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Infobank

Care and Maintenance: Camera and lens care

 

The latest professional EOS digital cameras are not only durable – they also offer excellent water and dust resistance.

The latest professional EOS digital cameras are durable and they also offer excellent water and dust resistance. Because it’s lightweight and strong, magnesium alloy is used for the top, front, and rear covers, as well as for the media card slot covers. The chassis and mirror box also use magnesium alloy that, additionally, provides an electro-magnetic shield.

The paint finish is highly durable, allowing minimal wear even under harsh conditions.

 

To equal the excellent water-resistant and dust-resistant construction of earlier models, measures are incorporated at 76 places around the camera controls and along cover seams. O-rings are used on the media card slot covers and the battery compartment, and silicon rubber is employed around the top and rear covers and buttons.

The hotshoe of the EOS-1D Mark III is shaped to resist water with a rib around its perimeter. When the Speedlite 580EX II is attached, water resistance is maintained. When a water-resistant EF lens is attached to the camera, the entire camera and lens outfit will be water-resistant. This is not the same as waterproof, but does mean that the equipment can be used in drizzle or light rain, providing it is wiped with a soft, dry cloth immediately after use.

If you are working in persistent or heavy rain, you should use one of the camera rain covers available from several suppliers.

Dust problems

Dust can be a major problem in some environments, especially if you need to change lenses. Some photographers keep a damp cloth in a plastic bag and wipe the surface of the camera to remove dust before removing the lens.

If you do not attach another lens immediately, use the camera body cap to reduce the risk of dust entering. Although the sensor is covered by the focal plane shutter blinds between exposures dust which gets inside the camera can easily settle on the filter which covers the sensor during an exposure.

If you are away on location for more than a day, remember to pack a good range of camera, lens and sensor cleaning equipment and use it every evening.

Hot and cold

Professional EOS digital cameras cope very well with hot and humid conditions. They can handle temperatures of up to 45°C and humidity of up to 85%.

The minimum working temperature is quoted as 0°C, but many photographers have reported working at well below this temperature without any problems. The main problem is the battery, which loses performance at sub-zero temperatures. The answer is to have at least two fully charged batteries available, carrying one in an inside pocket where it is kept warm. Swap this with the battery in the camera from time to time.

Another problem is condensation. This occurs when the camera and lens is moved quickly to a warmer environment. Warm air can hold more water than cool air. If warm air comes into contact with a cooler lens surface, the water in the air condenses onto the surface. This water forms a mist over the lens.

If you need to take photographs immediately, you can wipe the water away with a soft cloth or lens tissue, but it is better to let the water evaporate naturally.

Condensation can occur when carrying a camera from sub-zero temperature into a warm room, or when moving from an air-conditioned environment to a humid atmosphere. Where it is safe to do so, it is better to leave the camera and lens in the working environment if you are only taking a short break inside.

Lens care

You may have been attracted to EOS cameras by the reputation of their lenses. And it is true. EF lenses can give you outstanding images – but only if you look after them. If a lens is not in perfect condition, the quality of your photographs may suffer.

On a more mercenary note, a lens that has been well looked after will hold its value better than one that looks as if it has been heavily used and abused. Here are a few basic tips that will ensure that your valuable lenses are well protected. Much of what follows is common sense – but how many of the ideas do you actually put into practice?

Every new EF lens is supplied with two lens caps. Do you use them? The front cap should always be in place when the lens is not in use. Even if you have a screw-in filter attached, it’s a good idea to use the lens cap as well – a new cap is cheaper than a new filter.

Most lens caps will attach to the front of a filter in just the same way that they attached to the front of the lens. When is the lens not in use? You could argue that it is when you are not looking through the viewfinder or pressing the shutter release. It would certainly be good if you could clip the cap in place at these times. However, we need to be practical. If you are out on a sunny afternoon looking for photo opportunities, camera hanging from its neck strap, you probably do not need the lens cap on between pictures. It can be annoying to see a great shot, lift the camera to your eye, and then realise that the lens cap is still in place. If you are photographing wildlife, this could lose you a picture.

However, if there is rain in the air, or you are at risk of being splashed with water, then put the cap in place at all possible opportunities. Water evaporates, but it often leaves behind dissolved impurities that can mark the surface of a lens.

 

Put on the lens caps - front and rear - as soon as the lens comes off the camera. And use a body cap on the camera if you are not putting another lens on right away.

The second lens cap fits the rear of the lens. It should always be put in place the moment the lens is removed from the camera – no exceptions. This will protect the rear element from damage when you put the lens down. Just as important, it will help to keep the gold electrical contacts clean. These contacts are the only link between the lens and the camera. If they become dirty, all manner of things can happen – or fail to happen – when you try to take photographs.

