It is unfortunate but true that a perfectly good lens costing hundreds of pounds can be ruined by poor cleaning technique, or the use of the wrong cleaning agents. Even something as simple as a few pieces of grit on a lens cleaning cloth can scour the delicate surface of a glass element, damaging the lens to the point it requires repair or replacement. The same applies to eyeglasses, photographic lenses, and other optical equipment, since all are vulnerable to damage from careless cleaning.
For this reason, choosing lens cleaning equipment can be as important as the choice of lens itself. There are a surprisingly large number of different lens cleaners available, which can make the buying process rather confusing. Before deciding which is the most suitable lens cleaner for a particular user, it is important to understand the range of cleaning equipment available, and the uses to which each type of lens cleaner can be put. Only then can the buyer make an informed choice about what will suit their purposes.
In many photographic shops and opticians rooms, lens cleaners are a forgotten accessory, with a poor selection on offer. Therefore, it is often better to turn to online resources. Internet marketplaces such as eBay offer a good selection of lens cloths, as well as lens pens, and lens tissues, making it easier to find the right lens cleaner. This makes eBay a good place to find the ideal lens cleaner. When shopping for a lens cleaner, it is important to consider what types are available that would do the best cleaning job for its user.
Types of Lens Cleaners
The main types of lens cleaners available include lens cloths, lens cleaning tissues, lens pens and other air or brush mechanisms. Each of these can be useful as part of a dedicated cleaning kit. Once, it was easy to spot a lens cloth. It was a small rectangle of soft, yellowish material often attached to a piece of card. It could be bought at an optician or in camera shop, and was very expensive. These days, lens cloths have moved on, and can be found in far more creative colours, specialist materials, and a range of formats. Broadly speaking though, lens cloths may be divided into two categories, being either impregnated, and non-impregnated.
Impregnated Lens Cloths
A lens cloth impregnated with a cleaning solution can be a very effective lens cleaner. Along with being able to removal dirt, and especially grease, some lens solutions can prevent the static that causes particles of dust to stick to the lens surface.
However, there are drawbacks to using this type of cloth. Firstly, it is important to be sure that the impregnating solution is one which is suitable for use on the lens being cleaned. Some solutions can be quite harsh and damage certain lenses. While they may be effective in removing the dirt or grease on a lens, they may also damage the coating on the lense. For this reason, it is best to stick to an impregnated cloth that specifically states that it is for cleaning particular lenses, and which comes from a reputable manufacturer.
A second drawback is that the impregnating solution does not last for ever, and since any lens cloth will become dirty or contaminated with grit after just few uses, the cloth would then need to be washed to avoid scratching the lens. Washing will almost certainly remove the cleaning solution.
Non-Impregnated Lens Cloths
Non-impregnated cloths can be divided into washable and non-washable cloths, like disposable lens cloths and lens tissues.
Washable Lens Cloths
Because of the need to wash or replace a lens cloth frequently to prevent the build up of grit and dirt, it is better to use a non-impregnated cloth and apply a separate cleaning solution directly to the lens. This also has the advantage of one being able to control the amount of solution applied. This allows the user to select a suitable solution for the particular lens they wish to clean. Some solutions, for example, have anti-static or anti-fogging properties.
Disposable Lens Cloths
Disposable cleaning cloths for lenses are a more expensive option, but for those users who are likely to forget to wash their lens cloth, they may be a safer choice. This is because grit is the prime enemy of lenses, and a lens cloth which is not washed or changed frequently quickly attracts destructive particles. Consider the damaging effect a scouring powder may have on a plastic surface, and one can easily easy imagine how damaging grit can be to the soft coating of a lens. The danger here with disposable lens cloths is that it is tempting to keep using them for too long, by which time they have attracted grit and other particles.
Lens tissues often come in pads or small booklet-like packages. They are in principle the same as a disposable lens cloth, except that they are truly disposable, being used once then thrown away. Being much cheaper than disposable cloths, they are a good option.
