KEH Blog

KEH CAMERA BLOG

Camera Killers: Dust and Fungus

There are a few things that can "kill" your camera equipment, both in function and value...

The first "killer" is DUST. While keeping your camera & lenses away from dirt & grime sounds like common sense, it's not always the case. Even if you avoid specifically dusty areas, it is inevitable that dust will still creep in to every crevasse it can. The most important part to keep dust out of is your digital cameras sensor. Some ways to prevent this (as much as possible) are: If there's no lens on your D-SLR, it better have a body cap on it! Always keep the internal parts of your camera protected. It's best when changing lenses to do it when the camera is off, and to hold the mount slightly downward as you're changing. Also, if your other pieces of equipment are dusty (like your lens) it can easily transfer to your image sensor. So, also keep everything as dirt & dust free as possible.

You can purchase compressed air cans which give a nice swift blow of air onto whatever you're pointing it at. There are also bulb blowers which are easier to transport in a camera bag, are inexpensive, and are an easy way to keep those nasty little particles away.


Another "killer" is FUNGUS. Fungus likes to creep into lenses when you least expect it. On normal fungus levels, it is very hard to spot unless you know exactly what you're looking for. But the thing about fungus is, it doesn't stop growing. Over time it will etch the glass in a lens to the point of no return. Fungus is especially a problem in humid climates... and I don't just mean the rainforest... If you live near a body of water, or a place where it rains on a fairly regular basis, your equipment is susceptible.

In addition to keeping your equipment properly stored, I suggest silica packs. These can be purchased in large sizes that can be re-activated by cooking it in the oven (best for larger spaces or multiple pieces of equipment), or for a temporary (& smaller space), the little packs that come in shoe boxes can be thrown into your camera bag as well. I also use these in my print boxes for preserving old photographs.

What will a lens full of fungus actually do, you ask? Well, aside from being icky and causing possible health problems, get too much in there and your images will no longer be sharp, but soft in focus.

Keeping Things Clean

An important part of camera & lens maintenance is to keep them clean. Below are a few cleaning tool options including a fabric lens cloth, a disposable lens cloth, & a lens brush. The last two items you probably already have in your home  (an eraser and a Q-tip).
Sometimes the contacts on your camera and/or lens get dirty...you may not see anything, but it can cause connectivity problems so that your camera may not recognize your lens. An easy way to clear this up is to rub the contacts with an eraser. You can also do this on battery contacts, charger contacts, or anywhere else that you see those little metal spots. If you are rubbing contacts inside the lens mount of the camera, be very careful not to get any eraser crumbs inside the camera, they could get under the mirror and get stuck on your sensor which will cause spots on your images. You can also rub the contacts with a Q-tip that has some Windex on it.

For cameras or grips that use AA or AAA batteries, and has been stored for a length of time, it may have corroded batteries. In this case, an eraser or Windex may not do the trick. You can use regular white vinegar on a q-tip and rub it on the corroded areas.

To clean your lens glass, a lens cloth works fine for minor marks like a finger smudge. For more intense jobs, first blow the glass element off (with canned air or a bulb blower) so that there is no harsh particles like sand or dust on it- it could scratch the glass during the next step if it's not first removed. Then, take a Q-tip with some Windex on the tip and gently wipe the glass in a circular motion, and then dry it with the other dry end of the Q-tip.

Windex may also be used on the camera body & the outside of the lens itself if there are scuffs or dirt, but prevention is also key!

Smoking near your equipment and storing it in smoky places is also a big no-no. The smoke gets in to all the little nooks and crannies and can not be removed. In addition to a smell, and possible internal damage, smoke leaves a brown coating on equipment that is very hard to get off.

Protecting your equipment will help in keeping it working better and for longer, as well as to retain it's value come trade-in time!

If you have a dirty sensor, you can take either of these approaches: 1) send it to our Repair Center for a professional clean, or 2) purchase an at-home sensor cleaning kit available HERE. Our Repair Center also offers preventive maintenance on all 35mm, digital SLR cameras & camcorders. The preventive maintenance includes: cleaning inside & outside of the body, replacing light seals, checking all functions (including meter, lens, circuitry, etc.) make any minor calibrations, & we will also clean the sensor on digital cameras.

Camera Resource Books

We are constantly researching camera equipment that comes into KEH, and refer to certain sources on a regular basis. If you're interested in learning more about cameras, specifically pre-digital ones, we recommend these books:
McKeown's is a massive price guide to antique and classic cameras. It covers over 40,000 cameras with over 10,000 photos. It has an easy to follow layout and covers the make & model of a camera, the approximate years of production, a bit of important history on the item, and a price range for what the item is worth, depending on its condition.
Hansen's Complete Illustrated Guide To Cameras is fully illustrated & indexed and includes detailed descriptions with listings of different versions and variations. Both volumes also include yearly production charts of 35mm cameras from 1936-2002. These books are ideal for camera stores, schools, collectors, & the photo enthusiast.
Click HERE to shop KEH Camera's selection of reference books and magazines.

Digital Troubleshooting Sensors & CCDs

If you're having an issue with your (straight out of the camera) digital images, it may be one of the following things:
Dust on your sensor... If you see little specks on your images, probably in the same areas, it's most likely dust. This is very common, and pretty easy to fix. There's a few options to clean your sensor including: by the cameras "sensor clean" in the menu, by store bought kits, or by a professional repair shop. This will only occur on a digital SLR, happens often, and is mostly preventable. For tips to keep this mess out of your life, refer HERE and HERE.
This is an example image from a bad CCD. This can happen in both point & shoot digital cameras and digital SLRs. This is especially a common issue in many of the older p&s. This is an extreme case of bad CCD, but they sometimes go out gradually and you may have your actual taken image with some minor lines or discoloration through it. This is not an easy problem to fix, and is not an issue for home repair. If you have this problem, you will need to send that camera out to a repair shop, or in some cases may be under warranty through the distributor.

Digital Pinhole

An experiment shooting digital pinhole:

Toy cats as the test subjects.

A homemade pinhole cap (with filter glued on the front so dust would not get inside the lens mount and reach the sensor).
Shot straight from the camera using pinhole cap.
Shot using pinhole cap and a fisheye adapter screwed into the filter (that's glued on the cap).

Instead of making the area of view wider with the fisheye adapter, it made it much smaller as if looking through a doors peep-hole.

The softness was an interesting outcome.  Aren't pinhole images supposed to have a huge depth of field where everything is in focus? Research indicates this is what happens when the element of digital is introduced to pinhole photography, and diffraction is the culprit.

For more on the diffraction/pinhole/digital issue, refer HERE and HERE.
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