For the same reason, it is important to fit the body cap to the front of the camera whenever there is no lens attached. Not only will this protect the gold electrical contacts on the camera side, but it will also prevent dust and dirt reaching the reflex mirror and the focusing screen. Lens and body caps are easily lost, but most of them are also relatively cheap to replace. Next time you need one, buy two and keep the spare in your gadget bag.

The glass used for making optical lenses is often much softer than other types of glass. Once marked, it is not easy to clean. Most lenses have a coating applied to the surface of the front element. The main purpose of this is to reduce the risk of flare, but it also provides a harder surface. However, the term ‘harder’ is relative, and it is still quite easy to damage the surface of the lens. Rain, dust, flying stones, foliage and fingers are among the potential dangers.

Fingers in particular are a risk. Your fingertips exude an acidic grease which can, over a period of time, eat into the surface of the lens. The result may not be very noticeable, but it can increase the effect of flare. For this reason, if you touch the surface of the lens with your fingers, you should polish it gently with a soft, dry cloth to wipe away the grease.

You can protect the surface of the lens from fingers and other perils by attaching a filter. This screws into the mount at the front of the lens, forming a virtually dustproof seal between the surface of the lens and the outside world. Any dust or damage is then sustained by the filter and not the lens. If the damage is beyond normal cleaning methods, it is far cheaper to replace the filter than the lens.

Canon produces a filter specifically for protection. The Canon Regular filter (previously known as a Protect filter) is made from perfectly clear optical glass that does not alter the light passing through it. Strictly speaking, it probably offers a little ultraviolet filtration, as this is a characteristic of all glass, but the effect is so small as to be insignificant.

Although the Regular filter is ideal in situations that require an accurate colour balance – studio photography or copy work, for instance – an Ultraviolet (UV) or Skylight filter can be just as good for protecting a lens. These block ultraviolet light that can cause a blue haze over distant landscapes. In addition, a Skylight filter has a pinkish tint that reduces the blue cast in shadow areas under blue skies. In most situations, however, an Ultraviolet or Skylight filter has no noticeable effect on your photographs.

Lens hood

If you drop a lens – with or without a camera attached – there’s a good chance it will land on the exposed filter ring, denting it. Or, even worse, the front element of the lens may impact on a sharp stone. You can reduce the risk of dropping the camera by using a neck strap and always slipping it over your head whenever you pick the camera up.

You can’t attach a strap to most lenses, but you can reduce the risk of any damage by holding the lens close to a flat surface when you attach or remove it. Then, if the lens does slip out of your grasp, it will not have far to fall. Outdoors, you may have to crouch or kneel so that the camera is close to the ground as you attach or remove a lens. If the worst happens and your lens is launched into free fall, the risk of damage might be reduced if it is fitted with a lens hood. A hood protrudes from the front of the lens and may take the brunt of an impact. Canon produces hoods for most of its lenses.

 

Lens hoods offer some degree of protection to your valuable lenses while you are shooting - and reduce the risk of flare.

Apart from protection, there is a good argument for using the correct hood all the time – it can help to reduce the risk of flare from the sun or other bright lights in front of the camera.

It’s all very well looking after your lens while it’s mounted on the camera, but it is equally at risk when off the camera – even when stored in a camera case or bag. The safest way to store a lens is in the correct hard case or pouch. This can then be placed inside your camera bag or case. Canon has discontinued most of its hard lens cases, but you may be able to find one secondhand. A range of pouches is still available, however, and one of these is a low-cost, lightweight means of protecting a lens.

If you don’t have a case or pouch to hand, a cheap but effective way to protect your lens is to wrap it in a clean, lint-free duster. This will reduce the risk of scratches and dents if the lens rolls around in a case and bangs into another lens, or the camera body.

Many gadget bags and camera cases allow you to move partitions around to provide snug, padded compartments for each item of equipment. This is a good alternative to a lens case or pouch. A coat or jacket pocket can also be a surprisingly safe place for a lens. A deep coat pocket (or even better, a padded packet in a photographer’s waistcoat) will cocoon a lens.

Whichever method you use to protect the lens, make sure you always fit the front and rear lens caps first.

Camera bags

If you are travelling by car, the worst place for your camera bag is on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Here, the equipment will be subject to all the vibrations from the engine, and the shocks as you drive over bumps. Although lenses are surprisingly durable, it is possible for components to loosen or shift position.

Placing the bag on one of the seats will help to protect the equipment from vibrations, but is only safe if you carry the bag with you when you leave the car. A camera bag left in view after you have parked the car is asking for trouble. A thief can break the window, lift the bag and be away within seconds.

