also avoid using cameras and more particularly changing lenses when in dusty conditions. For the most part that is about it.

Now for my RFF post on my storage practices.

" Over the years I have accumulated quite a few lenses and the like and the approach I now use is to place my gear in simple and relatively cheap clip top plastic food storage boxes of appropriate sizes. Each can hold several lenses. They are stackable and they have a soft silicone rubber seal around the clip top closure so they exclude air, bugs and dust. I usually wrap each camera / lens item in a soft micro fibre cloth of the sort found cheaply in hardware stores for cleaning. This prevents them from abrading against each other when when the boxes are moved. I use a texta pen to write on the top of the box what is in each.
I place these in a cupboard or wardrobe with a tightly close-able door and away from clothes, shoes etc which attract moisture and fungus. I place one or more canisters of desiccant in the cupboard with the boxes - those canisters are the disposable type containing calcium chloride and so need regular changing, especially in wetter months.
I find this works adequately - small canisters one inside each plastic container - could be used but this approach is less convenient given the number that might need to be checked and changed regularly. If you wish to have an alternative I am told that the silica style cat litter (unperfumed) works as desiccant. i.e. do not use the diatomaceous earth type - its of questionable efficacy in my view. Just place an appropriate amount in some kind of receptacle that is permeable - a clean sock or piece of women's hosiery for example and tie the top. The problem with this is that the disposable containers of desiccant that I use have a water container at the bottom and when water begins seeping from the over saturated desiccant (held in the top compartment of the desiccant's plastic container) it flows into that lower receptacle - both keeping the water safely contained and signalling that change of desiccant is needed. I do not use a hygrometer, I just keep watch on the desiccant container each time I open the cupboard to retrieve a lens. Like you I would not be inclined to store anything even with the above arrangements in a cellar. In my experience they always tend to being dark, (naturally) moist and conducive to the growth of fungus and mold."

__________________

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On 4/4/2020 at 12:17 AM, Jared said:

Where did you get this information?  I have never heard it alleged that acidity in your breath would lead to erosion of the coatings.  Seems pretty unlikely.  The multi coatings are literally bonded to the glass substrate to the point that they can’t be chemically stripped without affecting the glass itself. As far as I know the only way to remove multi coatings from optics is to polish them away with an abrasive.  I can’t imagine your breath making a difference over a single human lifespan.  Friction from the cloth, maybe, over enough years. Even that’s a stretch.

Just sharing a bad experience. I got a sort or very small and light spots on my summarit 75mm and the glass had to be polished and re-coated by Leica. As I don't use anything either than blower and occasionally a "cotonete" and spring water, I come to the conclusion that was something in the air. By coincidence I was in a cruse and they were cleaning the boat while I was taking some photos. The lens was there as were my eyes. I had no issue the lens did. Conclusion. Coating in more sensible that we think it is.

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Sorry to hear about your lens. That must have been frustrating. It seems unlikely, though, that something mild enough to be sprayed in the air for boat cleaning that isn’t hard on the eyes would immediately erode dielectric lens coatings. Not impossible, I suppose, but improbable. Of course I wasn’t there and you were.

Are you saying that there were no spots at the beginning of the cruise and the damaged coatings were obvious at the end?  Even more specially, are you sure the spots appeared immediately after you wandered by the boat being cleaned?

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18 minutes ago, Jared said:

Sorry to hear about your lens. That must have been frustrating. It seems unlikely, though, that something mild enough to be sprayed in the air for boat cleaning that isn’t hard on the eyes would immediately erode dielectric lens coatings. Not impossible, I suppose, but improbable. Of course I wasn’t there and you were.

Are you saying that there were no spots at the beginning of the cruise and the damaged coatings were obvious at the end?  Even more specially, are you sure the spots appeared immediately after you wandered by the boat being cleaned?

