How and why to “quaranclean” your your camera gear during the coronavirus pandemic

Tips & Techniques

I made a silly video a few days ago about cleaning your camera for Covid-19. It really was silly – I washed a camera in a sink full of soapy water. It went down well, but there’s a serious message behind it.

We’ve been given the advice to wash our hands for twenty seconds with warm, soapy water, and to not touch our face. What we need to remember as photographers, is that we bring our camera to our face all the time. It’s imperative that we keep our camera clean to prevent the transmission of this disease.

Taking things a little more seriously than my silly Facebook video above (don’t wash your cameras and lenses in the sink!), here’s why it’s so important to clean your gear:

Why

We bring our camera up to our face constantly. It’s a great source of transmission of germs, and everything that comes into contact with our gear via the camera bag, things we bump into, or anything that gets blown onto it is coming up to our face when we raise that camera to take a shot. We can take one simple step to prevent that by simply making more use of the Live View screen. We can also keep our camera clean.

Coronavirus or not, it’s a good time to clean the camera anyway. A change in seasons means we can take the opportunity for a spring clean, and those of us in self-isolation can make this something productive. Here’s how.

How

To begin, wipe down the body of your camera. Use a soft, dry cloth initially. Then, use denatured alcohol and a toothbrush to scrub off stubborn stains. Be careful around any leather surfaces because denatured alcohol can remove the glue that holds them in place.

Pay a little extra attention to the handgrip and the back of the camera.

After cleaning the body of your SLR, there are two things you’ll want to clean: the lens and the sensor. Each is a delicate surface, so quaranclean with caution.

We need to not panic-buy the following:

Using a clean, well-lit work surface, let’s get to business.

Lens

Dust and other small particles collect on your lens. We know this because the Spot-Healing Brush exists in Photoshop! The trick here is to remove the debris without scratching your lens. First, use the blower to remove as much as possible without touching your lens. If you still see dust and dirt particles on your lens, use a lens cleaner and the non-abrasive, lint-free wipes to carefully and gently clean your lens. Do not spray or drop lens cleaner directly on your lens – apply it to your cloth.

It’s a good idea to be preventative when it comes to lens cleaning, by keeping it protected in a camera bag and by not changing the lens in a dirty environment.

Sensor

I’m finding that I’m cleaning my sensor far more often with mirrorless. Unless you change lens constantly, you won’t need to get inside your camera to clean your sensor that often. If you notice blemishes on your images, however, particles could have found their way inside the body of your camera.

Before you clean the sensor, you should look inside the body of your camera for dust and dirt particles. The reason? When you turn on the camera, the sensor is charged and can attract the particles. So, with your camera turned off and the lens removed, take a close look for any particles inside the camera.

To access the sensor, you will need to put your SLR into the cleaning mode, which raises the mirror in front of the sensor and locks it in its open position to give you access to the sensor. On my Nikon in the settings menu, it’s called Mirror Lock-Up. It can be shortened to M-Up and varies by brand. To turn this setting on, press the shutter-release button; you’ll hear the mirror flip-up. Now, you can use your dust blower to remove any particles on the sensor. When you have finished, turn the camera off to lower the mirror and put a lens or lens cap back on.

Tip: Make sure your camera’s battery is fully charged or connect your camera to a power source before entering the cleaning mode.

If, having used a blower, there’s still cleaning required on the sensor, don’t attempt to tackle it unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Instead, take your camera to your camera shop or send it to a dealer to clean the sensor professionally. Do not touch, wipe, brush, or in any way interfere with the sensor.

Take this as a reminder to clean your camera, and to keep it clean.

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