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Lenses and dust...

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Showing 26-46 of 46 posts in this discussion
Posted on 22 Apr 2013, 14:31:51 BST
Zelazowa says:
Whilst you're all eagerly awaiting the results of my humble, unscientific little experiment with two 50mm lenses, one with fungus and dust specks, the other OK, I was wondering why we clean our lenses at all?
Back to my little experiment. As I can't send individual prints to everyone so they can decide for themselves I'll have to get the negatives scanned. That way I can post the results so anyone interested can have a look on their monitors. I believe this now to be the most common way of viewing images?

Poundland have a good offer on microfibre cloths... you can buy them from their store for well... er £1 !
They say that they are:
Ideal for dusting, cleaning glass & mirror, furniture polishing and cleaning your kitchen & bathroom. Can be used with or without chemicals and cleaners. Cloth will not scratch. Wash and re-use 100's of times.
Another advert says they're great for cars, wood and kitchens amongst other things.
Whether they actually do slightly scratch your lenses I've no idea as I don't use them but even if they did it is unlikely to affect your images.....

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2013, 16:40:49 BST
T.J.Byford says:
Hi, Zelazowa.

Why do we clean lenses? Well, I suppose for the same reason it eventually becomes necessary to clean spectacle lenses so we can see clearly or why we clean car windscreens. To see better. So it is with camera lenses. With dirty and smudged spectacles we can still see, but how much more less clearly than with a perfectly clean lens. My specs have anti-reflection coating that works quite well when a light source, eg the sun is in the frame, but when they get soiled they become noticeably less efficient. So the same with our camera lenses.

It is all a question of degree. By how much do lenses need to get soiled before we notice a drop off in performance? And this is what this forum has been considering.

Poundland has thrown down the gauntlet: will not scratch. Scratch what? The relatively soft optical glass that camera lenses are made from? Seems very much a case of caveat emptor to me. But if you do want to find out if it will scratch a lens, it will only cost you £1 to find out. :-)

Posted on 22 Apr 2013, 18:14:37 BST
Last edited by the author on 23 Apr 2013, 01:23:36 BST
Zelazowa says:
Hi TJ...

Once again, thanks for the informative post.

Some posts have been considering that optimum point. You make the point of lens soiling impairing their performance. Would this be internal as well as 'external'?
Two posts have stated that microfibre cloth will not damage our lenses but I'd be a bit worried about using a product to clean my lens with what would also double to clean my car or kitchen...

No, I've never used microfibre cloth so cannot comment on what possible damage it may cause and I fear that it would cost me more than £1 if it did. But I do have that f1.7 50mm dusty / fungus Minolta MD lens to try microfibre cloth on so perhaps I'll pop down to Poundland and then give it a try. Another experiment to try for myself. I'll post my findings once I've tried a couple of wipes but as for my Nikon lenses..... no way! I guess it's more about long term damage but then as has already been talked over, to what extent would that affect your images?

For example say that despite some posters believing they are fine, let's say that after scientific optical examination it was shown quite clearly that microfibre was actually acting like a brillo pad on your precious soft glass lenses. To the photographer there has been no obvious degradation in his images even though they may have. Once again this is an area that brings out mixed opinions... what's best to clean your lenses externally?

A lot of photographers suggest putting a haze or uv filter on to protect the front element but this in itself can add its own problems. I've never used them as you buy a quality lens to use as is, not to then plonk a filter over that quality glass. Each to his own I suppose... but then if we get too equivocal we wouldn't have these forums, would we?

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2013, 21:07:28 BST
T.J.Byford says:
Hi, Zelazowa.

I can understand why we photographers will have differing opinions about anything to do with our hobby. Except in rare cases could any of us claim to have THE answer, and so each to his own. I cautioned against the use of micro fibre cloths because I picked this up in a photomag, and assume they know better than I. In the practical world, Graham has used them to no apparent ill effect. So, is it more a question of they possibly can, but may not in certain circumstances? I'm a cautious person, so I chose not to.

Graham breathes on his lenses, but this is another general no-no to the optical profession, as opposed to we camera buffs. But if one can't see any ill effect, does it matter? This is something I regularly did when I first started in this hobby, but stopped, especially with my Leitz lenses, once I read the reason. Today I always use filters and happily breath on these!

In my opinion, and in answer to your question what is the BEST way to clean lenses externally, it is to use specially formulated lens cleaning tissues. These were made by Zeiss and use high quality tissue that was as free from particulants as possible and the cleaner they were soaked in was pure. Now to most of us, this attention to detail is OTT because we get away with doing it in our own way. I use bog standard Isopropyl alcohol on cotton wool swabs and a known clean and soft cotton cloth, although I've no idea how contaminated this may really be.

