Camera lenses are dust and dirt magnets. The front element, that is. And this is why camera manufacturers spend a lot of time and energy developing lens coatings that can repel water drops, dust, and dirt.
One such example is Nikon’s fluorine coating. This coating repels dirt, dust, and water droplets and is capable of surviving years of wiping, while also being resistant to peel-offs. Additionally, the coating has lower reflectiveness, ensuring the lens image quality is never affected. Yet, there may still be instances of black spots on camera lenses.
In this article, we’ll look at options to get rid of specks and smudges on camera lenses. While we’re at it, we’ll also look at instances when those spots can be overlooked, or you can shoot around them to eliminate them in the final shots.
Removing spots on the outside of the lens
Use a lens cleaning cloth
The most straightforward technique to clean the black spots on your camera lens is to use a lens cleaning cloth. This probably came with your lens, but if not, they’re easy to buy on Amazon. Just ensure you purchase a specialized lens cleaning cloth or microfibre cloth. These are perfect for cleaning glass and lens surfaces because they don’t leave any residue after wiping and don’t scratch up the lens.
Gently wipe the surface of the lens to wipe clean any spots. Never use your fingernails, but rather just your fingertips. Even though the lens coating is peel-proof and scratch resistant (to a degree), it’s never a good idea to use your fingernails to scratch the lens surface with or without a microfiber cloth.
Using liquids, glass cleaning solutions, or any solvent is never a good idea to clean your lens’s top surface. These items can damage the fine coating on your lens and impact your lens’s optical performance.
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Use a rocket blower/bulb air blower
A rocket blower or a bulb air blower is a great tool to blow out any dry or loose dirt clinging to the surface of a lens’s front element. These inexpensive cleaning accessories can be purchased at any camera store or online. Usually, they come as part of a lens cleaning kit.
To use this bulb air blower, you have to gently squeeze it an inch away from the surface of the lens. This should blow away any loose dirt on your lens.
Removing spots on the inside of the lens
Send the lens for repairs
In some situations, dirt and dust may creep inside a lens. If dirt or dust has found its way inside your camera lens, the easiest way to clean it is to send the camera to an authorized service center. A professional lens cleaning will cost around $100, depending on the manufacturer. If your camera is under warranty, this is the best way to get rid of spots on the lens.
Attempting to clean the inside of a lens under warranty can void the warranty offered by the manufacturer.
Dissemble the lens yourself
But what if the lens is not under warranty? And it costs a fortune to clean the lens? What if you’re traveling and don’t have the option to send the lens to an authorized service center straightaway? The following technique is only to be adopted if you have no other option to clean the lens and the lens is not under warranty.
The front element of the lens is attached to the lens barrel by means of a few screws. These screws can be removed, and the front element removed from the lens’s encasing. This technique should only be attempted with extreme precaution.
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Step 1: Remove the outer ring covering the screws
The screws connecting the lens’s front element with the barrel are covered using an outer cover ring. This is where the lens’s filter thread specifications are mentioned. This is made up of a very thin strip of plastic that can be easily damaged if you handle it without care. Take a very thin screwdriver and gently pry out the outer ring cover.
Step 2: Place the ring upside-down to avoid dust and dirt
Adhesive is used on the inside of this ring. This ensures that the ring is held securely in place. After you remove the ring, place it upside down to prevent the adhesive from attracting dust or dirt from any contact surface. Once you remove this ring, you can see the tiny screws holding the lens’s front element in place.
Step 3: Remove and store the screws
The next step is to remove these screws one by one. Be very careful when you are removing the screws. You don’t want to lose any of them. It is an excellent idea to keep them in a smaller cup or a saucer, so they are all in one place.
Step 4: Remove the front element
Once the screws are off, place a lens cleaning cloth or a microfiber cloth on your palm, then gently hold the lens upside down with the front element facing the microfiber cloth. You will immediately feel the lens’s front element coming off and resting on your palm.
Step 5: Remove the front element ring
Once the front element is removed, you’ll notice a thin ring around it. Before cleaning the front element, remove the ring and put it to the side. You don’t want to lose this ring either.
Step 6: Cover exposed inner glass elements
Behind the front element of the lens, there are other glass elements. Ensure that none of the inside glass elements are exposed to dirt or dust. It is imperative that the environment in which you try these techniques be dust free. The best option would be to cover the exposed inside elements using a microfiber cloth.
Step 7: Use bulb air blower
Now place the lens upside down, facing any surface. The next step is to clean the front element of the lens. Take a bulb air blower and gently blow wind at the backside of the front element. This should clear the surface of any dust or dirt particles.
Step 8: Use microfiber cloth
For any stubborn dots, you can take an unused piece of microfiber cloth and use that to wipe the rear side of the front element. This should take care of such spots and dust particles and can be especially useful for stubborn fungi growth.
If you’re cleaning the lens at home, don’t scrub the inside of the lens’s front element. I know it’s very tempting to use a lens cleaning solution or other liquid to clean the lens, but this can be a bad idea unless the lens manufacturer recommends it. This can react adversely with the lens coating and damage it permanently. A simple microfiber cloth will do the trick as it has for the rest of the cleaning.
Working around the problem by using a fast aperture
Sometimes, the dots or black spots on a lens’s front element are not huge in number. Suppose you have something like one or two dots on the lens’s inside elements; this does not justify disassembling the lens and doing the cleaning at home unless the dot is in the middle of the frame or in such a location where it can easily become a distraction.
If you would prefer less intrusive methods than the ones mentioned above, you can easily bypass the problem in some situations by using a fast aperture. At around f/3.5 and faster, a spot becomes considerably less visible. This is great for portrait photographers who shoot low field depth shots but may not be an effective solution for landscape photographers.
By using post-processing techniques
There are a bunch of post-processing techniques that you can use to obliterate a black spot on a camera lens. Utilizing popular photo editing tools such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the spot healing tool can eliminate any spot by copying a relevant part of the image and pasting it where the unwanted speck is.
There are a bunch of ways to get rid of the spots on a camera lens. The above are tried-and-tested methods to ensure you get back to shooting unobstructed, professional shots in no time. Do you’ve any suggestions on how these black spots can be removed? Feel free to share your tips in the comments below.