Whether it’s a sub-$200 compact or a DSLR and a set of lenses that cost more than $10,000, digital cameras are pricey investments regardless of your income, yet many of us treat them like the disposable plastic shooters you buy at Walgreens. With proper care and following common-sense tips, your camera and lenses could last for a long time. The next time you shoot, keep the following in mind.
Your shirt is not a suitable cleaning cloth
The clothes you wear soak up dirt and sweat, so why would you want to transfer that gunk onto your lens? Yes, it’s convenient when you’re in a jiff, but it’s a surefire way to damage the glass. The fabric can also scratch the lens – same reason why your eye doctor tells you not to clean your glasses with your shirt. Besides shirts, this also applies to Kleenex or paper towels. The above image demonstrates what you should NOT do. The best way to remove dust or prints is to use a lens tissue, microfiber cloth, a specialty brush made for cleaning lenses, or an air blower – NOT compressed air.
Strap it on
Chances are that you’ve had a lot of things slip out of your hands (there’s probably a joke in there somewhere, but you get the picture). We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people drop their point-and-shoots or smartphones while taking a shot. What surprises us is the number of people who use DSLRs without a strap – and those things are expensive. Use the strap that comes with your camera – whether it’s a budget compact or a pricey DSLR. If you don’t having a noose around your neck, try a gadget like the Capture Camera Clip v2, which tethers your camera to a belt or backpack strap.
Cap it shut
As you know, your camera loves photographing Mother Nature, but it hates the crap she throws at it: dirt, humidity, liquid, etc. When not in use, cap the front of the lens, as well as the back of the lens and the front of the camera if you have the lens removed. This should be common sense, but we’ve seen this infraction way too often. Lenses are your most valuable assets, so be sure to treat them with just as much care as your would with the camera body. Check out these lens care tips from Canon. (Image via Visionstyler Press/Flickr)
Don’t overexpose the sensor
If you’re using an interchangeable lens camera, you’ll inevitably have to expose the sensor whenever you switch glass (you can rely on an “all-in-one” lens that covers wide-angle and telephoto, but what’s the fun in that). The problem is that the sensor is like a magnet for dust, made worse if you’re outdoors. The key is to minimize the amount of time the sensor is exposed to the elements – do it quickly, don’t go ordering a coffee while you’re swapping lenses. Also, face the camera downward as you take off/put on lenses. Since the sensor is the heart of your camera, take extra care when you clean it. There are tools made especially for cleaning sensors, like the SensorKlear Loupe Kit from Lenspen.
Memory is precious
It goes without saying that you should never remove a memory card while the camera is on, especially if it’s writing to the card. If you see a rapidly blinking light after you’ve shot an image, it means it’s transferring data to the card. Ejecting the card while the camera is on could damage it, wiping out all the beautiful food porn you shot at the Caesars Palace buffet (or was that just us?).
Never hurts to charge it
Even if you aren’t using your camera extensively on any given day, batteries can still lose their charge, even lithium-ion variants. A drained battery won’t ruin your camera, although you’re more likely to miss some important Kodak moments. However, if you leave an alkaline battery in a camera for a long period of time, corrosion could occur. Also, make sure the battery is actually inside before you take your camera out (we’ll admit it, it’s happened to us before).
Hold it like you mean it
We’re guilty of one-handed shooting due to years of holding a compact point-and-shoot. Break this habit by always gripping the camera with both hands, as it’ll minimize shaking that cause images to be blurry. If you’re using an interchangeable lens camera, grip the right side with your right hand and support the lens from the underneath by holding it on top of your left palm. You should be able to easily adjust the lens while keeping it secured and steady. Use a tripod for even more support.
Don’t be left without your bag
It may be cumbersome to haul around a bag or case while you’re out shooting, but it’s the simplest way to care for your equipment. But don’t just throw it into any backpack – get something that offers cushioned support for your camera body and lenses, if you’re carrying several (make sure each lens has its own compartment). Need help choosing a bag? Check out our guide.