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on Jun 24, 2009 in Tech Tips

Lens Clens™

An Important Tool for Your Camera Bag

There’s nothing worse than to be shooting out in the sun, having just smeared yourself with sunblock, and then to accidentally touch the front element of your lens. Uck!!! This greasy smear can ruin a perfectly good shooting day! One method I’ve always recommended for cleaning front elements, fogging it with ones breath, doesn’t cut the gooey factor of sunblock or even basic skin oils. Well unless you want to shoot through a fog effect filter all day, you’ve got to clean that junk off and not damage the glass.

I ran into this problem all too often a decade ago. An outstanding repairman and technical advisor to my book, Nikon System Handbook, introduced me to a magical pink fluid when I first brought him my mess. It worked so well I asked for some of what he called, his “secret sauce”. That liquid gold has cleaned my worst mess in seconds for two decades and as a wildlife photographer, I couldn’t imagine using anything else to get the great outdoors off my equipment (it’s cleaned everything from sap off the front element to sticky adhesive from a lens barrel). The precious fluid that cleans up my act is called Lens Clens.

What makes this lens cleaning solution so good, heck if I know! The chemical components making up the magical pink fluid is a mystery (actually a trade secret), but the results are not. The high evaporation rate and zero residue of Lens Clens makes it the perfect lens cleaning fluid. More importantly, it’s perfectly safe for the multi coatings of our precious lenses. The other lens cleaning fluids I’ve tried tend to either just move the mess around the glass or worse, leave their own film to be wiped off by some other means. I’ve tried many different lens cleaning fluids in a pinch, but for the past ten years Lens Clens has been the one I depend on.

The cleaning of lens elements seems to be a constant process when you’re out in the field. Usually left out of the cleaning process, but just as important, is the camera body and all other equipment surfaces subjected to the natural oils of our hands (especially when we’ve cornered that great photograph and the adrenaline starts running) smear across their metallic surfaces. More important than ever with modern electronic cameras, these surfaces need to be kept clean. An important and effective method to keeping all these surfaces clean and operational can be maintained with Lens Clens.

At the end of each shooting day, I believe cameras and lenses that were used should be cleaned. The oils from our hands (with or without sunblock) leave an oily film on our equipment. If not wiped off, this oil will attract and adhere dust to our equipment. This in turn will work its way into our camera gear in the form of oily dirt that can potentially cause shorts in our electronics or large dust spots on the internal surfaces of elements in lenses. Either case means repair bills and lost shooting time which could be prevented.

The process starts with the dirty equipment. No matter what’s used, you want to avoid having to clean the front element, as often as possible. It’s going to need cleaning enough without you doing it every time you shoot. If a simple burst of air doesn’t clean off the element and there’s a finger print (now how did that get on there?) or other stain on the surface, a drop of Lens Clens will do the trick. A drop of Lens Clens on lens tissue wiped in a circular motion, working from the center of the element out, will clean off the worst stain.

On a small surface, 52-62mm in size, a single application will do the job nicely. With larger elements such as 122mm in size, a couple of applications of Lens Clens will be required as the liquid has a high evaporation rate (the reason why it’s so good). And if the smear on the element is some awful substance such as sunblock, or you’re cleaning a number of elements, use a clean lens tissue each time you use a drop of Lens Clens. If you don’t, you could smear the dirt you just cleaned off one spot onto another.

The last thing you want to do is place the liquid lens cleaner directly on the lens element. Not that the liquid will hurt the surface, but you want to avoid the possibility that liquid will run down into the internal workings of the lens or camera. Lens Clens comes in a 1-3/4 ounce spray bottle that puts a controlled amount of solution on a surface. But as long as Murphy is always around, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

When it comes to lens care, cleaning the front element is only the start, not the finish. All the surfaces of the lens barrel are subject to being smeared with the oils from our hands. To see if I’m telling the truth, put a small amount of Lens Clens on a clean, white, cotton cloth and rub the focusing ring of your lens. I did this recently at a workshop and the mouths of the participants as they dropped tells of the results.

Receiving an unproportionate amount of skin oils is the camera body itself. The grip, shutter release and camera back receive the brunt of this oil slick. These areas are critical areas to get clean as dust attracted to them soon migrates into the workings of the camera itself. Once again, a couple drops of Lens Clens on a clean, white, cotton cloth rubbed around the entire body will reveal the worth of your efforts. The camera back itself is a major area to keep clean as dirt from it often migrates onto the film back and opened camera, then transferring to the film causing scratches.

Lens Clens was developed thirty years ago for cleaning of optics in their own manufacturing process. It’s nothing new to thousands of professionals in the optical business, just new to the user of those optics. They manufacture four different formulas of Lens Clens, I use No.1 though not recommended for use on plastic. A 1-3/4 ounce bottle sells for just $4.35 (The government charges a HAZMAT tax on shipping, minimum of $7.00, might want to order with friends to help lower cost.) and will last a long time (years!). They also produce cleaning kits called Clens Kit™. For more information on this lifesaving (and equipment saving) product, http://www.lensclens.com is your source!

If you take good care of your equipment, it will take good care of you!