But I am one of those photographers who doesn't get het up about putting filters on my lenses. I only use Leitz, Zeiss or B&W filters on my film cameras, and for digital I'm happy with a Hoya Pro 1. In principle I agree that putting a filter in front of a lens would seem to be a retrograde step. But in all the time I've used them, the only concern I have, and I can allow for this, is to keep the filter smear free. I've never knowingly thought any of my images deteriorated simply by using a filter. And should there be a scientifically proven detriment, I offset this with the damage my filters have often prevented to the lens itself.

As for the negative impact, if any, dust or fungus can have on our images, I can offer only two examples. I have a pre-war 16-on Zeiss Super Ikonta in my small collection. This lens is not coated, but has developed a natural bloom and is now just faintly hazy. Images, however, seem sharp to me, but they lack contrast. The other lens is a 1950's Leitz f3.5/35 Summaron with spectacles for my M3. This is coated and the front and rear elements don't exhibit any cleaning scratches. But if one looks through it straight on, all appears well. However, look through it at an angle and there is evidence of a fine veil just taking the edge off a crystal clear lens. This does not seem to affect performance, although somewhat oddly, testing it on my Sony Nex 5N, it had some impact on the performance of the digital camera's auto white balance. This went unnoticed in b/w and colour neg stock, and I've never shot slide with it so I can't vouch for it. It doesn't appear to be affecting sharpness, but again I have no pristine lens with which to compare. To my eye it still works fine, so no problem.

As you say, we shouldn't get too equivocal about it. Discussion is fun.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Apr 2013, 01:52:09 BST
That's some dust storm, Graham.
TJ, no doubt the guy who advised against using a microfibre cloth was a Leica specialist? I have heard their older lenses described as "soft as chalk" so maybe that it why?
Personally I clean my lensesw about every 10 years, unless I can see dirt on them.
I did see a lad vigourously rubbing his Canon dslr lens with................his finger!! I bet that did it good.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Apr 2013, 10:43:45 BST
Last edited by the author on 24 Apr 2013, 10:53:45 BST
T.J.Byford says:
Hi, Dr. A.

One might have thought so, but no, although he was very fastidious when it came to cleaning camera lenses and his other "hobby" - astronomy. He was an F.R.A.S. and knew a thing or two about optics, and you should have seen the telescope he had in his back garden. I'd have been shot had I ever breathed on that!

No, the advice came from a camera magazine, can't remember if it was AP or one of the digital mags I once subscribed to, and was in response to a question on this very subject - the best way to clean lenses. However soft acrylic microfibre yarn may feel, one has to remember it is still plastic.

Some of the optical glass used in the older lenses was indeed relatively soft and I suppose in the days pre-dating hard coating (the original blue bloomed lenses were not hard coated either) could easily get damaged and were also susceptible to atmospheric deterioration as well. I believe this may be what is happening to the Zeiss lens in my 16-on Super Ikonta.

(Just as an aside, I understand that there was even one Zeiss lens element that was made from a glass that was mildly radioactive!)

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Apr 2013, 13:46:58 BST
J. Forbes says:
This is codswallop. A dusty lens will not "dramatically reduce the contrast of your images" unless there is a huge amount of dust. I have owned a great many lenses, and still have 30 or so. Almost all of them have a small amount of dust, and I have never noticed any degradation of image quality as a result of it.

If you take pictures directly into the sun, you are bound to experience problems of contrast and fringing, but that is not because of dust. And lenses with superior coatings, like Zeiss and Pentax, will still be quite forgiving.

Dust increases with age: it would be rare to see new lenses with any appreciable amount of dust, and equally rare to see old lenses with none.

Toenibbler is right to say that some lenses, zooms in particular, can act as air pumps, but again, unless you are in especially dusty conditions you are unlikely to add enough dust to make a discernible difference to image quality.

As another poster said, if you are irrationally intolerant of even the smallest particles of dust, then second-hand lenses are not for you.

Posted on 24 Apr 2013, 19:40:45 BST
Zelazowa says:
Mr Forbes...

Other than Toecutter [Nibbler] I don't see any posts that claim that dust would have any significant or noticeable affect? In fact it's quite the opposite.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Apr 2013, 19:58:49 BST
J. Forbes says:
I was replying to the Nibbler. So we agree.

Posted on 26 Apr 2013, 12:05:19 BST
Amazon Fans says:
Hi Everybody

I have read this debate with interest, and decided to add my two penneth. Dust is a problem, and I tend to clean my lenses religiously on a regular basis. Sunday, I went up to London, so on the Saturday, I gave my 2 Nikon D90s, 18 - 105mm, 16 - 85mm and UV filter a good clean up, finishing off after using my Micro - Fibre cloth with the Blower. On Sunday whilst travelling up, and the sun shining in the carriage, I got my camera out of my bag; which was protected in another bag, and there to greet me was a covering of dust particles. So out came my camera tissues, and after 20 minutes of careful cleaning, it had gone..same result with camera 2.. So, from experience I believe micro fibre cloths adds dust to the problem?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2013, 16:08:56 BST
J. Forbes says:
We are talking about dust between the lens elements.

