Looking after your expensive camera gear will help it last longer and keep functioning as it should. Without proper care and storage, cameras, lenses, batteries, and other gear can deteriorate and eventually become unusable.
Taking care of your gear is not difficult, and it’s a good habit every photographer needs to develop. Simple things like having a clear filter on every lens, carrying your camera in a good bag, and having somewhere proper to store your gear will all help you keep enjoying it for longer.
I love the camera gear I use. I prefer not to change cameras too often, so I need to look after them well. A new camera can take a lot of getting used to, but when you treat it well, it can become like having a good friendship. You need to do certain things to make it last.
How you store your camera and lenses is particularly important. Many people can overlook this aspect of photography. Especially if you only take photos occasionally, how you store your camera and lenses is even more important.
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Why it is important to store your camera gear well in dry climates
Many years ago, I picked up a lovely Nikon F4 camera at an auction. It was in mint condition, without a mark on it. I checked the camera as best I could, and it seemed fine. With no visible wear and tear, I decided to take the risk and bid on it.
I was able to purchase it successfully, but after using it for a few days, I noticed all was not right with it. I took it to the repair agent to have it serviced. They checked it out and told me the lubricant in the camera had dried up, and this was causing the shutter to lag. The repair person said it had a very low shutter release count and had probably been sitting on a shelf somewhere. This would cause a problem. He said, other than that, the lubricant had dried; it was still about as good as the day it came from the factory.
I used that camera as my main professional workhorse for many years. I still own it, and it functions well. The moral of the story is that even in dry climates, camera storage is important, especially if you are not using your gear frequently.
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Problems with camera storage in humid climates
One of the key problems with long-term camera storage in more humid climates is fungus. Fungus is a living microorganism that loves humidity. Once it starts, it will continue to grow unless it’s properly cleaned. Fungus mostly affects camera lenses, but can also take hold on other camera gear as well. It’s best to prevent it by storing your gear in a cool, dry location. Keep reading, and I’ll share some tips on camera storage that helps avoid fungus growth.
If you find fungus in a camera lens, you’ll need to have it properly cleaned. Check your lenses at least once a year. If you do find fungus, take the lens to a trusted camera repair agent and have them clean the lens for you.
Leaving lenses unchecked for long periods of time, you run the risk of permanent damage to your lenses. Once fungus gets established in a lens, it begins to eat into the glass. Over time, the damage becomes permanent. This is why it is ideal to avoid getting fungus in your camera and lenses by storing your gear well.
To check a lens for fungus, take the front and rear caps off. Hold the lens up to the light or a window. Move it around slowly as you look for it so you can check the edges of the lens. This is often where fungus can begin to grow. It will appear like fine, spider web-type lines or in blotches.
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The top tips for camera gear storage to help prevent fungus and other problems
Here are some tips to help you avoid fungal growth in camera equipment.
Before you store your gear
Before you store your gear, wipe it down. Each time you return from a photo session, take a slightly damp cloth and wipe it down. Using a microfiber cloth is best as it is less likely to leave lint deposits on your gear.
Once you’ve wiped down your camera and lenses, leave them sitting on a table to dry out for a while. This will allow any dampness from the cloth to evaporate.
2. Keep your gear in an airtight container
Keeping your camera gear in an airtight container helps keep fungus away. It may not always be convenient, especially if you use your gear often. But it is one of the most important ways to help prevent problems with mold and fungus.
There are wide varieties and sizes of airtight boxes available. If you have only a small amount of camera gear, a box designed for food storage may be sufficient. Professional camera boxes, like the ones made by Pelican, are airtight and rugged. These are significantly more expensive, but provide fantastic all-around protection for your equipment.
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3. Include silica gel in your storage box
Including silica gel in the same box you keep your camera gear in helps to draw any moisture away from the gear.
We most often see little packs of silica gel with new consumer goods we’ve purchased. This is the right product, but not in the right quantity. You’ll want about a cup full of silica gel per half cubic meter of storage box or so. It comes in different types. The one I prefer can be used more than once. When it’s dry it is a light blue color. Once it absorbs moisture it turns pink. Then you can put it in the microwave for a short time to dry it out until it turns blue again.
4. Keep your box of camera gear in an air-conditioned room
Keeping your gear in an air-conditioned room is best. This means your gear is always cool and dry, so long as you run the air. Because of the low humidity in air-conditioned rooms, fungus is much less likely to develop.
In particularly hot and humid climates, it’s best not to have the temperature set too low as this can cause problems with condensation forming on lenses when you take them out to use them. If your gear is in a cold room and you want to use it, remove it from the room half an hour before you want to take pictures. This will give your equipment time to acclimatize.
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5. Use a dehumidifier
If you don’t have an air-conditioned room using a dehumidifier is a good alternative. This is an appliance that dries the air. It sucks moisture from the atmosphere and catches it in a tank that needs to be emptied from time to time.
This type of appliance does not need to run all of the time. A few hours per day is usually enough to keep the air dry enough, particularly if your gear is in an airtight container.
6. Purchase a dehumidifier dry cabinet
This is a prime piece of equipment that’s designed to keep your camera gear cool, dry, and protected from the elements. They come in various sizes to accommodate smaller and larger camera gear collections.
With a dry cabinet, you are taking the best care of your gear because it will keep it at the temperature and humidity level you want. These appliances are digitally controlled and are one of the best ways to avoid getting fungus on your cameras and lenses.
My father’s Zeis Ikon camera
Camera gear can last and remain functional for many, many years, if it is well taken care of.
I have older cameras that don’t get much use these days, but I like to keep them in good condition. One is my first camera, a Nikkormat FTN, that’s now about 60 years old. Another is my father’s camera, a Zeis Ikon, that’s well over 80 years old now. Both are still in good condition because I store them carefully.
I use some older, manual focus lenses on my digital cameras. They are fabulously sharp and have a build quality that more modern lenses don’t. I take very good care of them and check them regularly for fungus.
The better care you take of storing your camera gear well, especially your lenses, the longer they will last. Proper storage care greatly reduces the risk of fungus and other problems. When you care for your gear well, you will find that it functions properly and is a joy to use.