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Joey Riggs

Lens Cleaning and Dust off

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Hello,

I won't have a Filmtools near me today and I need to get some Lens cleaning fluid and Dust off.

Can these or suitable alternatives (must be able to be used for lenses) be found at a Home Depot/Lowe's/Target or an Electric Store (Best buy)? 

There's plenty of places to get compressed air but is only the "Dust off" brand appropriate for use with camera lenses?  

Lens cleaning fluid will be harder to find, I don't imagine any big store carrying Pancro, Tiffen, or Rosco brand fluid but are there other brands that are acceptable for cleaning lenses?

 

Best buy has insignia cleaning solution

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/insignia-5-in-1-cleaning-kit-for-digital-cameras-and-camcorders/6065176.p?skuId=6065176

 

 

Edited by Joey Riggs

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I think most compressed air is fine. Just make sure you test spray first before application to get any residual coolant out of the nozzle. I tend to remove the little plastic straw when I have to use one of those cans because I don’t want it flying off and hitting the lens.
 

Can you get to a local photo store? They usually have lens tissues and lens fluid. If not, maybe an eyeglasses cleaning kit at a drug store would work.

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The bad news is canned air chemicals can wear down the lens coatings over time. I recommend not using air on the lenses if you can avoid it.  Breathing onto the front element of the lens is the best way to clean the lens with a micro-fiber cloth. If you need a fluid lens cleaner, NEVER put the drops onto the lens element since they can seep into the mount and dissolve the glue holding the glass in place. Dampen your cloth first a gently wipe the front element. 
 

G

Edited by Gregory Irwin
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Lots of people have their own lens cleaning techniques, and cleaning out in the field is a different challenge to cleaning on a bench like I do, but since I see the effects of cleaning techniques daily, I’ll throw in my two cents.

Don’t use canned air on lenses. It’s not actually compressed air but liquified gas, containing chemicals that can damage coatings. If you tilt the can too much, or if it’s been stored on its side, liquid will come out. Also, using air on the lens body will simply blow dust into the crevices and potentially contaminate sliding surfaces. It may look clean on the outside, but you’ve just caused early wear and the need for an overhaul. I don’t know why they even sell Dust-Off in photo shops.

I recommend using a lens blower on the glass to get any particles off before cleaning with a micro-fibre cloth or lens cleaner. A specifically branded lens brush is ok to brush off particles too, but like with micro-fibre cloths, you must make sure to keep them clean and wash them periodically. Even the softest cloth will scratch if a hard particle of grit is present. Be especially careful with vintage lenses, as their coatings can be softer than those on modern lenses.

Most lens cleaning solutions are fine, including those for eye glasses, the main issue I find is that they can streak, so I can understand why breath and micro-fibre is often used instead. I tend to use isopropyl alcohol as a first resort and lens cleaner next. As Greg said, always put the cleaning solution on the tissue, not on the lens.

The main thing is not to clean if you don’t need to. A bit of dust is fine, it will never show up on the recorded image. But spittle or sea-spray or finger prints or oily residue etc should be cleaned off as soon as you get the chance.

For the lens body, use a big brush to clean off dust, and a damp cloth to clean off marks.

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Thanks Greg and Dom, 

Great to hear your perspectives on this, especially from the lens servicing point of view. Most of the AC’s I’ve worked for and with have used Dust-Off (with the nozzles) for lenses in the field, but you have made me re-think that practice. 

I do also subscribe to the ‘clean only as needed’ practice and also use breath+microfiber cloth, especially with filters. How do you both feel about using Kimwipes? 

I began using them after seeing the lens techs at Otto Nemenz and Panavision using big boxes of them over ten years ago. But I have heard some people say recently that they think Kimwipes are too rough on the lens coatings. 

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Hi Sat,

I can see why ACs use canned air - it’s quick and easy and most of the time, if you’re careful about clearing the nozzle and not tilting the can too much, it’s probably not going to be a big deal. But it has the potential to lead to problems down the road, and a simple puffer is safer, cheaper and never runs out!

