If you’re cleaning your SLR lenses once a week with a microfiber cloth, you’re doing it all wrong. Lenses are delicate things. Over-cleaning them will actually cause more harm than good. And the cheapest cleaning solutions—for example, microcloths—aren’t up to scratch.
For a proper tutorial, watch this handy, informal 10-minute instructional video:
The host is former movie-set camera assistant Daniel Lachman, who more often reviews old cameras on YouTube under the name Retro Camera Review. Here, he takes a break from that beat to share his expertise on how professionals clean lenses on set.
He works with only a few tools: an air blower, a bottle of Zeiss lens fluid (though he notes that Pancro is the brand professionals are loyal to, any cheaper solution works just as well) and a package of single-ply Kimtech wipes.
Tools to avoid include brushes, which collect oils, and the aforementioned microfiber cloths, which collect dust easily and can actually scratch up your lens over time. A can of high-pressure air, too, is just a more expensive version of an air blower, and not much more effective.
5 Steps for Proper Lens Cleaning
- Turn the lens so it’s facing downward while using the air blower. That way, gravity will help remove any specks from the lens.
- Fold a Kimtech wipe into a small square—you won’t need more than one, and the tighter the wipe is, the more control you’ll have to delicately remove spots from the lens.
- Spray the lens cleaner onto the wipe in a downward motion, rather than into one area. The whole cloth should be wet, not just one spot.
- Gently rub the lens with the cloth in a spiral motion, from the center outward.
- Use a flashlight if you can to help spot dirt and specks.
Unless there’s some serious damage with your inside lens, it’s best to just leave that one alone. You want to have to clean your lens as little as possible. As Lachman notes, even when lenses look a little dusty, they’ll operate fine—the focal point is well beyond the glass itself, and the dust won’t be noticeable.
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