If you carry the camera bag in the boot of a car, it is a good idea to reduce vibrations by placing a folded blanket underneath

Some of the time, your lenses and camera will probably be kept at work or home. Keep the equipment in a bag or case so that it is shielded from daylight. Make sure the equipment is not near a central heating radiator, and avoid places that may be damp, or have damp air circulating.

The ideal location will have a constant temperature all year round – neither too hot nor too cold. Between about 5°C and 10°C is good.

Hints and tips

  • If you use a Regular, Ultraviolet or Skylight filter as protection on a wideangle lens, do not add further filters. The mount of the front filter may intrude into the image area and cause vignetting.
  • At all costs avoid touching lens elements with your fingers. Human sweat is greasy and acidic and will eat into the delicate multi-coating of the lens, leading to your fingerprints becoming indelibly imprinted onto the lens. This can lead to problems with flare and make the lens worth less on the secondhand market.
  • Fingerprints and minor scratches may not be immediately apparent when looking at a lens, which can be a worry when buying secondhand. There is, however, a way to make any marks magically appear. Simply breathe on the lens’ elements and any flaws will show up as your breath condenses on the element. The moisture will disappear in a second or two, leaving the lens unaffected.
  • Looking after your camera and lens as described will help to ensure that it holds they value. In addition, you will maximise the value of your equipment by keeping the original box, packaging and any paperwork that came with it. Even though most people don’t use the boxes for storage of the camera or lens, a classified advertisement with the words ‘mint and boxed’ is attractive to many buyers – perhaps implying that the equipment has not been used very much.

Cleaning a lens

You should only clean a lens when it is dirty. It’s far better to try and keep the surfaces clean than to run the risk of damaging them during cleaning.

What you will need:

  • Blower brush or compressed air canister
  • Lint-free cloth or lens tissues
  • A clean, dry, dust-free surface on which to work

1. Take the lens off the camera body and remove any filters or lens hood.

2. Use a lens brush or compressed air can to remove any loose dust or grit. This is important, because if there are any particles on the lens when you rub it with a cloth they may scratch the surface. Hold the lens with the surface you are cleaning facing down as you brush, so any dislodged dirt of dust falls away. If using a can of compressed air be careful to keep the nozzle at least six inches away from the lens, otherwise the any propellant used to expel the air might condense on the glass surface. (Never use compressed air to blow dust out of a camera body – the pressure of the air can damage the shutter curtains.)

 

A lens cleaning cloth.

3. Use a lint-free cloth or lens tissue to wipe the lens elements. If possible, use a cloth or tissue sold for cleaning camera lenses – other materials might scratch the lens coating. Disposable lens tissues are ideal as you can use a fresh tissue for each new lens surface, avoiding the risk of transferring dirt from one lens to another. Also, a tissue can be folded several times into a convenient brush for clearing the lens surface before wiping. However, a clean pocket handkerchief is suitable if nothing better is available. Do not use cloths provided for cleaning spectacle lenses – they often contain impregnated chemicals. Apply a gentle pressure to the cloth or tissue and polish in a spiral from the centre of the lens outwards. This will move any remaining dust or dirt to the edge of the lens, where it will do least harm.

4. If you are using a filter to protect the lens, clean this in the same way.

5. Attach a lens cap to help keep the glass surfaces clean.

Some photographers believe that there is no reason to keep the front element of a lens clean and free of scratches, arguing that the marks are so close to the film plane they will be too out of focus to show in the photograph. While this might be true of minor abrasions, what this argument ignores is the fact that marks on the lens – be they fingerprints, dust or scratches – can create flare.

If you’ve ever driven a car with a dirty windscreen towards the sun you will have experienced flare – the dirt spreads the light and makes it very hard to see. Clean the windscreen and the sun is much less of a problem.

Exactly the same thing happens with a dirty or marked camera lens. Any non-image-forming light falling on the front element will be scattered by the marks and lead to a degradation of the photograph. The problem can show itself as washed-out colours over the whole image or as small hotspots on just parts of the picture.

If you have to use a lens that is scratched or chipped, you should be aware that flare might be a problem and avoid any direct light from falling on the front element. Using a lens hood will help. However, scratched lenses will never give you the maximum possible performance and you should consider replacing the lens.

Professional servicing

Although EOS cameras and lenses are durable, heavy professional use means that regular servicing is worthwhile. The frequency of service depends on the amount of use, but once a year is a guide guideline.

There is a temptation to have equipment serviced just before a major news or sports event, but other photographers will probably have the same thought and the service centre will be very busy. It is much better to find a time in your diary when you are not too busy, and have the work done then.

You can find Canon service centres across Europe by going to https://self-service.canon-europe.com/ce/pages/ and following the ‘Service and Repair’ link in the left hand side menu.