Kim wipes are designed for labs and for sensitive surfaces like optics, they may seem a bit crepe papery and rough, but at the fibre level they are fine, and they don’t drop lint or have oily additives like some facial tissues. 

I must admit that I sometimes use facial tissue for wet cleaning, because I find Kim Wipes a bit thin for certain applications and they are expensive and I do a lot of cleaning. But I spent a lot of time sourcing a brand that is very low lint and has no perfume or softening additives, and I’ve never scratched an optic yet. I use very little pressure and clean from inside to out in a spiral on a spinning lens support, which isn’t practical in the field. I’d never use tissues (Kim Wipes or facial) without a liquid cleaning agent, unlike micro-fibre cloths - but the cloth has to be clean!

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I worked with a guy once who used skin diving tanks. I guess that air is clean. But it was limited to use in the loading room so maybe not relevant now. I also remember a guy who had a small compressed air bottle on his hip that was just compressed air that he refilled somehow....

In the digital age maybe all they need is the rubber Rocket or such....Thinking of the Rocket type devices. Air sucked in will have some dust. Does anyone filter that..?

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I’d have three items with me on a production, micro-fibre cloth and brush. The cloth leaves fibres on the glass that you best remove with a makeup brush. Rubber bulb blower in addition (never gets out of air). Each item in a Tupper container

As Dom says, clean only, if necessary. Lens caps are important.

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I use almost exclusively a blower bulb for cleaning lenses. that is partially because "compressed air" bottles don't work in very cold temperatures so on half of my shoots they would be totally useless. Always keep a bulb with you and it is best to be one of those silicone ones which are much much better than rubber.

If you want a really really reliable very clean REAL AIR source you could use a small scuba tank (like a 40cf or less) with normal scuba regulator and attach an air blower 'gun' to it. It has the disadvantage of having maybe too much pressure, the intermediate pressures of the 1st stages are normally somewhere around 10 bar range which may be quite much for this application. A scuba store could tune down the 1st stage if you want so that it would be at the pressure range you want. 

I personally mostly use Rosco tissue and fluid for cleaning lenses. About two drops of fluid is normally enough for most lenses. the fluid goes always to the cloth/tissue, NOT on the lens surface where it would just flow to the side and seep between the elements without helping the cleaning process at all

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if cleaning with a lens tissue it really needs the fluid to work correctly. Think the fluid as a lubricant which takes of the friction between glass and the fibers so that the tissue can just wipe all the dust to the sides without actually touching the actual glass surface much. Like using oil in a bearing VS. trying to run it without any oil at all.

If you want to clean something WITHOUT lens fluid then the only possibility is a brush or a microfibre cloth though I personally don't like them because you can't be certain that they are always perfectly clean because for being more expensive they are used multiple times unlike lens tissue which is single use only.  (it would be a bad surprise to clean a 50K+ priced lens with a microfibre cloth only to find that there was some sand dust in the microfibre you did't notice and now there is micro scratches all over the place...

Edited by aapo lettinen

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Unfortunately, I have not found rubber bulb blowers to be powerful enough to dislodge particles where you really don’t want to touch the area, like on sensor cover glass. It’s a ‘damned either way’ kind of scenario where you don’t want to force particles deeper into the camera body, but you also can’t live with the dust as it may show up in the image. I tend to tilt the camera mount down to let gravity help and blow with light pressure at an angle to dislodge, so the air doesn’t go straight in to the camera body. But maybe I should be using a brush instead. 

I’m wary of lens pens with their little brushes, since I’ve noticed particles get trapped between the bristles over time. I guess if you keep them stored in zip lock bags and replace them frequently they are ok? But the tendency is to keep one in your hip tool pouch, where it can sit exposed for months or even years.

With Kimwipes, when I want a softer surface I fold the tissue several times over and tear it in half to create a softer feathered tip. Then spray that tip with Pancro. That will usually be my first pass after air.  Then I use breath and a fresh Kimwipe or microfiber to remove any streaks. 