The Best Material for a Lens Cloth
Lens cloths can actually be made from many different fibres, but the most popular material by far these days is microfibre. This is a cloth made from synthetic fibres, normally polyester and or polyamide. Microfibre has several advantages over other types of cloth. It is soft and very flexible, so it will not scratch the lens unless it has gathered particles of grit. It is lint free, and it is also extremely efficient at removing grease. Since oils are a prime contaminant for lenses, this feature is useful. Microfibre can also be washed, and provided it is washed and dried with care it should not lose its beneficial properties.
Lens pens are an alternative method of cleaning lenses. They look a little like an ordinary pen, but often have a brush at one end for removing dust from the lens. The main function of a lens pen is to remove grease from the lens. It does this by use of a special carbon compound. This is applied by touching a small disc at the end of the pen to the surface of the lens. Used properly, the pen does not scratch the lens, but rather efficiently remove grease.
Compressed Gas Cleaners
These small cans of compressed gas are used for blowing dust off a lens surface. Their advantage is that unlike brushes, they do not ever touch the surface of the lens, and therefore cannot scratch it. Their limitation is that they do not remove grease, just dust. As part of a lens cleaning kit, including a cloth and lens pen, they are a valuable tool, as grit should always be removed from the lens before allowing any cleaner to make contact with the surface of the lens.
Buying Lens Cleaning Equipment
Anyone who has invested a lot of money in camera equipment, is naturally going to want to ensure that it is kept in good condition. No matter how careful a photographer may be, dust, dirt and occasional fingerprints are always going to find their way onto lenses. Therefore, in order to keep the lens clean some sort of cleaning equipment is essential. Many keen photographers go further still, trying out different cleaning equipment and settling on a favourite that they then swear by.
Photographic shops normally offer a few different types of lens cleaning equipment. However it is rare that they carry a comprehensive selection, and often the chain stores offer only their own brand. This makes it very difficult to try out different types of lens cleaners in order to select the best for your purposes.
For this reason, keen photographers often buy their lens cleaning equipment online. Internet stores such as eBay can offer far greater choice of lens cleaner than any conventional retailer, and generally do so at better prices.
How to Find Lens Cleaners on eBay
It is easy to find your ideal lens cleaner on eBay. From the eBay homepage, enter a simple phrase such as ‘lens cleaners’ into the search bar. This will bring up hundreds of listings, including lens cloths, lens pens, brushes and sprays, suitable for different types of lenses. You can narrow these down by filtering the results to show only the type that you want.
Carefully read the descriptions, study the photos, and if you have any questions use the contact link on the seller’s profile page to ask for more information. Another useful piece of information on that page gives details of the seller’s feedback. Sellers with the best feedback are called Top-rated Sellers, and are the ideal ones to deal with if you are at all uncertain about your purchase. The wide range of lens cleaning equipment available, and the ease of finding it, makes eBay the ideal place to buy lens cleaners.
Expensive optical equipment is surprisingly vulnerable to grit and dirt. The best way to keep it clean and therefore safe is to use a combination of a brush or air jet cleaner to remove particles, followed by a cleaning solution and a clean lens cloth. For grease on a lens, a lens pen is ideal, as it is very effective at removing moisture and oil.
For those who are punctilious in their approach to lens cleaning, a washable cloth may be ideal. These washable cloths require regularly washing in order to stay clean. If that is not likely to happen, disposable cloths or cleaning tissues may be better. In either case, a lens pen or other brush and means of directing air against the surface of the lens are essential additions to a proper lens cleaning kit, in order to remove particles before the cloth is used.
Most photographic dealers or opticians sell only a limited range of lens cleaning equipment. Often this is their own brand equipment, which may not reflect the full range available in the market. To find the best selection of lens cleaners a buyer should look online, where markets such as eBay offer a much wider range. The combination of product range and an easy to use interface makes eBay the ideal place to buy lens cleaners.