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I have heard lenses are pretty much vulnerable to fungus. That's why I protect my lens with silica gel. Can a DSLR camera also be affected by fungus? Should I protect them with silica gel, too?

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Cameras can be affected by fungus, but in real world usage they usually aren't as vulnerable as lenses. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Most lenses that have a fungus issue have been stored for long periods in dark environments without being used. It usually takes months or even years for the fungus to become a significant problem.
  • There are more of us with more lenses than cameras than there are who have more cameras than lenses. This means we almost always use our "main" camera every time we shoot. But we may only use a few or even one of our many lenses for a particular shoot. Thus, we tend to leave lenses stored for longer periods than we leave cameras stored.
  • We usually keep lenses for much longer than we keep DSLRs. The life spans of lenses, especially good ones, are usually measured in decades. The life spans of DSLRs are usually measured in years. We either wear out the shutter or replace it with a newer, improved model much sooner than we replace our lenses.
  • The only part of a camera body where fungus affects optical quality is the imaging sensor and the stack of filters directly above it. I suppose it is possible it could also affect the optical path to the PDAF sensor which could deteriorate AF performance, or the optical path to the light meter which might affect metering, but I've never seen or heard of that actually happening. For DSLRs which have mechanical shutters, the shutter curtains are usually protecting the sensor stack from contact with dust and moisture laden air. Regular cleaning with a quality bulb blower should remove most dust before it has a chance to get to the sensor.
  • If we do get moisture and dust on the sensor stack, it is much easier to clean than the interior surfaces of a lens. It takes a while for fungi to do permanent damage to glass surfaces. If removed quickly, there is usually no permanent damage from fungus.
  • The interior of lenses tend to be exposed to more dust and moisture, the two ingredients that feed fungi, than do the interiors of camera bodies during normal usage. This is especially true of zoom lenses that change volumetrically as you zoom and, to a lesser extent, lenses that change volume as the focusing mechanism moves the front of the lens in and out. Lenses with internal zoom and/or internal focus aren't constantly pumping air in and out the way lenses that change their volume as they are used do. If you don't change your lenses very often, then almost everything that reaches the inside of your camera came in through the lens. This means there is probably more of whatever it is in the lens than in the camera body.

If you are storing your camera and lenses together in the same place then any protection you provide to your lenses by using drying agents will also protect your camera. I wouldn't recommend actually placing silica packets inside either your camera or your lenses. That could lead to more dust inside them from the material used to wrap the silica!

If you store them separately there's certainly no harm and might be some benefit to keeping a few silica packets in the space where your cameras are stored just as you do with your lenses. Exposing both to UV light, such as from the sun, is also a good way to inhibit the growth of fungus. (Yet another argument why you should normally leave the UV filter off the front of your lens unless you are shooting in an environment that really requires it.) But regular cleaning with a good bulb blower that filters the air it blows into your camera should be enough to protect your body if you are using it often.

  • Also lenses are more sealed to moisture than a camera when the lens is off. Moisture, once it gets into a lens tends to stay there, whereas a camera will dry out much more quickly. This would likely make lenses more prone to fungal growth than camera bodies even if all else were equal. – dgatwood Sep 16 '16 at 22:53
  • "Most lenses that have a fungus issue have been stored for long periods in dark environments without being used." Ironically, my only affected lens is my everyday 16-50/2.8 that surely didn't suffer a lonely life in darkness. – Gerhardh Aug 31 '17 at 6:16
  • @Gerhardh That's the exact opposite of my own experience and anyone else I know that has experienced a fungus problem in a lens. – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 8:27
  • I know. I was really surprised when I first saw it on that lens. That was the lens I would expect it least to happen. I don't use the camera every day or every week but nevertheless this is my most used lens that I have. – Gerhardh Aug 31 '17 at 8:34
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Fungus spores are everywhere. They land, and if conditions are decent, they germinate. The result is a colony of fungi. The secretions are acid and thus corrosive. Favorable conditions are present if the humidity is 70% or higher. Cameras often are associated with leather trim and leather cases. The interior of lens barrels contain lubricants that are organic in nature.

Now the modern camera lens consists of several lens elements. Some elements are cemented together; others are air-spaced. Let’s talk about the cement. For decades, the cement of choice has been fabricated from the sap of the Canadian Balsam Pine. This glue has the needed transparency and optical index of refraction. Canadian Balsam is good food for fungi. In modern times, the optical cement used is an artificial resin. The newer cements are more unpalatable, so the fungus problem has been reduced.

Often the cloudy condition that spoils lenses is actually “crazing”. This is a condition whereby the cement ages, becomes brittle, hazy, and cracks and fissures form. Not much you can do to prevent all this from happing except avoid high humidity.

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Yes. My sensor was completely covered by fungus. Not sure if it spread there from the lenses (all 3 of my lenses were affected) or if that's where it started. Essentially fungus eats the glass coating, so all optical elements are susceptible.

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Sadly this is what i suffered after being in Dominican Republic for about 4 years and having my Canon 5D stored away my camera bag along with all of the lenses. When I came back to NY I sent it in to Canon for evaluation and that's what they told me that it was. Sadly everything suffered fungal damage including my very expensive camera at the time. What hurt me the most was the price to actually fix everything.... Killed me. Wasn't even worth fixing.. :( Now I sm stuck with everything and I wish I could just find a way to fix everything myself :( :(

  • Did they tell you what "fixing" would mean? AFAIK fungus can damage lens coating. Did the suggest to change the single lenses inside? Or repair coating? – Gerhardh Aug 31 '17 at 6:18

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