Dirty equipment causes several problems.  If the dirt is on the lens, the image is not as sharp as at can be.  And when it comes to the tiny submini negatives, it's very important to have negatives as sharp as possible.  Dirt can also get into the camera shutter and other components.  While this won't affect the picture quality, it can affect whether you are able to take the picture at all!

The easiest way to keep your camera gear clean is to prevent it from getting dirty.  This means keeping it in a camera case or camera bag as much as possible.  But many of us use a submini so that we can always have a camera "at-the-ready", and a camera case can be an obstacle to this.  Fortunately, many subminis are small enough to keep in a pocket.  This can provide adequate protection.  Just make sure that you keep everything else out of your "camera pocket" and empty out the lint on a regular basis.  And when the camera is not in the pocket, try to keep it in a case as much as possible.  The more you protect your camera, the longer it will last.  

But sooner or later, no matter how well you protect your gear, it is going to need cleaning.  The steps to follow can be summarized as: BLOW, BRUSH, RUB.


The first step in cleaning your gear is to blow as much dirt off of the surface as possible.  This is the most gentle step, but does the most work.  Anything left on the surface has a chance to scratch that surface.  There are several methods to blow off dust.  First, you can use your mouth.  The problem swith this are: 1.  It can be hard to aim, especially on those small submini lens or inside camera fixtures.  2. You can create condensation which makes the dirt cling to your gear even more.  3.  Sometimes you can't blow hard enough to get the dirt off without also blowing out an artery.

Two alternatives are the blower brush and canned air.  Blower brushes come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  The larger ones, not only take up more space and cost more, but they work better.  They pack more punch.  Canned air is also effective, but much more expensive and even more difficult to lug along.  Like the blower brushes, these cans come in different sizes with different features, such as rotating heads.  Problems with the canned air include damage to the ozone layer -- although some brands claim to be ozone friendly -- and propellant leakage if you tip the can in the wrong direction.  If that happens you have an even bigger mess on your camera gear to clean up.  Another problem is that some of the canned products are so powerful that they can actually blow the dirt deeper into the nooks and crannies of the camera.


Once the majority of the dirt is blown off, it's time to start brushing the gear.  This is an attempt to remove the more stubborn bits of dirt very gently.  The brush part of the blower-brush is put to work at this time.  You can also purchase separate brushes in various sizes and shapes.  Just make sure it is a very soft brush, such as camel's hair.  For tiny crevices, an artist's sable brush can be very helpful.  

Another alternative is Q-tips-type swabs.  These can be very handy for cleaning the camera body or the lens surfaces.  The only area that CANNOT be cleaned in this way is the mirror found in SLR's.  The reflective coating on the mirror is on the front surface and is VERY easily scratched. You an try to gently remove dirt with a camel's hair brush, but don't worry about it -- the dirt won't show up in the picture anyway!

For particularly sticky or greasy areas on the camera body -- not on the lens glass -- you can add a drop of lens cleaning fluid to the Q-tip.


When you have gotten off as much as you can with the brush/q-tip, it's time to turn to the last resort -- rubbing.  This should only be used sparingly.  If you have some goo on the camera that was not removable by the first two steps, you are not being careful enough with your camera gear.  You must use lens tissue or a lint free photographic cleaning cloth.  Do not use anything else.  First try to remove the offending stuff with a dry tissue or cloth.  If that doesn't help, put a drop of lens cleaning fluid on the cloth.  Do not put it directly on the lens itself.  Rub VERY gently.  On any lens glass surface, rub in a circular motion, starting from the center of the lens.  If the crud does not come off easily, it's time to take it to a professional.  The only area that CANNOT be cleaned in this way is the mirror found in SLR's.  The reflective coating on the mirror is on the front surface and is VERY easily scratched.

If all else fails, or if you want to save yourself the time and trouble, take the gear in to a professional camera shop.

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