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I have a camera lens where the UV filter shattered when it was in my camera bag. I was able to remove the filter, but there's bits of glass on the lens. I currently just put the lens cap back on and have left it alone.

How do I clean the tiny bits of glass off the lens glass? I do have a lens blower and wipes, but I'm worried that if I try to clean it myself, I will scratch the lens glass.

If it's not something that should be Do-It-Yourself (DIY), where should I bring it in to? I'm a member of the Canon Professional Services (CPS). I'm a Silver member. Or should I bring it into my local camera shop?

Also, any recommendation(s) on how to clean my camera bag? It also has bits of glass hidden through the crevices and velcro sections. Should I vacuum it?

Below is a picture of what it was like when I discovered that it shattered, with the filter still on. Note, I removed the filter already.

Shattered UV filter on lens

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There's a liquid that you can get called collodion that you can pour onto a surface. When it dries, it forms a flexible film that can be peeled off. Unless the lens coating is super delicate, this should be a safe method for cleaning particulates off a lens. It is the method once used to clean SLR mirrors and is still used to clean telescope mirrors. Unfortunately, if the glass is in the crevices, I would hesitate to use collodion in case it seeps into the gap between the front element and the retaining ring.

The absolute safest thing you can do is to remove the front element from the lens if you want to be sure you got every last microscopic piece of glass out of the crevices. Otherwise, blow it off very gently with a rocket blower, holding the lens upside down so that you don't just push the particles around, but instead give them a chance to fall away. To be honest, there shouldn't be much difficulty in removing glass bits. I wouldn't stress about it too much.

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    As for the filter/no filter debate, I don't cast judgment on filter use, because different shooting conditions have different issues. If I'm shooting in dusty conditions, a filter is required to seal off the front of the lens. Same for salty/ocean spray. Filters are also convenient for lenses that have deeply recessed front elements and are hard to get clean as a result. But I won't use them for night photography where ghosting and flare are likely to occur. – user27201 May 30 '14 at 0:05
  • I'd be really careful about this technique, since you don't know if that fluid will strip off or damage the lens coatings. – chuqui Dec 2 '14 at 23:09
  • If it is safe to use on reflecting telescopes and SLR mirrors, in which the mirror coating is the lens surface being cleaned, it's almost certainly safe to use on the front element of optical glass lenses. – Michael C Aug 28 '16 at 22:20
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Use compressed air, and not wipes. That will keep you from scratching the front element. But also realize that the UV filter is not a great photo tool but something camera stores sell the uninitiated. I would never use one.

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Use regulated and filtered compressed air. Too much pressure could force the small bits of glass across the surface of the lens resulting in scratches. If you have a small bulb type air blower, that would be ideal and should be able to blow all of the particles of your shattered filter off your lens' front element. Hold the lens with the front element down and blow from underneath. As the particles are knocked off they will fall away from the surface of the lens.

Regarding the bag, I would remove all items and thoroughly vacuum it out. I would also carefully inspect (and clean when necessary) the exterior of other items that were in the bag. Allowing the small glass particles into the internals of your camera and lenses should be a much greater concern than the surface of your lens. After all, there's not much difference between small particles of glass and sand. Either can destroy the mechanisms inside your camera, specifically the moving parts in the mirror and shutter assemblies.

This is exactly why I rarely put a protective filter on my lenses. The glass most quality lenses are made of is much harder (and often much thicker) than the glass used to make filters. The bump that shattered your filter might have left a small chip in the glass of the front element of your lens. Such a chip would be practically non-detectable in terms of the effect on image quality. It takes a LOT of damage to make a noticeable degradation in your lens' image quality. Instead, when a much weaker filter is shattered you run the risk of many scratches on your front element. When a lens is stored the best protection is a lens cap. When a lens is being used the best protection is a hood.

  • Regarding the hardness of optical glass used in filters versus lenses, it's not the hardness that makes a difference, but the thickness and curvature that leads to the dramatic difference in strength. Hardness of glass primarily has consequences for resistance to scratching--in some cases, depending on the lens, the front element is sometimes made of relatively soft low dispersion glass. Some new filters are remarkably resistant to shattering for their geometry, due to the annealing process and chemistry: youtube.com/watch?v=cT6wBQR7iqE – user27201 May 30 '14 at 9:27
  • It is both the hardness and the thickness, especially when comparing the front element of most lenses with the material that is used to make most consumer grade filters. Most lenses with LD glass are designed with the LD glass as either the last or next to last element of the front group, so the forward elements of the front group protect it from external damage. – Michael C May 31 '14 at 0:39

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