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How to protect your camera and lenses from damage dust and scratches

By William Sawalich Updated November 22, 2021

High-quality optics are essential for sharp photos. That’s why we photographers are willing to shell out significant funds to purchase lenses that are faster, sharper and all-around better than the standard kit lenses that usually come with cameras. But once we’ve begun investing in expensive, quality glass, we have a new concern: keeping it safe and intact. There are lots of ways to damage these delicate devices, no matter how durably they’re manufactured. So, here’s a look at protecting camera lenses from four common dangers.

Dust And Dirt

Dust and dirt are always a problem, but especially when working outdoors or in particularly harsh environments. It’s also the kind of thing that builds up over time with enough use. (Don’t take my word for it. Use your camera for a couple of years and then examine the nooks and crannies around the dials and buttons and see all the gross debris that’s gathered there.) All that stuff is trying to get inside your lenses, and it’s aided sometimes by a vacuum effect that can pull dust into the body when the zoom mechanism is used. So how can you fight the effects of all this dirt and debris from ruining your glass and then your pictures?

First and foremost, use an air blower such as the Giottos Rocket to remove dust from the surface of the lens as well as the front element. Avoid using cloth on dirty elements when they might have the opposite of the intended effect and turn a soft cloth into sandpaper scratching the glass. It also helps to store cameras and lenses in a case or bag rather than allowing them to gather dust on an open shelf. And, of course, keep lens caps on whenever you’re not shooting. You’ll also want to change lenses quickly and in clean areas, avoiding changes when dust or sand are blowing.

Protecting Camera Lenses From Scratches

While dust and dirt can be a problem whether inside the lens, on the front element or inside the camera body, they can also become a real issue if they get onto the front element. Enough debris can cause scratches to the lens coatings or, heaven forbid, on the glass itself. The aforementioned blower method for removing debris is certainly preferable to rubbing with a lens cloth, and keeping the lens diligently protected with a lens cap is also a big help. I once ruined a great wide-angle lens by placing it poorly capped inside a photo vest pocket. When the cap fell off, I quickly sandpapered the lens to death. What would have helped in this situation was had I been using a UV filter mounted to the lens in order to protect the expensive glass.

Most of the times I’ve damaged lenses has come when I’m carrying two camera bodies at once or working in an especially physically demanding scenario where the cameras tend to swing around and bang into one another or other things. If this sounds familiar, definitely consider UV filters for protecting camera lenses. After all, the crack in the filter pictured above meant I had to replace a $100 filter rather than a $1,000 lens.

Dents, Dings And Damage

The glass surface may be the most delicate element of a lens, but it’s certainly not the only vulnerable part. Damage to the barrel, filter threads, zoom mechanism and lens mount can also quickly cripple a photoshoot. The most common way these things get broken is from dropping. So how can you protect your lens from damage due to drops? First and foremost, use a camera strap and make sure it’s secure. There has been a trend for some years that traditional camera straps are somehow uncool, and so some photographers prefer wild contraptions and straight-up handholding to the simple functionality and security of a plain old neck strap. Form follows function, folks, and nothing’s more functional than a camera strap. Make sure it’s well secured and you’re well on your way to preventing significant damage.

The other item that will protect your gear is a padded bag or case, of course, and ensuring that if you’ll be shipping or traveling great distances with your gear that you unmount lenses (particularly long telephotos or zooms) lest you put too much torque on the mount and risk damaging it. This same caution is why long and heavy lenses often come with a tripod mounting collar, so the weight of the lens isn’t cantilevered from the mount but instead supported from below. The other, and perhaps simplest, technique for protecting camera lenses from fall damage is to ensure when you make lens changes you minimize the height from which a dropped lens could fall. That means changing lenses at or just above the surface of a table or by getting low to the ground such that a dropped lens falls one foot rather than four. Take pictures long enough and drops are all but inevitable. Try to plan for when, not if.

Protecting Camera Lenses From Moisture

Shooting in the rain is a great way to damage your lenses. That’s why those of us who don’t have to take pictures in wet weather typically choose not to. In a pinch, we’ll use an umbrella or other measures to protect our gear from a sudden shower, but those who must be outside with their cameras in weather take precautions that start with a waterproof camera cover from the likes of Op/Tech USA, Think Tank and Ruggard. These waterproof nylon or clear plastic covers are designed to leave only the front element exposed so that the camera and lens stay protected from rain, sleet and snow in all but the wettest weather.

