Skip to main content

7 camera care tips to keep your DSLR or mirrorless camera working for the next decade

Nikon Z7 Review
Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

A good camera makes for a pricey investment, especially if it’s a DSLR or mirrorless model with a collection of lenses you’ve built around it. And yet, too often we treat our expensive gear as if it was a disposal camera we picked up at Walgreens. If you want your camera and lenses to continue delivering great results for years and years, you need to take care of it. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult to do, just keep the following tips in mind.

Your shirt is not a suitable cleaning cloth

James Pond

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 hurry, but you may end up just making your lens dirtier — or worse, you could damage the sensitive optical coatings. The fabric can also scratch the glass, which is the same reason why your eye doctor tells you not to clean your glasses with your shirt. Besides shirts, this also applies to napkins, paper towels, and any paper product not specifically made for optical glass. 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 – but not compressed air.

Buckle up

Peak Designs

The last thing you want to do is drop your camera while shooting out and about. Nearly every camera comes with a dedicated shoulder strap in the box. Use it. If you don’t like the one the manufacturer puts inside the box, there’s no shortage of third-party options. In fact, we’ve rounded up our favorite camera straps so you don’t have to sort through hundreds to find just the right one. Sling it over your shoulder, loop it around your wrist, or drape it over your neck — just keep your camera secure. This will also make it harder for a thief to nab your camera right out of your hands.

Keep it capped

Benjamin Sow

Your camera loves photographing Mother Nature, but it hates all the dust, rain, and mud that she can throw at it. When you’re not using your camera, be sure to keep the front and rear caps on your lenses, as well as the body cap on your camera itself if there’s no lens attached. This should be common sense, but it’s something that’s well worth repeating. Lenses are your most valuable assets, so be sure to treat them with just as much care as your would with the camera body, since they will likely outlive it. Check out these lens care tips from Canon for more information.

Protect the sensor

Alexander Andrews

Sensors are sensitive to light, but they’re also sensitive to dust and debris. Even the smallest particles can cause spots on your images. If you’re using an interchangeable lens camera, there will come a time when the sensor gets dirty. It’s inevitable, even with the self-cleaning sensors on today’s cameras. One of the easiest ways to keep your sensor safe is to keep a lens mounted to the camera. If you need to remove it to pack or store the camera more efficiently, then make sure to use the body cap to keep the sensor protected. For times when you need to change a lens on the fly, try to keep the opening of the camera facing downwards as you do so, so there’s less of a chance that dirt, debris, and moisture to settle on the sensor. It’s also a good idea to keep an air blower on-hand.

There are many ways to safely clean your camera’s sensor yourself, but manufacturers and even some camera shops can also do it for you if you’d prefer a professional handle the job.

Memory is precious

Image used with permission by copyright holder

As a general rule, you should never remove a memory card while the camera is powered on. Most cameras have a status light that will blink while the card is being accessed, so make sure to wait for the process to complete before removing the card. If the camera hasn’t finished writing to the memory card, you could lose images.

After you’ve backed up your files and you’re ready to clear your memory card, the best way to do this is to reformat it. You will find this option within your camera’s settings menu. Anytime you buy a new memory card, it’s also a good idea to format it in your camera before you use it. Cards formatted in other devices may not be compatible with your camera, so if you’re getting a card error, try formatting the card to see if that solves the issue.

Charge it up before a shoot

Canon G16 Camera bottom battery
Even if you aren’t using your camera extensively on any given day, batteries will still lose their charge over time. This is especially true if they get too hot or too cold. If it’s been a while since you’ve charged your battery, top it up before you go out shooting. A drained battery won’t ruin your camera, but it will make you more likely to miss some important moments. Also, make sure the battery is actually in the camera before you head out — keys, wallet, phone; camera, battery, memory card. Leaving the house with a camera without a battery happens to everyone at least once.

Don’t be left without your bag

shoot magazine caliber celebrity portraits gorman camera 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 separators for your camera body and lenses, making sure each piece of gear has it’s own compartment. Need help choosing a bag? We’ve rounded up the best backpacks, shoulder bags, and cases to keep your gear safe.

Watch those shutter counts

Digital cameras may be mechanically simpler than their film-based forebears, but they still have moving parts that can wear over time. The most important one is the shutter, which opens and closes to expose the sensor to light. Shutters are rated for anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 exposures on some high-end professional cameras. That may sound like a lot to you, but one day, you will hit that number. If your camera is getting up in there in years and you think it may not be performing as accurately as when it was new, you can send it in to the manufacturer’s service department do have the shutter inspected and replaced. Yes, this will cost money, but like a tune up for your car, it will keep your camera running longer — which will save you quite a bit of money compared to buying a new one.

Editors' Recommendations

Gannon Burgett
What is a mirrorless camera, and what makes it different from a DSLR?
Fujifilm GFX 100 review

What is a mirrorless camera and what sets it apart from a DSLR? If you're new to the world of interchangeable lens cameras, it can be confusing trying to figure out which type is best for you. Here's how a mirrorless camera works and what sets it apart from its mirror-laden counterparts.
Defining a mirrorless camera

As the name suggests, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a mirror, a key component of a DSLR (which stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, the word "reflex" referring to the reflective nature of the mirror). The mirror in a DSLR bounces it up to the optical viewfinder. In a mirrorless camera, there is no optical viewfinder. Instead, the imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times. This gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Mirrorless cameras are called "mirrorless," rather than DSLRs being called "mirrored," simply because they came second.

Read more
Don’t hate your camera flash. Master flash photography with these 4 simple tips
flash photography tips chris barbalis e 6xriuh1uu unsplash

Left alone, your camera flash creates cringe-worthy photos, with harsh shadows, no background, washed-out skin tones, and eyes that look like they belong in a horror movie. Unsurprisingly, those results lead to flash phobia, and too many inexperienced photographers are terrified of using one of photography’s best accessories.

Good flash photography doesn’t even look like flash photography. Done right, the flash blends seamlessly with the scene, going unnoticed by the untrained eye. Flash isn't just for low light, either. It can fill in dark shadows caused by the harsh lighting of direct sunlight, freeze objects in motion, and lead to all kinds of creative effects.

Read more
What is live view? How to make the most of this feature on your DSLR
fujifilm x t2 review screen

If you're feeling confused by the live view function on your camera, don’t worry; the process of using it couldn’t be more straightforward. Over the decades, photographers have traditionally scoped a scene by looking through their camera’s optical viewfinder. In the film days, that was the only way to frame your photo, but with the development of the DSLR, and later the mirrorless camera, pretty much all systems today give you the option of using live view mode (this is, in fact, the only mode on mirrorless cameras).

In basic terms, live view takes what your camera sees straight from its imaging sensor and displaying it on the LCD screen. On a DSLR, this means locking the mirror up and the shutter open so that the sensor is always exposed to light, bypassing the optical viewfinder entirely. There are several advantages -- and some disadvantages -- to shooting in this mode. Here's how to make the most of it.
Why use live view?
The first benefit of using live view is that, compared to the viewfinder, you get a much larger picture of what your camera can see. Those who practice genres such as landscape photography will particularly benefit from this. Why? Well, in a genre where there's little room for error, having the larger screen gives you a more detailed perspective. This helps you to get perfect exposures, composition, and focus.

Read more