I am also wary of dirty microfiber cloths, especially with any oily or sticky residue. But I find they are by far the best tool for cleaning large filters quickly. 

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At the risk of sounding over prescriptive.. you need to be really careful using canned air near a camera sensor. I don't even use my filtered compressor air. A bulb puffer is about as strong a gust as you want in there. Canned air can leave residue on the cover glass and if any of the freezing liquid propellant gets on there you could be in real trouble. I understand you're only blowing across the lens port, not into it, and that there is always time pressure on set, but there are good reasons every camera manufacturer warns against using compressed or canned air on sensors.

Here is Arri's warning:

"Never use blowers with compressed air or gas. The flowing air might cool down the cover glass until it cracks. Bottled air also contains propellants that may deposit on the cover glass.

Never use air blowers with high pressure. They might damage optical surfaces."

If a bulb blower doesn't dislodge dust specks, you need to move on to something like an Arctic Butterfly sensor brush, sensor pads like Dust-Aid Platinum and/or wet cleaning with a sensor swab. Or leave it for the rental house techs. 😀

See:

https://www.cine-evolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/ARRI-Camera_Sensor-Cover-Glass-Cleaning-Instructions1.pdf

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Cleaning sensor is good way to ruin it.  I use rocket blower and alcohol wipes on the lens with Kimwipes. Sometimes would have to clean lens a dozen times a day or more.

For sensor it is rocket blower. Never had to clean a sensor, but I don't change lenses if the shooting gets rough. If the lens is attached, very hard to get the sensor dirty.

And even with rocket blower, I seldom use on a sensor. Very, very seldom blow it off. I just shoot. I keep body opening down, change lens fast. I try to keep dirt out.

flash at night whoop-whoop-38-daniel-d-teoli-jr-mr 20.jpg

Whoop-whoop-2014DanielD.TeoliJR. 15.jpg

I shot these when I was in my 60's. I've had my flash broken off at the hotshoe and all sort of physical attacks. You know the deal, generational war against the 'OK boomers.' I only bring this up to question...why do you have to clean your GD sensors so much??? Are you shooting in worse places than I do?

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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5 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

I use almost exclusively a blower bulb for cleaning lenses. that is partially because "compressed air" bottles don't work in very cold temperatures so on half of my shoots they would be totally useless. Always keep a bulb with you and it is best to be one of those silicone ones which are much much better than rubber.

If you want a really really reliable very clean REAL AIR source you could use a small scuba tank (like a 40cf or less) with normal scuba regulator and attach an air blower 'gun' to it. It has the disadvantage of having maybe too much pressure, the intermediate pressures of the 1st stages are normally somewhere around 10 bar range which may be quite much for this application. A scuba store could tune down the 1st stage if you want so that it would be at the pressure range you want. 

I personally mostly use Rosco tissue and fluid for cleaning lenses. About two drops of fluid is normally enough for most lenses. the fluid goes always to the cloth/tissue, NOT on the lens surface where it would just flow to the side and seep between the elements without helping the cleaning process at all

I use compressed air, upside down, to remove skin tags / skin growths. You have to mask off skin real good or you will get a big blister. Do at your own risk, I'm no MD. Dermatologists are unaffordable, so it is a $10 can of spray for me.

I don't use on camera though. Just rocket blowers and alcohol wipes. Tried all sort of lens cleaning fluid, all terrible. Alcohol wipes are best. Have cleaned lenses many, many hundred of times with them.

(PS compressed air is often times some type of gas, not air. That is why it gets freezing cold if sprayed upside down.)

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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5 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

At the risk of sounding over prescriptive.. you need to be really careful using canned air near a camera sensor. I don't even use my filtered compressor air. A bulb puffer is about as strong a gust as you want in there. Canned air can leave residue on the cover glass and if any of the freezing liquid propellant gets on there you could be in real trouble. I understand you're only blowing across the lens port, not into it, and that there is always time pressure on set, but there are good reasons every camera manufacturer warns against using compressed or canned air on sensors.