Diligent photographers also use silica desiccant packets in their camera bags to help dry out equipment, and smart transitioning from extreme cold temperatures to the warm humidity of indoors also prevents moisture and fog. Do this by sealing the equipment in a camera bag, or better still a plastic bag, and slowly moving it from the cold outdoors to a slightly warmer indoor area such as a garage or three-season room, then finally into the warm interior. Any condensation that occurs will happen on the exterior of the bag rather than on, and ultimately in, your cold equipment.

Photographers end up with scratches on their lenses all the time, even if they’re particularly careful with their cameras. However, this result begs the question of how to fix scratches on a digital camera lens. The best digital camera cannot overcome scratches on lenses, as lenses cannot realistically be repaired. However, there may be some workarounds to achieve good image quality without replacing the lens. If you’re having other issues with your lenses, you may want to find out how to fix lines on a digital camera.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • You will need to buff out the scratch using a compound and a microfiber cloth or Dremel.
  • You may damage the coating on the camera lens during this process.
  • Buff until you no longer see the scratch anymore, though this may take longer for deeper scratches.

Fixing Scratches on a Digital Camera Lens

Over the years, people have established methods to “fix” scratches on their cameras. However, each of these methods includes the same process of buffing out the scratches. Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee that the camera will not become more damaged using these methods. Most brands and several photographers recommend sending your camera in to be repaired when there are scratches on the lens because you could remove the coating applied at the factory by doing it yourself. Additionally, you may want to find out how to get back deleted photos on a digital camera.

Check whether your lens can be repaired by an electronics or photography shop before trying to fix it yourself.

Steps to Fix Scratches on a Camera Lens

  • Tools needed:
    • Your choice of a buffer can be rubbing alcohol, a pencil eraser, toothpaste, a baking soda and water mixture, metal polish
    • Dry, lint-free microfiber cloth or Dremel with a soft-tipped polisher
    • Safety glasses (if you’re using a Dremel)
    • Lens cleaning solution
  1. Clean the lens and camera. You need to work off of a clean surface to avoid trapping dust or dirt particles on the lens elements. Ideally, you want to complete this process only with minor scratches. Deep scratches will take longer to buff out, and you increase the risk of additional damage due to dust mites.
  2. Put a small amount of your buffer on the microfiber cloth. Remember, you are working with an extremely small surface, so you won’t need as much as you would for a table. If you are using a Dremel instead of a microfiber cloth, you will need to put a small amount of the buffer on your finger and then transfer it to the lens. Do not apply rubbing alcohol directly to the lens.
  3. Rub the compound into the lens using a circular motion where the scratch is. By using a circular motion, you ensure that the entire lens is getting the same treatment. When you clean your lens you should also use a circular motion.
  4. Repeat steps two and three until you no longer see the scratch. This process can take a while, which is why some people prefer to complete it using a Dremel. As you apply rubbing alcohol or other compounds, you should see any minor scratches disappear. To check for scratches in the lens, look for places where light glares off the surface differently.
  5. Clean off the lens using a clean microfiber cloth without dust or dirt and lens cleaning solution once the scratch is no longer visible. If you used a buffer with liquid, let it dry before completing this step. Ideally, you will no longer be able to see the scratch, and your camera will produce good image quality in its images.
  6. Test your camera. If you don’t see scratches in the picture, you completed the process. However, if you still notice areas with poor image quality, you may need to replace the lens. You might be able to have it repaired. Since you used an unauthorized product on the lens, you may have damaged the coating on it, and the brand may no longer cover the product.

If you choose to use a small Dremel tool, you will need to wear safety glasses to avoid getting the buffer in your eyes throughout the process.

F.A.Q.S

How do I protect lenses from getting scratched?

Make sure you use a lens cover and case when you aren’t actively using your camera. Additionally, make sure your camera is completely dry before putting it away. Small scratches may still occur while you are using the camera, but these steps should help to mitigate the damage.

