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You may have read Lens Cleaner Recommendations, and now I would like to know how often to clean my lens. I have been using one lens for about a year without cleaning it yet and recently got a new zoom one for Christmas (yay!). It has been fine but I feel it could be time for a good clean and I would like to know exactly how often you think lenses should be cleaned (not just "not often").

I have read What is the best way to clean lenses and filters? which shows some quite extreme examples of what can happen if a lens is cleaned too often (like this example), so I wanted to be safe.

I'm not looking for an answer like "once every x days" but then I don't just want "not much, or it could break".

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5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's not really a big deal for two reasons on both sides of the equation.

  • On the one hand, dust on the lens is positioned at a place where it will have negligible impact on the final image. That's because they'll be completely out of focus, and are so tiny to begin with Generally, it's not worth worrying about.
  • On the other hand, lens glass is very hard, and modern lens coatings are too. You can clean them with a lenspen or clean microfiber cloth with no risk of micro scratches. (Do you remember that thing about how to tell if a diamond is real by trying to scratch glass? It's like that.) But be careful to remove bits of sand first (both from the lens and from the cloth!) and never use anything like a non-photo tissue which might contain harder fibers.

So, because of that: I use a lens blower periodically to send off most of the dust, and if that doesn't get everything and it's annoying me, about once or twice a year I might use a lens pen.

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I have accepted this answer because it clearly states both sides of the argument, though all the other answers have been useful. Also, I agree that a lens blower would be a good idea from the answers I have seen on my other post and for about £6, I will definitely get one. –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 21:19
    
Yay I can +1 now :) –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 21:20

Never. Seriously, if you can prevent your lens from getting dirty, you don't need to clean it. For me, that means keeping a clear filter on the front and making sure that I never touch the back element and keep the rear cap on whenever the lens isn't mounted. If the filter gets really dusty or dirty, I'll remove it, clean it, and replace it.

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Rubbing the front element of your lens , even with a micro fiber clothing, with time shall introduce fine micro scratches. And one more thing , it will take away some effect of the coating. You should use a UV clear Haze of high quality to avoid the dust issue. And only clean it when it gets REAL dirty. Like Dust everywhere its starting to make an impact on the final images. Usually when I am on an outdoor shoot, the front element gets some specs of dust which a blow of air can easily fix. After the shoot, at home I clean the lens well, put lens cap back on and it goes in the BAG, until the next shoot.

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Thanks, I've heard about a blower - I'm supposing this doesn't make any marks? –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 19:51
    
A blower is fine for small sand dust. At least it will reduce the everyday need to clean. Hope I helped. :) –  Sayem Gearspec Jan 6 '13 at 14:56

Clean your lens when it needs it. Not any more complicated than that. The goal is to eliminate the chance that something on the lens will impact your photo. Due to how close the dust is to the lens, and the fact that you are focusing far from the dust, you will be surprised at how much dust makes very little to no impact.

If you are concerned about damaging the lens, your best bet is to get a Skylight filter that you leave attached to your lens. This way, if there is damage, it is to an easily replaceable filter. Just twist it off and get a new one.

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1  
I would +1 this, v. informative but do not have enough rep by 2 points :( this is the best answer so far and I will accept after waiting for a few hours just in case any other answers come in. –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 19:44
2  
I'm hesitant to vote up, because I agree with the first part, but I'm on the other side of the protective filter controversy. I've seen way too many posts like this one where a filter caused a visible problem. If you're in a dangerous environment, by all means protect your equipment, but otherwise, you're probably doing more IQ harm than good. (And of course the cheaper the filter, the more true this is, but a pricier filter will cost so much that it's no longer easily replaceable.) –  mattdm Jan 5 '13 at 19:50
    
As usual, this site could bring the whole internet to a screeching halt in arguing about filters or not on camera lenses. As I preface my statement regarding them, they are suitable IF YOU ARE CONCERNED about damaging your lens with overcleaning (if you can over clean). If that's a worry, then get a filter and don't worry. You might introduce other problems, but scratching your lens is not one of them. –  cmason Jan 5 '13 at 21:11
    
@mattdm I understand, I've never used a filter before, I wasn't aware of this controversy so a filter doesn't sound like such a great idea. I don't shoot an a particularly dirty environment anyway. –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 21:12

When it is dirty, no more or less often than that.

If you can't see any obvious dirt or fingerprints then don't touch the lens surface at all with anything. Every time you touch a lens element it's an opportunity for damage so it's not really worth it unless the dirt is visible in your output.

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From the example of extreme damage I linked to in the original post, it seems that the damage is not visible, but noticeable in the output (less contrast), so I would probably check the lens for dust rather than the photos. –  bazite Jan 5 '13 at 19:31

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