Here is Arri's warning:

"Never use blowers with compressed air or gas. The flowing air might cool down the cover glass until it cracks. Bottled air also contains propellants that may deposit on the cover glass.

Never use air blowers with high pressure. They might damage optical surfaces."

If a bulb blower doesn't dislodge dust specks, you need to move on to something like an Arctic Butterfly sensor brush, sensor pads like Dust-Aid Platinum and/or wet cleaning with a sensor swab. Or leave it for the rental house techs. 😀

See:

https://www.cine-evolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/ARRI-Camera_Sensor-Cover-Glass-Cleaning-Instructions1.pdf

Thanks Dom, 

Some more food for thought. I’ve personally found sensor swabs to be near impossible to use without streaking. They are my last, last resort.

I don’t do this on rental house gear or on a real set as there are techs and AC’s available to handle that thankfully! This is when I’m prepping my own camera before going out on a corporate or documentary job where there is no AC. I live in mortal fear of dust shadow on the sensor... and unlike hair in the gate, can’t always be easily removed...

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On 11/9/2019 at 7:51 PM, Joey Riggs said:

Lens cleaning fluid will be harder to find, I don't imagine any big store carrying Pancro,

According the Pancro MSDS, it’s nothing but Isopropyl Alcohol, which you can buy at any drugstore.

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1 hour ago, Stuart Brereton said:

According the Pancro MSDS, it’s nothing but Isopropyl Alcohol, which you can buy at any drugstore.

Can you get 100% isopropyl that easily? Best I could find at a Walgreens in the past was 90%, which I use for cleaning tape residue off of my slate and scissors. But I found it caused streaking and left a light haze on glass, so I won’t use it for filters and lenses.

It also dries very quickly, whereas Pancro stays wet longer and feels ‘softer’ somehow so maybe there is something else in it? 

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19 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Can you get 100% isopropyl that easily? Best I could find at a Walgreens in the past was 90%, which I use for cleaning tape residue off of my slate and scissors. But I found it caused streaking and left a light haze on glass, so I won’t use it for filters and lenses.

It also dries very quickly, whereas Pancro stays wet longer and feels ‘softer’ somehow so maybe there is something else in it? 

100% isopropyl evaporates very quickly, so it’s harder to use. I’d guess that Pancro is more like 85-90%.

i don’t know if there’s more to Pancro, but the MSDS seems pretty clear.

https://www.filmtools.com/media/Pancro_MSDS.pdf

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2 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Interesting, thanks Stuart. I’ve heard a lot of lens techs mix their own lens cleaning solutions so maybe your are right. 

I once tried to distill pure isopropyl out of the car window fluid which worked pretty well and was relatively cheap to do but it was totally unnecessary because I can manage almost a year with one bottle of Rosco fluid :D  

Isopropyl alcohol is used on other uses as well. I think the main use is liquid cleaning solvent in electronic and other industries. I believe the normal lens fluid contains small amount of water as well. There is also some fluids which are not isopropyl at all, for example the Zeiss lens cleaning fluid is butyldiglycol.

 

Sometimes pure isopropyl alcohol is sold here in spray bottles as "Electronics Cleaning Fluid" and it can be quite pure though I don't like to use it on lenses because it causes more friction than the Rosco fluid. It is great for cleaning 2nd hand lens bodies and cameras from grease and oil so that they are nice and clean like new (can dissolve some old paints so be careful if trying this) .

 

Scuba air is pretty well filtered and I would be very surprised if you would get any contaminants out of it unless there is some in your regulator or hoses. All the CO, CO2, oil residues and particles as well as water vapour are filtered out of the air at the compressor side if the filling station is well maintained. It is much cleaner than the air we currently breathe. You could die or at least develop serious health problems if breathing thousands of liters of contaminated air multiple times a day so there is pretty stricts regulations about what the air should be and how the filling station should be maintained

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On 11/11/2019 at 3:28 AM, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

compressed air is often times some type of gas, not air. That is why it gets freezing cold if sprayed upside down.

