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Camera Care

 

Whether you're working with a film camera or a digital camera there are a few simple things you can do to preserve your investment and keep your camera ready for the next shoot:

Lens Care

A fine lens is a beautiful and complicated thing. Most of all you need to protect it from scratches. Good lenses are coated to cut down lens flare and improve light transmission. Nowadays lens coatings are harder than they used to be but they're still more fragile than the glass itself. Keep the lens cap on your lens except when you're shooting. If you're using the kind of lens that has a lens hood, put the hood on. The hood is designed to cut down on lens reflections from sidelight, but it also helps protect the lens against being bashed against something. If the outer element of your lens is close to the end of the lens barrel you'd be wise to buy an ultraviolet or clear glass filter to cover and protect it. Some phorographers believe that a filter will reduce the sharpness of a lens, but careful testing has proven that unless you're trying to get along with a cheap filter that's not true.

If there's a spot of something on your lens, don't whip out your handkerchief and start wiping. That's almost a sure way to damage the coating. Don't blow on the lens. That'll almost surely leave saliva spots that'll be hard to get off. If there's dust on the lens, use a lens brush. If the contamination is something more persistent, first use a lens brush to remove any dust, then breathe on the lens with your mouth open to dampen it slightly and use either the kind of lens paper you can buy in a photo shop or a microfiber cloth designed for photographic lens cleaning. If you use a microfiber cloth be sure it stays clean. Wash it often. If you have a mess that the lens paper or microfiber cloth won't take off without help, go to a camera shop and buy lens cleaning solvent designed for camera lenses. Don't use the kind of impregnated wipes, cloth, or solvent designed for cleaning your glasses.

LCD Screen Scratches

Most digital camera LCD viewing screens stick out from the back of the camera and tend to get scratched. You can protect the screen with a plastic film similar to the film manufacturers put over parts such as the button panel on a new microwave to prevent shipping scratches. An outfit named Screen Patronus makes static mounting LCD screen protectors cut specifically for your camera. They're very thin and very rugged. I recommend them. If you have a professional camera it may have a viewing screen covered with tempered glass. If that's the case you won't need to worry about a cover.

Cold Weather Dangers

If you take your camera out on a cold day, be careful when you get ready to go back inside. The warm air inside holds a lot more water than the cold air outside, and as soon as you get into the house the lens is going to fog up and the body is going to start collecting condensation, both outside and inside. The water can cause rust and other problems inside the camera. If you have a good, tight camera case, put the camera in the case and zip it up before you go inside, then wait for an hour or so before you take the camera out. An even better solution is to put the camera into an air-tight plastic bag before you go inside. Then you can watch the bag fog up, but the camera will be safe. If you're shooting digital and want to see what you just shot, take the flash memory card out of the camera while you're still outside, before you put the camera in the case or bag.

Flash Memory Care

Be sure to turn off your camera before you remove a flash memory card. If you don't, it's possible you'll lose the pictures you just shot. There's software available from flash memory manufacturers that may let you get the pictures back, but don't count on it.

Compact flash connects through an array of tiny pins inside the camera that push into corresponding holes in the card. When a card is out of the camera, don't just drop it into your pocket along with the lint. If something gets stuck in one of the contact holes you stand a chance of doing serious damage to your camera. When the card's out of the camera, keep it in the little plastic case that came with it. If you've lost the case you can buy another one from a camera shop or from the web. If you drop the card, check the holes carefully to make sure none of them got blocked with dirt.

Some cameras, the Canon Digital Rebel for one, will let you put the flash memory card in backwards. Be sure you put it in the right way and don't force it. If it's in backward and you force it you'll bend the pins in the camera. If you do that you'll need to send the camera in for repair.

Lithium Ion Battery Care

In order the avoid the "memory effect" nickel metal hydride batteries require at least occasional "conditioning," which involves discharging and re-charging the batteries. Many people believe they should do the same thing with Li-Ion batteries, but Li-Ion batteries don't require "conditioning," and they last longer if, instead of running them down, you top them off frequently. On the other hand, if your camera has a "fuel gauge" battery indicator you may need to calibrate the battery occasionally in order to synchronize it with the fuel gauge. Nikon professional cameras used to have a feature that told you when you needed to calibrate the battery, and the chargers for Nikon professional cameras had a button you could push to start the calibration process. If you don't have these features and you notice that the "fuel gauge" is becoming less accurate, you should run your Li-Ion batteries all the way down in the camera and then re-charge them in order to synchronize them with the gauge.