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Spring, is here! Time to go through your camera bag and make sure your gear is clean and ready to roll.
Suggested tools from the Adorama Cleaning & Maintenance Department:
1. Take everything out of your camera bag
This way you can get rid of any clutter you may have accumulated. When all your gear is laid out before you, you can assess which items you are using and which ones you aren't, and decide what goes back into your bag and what gets put up for sale on eBay. Be prepared to find stuff you've been looking for for months!
2. Inspect and clean the bag
Any dust bunnies, crumbs, and other unwanted stuff in your bag could attach itself to your gear and work itself in (unless, of course, your gear is ruggedized) and slowly gum up the works. Clear it out! Use a vaccuum if necessary so your bag is truly dust free. This is especially important if you live in a dusty environment (such as the desert southwest) or have a shedding animal. I've heard stories of photographers finding their kitten hiding in the camera bag and leaving fur! Use a flashlight to inspect inside and make sure it is clean.
My old Domke F2 bag is dusty and filled with tiny pieces of junk which I might have overlooked if I hadn't inspected it with a flash. That stuff could get into my lens focus ring or camera!
3. Inspect/clean your lenses for scratches, fingerprints, dust
Look at each of your lenses carefully and use lens cleaning fluid and microfiber cloths to carefully clear fingerprints and dust off any exposed surfaces (you do have a protective filter on the front of your lens to protect the sensitive—and expensive to fix—front element...right?) Be sure you have a clean and/or new microfiber cloth, lens cleaner, and compressed air. Some lens cleaner packages are a low-coast way to have these items. And maybe as you empty your bag, you'll find that lens cap you lost in December and can use it again to prevent future accumulation of dust on your lens.
As I emptied my bag I discovered the rear lens cap for this lens had fallen off, and now there's a mess.
4. Inspect/clean your DSLR/MILC sensor; wipe down all surfaces with microfiber cloth.
Any dust that's sitting on your camera may come off in your bag and transfer to your lenses, so while it seems a bit weird, wipe down your camera's surface. Then go deeper: Take some test shots to determine if there is dust on your sensor and if there is, follow these steps to carefully clean it. You don't need to pay a service center to clean your sensor: All you need is a good Sensor Cleaning Kit like this one at Adorama with swabs that are appropriate for your camera's sensor. Follow these steps and you should be able to do it yourself without damaging it.
5. Batteries: Charged, fresh?
Check your batteries. Use a battery tester such as the ZTS Inc. Mini-MBT, Mini Multi-Battery Tester (above) to be sure rechargeable batteries are juiced up. If you are using disposable batteries, consider going earth-friendly and switching to rechargeable, but at the very least make sure the unused batteries in your bag are within their best use date. If they aren't, dispose of them properly and order new ones.
6. Test your flash
If you haven't used your flash in a while, shoot some test-shots to make sure it is working properly. If you have wireless flash capabilities, make sure wireless settings are working and if you have multiple units, that they are communicating with the camera or commander unit. If you do not have wireless capable flash, consider whether it is time to upgrade.
(Note to Canon users: Some EOS DSLR hot shoe contacts get stuck when you put a flash on camera so that when you remove it and shoot wirelessly, the camera still thinks there's a flash attached. If you are having this problem, check to take sure hot shoe contact goes up when flash is taken off camera.)
7. Wash or replace your microfiber cloth
After cleaning all your gear from fingerprints, dust and the occasional errant cat fur (or if you are the outdoor adventure type, mud, grass stains, and other signs of Mother Nature), your microfiber cloth can get grungy, and that grunge could end up smudging the lens surface you're cleaning. You could try washing your cloth, but be aware that if you use too much soap you may end up leaving a filmy deposit on your lens surface the next time you clean it. Hot water without soap (and hang dry) might be an option, but the best option of all is to simply replace the cloth. Order the one at right—won't break the bank.
8. Check your tripod & head
Is your tripod working properly? If you take it into rugged conditions (sand, surf, dirt), stuff can work its way into the legs and prevent it from extending and collapsing properly. After such rough shooting, you should always wipe or wash dirt off your tripod. Just to be sure...Extend the legs and center column to make sure they're moving as smoothly as the day you bought your tripod. A high-quality ballhead is generally self-lubricating and shouldn't require much attention, but if its movement is getting sticky, spray a little WD-40 on a towel and wipe that on the surface of the ballhead, then work the ball around.
9. Time for a new bag?
Did you buy that big honkin' pro lens you've been saving up for, only to find that it doesn't fit snugly in your bag the way its predecessor did? That happened to me recently when I decided to go for it and buy the Canon 24-70m f/2.8 II pro lens. It didn't fit in my go-to bag, and I needed to upgrade; I ended up getting the LowePro Pro Runner 350 AW Backpack, which was a perfect fit for my upgraded system. Here's a good place to start your research.
What special camera gear maintenance tips do you want to share with your fellow readers? Is there something special you do to keep your stuff clean and operating well? Leave a comment, below.