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Recently I was in a trip in a very hot area. The hotel room was very cold because of the air condition. and once I use my camera I realized that the lenses is very foggy I had to keep it in a warmer place for a while to use it. because all photos produced are foggy. this called condensation where the water change from its gaseous form into liquid water. and of course it is a very dangerous for the camera.

After a while I recognize that my 18-55 AF lenses didn't work properly specially the Auto Focus system. I had to turn off the camera and remount it again to get it back to its function.

I was wondering if that happened while the camera and lenses in their bags and well stored. So it is possible to happened to any glassy surface including the sensor.

My question is does is effect the sensor as well as the AF mechanism of my lenses? and after the condensation, do I have to clean my sensor? what should I do to maintain my gears in that conditions? do I have to get a special equipment like a waterproof box?

I know there is some question talking about humidity and the camera but non of those question concern about the AF lens mechanism and the sensor cleaning.

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I will answer based on my background as an electrcal engineer since the sensor and at least part of the autofucus system are electronics.

Pure water, as a general rule, is not harmful to most types of electronics. However if the water has any impurities in it, it can cause corrosion which is harmful. It doesn't take much in the way of dust, minerals, fungus etc. to make water corrosive. The general rule for electronic devices that have gotten wet, is to rinse them with distilled water and dry them with gentle heat such as a hair dryer on low or by placing an incandesant light bulb near by. I would NOT recommend rinsing your lenses or camera sensor. Introducing that much water would likely cause more harm than good.

The sensor is made of silicon which is okay with water, but all the tiny metal connections around it and in the other electronics of the camera and lenses are subject to corrosion. The good news is that water vapor is usually relatively pure water. Condensation is more of a concern because it will pick up dust and move it arround. The presense of liquid water can cause malfuctions, but if it is dried up without corrosion, normal function is likely to return.

For your lenses, gentle heat is the best you can do short of sending it to the manufacturer to be disassembled and cleaned. Don't overdo the heat.

For your sensor, if you can see condesation on it (I am assuming a DSLR where you can see it) I would do the incandesant bulb thing to dry it. I would not blow warm air into the body of your camera, as you would likely stir up too much dust. If taking a picture of an all white or gray background does not indicate spots on the sensor, I would not clean it. If all your photos have spots in the same place, have it cleaned, or clean it youself using standard practices for cleaning dust spots. There is plenty of info on the net on sensor cleaning.

Higher end lenses and cameras have seals to keep dust and moisture out and a water tight enclosure would also, but is not very practical in many situations. Do what you can to keep dust and moisture way from your gear and wipe it off if you can't. Condensation can be minimized by making temperature changes for your gear as slow as possible. Hope that helps.

  • Thank you for the informative answer, that's give me an idea warming my gear under my desk lamp. – hsawires Jun 25 '15 at 7:34
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  1. Cleaning a sensor is not easily done, and requires [expensive] professional service. It definitely cannot be done safely with canned air, lens brush or similar tool.

  2. As @Jerry Dallmann states, pure water from condensation is, in itself fairly innocuous. However, as it forms droplets on the sensor and lens, any random dirt specks are pushed into more obvious rings that remain after the water evaporates. The eye sees this consolidated cruft more readily than the widely-distributed particles. These adhere tightly to the surface and are hard to remove without causing damage.

  3. Moving parts such as diaphragm blades and focus motors may exhibit increased friction when damp, which probably caused the issue, but gentle drying should cure that.

The issue of condensation also applies to photography (and computer use) in very cold weather. Taking a cold piece of precision equipment into a warm room (or breathing on the device) can cause condensation. On a disk drive, the increased friction can destroy the disk and/or read head. Let the device warm in a tightly closed plastic bag before opening to a warm, humid atmosphere.

BTW, though I've read of using dry rice to absorb water, it is dusty and can do more damage than good. Also, beware the flash: I've received a might jolt from a really wet camera with built-in strobe.

  • In most of the Nikon DSLR there is a self cleaning process inside the cameraو I do not have to uncover the sensor. what do you think of that? – hsawires Jun 25 '15 at 7:38
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    Certainly, use self-cleaning! However, it works by ultrasonic vibration, which may not remove dust that has been adhered around water droplets. Take a photo of a plain white background, out of focus, and look for speckles that don't belong in the picture. – DrMoishe Pippik Jun 25 '15 at 23:13
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My question is does is effect the sensor as well as the AF mechanism of my lenses?

Depends on the amount of condensation and quality of the equipment. I had the electronic part of my lens damaged this way once and the circuits had to be replaced. It was a lens with no weather sealing. I had another lens that stopped working and started again when dry.

With condensation on the glass surfaces the lens and the sensor the light diffuses and obviously the equipment does not work. So this optical issue can become a problem before the electronics is damaged.

and after the condensation, do I have to clean my sensor?

Let it evaporate and inspect when dry. Clean only if there is some residue on the dry sensor. Most likely there won't be any.

what should I do to maintain my gears in that conditions? do I have to get a special equipment like a waterproof box?

Avoid exposing cold equipment to humid air. Plastic bags with zipper can serve as cheap, temporary protection.

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