The Perfect Sunrise

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I am getting a new Nikon D5100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens Kit). This is going to be my first DSLR. I wanted to get some tips from you guys on how to maintain it in the long term. I am getting a 52mm UV Protector Filter, as I read that it would do well to keep the lens clean.

Are there any precautions I need to take?

I would also appreciate if someone can suggest some reading material (paperback or online).

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3  
Preemptive reference to the meta-discussion on filters for lens protection: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/981/… –  mattdm Aug 10 '11 at 1:58
    
thanks for that @mattdm , Its good to know that UV filters are looked down upon. –  Sabeen Malik Aug 10 '11 at 2:36
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@Sabeen Malik - uv filters have some pretty hardcore advocates and pretty hardcore haters. Not everybody looks down on UV filters, some people think the protection is worth a level of image quality degradation (how much is largely a function of how nice a UV filter). No attempt to really discuss here, its just there are two sides to that discussion. –  rfusca Aug 10 '11 at 3:15
    
For me all the answers were helpful but had to select one. Thank you all for sharing all the information with me. –  Sabeen Malik Aug 11 '11 at 2:28
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Since the question is a bit too broad to "fully answer," I'll just volunteer some tips. Hopefully with everyone's ideas combined, you'll come up with a good idea of how to maintain your camera.

I've had a similar camera (Canon t1i), and it's survived two years of intense use by me and a handful of teenage students working with these guidelines...

  • Get a bag/backpack for your gear with padding. Doesn't have to be huge, but it should fit your camera body, the lens you have, accessories (batteries, chargers, etc), and leave room for another lens or two. This makes travel easier, and it can't get caked in dust in a bag.

  • Always put the body cap back on your camera, and put both the front and rear lens cap on the lens if you don't leave the lens on the camera. I hate when I see people toss a body/lens around without the cap on. You could leave the camera assembled all the time if you only have one lens, but I almost always detach my lens and pack everything up when I'm not using the camera.

  • Keep a microfiber cloth (I use these, but anything similar would be good) in your bag to wipe down your lens, and replace/wash the cloth if it appears to be getting dirty. If you get debris on the cloth and wipe your lens, that can be bad. It also helps to keep the lens cap on the lens when you're not using it, so that you don't accidentally get fingerprints on the lens (doesn't happen to me often; but when my students are using the camera it's a whole 'nother story).

  • If your lens comes with a lens hood, use it. It'll help protect the glass from getting bumped/scratched. The kit lens probably doesn't come with a hood, but you can get an off brand one pretty cheap on Amazon. [Thanks to Itai for the comment]

  • Extreme heat is no good. So I wouldn't leave your camera in the trunk of your car 24-7 if you live in a hot climate.

  • Be careful around water. A drizzling rain won't kill your camera, but just don't disassemble the camera or open the memory card door when your outside. If you're out in heavy rain, get something to cover the body of the camera (a freezer ziploc bag is great). The end of the lens can stick out fine, it's the electronics you want to protect.

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Why wouldn't a drizzling rain have a chance to kill a non-weather sealed camera? Just take a drop or two in the wrong spot to kill a shutter button, right? –  rfusca Aug 10 '11 at 3:11
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Not that there's anything wrong with it, but why remove the lens and camera from each other in storage? –  rfusca Aug 10 '11 at 3:12
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Agree with all except one. Keep the lens ON the camera. Body caps are far from dustproof. Most entry-level lenses are not either but they do provide a better seal. Sensor dust is one of the most annoying thing to happen to a DSLR. –  Itai Aug 10 '11 at 3:29
    
Most of the time, I agree that you should keep your lens on your camera. However, if you're traveling and your camera bag might take some abuse, you may want to consider detaching your lens. If you (or the flight attendant) shoves your camera bag into the overhead bin the wrong way, you might put too much force on your camera and damage the lens mount. This is especially worrisome with plastic-mounted lenses like the 18-55 VR. –  Evan Krall Aug 10 '11 at 4:39
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One to more add: Keep the lens hood on to protect the front lens element from knocks. –  Itai Aug 10 '11 at 13:07
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The main thing is to keep the camera and lenses clean and dry. Dirt and dust are, of course, just terrible for both sensor and lenses. Rain, condensation, salt spray, etc. won't do the camera any favors either.

Aside from environmental issues, just make sure that you treat the camera with respect -- don't toss it around, keep it in a protective case, make sure that anyone that uses it will treat it the same way you would.

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Thank you. What do you suggest I use for cleaning the lens? –  Sabeen Malik Aug 10 '11 at 2:37
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Make a discipline of not ever touching the glass, and just blow it off gently. A few specks of dust will have no impact on your photo at all — don't stress about them. In fact, it takes quite a lot — See this famous article. –  mattdm Aug 10 '11 at 2:54
    
+1 Thats just an awesome demonstration! –  Sabeen Malik Aug 10 '11 at 3:29
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Get some periodic maintenance done. Just as with your car needing a lube job every 10.000 miles, so your camera benefits from being checked out once every other year or so (or after say 10.000 pictures).
Nikon service centers do the job for a small fee. For example I spent 100 Euro a while ago to get my D200 cleaned, checked out, and have everything tightened, which included replacing the rubber grips which had come loose (without that it'd have been half that money).
While more important if your cameras get worked hard, it can't hurt to have a professional technician look at it once in a while and do some preventive maintenance. Of course the relative cost to the purchase price of a new body is less favourable at your end of the scale than it is for professional bodies.

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I think this is great advice for those that depend on their camera for a living, but...my opinion...this is overkill for amateurs. Most amateurs take the camera out of the bag, take a few shots, or take on vacation. They rarely have it out in challenging conditions, and it is basically like new its whole life. 100 Euro every other year makes sense with a 3000 Euro camera, but not one that is only 500 Euro. 10,000 photos can take literally years for most. –  cmason Aug 10 '11 at 14:27
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Which grips did they replace? Ones on the outside of the body? If so it should be clear when they need replacing. Apart from that I don't see what they could do other than clean it. It's not like they oil the shutter or anything, those are designed to be run without maintenance 'till they die and then be replaced. –  Matt Grum Aug 10 '11 at 14:34
    
I've heard plenty of horror stories of cameras coming back from service centers with some other problem (send it in for a LCD repair and the sensor comes back filthy, etc). It may be anecdotal, but it certainly suggests to me that 'hav[ing] a professional tehnician look at it once in a while' can hurt. –  rfusca Aug 10 '11 at 15:26
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I'm surprised no-one has mentioned it so far, but the best way to protect your DSLR is with insurance. A UV filter may protect against low speed impacts to the front of a lens, but wont protect against side impacts or hard impacts to the front, let alone water damage, fire or theft.

You can probably add it to your household insurance, which will sometimes even cover use out of the house. Or get a camera specific insurance policy (this might be more expensive).

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Recent post on the benefits of insurance...even when you're an idiot - photography-on-the.net/forum/… –  rfusca Aug 10 '11 at 13:44
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