Digital SLR cameras are not as delicate and temperamental as they used to be, but you still need to know how to properly care for and use, clean, and store your cameras, DSLR lenses, and other gear to maximize their life and effectiveness. Follow these suggestions to protect your camera while using it, storing it, and conduct a basic cleaning of cleaning DSLR cameras and their components. This guide uses the phrase “camera” to mean everything from the body to the sensor to the lens as a whole unit.
Protect Your Camera from Dangerous Elements While Shooting
Everything from humidity to heat to salt, moisture, sand, dust, and water can sneak into a camera. Whether they just get dust on the sensor, put small scratches on internal piece of your lens, or fry electronic components of the DSLR, they are bad news. So it’s important to exercise care when shooting in any environment where these are a risk, and this requires planning ahead.
For environments where dust, sand, salt, or precipitation are likely, bring a good cloth for drying, several microfiber cloths for wiping dust and dirt off the lens, and a plastic bag or rain hood to keep water off. You may also want a cleaning kit with an air blower to get dust and sand off the lens before you wipe it down. You should also inspect and wipe your camera clean after shooting in conditions like these, to be sure nothing on the outside finds its way in or gets ground in through use.
Humidity and temperature change present their own set of obstacles, and dealing with entering and exiting buildings that are significantly warmer or cooler, and thus more or less humid than outside is an entire separate subject for camera care. In a nutshell, you either want to make the temperature shift very gradual when moving from cold to warm, or find a way to keep your camera from ever getting cold.
If you’re worried about dropping your camera in water, just be sure to have a good neck or hand strap. Some people have had success drying their cameras off by dropping them in a bag of rice to remove all the moisture, but don’t count on this as a reason to be careless.
Lastly, be mindful of your camera itself. Bumps can crack the lens or other internal mirrors and ruin the hardware. Be cautious at first until you are comfortable and familiar with how having a carrying a camera changes the way you should move.
Store Your Camera Intelligently When You Aren’t Using It
Heat, dust, and moisture are the big threats. Store your camera in a good camera case that pads it to prevent physical trauma and locks out dust, and be sure there are some silica gel packs in the bag or case to control the moisture. As for heat, just don’t store it in a place that gets below 40 degrees or above 80 or 90. That means don’t leave your camera in your car on a hot day nor in your unventilated closet.
If you’re going to be storing it for longer, pros advice removing the battery and memory card. This prevents the battery from doing anything to your camera in the heat and ensures no moving parts get jammed. You should also take off the DSLR lens and replace all the caps on both sides of the lens and on the camera body. This is to keep any moving parts from sticking. Also consider turning your camera on and using it at least once a month so the mechanics stay in proper working order.
Clean Your Camera Every Once in a While and After Exposing It to Moisture and Dust
Cleaning cameras well is an art, but any novice can at least wipe down the body. Even before you opt for a professional-quality cleaning kit and the difficult task of cleaning the sensor, you should get a high-quality microfiber cloth and use it to clean the exterior and cracks of your camera body every time you get back from a shoot. Once you have removed all the dust and dirt you can see, you should also carefully remove the lens, ensuring any dust still in the cracks doesn’t fall into the back of the lens nor inside the camera onto the sensor. Carefully clean the grooves and cracks. This is also a good idea before you put the camera away for storage.
Most people also suggest reading up on professional cleaning, which you can actually do yourself with a digital SLR camera cleaning kit. You have to be very careful to avoid damaging internal components, but there are a number of detailed guides that walk you through using air blowers and clothes to remove dust from inside your lens, on your imaging sensor, and in other sensitive locations. Any dust that doesn’t come off with the air blower should be left alone, and if it really bothers you, you can take your camera to a camera cleaning technician.
The majority of good care for digital SLR cameras is preventative. Keep harmful elements out, remove them from the housing, and protect your camera from heat and humidity. Keeping this in mind when you use and store you camera helps you prolong its life without difficult or expensive cleaning. A bit of maintenance cleaning is usually enough to compliment this protective behavior and keep your camera in proper working order.