"compressed air" is always some type of liquified gas on these applications. if using real air you would either need enormous amount of pressure to get enough of it to a OK sized bottle (on scuba tanks typically around 3000 psi) so on spray bottles you will always use some type of easily liquified gas like propan/butan or some kind of fluorocarbon gas compound which only needs couple of bars to turn to liquid.  I think one of the very rare non-staining compressed air bottles I could obtain here, a local hardware store product which I think was tetrafluoroethane...some kind of non-flammable fluorocarbon nevertheless and did not leave residue. that was great stuff but useless in cold temperatures like all the other compressed air cans unless talking about REAL AIR like a scuba tank based solution.

You can't liquify real air in room temperatures, that is impossible. You need to store it under great pressure in gaseous form in high pressure tanks like scuba tanks OR you need to store it as cryogenic liquid at about -200°C like is done in space rockets. The spray can products are always something else and that is usually either something flammable like propane style gas OR some type of fluorocarbon product

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B-W filters are very hard to clean. The advanced lens coating makes them murder to get clean. I sometimes have to finish them up with some breath fog and lens tissue. But with the filthy places I shoot, I can humbly say I am very experienced in lens cleaning.

I sometimes would get doused with soda and could hardly get a lens clean. Every time I would clean it, more soda would ooze out of lens joint where it was mounted to the ring. It was just a little, but enough to foul the edge of the lens. It was a full-frame fisheye so could not use a filter.

I've tried many, many brands of lens cleaning liquids and lens tissue. Like most everything BH had to offer. The tissue varies. Some leave lint. But Kimwipes are the best from my tests as well as ese of use. Alcohol wipes are the best and beat out all other lens cleaning fluids. I can't say what effect they have on the lens coating over 20 years. I've been using for 6 or 7 years. No effect on coating from my limited use.

The lens discussed above got ruined pretty much from the soda treatment. The elements were OK inside, but the focus ring was almost frozen. Very hard to turn. Camera also got messed up. On-off switch was hard to use and shutter button sticky.

But you test it all out for yourself, try all the other options, then give alcohol wipes, Kimwipes, a Rocket blower and soft Giottos retractable lens brush a try. If you can use a skylight / UV filter that keeps the actual lens cleaning to a minimum. Although I like the build of B-W filters, I use Tiffen filters. They clean easy and are inexpeisnive. The B-W filters, as mentioned above, are very tough to clean perfect due to the coating. 

If I ever get a junk camera ready to trash I will experiment cleaning a sensor. As I've said and said again...I never clean the sensor. Never have had to and try to not ever have to with safe sensor practices. 

 

 

alc wipes.png

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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31 minutes ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

If I ever get a junk camera ready to trash I will experiment cleaning a sensor. As I've said and said again...I never clean the sensor. Never have had to and try to not ever have to with safe sensor practices. 

I am used to cleaning dslr sensors, it has always been clean-by-yourself-or-don't-go-shooting-at-all choice with them so there was not any alternatives. Additionally the only local company cleaning dslr sensors charges a lot for it (it is a 5 minute job after all) and they are not open at weekends when you most badly need the sensor to be cleaned...

It is relatively easy to do but you have to be really careful and can't hurry it for any reason. And if there was some streaks left you have to do it again. the swabs cost some so it is annoying if the first run was ALMOST perfect but not quite and you have to waste more of them. 

You will not want to do this on field though if your shooting situations are like on those photos, huh...  in the middle of the operation someone would pour the soda directly on the sensor. No need to clean it anymore after that.

ideally, if you clean the sensor by yourself, you would check it at home beforehand in safe environment and clean if necessary and on the field you just don't open it and definitely don't want to start clean it there. Imagine a sandy beach with wind blowing the sand all over the place and salt water spray in the air. You would not want to start to do sensor cleaning there either

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