Obviously dust on the back and front elements should be removed, preferably with a blower and/or soft brush. I personally don't trust cloths of any sort.

Posted on 1 May 2013, 19:21:12 BST
Zelazowa says:
Hi... here's another description of a lens sale I've come across:
'perfect working order... some dust ....... and some thin cleaning scratches on the front element , no optical fungus ...'
It's the 'thin cleaning scratches' that's interesting... it's visible obviously.

Posted on 8 May 2013, 22:17:21 BST
Graham H says:

Posted on 21 Sep 2013, 16:19:14 BST
Zelazowa says:
"Avoid touching the surfaces of the lens.
Clean only with an air blower, antistatic brush or wipe it lightly with a camel hair brush or lens tissue.
In EXTREME cases, use a clean, soft cotton cloth moistened with denatured alcohol.
NEVER rub the lens surfaces with your finger, clothing or other abrasive material"

Copied from my Olympus OM1 instruction booklet.

Posted on 2 Oct 2013, 23:49:14 BST
Last edited by the author on 8 Oct 2013, 23:36:05 BST
Zelazowa says:
Recent Advert:
In fair condition, early Nikon 50mm f1.4 standard lens. All clean and clear, no fungus, haze. Please note there is heavy cleaning / swirl marks to front, as if to give it a soft focus, which it does. Focus and blades fine. Will fit any camera with correct adapter fitted.

This may be useful for anyone looking at lens purchase:


Posted on 18 Oct 2013, 09:17:12 BST
Peter Piper says:
Dust is not a problem until you get a light source in the frame, then you get a white haze in the image if there's enough dust in the lens. As for getting it out, I had dust in my FZ200 and sent it off for cleaning under warranty. They stripped and cleaned it and I should get it back today. I think you can pay to have your equipment cleaned now and then without breaking the bank.

Posted on 18 Oct 2013, 20:05:39 BST
Zelazowa says:
Hi Peter... was the dust in there from the point of purchase when new?
I believe TJ has one of these cameras.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Feb 2014, 12:22:42 GMT
Wouldn't the laser directed through the lens and into your eyes destroy your eyesight?

Posted on 16 Feb 2014, 00:49:13 GMT
Zelazowa says:
Laser pointers are increasingly in common use and can pose problems. Unsurprisingly pointers manufactured in Russia or China often don't carry the responsible safety warnings and may emit beams way above 'safe' levels. Certainly children should not be using them or for that matter anyone with irresponsible intentions.
The main concern, clearly, would be damage to the eye and in particular the retina. Opinions vary, of course, as to the long term impairment of vision when exposed to laser pointers but damage to the eye can last minutes or much, much longer.
A laser pointer is potentially much more damaging than staring into the sun.
Children are at greatest risk from these pointers as their use becomes more widespread.
Thinking of buying one? Don't... you know it makes sense!

A laser pointer should definitely never be used with a lens such as with a camera or binoculars.

Posted on 25 Feb 2014, 18:26:55 GMT
Graham H says:
I have a super-powerful (But still legal) green one.
It's incredibly useful for sailing at night as the beam itself is very visible, not just the green dot.
At handover time before I'd have to get my replacement on the helm and then say "Keep it on 220 and we need to go between that headland and .... you see where those houses are? No? Okay, well, see that buoy? Yes? Go sightly to the right of that... No, not that far, back a bit..." etc.
Now I just get the pointer out and it's "Keep it heading towards that."
Much easier. :-)

Posted on 2 Oct 2014, 00:01:33 BST
My Pentax ME Super booklet from 1977 has the following advice on lenses:

To remove loose dust and dirt, first use the blower and then the brush of a lens brush.
Don't try and wipe off granular dirt or dust - it's an excellent way of scratching the glass.

Smudges, such as fingerprints, should be carefully wiped away with either lens tissue or a clean soft cloth.
Clean, plain cotton handkerchiefs that have already been washed a few times are particularly good for this.

Breathing on the lens before wiping is effective, but be sure to wipe away all moisture completely.

I should like to point out that there are no laws governing the sale of laser pointers so if a salesman tells you it's legal it's simply rubbish. That does not mean that it is illegal, it simply means there are no laws at present and it's sales spin.

The Health Protection Agency recommends that pointers over 1mW are not to be made available for purchase to members of the public. Lasers above 1mW are potentially very risky and dangerous. There are no laws, at present, governing their sale so therefore the word legal cannot be applied.

If it is a super powerful pointer way above 1mW and in general use then the law will be interested. Don't take any risks as the law would treat irresponsible use, accidental or intentional, as being in possession of an offensive weapon as with a knife, sword etc

If you intend to buy one and the sales person says it's 'legal' then he's talking nonsense as there are no laws governing their sale. Furthermore if the sales person encourages you to buy a super powerful pointer then he is acting irresponsibly and against the advice of the Health Protection Agency.
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