You are right, I am not sure about the cause effect. I just notice the issue after that but it is a fact that the spots were so small and so light that they may have been there for more time. On the other hand I had made a deeply check 2 months before and the lens were clean. So, I came to the conclusion that, either  a defect in the coating or the boat cleaning were the causes. Leica didn't give me any explanation about potential causes. It also true that  Leica, after a few e-mails back and forward,  did the reparation without charge, despite the warranty had expired 4 month before. They were great. 

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Interesting reading here.

In terms of LENSES, I do use filters, but I take quite a few images on the beach, and the wind can whip that sand like a sand blaster, so I'd rather throw a filter away if it comes to it.  I have been known to rise off my SL and SL lenses lightly if wet with sand (ie. rain), but only to lubricate the sand coming off the glass.  I also shoot a lot of black and white, so end up with colored filters frequently.  But I think with current coatings, newest lenses probably have less problems and I know @dfarkas has told me he does not worry about UV filters on his S glass and if there is anyone I know that uses them hard, it would be him!  I have begun doing the same, unless on a windy, sandy beach (S glass).

In terms of CAMERA BODIES, all the sensors get spots, so I've just gotten good at cleaning them over the years.  Preferences are to use filter blowers (i.e., don't suck the air in with dust and dirt and spit it out on the sensor) and then the Eyelead sensor cleaning kit (sticky rubber to pickup dust and dirt) and finally a wet clean, but those can be really tough if not done correctly because they leave smears on the sensor.  

I store my cameras and lenses in a small dehumidifier cabinet for cameras, at between 45-55% humidity.  I also clean my bodies after extended use.  Small walk around, no big deal.  Any length of time on the beach, and I use a brush to brush off the sand and grit and clean the rangefinder or eyepiece glass with a Leica wipe.

For my FILM CAMERA, I worry a lot less about dust in the box because unless it is crazy, it doesn't seem to bother the film.  But, once a month or so, I take my film cameras and run through the shutter speeds top to bottom to keep things in good working order...

No one asked, but SD cards are always interesting to test.  I have a few Sony Tough cards I use on my SL and S and had a fund accidental test on one recently.  It flipped out of my hand one afternoon reaching for the slot on the side of my old iMac and wouldn't you know, fell in a cup of hot coffee.  I reached in and pulled it out, rinsed it off, dried it and left it to finish drying .  No problems with the card, and thankfully, retrieved all the images!  Check - waterproof, coffee proof.

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Continuing the conversation of filters...

Is there any practical difference between UV filters and clear filters (assuming they are both high quality, for example, B+W MRC Nano) on a digital body? 

I was reading an article where they did laboratory of a bunch of B+W, Hoya, Leica, etc. filters. They tested transmissibility as well as reflections, if I remember correctly. It appeared that in the nominal sense, the clear filters were "better," but I'm not sure if there's any difference in image quality and controlling flare.

I just bought 3 B+W UV filters to protect my lenses and am now wondering if I should exchange them for B+W clear filters before the return window ends 😅

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Unless it is going to nag at you, I wouldn’t bother. You don’t need the UV protection on a digital camera, it’s true. But the only difference between the two is a couple extra dielectric coating layers in the UV. You’ll never know the difference. Even in side-by-side comparisons I can’t imagine you could tell them apart.

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I rarely use filters and only clean lenses when they are visibly smudged or dirty.  Leica's lenses have strong coatings and are more likely to suffer from flare and ghosting when filters are used. I have found that ghosting at night is nearly unavoidable with filters, even with high quality filters.

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carefree? they absorb too much light 😁

particles with blower or lens cleaning fluid, no filters, if not necessary, never for protection, always using sun shade, I am very carefully with rear lenses, as they make the picture.

if it is raining  cats and dogs, or extremly abrasive dust, I use my Nikon AW 1 and take it to the shower with me later

as a general point: I am not the slave of a machine, means I do not serve a Leica better than myself. I bought an M for its shutter sound and I use M lenses for their compactness and precision. If they where too expensive, I´d collect them with speculative intentions and not use them.  I care well for all my tools, even a wrench or a welding machine, but  the ones I am afraid to use for what they were designed and I bought them for, I would not buy for use (see before).

Edited by thomasstellwag

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