The days when photography cameras were built like tanks and able to withstand a lifetime of use and abuse are long gone. Your camera care routine can now make the difference in whether your equipment lasts for longer or breaks down.
The new digital era comes with sensors, lenses, batteries, and camera bodies that can be significantly more sensitive to damage. This article will give you a number of tips on how to improve your camera care habits and extend the lifespan of your photographic equipment.
Camera Care and Transport
Most damage occurs during transport. Camera bags, backpacks and hard cases are the most common options currently on the market. Each have their own drawbacks and positives, and your final decision will depend in part on:
- the amount of equipment you need to transport
- the level of protection it requires
- how much mobility you need
- how hidden your camera should be
- the camera’s exposure to the elements
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If you only carry around one small camera, a simple neoprene cover or a hard shell zipped case might work just fine. Either would protect your camera when you are not using it. You can even put it inside a bag or backpack with the rest of your everyday stuff.
Even though this is a great option if you want to go undercover and not carry your very expensive camera openly, bear in mind that these covers offer very little padding and are almost useless against the elements.
ExpertPhotography recommends: Lowepro Santiago 20 II
ExpertPhotography recommends: Neopine Neoprene Camera Cover
Shoulder Bags and Backpacks
A small case is also useless if you are a DSLR user and carry a couple of lenses and maybe a Speedlight along with the camera body.
In this case, you need to step up your game and think about a shoulder bag or a backpack with padded dividers. These will protect your gear and keep it from bumping around while you transport it.
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW (left) Lowepro Computrekker AW (right)
Shoulder bags are easy to reach, but uncomfortable to carry as they put all the weight on one of your shoulders. Backpacks distribute the weight on both of your shoulders, but are harder to reach.
Camera bags and backpacks are usually semi-waterproof, so they offer a medium level of protection against the elements and easiness of transportation. It’s still hard to hide the fact that you are carrying around expensive photo equipment.
ExpertPhotography recommends: Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW
ExpertPhotography recommends: Lowepro Computrekker AW
If you are a photographer that carries a couple of DSLR bodies, a few lenses, a bunch of accessories, laptop, lighting equipment and so on, then you might have to consider a hard case to protect and transport your gear.
There are a lot of options on the market regarding case size, divider options, and trolley wheels. Most of these cases guarantee an extreme level of protection, being able to withstand harsh weather conditions, hard impacts and vibrations.
The downside is the weight and bulkiness that will for sure affect your mobility.
ExpertPhotography recommends: Pelicase 1510
This is a topic that is often overlooked. But it is extremely important for the way you handle and interact with your camera.
We tend to forget that when the camera is hanging from our neck or shoulder, the strap is the only thing keeping it from falling to the floor.
The straps most cameras come with are usually uncomfortable and of poor quality. Luckily, there are a lot of options on the market of various shapes, sizes and materials, from canvas, leather to neoprene.
Neck straps are the standard on the market and come free with most cameras. They are easy to use and versatile. The huge downside is that they cause a lot of strain on your neck, leading to spine problems in the long run. This is especially true if you carry around heavy camera body and lens combos.
Hand straps are a good option when you need to keep the camera secure in your hand. The flip side of that is that putting the camera down when you need free hands becomes difficult.
Shoulder straps are the market’s answer to all the problems resulting from the use of neck straps. These straps distribute the weight from the shoulder diagonally across the body. They make it easier to handle your camera and carry it for long periods of time.
The cleaning process represents a big part of the camera care process and should be done carefully. Otherwise, it might do more harm than good.
Never use household cleaning products on your equipment! These are mostly made with nasty chemicals that will simply destroy your gear.
Canned air is also something to stay away from. Camera stores advertise and sell it as a great product for getting rid of dust. The truth is that it is too aggressive for sensitive equipment.
You should also keep in mind that different parts of your photography gear will require different tools and cleaning methods.
Lenses are really sensitive due to the nature of the glass and optical coatings involved. Optical glass cleaning should always be done in two stages.
First, use a soft brush or a hand blower to remove any small particles of dust that might be on the glass surface. Then, using a few drops of dedicated cleaning fluid and a soft cloth, wipe the lens from the centre to the border in gentle swipes, until it is completely clean.
ExpertPhotography recommends: LensPen NLP-1
Even though most camera bodies are made to resist dust and moisture nowadays, it doesn’t mean you should use cleaning fluids in their maintenance. Try to use a soft brush and an air blower to get rid of surface dirt. You could also use a keyboard cleaning putty for deeper cleaning.
This procedure should be done in an authorized brand repair service. But if you are really careful and use the right tools, you can do it yourself as part of your camera care routine.
The sensor swab technique works well in most situations, and is a simple process that most people can try safely. Just make sure you buy the correct swab for the size of your sensor.
Bear in mind that this part of the cleaning process should be done in a dust free environment. After this, you should clean the camera body and lens. Otherwise, the sensor will grab dust again after you clean it due to static.
First you need to remove the lens from the body and then activate the mirror lockup. The clean sensor setting on your camera will lock up the mirror and expose the sensor.
Now grab the sensor swab, get it wet with a couple of drops of the cleaning fluid, and gently wipe the sensor from left to right with a steady movement.
Let the fluid dry and check the sensor surface to see if it is clean. If it’s not, repeat the process.
A good way to check if the sensor is clean is to photograph a white surface and then check the image on a computer screen at high magnification. All the dust specks should be gone if the cleaning process was correctly done.
Rechargeable batteries have evolved a lot in the last few years. Charging takes less time, and performance is better. But running out of juice in the middle of a shooting session is still one of the worst nightmares for photographers.
Having spare batteries is a must. But so is knowing how much charge is left in your batteries.
A really helpful procedure is to have all your camera batteries numbered and use them in the right order. This way you know that you used the number one battery first, and should charge it again first.
The same process applies to AA batteries. In this case, you should number groups of 4 batteries and make sure you use and charge them as a pack.
This way you avoid using mixed batteries with different life spans from different charging cycles.
Even though it might be tempting to save a few bucks by buying third party batteries, this is exactly where you should not be cheap. Third party batteries usually don’t offer the same performance as the original brand ones.
In some cases, they may even damage your camera if they have a different milli-Amps or voltage power.
Moisture is definitely electronics’ number one enemy. Most camera care failures and equipment damage happen due to moisture exposure, in my experience.
I’m not talking about exposing your camera to heavy rain, though. Most moisture damage occurs after exposing your camera to low temperatures and then putting it back in a bag that causes an abrupt temperature shift. For example, during winter.
This leads to condensation inside the lens and inside the camera body, causing fungus and electronic malfunctions.
A good prevention step is to keep some silica gel desiccant bags in your camera bag. When close to your gear, these bags will absorb moisture and prevent condensation.
You can get these bags for free. Just save them every time you buy some electronic gear.
Sometimes, you can’t avoid exposing your camera to harsh weather conditions, or unfriendly environments. This can be anything from rain to dust to sand and other risky situations that might damage your gear,
A good solution could be a camera rain cover. This will keep your camera safe and you can operate it through the hand openings on the side.
ExpertPhotography recommends: Ruggard Camera Rain Cover
Adding these tips to your camera care routine will improve the lifespan of your equipment. And that will help you take better pictures as your camera will be in top condition.