Caring for your Camera
Presented by Glenn Springer, TIF, RHCC

Today's cameras can produce outstanding pictures
but you need to take care of them!

My camera while shooting the Pond Hockey tournament in Haliburton last winter.

 

If you shoot star trails, you have to leave your camera sitting out with the shutter open for a long time. This shot was 30 minutes, but I've done 2 hour exposures too. In mid winter, that's all I could get out of the battery!

  

We don't stop shooting pictures when the weather gets bad. Dr. Ron is shooting ice racing in Minden last winter.

 

Most cameras are delicate pieces of equipment. Is that more true today in the digital era than it was in the film days? Probably not. Let’s call it a tie.

Let’s take point-and-shoot cameras and smartphone cameras for example. Sure, they’re rugged, but so was an old Brownie or Instamatic camera. There are two differences, though: the electronics, and more importantly, what we’re asking or expecting them to do. There’s a cellphone camera out there that delivers an astounding 41 Megapixels! (Don’t get carried away, folks: the pixels are so small that they lack the depth of information that bigger sensors give you. Don’t get caught in the “my megapixels are bigger than yours” game). Imagine, though, the level of precision your lens alignment has to deliver so that each one of those millions of spots lines up accurately!


Port Dover on Lake Erie in a wicked storm. We had to keep the front of the lens shielded against the rain, just uncovering it long enough for the shot. The camera was wearing the storm jacket shown below.

DSLR cameras and the old SLRs are very similar. The difference today is the space age rugged materials they’re made of. The old ones had a lot of steel and metal alloy in them; today there’s high impact plastics and carbon fibers and if Scotty has his way, soon they’ll be using transparent aluminium like on Star Trek.

You can probably get away with dropping your P&S or cellphone off a table onto a hardwood floor. Their weight to size ratios are low, the lenses are often retracted or protected… but it’s not a good idea. Don’t try it with a DSLR. If nothing else, you will destroy that precision alignment between the lens and the sensor. So Rule #1: don’t drop your camera. Take care to put that strap around your neck, be careful where you put it, keep it protected.

 

 

A cool place to hang out

There's a great online forum that welcomes new and experienced photoenthusiasts alike. It's a small group, but there are members from all over the world! We especially need new people who want to make use of this great resource. If you're ever stuck with a question you can't answer, or looking for a better way to do something, this is the place for you!

A little history: some time ago, a bunch of us became disgruntled with the way another forum we belonged to was being run. What had been a friendly place had become uncomfortable and commercially motivated. No point in identifying them...

So we left and started a new place to hang out. The activity level has become a little low and we were trying to come up with why. Someone pointed out that the old forum was a busy place because a lot of people asked advice about photography in general, Photoshop/Lightroom, even such topics as copyright issues, suppliers, etc. They went on to point out that the majority of the members of the new group are experienced and knowledgeable so these questions didn't come up. We need new members who have questions about stuff!

So we have a place where there are about 100 experts (and me. I'm not expert...) who love to share their knowledge and their work, who are all friendly and non-judgmental, who would like nothing better than to help answer any and all questions. Who love to see people's work and provide gentle critique (if it's asked for) and suggestions, who like playing photography games like the ongoing "Battle" where you start with a common image and do whatever you want with it creatively, or the monthly "Rally" (soon to resume) where you have a week to shoot and submit pictures on a specified topic, or even "Where is this?" where you do whatever you have to, to answer that question about a photo submitted. Marco is quite devious, but they're all solvable!

So you're all invited to join. It doesn't matter about your experience level, whether you want to ask questions or try to answer them, or just join in the banter and fun, and enjoy images from the members in the "Show and Tell" threads. You don't have to post, you can just sit back and read but it's more fun if you do.

Oh, and it's TOTALLY FREE. In fact we all offered to contribute to help set it up and run it but Annie, the person who set it up, wouldn't take a cent.

How do you access it? I thought you'd never ask! Go here, and follow the bouncing ball!

http://www.suitehound.com/forum/

 

 

 

 

 

To filter or not to filter: that is the question!

The front glass surface of your lens is critically important. Keep it clean. There are lots of products out there but my favourite is a simple microfibre towel: you can buy them at Walmart in a package of three for under $4 (it's called "Great Value Microfibre Reuseable Cloth"). But if you wipe your lens with a dirty towel, the dirt will scratch it, so keep them clean.

In a recent survey I ran on The Imaging Forum (TIF: anyone is welcome to join, see the sidebar at left for more information), the group was split exactly in half about whether to put a Skylight or UV filter on the lens for protection. The argument is whether it’s a good idea to put a $10 piece of glass on a $2000 lens.

The most frequent argument in favour of using a filter was that it protects the lens against inadvertent damage if you bang it into something. I've been shooting pictures for 50 years and I have yet to bang my lens into anything. The most compelling argument is when you're in harsh conditions, like in the middle of the sahara desert, sand can abrade your lens. OK, when I go to the Sahara...

I think that Nikon (or Canon, or Sigma or...) put a lot of effort into creating nearly flawless glass with non-reflective and rugged coatings designed to enhance your images. Most filters are stamped out in low end glass factories. Not all, by the way: there are brands like B&W where you'll pay $100 for a UV filter!

I called Nikon and asked them how much it would cost to replace a damaged front element on the $2500 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. $200-$300. So I decided to take the chance. Your call, though!


Cleaning your Sensor

Actually, you can't get at the sensor. It's protected by a glass lo-pass filter. So you'd really be cleaning the filter. But replacing it if you damage it, costs as much as a new camera. The manufacturers tell you that you void your warranty if you damage it.

There are lots of online resources to show you how to proceed. Please take the time to look through a few of them. Here's a link to a Google Search.

What do I use? I have the LensPen SensorKlear kit, that I bought from B&H Photo online. Here's the link: SensorPen.

When you change lenses, point your camera at the ground, remove the old lens, put on the new lens, all without tilting the camera up. This keeps gravity from helping the dust get to the sensor.

 

 

 

 

 

Sensor dust is a new problem, especially with DSLRs and other interchangeable lens cameras. In the film days, a new piece of film was presented for every shot: but the digital sensor is always there and it attracts dust! Every time you change your lens, or even zoom or focus it, you’re introducing dust. Dust spots on pictures are ugly. The sensor is extraordinarily delicate: scratch it and you might as well throw away the camera. The manufacturers tell you never to clean it yourself, but in the real world, you have to. What are you supposed to do, tell that lion in Africa to wait right there while you send your camera back to the factory for cleaning?

 

Here's an extreme case of sensor measles. They show up at small apertures. Nikon had to clean and repair this one.


 

 

Here's another hint. Get a storm cover for your camera. Here's the one I use.

 

 

As a final tip, with winter on the horizon, you’ll be taking your camera out in the cold. When you bring it back inside, condensation forms not only on the glass outside the camera but also on all the internal surfaces as well. To prevent this, seal your camera up in an airtight bag before bringing it inside and let it warm up slowly in the dry outside air.

 

This is a typical canoe or kayaking dry bag. As you see, it's airtight. Inside this one is a Nikon DSLR with a large 70-200mm zoom lens.

 

Basic Rules:
• Don’t drop your camera
• Keep your lens clean
• Deal with sensor dust wisely
• Your camera can handle weather extremes but take care.

Your camera will deliver precise images if you take care of it. Of course how compelling the pictures are is up to you!

Links to FACzen Photography:
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