Photo Gear Tune-Up

Keeping back caps on all of your lenses is critically important if you want to keep dust and dirt out of the inner workings of your gear. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Keeping back caps on all of your lenses is critically important if you want to keep dust and dirt out of the inner workings of your gear. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Does your photo equipment need a tune-up? Have you let things slide over the winter months? Here are some tips for you and your gear—getting ready for great weather and great shooting conditions…

BACK CAPS

Do you know where all of your back caps are? Do you need to replace some of them? These mundane accessories protect rear elements AND help keep dust out of your rear lens elements…and they’re relatively cheap! So if you have lost any of these, buy replacements now.

UV FILTERS

Check your UV filters (or in this case, a 'lens-protect' filter) at least once a year for scratches. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Check your UV filters (or in this case, a 'lens-protect' filter) at least once a year for scratches. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Protecting your front lens element is a critical issue if you do any ‘out in the field’ photography…which is just about all of us. A decent UV filter will still need to be changed every couple of years though, because they will get scratched. So take a look at your current set and see if it’s time for new ones.

CLEAN YOUR CCDs

This issue has been helped greatly by the current generation of digital DSLRs, which mostly now have the ‘self cleaning’ feature built in. But if you have older DSLRs that require manual CCD cleaning, here are a couple of things to remember.

You can test for dust on your CCD easily. Stop a lens down to at least the middle of its range-say f11 or so—and shoot a photo of a plain, blank wall—white or gray seem to work best. Now look at the result on your LCD display. You’ll want to magnify this and look carefully around the result. (Even better would be to bring this test image into Photoshop and examine it at 200%.) If you see dust bunnies prowling around, it’s time for CCD cleaning.

First and foremost: DON’T try to do this with a can of compressed air! You can plant a big ugly splotch of air compound right on your CCD, making matters much, much worse. Better options are to see if one of your local camera stores will do the job for you—they may have proper antistatic brushes to do the job. Or you can invest in one of several options to do the job yourself. I have used the brushes made by Visible Dust, available from B&H and other retailers, which do a good job on most CCD dirt. There’s also the newer Firefly cleaner that cleans without touching your sensor (this sounds good, but I haven’t tried it). Lenspen is another option out there. With all of these products, keep in mind that the CCD is the heart of your DSLR, and you only want to try this if you have good vision, great manual dexterity and aren’t afraid of the possible consequences.

Your third option is to have a camera repair shop do the job for you, or send it in to the manufacturer.

I know this sounds like a huge pain, but at some point you’re going to get tired of doing all of that cloning in Photoshop. It’s just so much better to have clean equipment!

CHANGE YOUR BATTERIES

Change all of your batteries if you haven't done them in a while. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Change all of your batteries if you haven't done them in a while. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Meters, strobes, intervalometers, etc. All of them. Go ahead and change them all if you haven’t done it in a while. Particularly dangerous are the batteries in that strobe you rarely use: better check those out before they melt and ruin that prized old item.

VACUUM TIME

Taking a vacuum to your camera bag will cut down on the amount of dust entering your delicate equipment. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Taking a vacuum to your camera bag will cut down on the amount of dust entering your delicate equipment. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Now go through your camera bag—get those old candy wrappers, cleaning tissues, dirt and grime—and empty it all out. Take EVERYTHING out of the bag, and hit the whole interior with your vacuum cleaner. Think about it as the dust that’s eventually going to end up in your delicate equipment, and get rid of it now.

REPAIRS

Finally, ask yourself: What’s broken? What’s not working? What’s missing? Any item that you depend upon that’s not operating properly should be dealt with now, instead of remembering about the problem the night before that big shoot you have planned. Get it fixed now, while you have the luxury of dealing with it in advance.

That’s it! Spring cleaning has been accomplished and you’re ready for some fantastic photography! Happy shooting.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

3 Comments on "Photo Gear Tune-Up"

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  1. Hey there! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks Margot, I’m glad you wrote! Don’t know why, but your comment just showed up TODAY (5/23) in my comment list.

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