Do scratches affect image quality?

Some scratches can reduce the image quality of your photos if they are deep enough. However, small scratches may not impact your image too much, especially if they are on the periphery of the image. You can always take some test shots to check how they look.

Does a lens scratch really impact your photos?

Most scratches will not impact your photos. However, if they do, you may see image degradation and glare where the scratches are. Sometimes, the scratches may look like lines or blurry spots.

STAT: From January-July of 2021, approximately 5,482,292 interchangeable lenses were shipped worldwide. (source)

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Your camera & lenses are your investment, you have to take care of them, here are the best ways to How To Clean Your Camera Lens?

Here are some tips for cleaning digital camera sensor & lens .

List of equipment you should own to protect your camera & lenses:

  1. Camera Bag
  2. Lens Bags
  3. Filter
  4. Branded batteries
  5. Quality cleaning material & not tablecloth or t-shirt

Wipe your camera with a slightly damp cloth & dry, cleaning the digital sensor is so risky, but it should be done from time to time, there are tool that is specially designed to clean digital camera sensors, never touch the sensor with a brush or cloth as it’s extremely likely to damage, if you are afraid to clean the sensor by yourself you can go to the service agent.

Cleaning your Camera sensor:

When you change the lenses dust can fall easily on the sensor that shows up as dark spots in your images, there is a trick to check if there is dust drop on the sensor or no, take a few photos of white card or clear sky & open them on the your PC & flip throw them, open Photoshop zoom the pictures & the same size & press CTRL+TAB through them quickly, if all the images have dark spot in the same place so now you are sure that there is a dust on your sensor & then you have to choices 1- Clean on your own responsibility 2- take the camera to the service agent.

You may check my post “ How to clean digital camera sensor

Cleaning your Lens:

The first rule to clean your lens only if it’s necessary, little dust on your lens will not affect your image, keep the lens covered when you are not using to reduce the amount of cleaning required, use a soft brush & a blower to remove dust, fingerprints can be very harmful to your lens & should be removed as soon as possible, use a lens cleaning cloth & put a small drop of lens cleaning fluid & clean the lens surface through circular motion & then use the cloth the same way to dry, don’t press hard when cleaning.

Protect your camera lens:

The main four types of external damage sources to be concerned about:

  1. Dirt
  2. Scratches
  3. Shock
  4. Water

Dirt:

Is a daily challenge for your lens, dust & other dirt on the surface of your lens will create horrible images & causes even more problems as it is difficult to remove from your lens surface.

Removing Dust & Dirt:

A simple microfiber lens cloth will remove the problem, simply use light stocks working towards the outside of the lens, for mud or other stubborn dirt, you will need to use a cleaning solution designed for photographic lenses ,[popup_anything most photographic lenses have a fine coat of oil on their surfaces, this coating will wear off with repeated cleanings of any kind, using a “Filter” will help to protect the life of your lens.

Scratches:

Scratches are a killer to your lens, there is no way to repair them by yourself, the best thing you can do is to prevent scratches, the easiest thing you can do to protect your lens against scratches is to use Filters, a filter is a small piece of glass that fits in front of your lens, the original purpose of filters was to change the look of an image, however many people use a polarizing filter or a UV filter as a protection of their lenses, keep in mind you are putting a relatively inexpensive piece of glass on a rather expensive piece of glass, use high-quality filters to avoid compromising your lens quality,

UV, Haze & Protecting filters:

Protect the camera lens from dust, moisture & scratches, UV filters absorb the ultraviolet rays that can hinder the quality of your outdoor photographs.

Polarizing filter:

It reduces reflections from the sun & other polarized light sources, make sure you choose the appropriate type, autofocus cameras call for circular polarizing filters while linear polarizing filters usually suit manual focus cameras.

Check here different types of UV & polarizing filters: Amazon.com, make sure that the diameter of the filter is the same as your lens.

Water:

Is your mortal enemy to your lens, the electronic circuits & motors inside most of today’s lenses can be destroyed by water, most lenses actually have several elements, or other lenses, if water reaches these inside lenses & dry’s it leaves water spots that you can’t clean by yourself.

