How to Clean Your Camera - dummies

By Gill Chilton

To keep your camera working cleanly, avoid exposing it to bad weather and dusty conditions. When it does get dirty, follow these steps to keep it working as it should.

  1. Clean the lens.

    You may have to turn the camera on to get to the lens.

    • Use a clean, dry, soft brush to brush dirt off.

      Look closely. Particles of dirt (and the most likely culprit – sand) can be carefully brushed away.

    • Add gentle air pressure if dust won’t shift.

      Whilst you can buy cans of compressed air from camera shops, these can send too much air for cheaper cameras. Use a rubber squeeze-bulb for a gentler touch.

    • Shift fingerprints and smudges with a lens-cleaning pen or cloth.

      You can’t brush oily dirt away, but leaving it on the lens can give your pictures an unwanted soft focus. Exert slow, even pressure. Don’t rub back-and-forth as this could scratch off the protective coating.

  2. Clean the filters, using a camera cloth or lens cloth.

    Filters get dirtier than lenses because they’re handled so frequently. (By contrast, no one means to touch the lens.) If you use filters, keep a camera cloth in the filter box and use it every time.

  3. Clean the flash with a smooth cloth.

    Getting dirt on the flash is like having a dusty light bulb. Give it a clean when you start to see less light.

  4. Clean the inside of the camera with a soft brush.

    Check inside a 35-millimetre camera each time you load film. This way, no dirt is hanging around ready to attach to what will become your negatives as they move across the back of the camera.

Cleaning specialist cameras often means using the preceding steps, with some adjustments or additions, which are set out in the following list:

  • Camcorders: These get significantly dirtier than cameras, and no wonder: Taking a still picture is a matter of seconds, but you use a camcorder for perhaps half-an-hour at a go, and it collects dust and dirt the whole time. Get into the habit of giving the lens a swift clean with a dry, smooth cloth before each filming session. (Keeping a cloth in your camcorder bag makes this simple.)

    Dust often gets into your camcorder through a dirty tape. Be scrupulous about storing tapes in their boxes. Now and again, run a cleaning tape in the camcorder.

  • Compact digital camcorders: Some models use touch-screens rather than traditional buttons so the screens get greasy quickly. Clean the touch-screen with a specialist wipe. Look for individually wrapped ones that use isopropyl alcohol, a fast-drying grease cutter.

  • Digital cameras: In addition to following Steps 1, 2, and 3, you need to wipe the viewing screen free of smudges quite frequently with a soft, dry cloth. A dirty screen doesn’t affect the quality of the images taken, but it does affect how clearly you see what you’re doing.

  • Digital single-lens and reflex cameras: Some models allow you to take the lens right out, but take great care! Taking the lens out exposes magnetic surfaces, and dirt that gets into these inner recesses may – possibly expensively – need to be removed by a specialist camera cleaner.

Cameras, camcorders, binoculars, and so on are primarily pieces of working equipment. These days cutting-edge design means they look great too, but never jeopardise how a piece of machinery works for the sake of cosmetic perfection.