To protect your lens from water there are several things to remember, if shooting in rain you should use a rain hood, when moving between temperature extremes, carry your lens & camera in a camera bag before changing temperatures to help prevent considerations inside the lens, once moved to the new temperature, slowly introduce the new air into the bag.

Click on the photo to get the item.

Protecting your camera from elements:

You should never be exposed to excessively high temperatures, don’t leave the camera in the car on a hot day especially if the sun is shining on the car, if you are on the beach try to cover your camera bag with your towel, in indoor avoid to store beside radiators, always carry with you extra batteries, never place your camera beside electric motors or other devices that have strong magnetic field,this field can corrupt the image data stored in the camera, always protect your camera from water specially saltwater & also try to keep it away from dust & sand,use lens caps & covers while travelling, try to store all small accessories in one bag to avoid hitting the camera or the lens,when hiking outdoors don’t wear camera strap around your neck, it could strangle you, don’t aim the camera directly to the sun it can burn your eyes.

Here is a video via CNET showing the steps as described above:

You can get your camera cleaning tools from here 🙂

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UPDATED March 31, 2022
by David Tunic

Photography promotes visual understanding of the world around us. When taking photos, you see the world through your camera lens. It is like a glass window where you gander through your surroundings.

But what happens when the window gets hazy, scratched, or broken?

Your digital camera’s lens, no matter how carefully you handle it, is prone to wear and tear. If you find a scratch or two, don’t panic. There are ways on how to fix scratched camera lens.

Do Scratches Affect Image Quality?

First, let’s address your concern about image quality. Remember that when you shoot, you are looking through the lens, not at it. So minor scratches will not cause visible marks or spots in your photo, especially when you are shooting at wider apertures.

Scratches will only be noticeable when you shoot with smaller apertures f11 to f22.

Repair Or Replace?

Camera lens scratch repair could be very expensive. If you usually shoot with wider apertures, then minor scratches on your lens should not bother you. Save your money. Scratches will only affect the resale value of your lens or camera in the future.

However, if you’re one who likes taking photos with much depth, sharper lines, texture, and space, you can re-check the performance of your scratched camera lens.

Do this by shooting a photo at f22. If you can tolerate the blurs, don’t get it fixed. However, if you think it makes a noticeable impact on your image quality, go to an authorized service center. There, you may watch how to remove scratches from camera lens done by a pro.

If your camera lens gets cracked or broken, you might want to replace them. However, buying a new camera lens may cost more than buying a camera. So always be extra careful in handling it.

Hacks To Fix A Scratch

Some photographers offer do-it-yourself methods on how to fix a scratched camera lens. Remember to do these with caution. Mishandling might cause further damage to your lens.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

  1. Remove dust from your lens with a lens blower or lens brush. Make sure the lens surface is dust-free before proceeding to the next step.
  2. Put a few drops of lens cleaning solution on a lens cleaning tissue. Wipe the lens in concentric circles, not across the lens.
  3. Dilute 3.5% solution rubbing alcohol with water: 20 parts water is to 1 part of alcohol.
  4. Dampen a clean, preferably new microfiber cloth into the alcohol solution.
  5. Gently rub the scratch with the damp cloth until the scratch is gone.
  6. Dry the lens with a new microfiber cloth.

Use Pencil Eraser

  1. Do Steps 1-2 listed above. Make sure the lens is completely dry before proceeding.
  2. Use an unused, clean, and soft pencil eraser and lightly rub it along the long direction of the scratch. Do not apply much pressure when doing this.
  3. Keep rubbing until the scratch is gone.

Use Toothpaste

  1. Do Steps 1-2 mentioned in the Use Rubber Alcohol section. Make sure the lens is completely dry before proceeding.
  2. Put a tiny blob of toothpaste on the rear lens.
  3. Gently make circular motions using a cotton bud to coat the entire lens with toothpaste.
  4. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with water to remove the toothpaste. You should notice that the small scratches have disappeared.

Conclusion

Those are three hacks on how to fix a scratched camera lens by yourself. However, we strongly advise that you evaluate your lens first before doing any of these methods. If scratches do not affect your image quality, leave them be. Explore the world and keep shooting! Learn more on how to clean your camera here!