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Best lens cleaning kits: Must haves for every photographer

Best lens cleaning kits: Must haves for every photographer

A good lens cleaning kit is a photographer’s best friend. It might not be as fun or flashy as the latest camera gear, but it’s just as important as your DSLR when it comes to capturing great images. No matter how good your composition or how fascinating your subject, a smudge, fingerprint, or mote of dust will ruin your shot every time. You need to maintain your camera equipment and keep it clean if you want to get the most out of it.

Lenses are expensive, so you shouldn’t clean them with the corner of your grimy T-shirt. Regular tissues can be just as bad, leaving behind lint that can also ruin an otherwise perfect photo. The best lens cleaning kits include soft, absorbent microfiber cloth or special tissues, as well as cleaning solution specifically designed to work with your lens and its advanced, optical coatings. (No, you can’t just use your mouth to fog the lens.) Most kits also include a small squeeze blower to puff away dust, and they often come with their own small carrying case. That’s everything you need to keep your valuable glass in tip-top shape.

Lens cleaning kits are fairly basic, and it doesn’t take much to use them correctly. However, here are some professional tips to help you keep your camera equipment free of grime so you can focus on your photography.

Features to consider when shopping for the best lens cleaning kits

The best lens cleaning kits are versatile, portable, and economical. You never know what kind of dirt you’ll encounter in the field, so always be prepared.

Photographers should carry versatile cleaning kits

When shopping for a camera lens cleaning kit, versatility is key. You never know whether you’ll be wiping fingerprints off your DSLR’s 50mm f/1.2, blowing dust off your 18-35 mm f/1.4, or getting mud off the front element of your 70-200mm f/2.8.

Look for a kit that includes a hand blower and both microfiber tissues and cloth for getting rid of dust. They’re gentle on the glass and easy to use, and much better options than the corner of your shirt or your hoodie’s cuff. Some kits include multiple packets of tissues or an extra cloth.

For cleaning fingerprints and smudges, the kit will include a cleaning solution that’s designed to work specifically with the precision optical coatings found on today’s modern lenses. Don’t use eyeglass solution, window cleaner, or any other glass cleaner or you risk damaging the lens. The liquid solution often comes in a small spray bottle, but many kits also include handy wipes that can be stowed in your pockets. Wipes are quick and disposable, but the spray solution is usually more economical.

More advanced kits include something known as a lens pen, which has a special tip on one end to pick up oil, while the other end features a soft, retractable brush to flick away loose debris.

Used together, these tools cover the afflictions that most commonly strike the lenses of professional and amateur photographers.

Best starter lens cleaning kit: Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit for DSLR Cameras and Sensitive Electronics

For a Thorough Cleaning

Altura’s cleaning kit stores all its tools in a clear, zip-lock case for easy storage. Amazon

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Altura’s lens cleaning kit offers all the tools both beginners and advanced photographers need to keep their lenses ready for action. It has microfiber cloth and tissues, cleaning solution, a blower, a lens pen, and an additional soft brush. The clear, zip-lock carrying case makes it easy to make sure nothing’s running low, and everything is packed and ready for when you need it.

Clean your lenses properly!

The way you clean your lenses is as important as what you use, and believe it or not, it’s possible to overclean them. Modern lenses have precision chemical coatings to help reduce flare, diffraction, and other optical issues that get in the way of a good photo or video. Overcleaning can wear down these coatings, and that will impact the performance of your lens. Store lenses properly, with covers over both the front and real elements, to help keep them clean. When you pull one out, use the squeeze blower to remove any loose dust or particles. Check the lens carefully—do you see any fingerprints or smudges? If so, by all means break out the cleaning solution. But if not, leave it alone.

Before using microfiber cloth, check it for dust and debris before using it on your lens. Keep the cloth somewhere safe when not in use so it stays clean, and replace it if it starts to fall apart. It’s never a bad idea to keep a spare in your camera bag.

When using a camera lens cleaning solution, remember to apply it to your microfiber cloth or tissue, and never directly to the lens. You don’t want to risk it seeping inside the lens housing. Start cleaning your lens from the center and work your way out toward the edge, and avoid applying too much pressure—you don’t want to accidentally scratch the glass or coating.

Don’t forget the rear element on your lens. A few puffs of air and a gentle wiping with a dry cloth will usually do the trick. The same goes for the lens mount, which has small grooves and can often trap debris.

One last note: Avoid those canisters of compressed air. They’re much too powerful, and are likely to blow debris into your camera’s lens.

Best lens cleaning kit for all-around care: Movo Deluxe Essentials DSLR Camera Cleaning Kit

Compact But Complete

Besides including everything you need to clean your lens, this kit also includes swabs for your camera’s sensor. Amazon

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Movo’s lens cleaning kit features solution, lens pen, blower, brush, and microfiber cloth. But the company goes one step further and includes swabs designed for cleaning the camera’s delicate sensor. Everything is housed in a semi-rigid, zippered case for sturdy organization.

Cleaning protects your investment

Camera equipment is expensive, and lenses are no exception. In fact, for many photographers and videographers, some lenses cost as much as, or even more, than the camera itself. But lenses are also a smart investment. Advancing technology often drives photographers to upgrade their DSLR bodies, but a good lens will continue to be a good lens for as long as you own it—if, of course, you protect it.

Over time, dust can build up and start making its way into the body of the lens, where it gets trapped. It can impede gears on focus rings and zoom mechanisms, or obstruct iris blades. Just as bad, dust can become trapped behind one of the glass elements, creating a permanent blemish that renders your precious lens useless. The only way to solve these problems is to take the lens to a specialist, who will dismantle and clean it. Needless to say, this can be expensive—and it knocks the lens out of commission until it’s put back together.

By maintaining your lenses properly, you can avoid this sad fate. Keep them protected using front and rear caps, a lens hood, and screw-on UV filter. And clean them regularly, checking for dust, fingerprints, oil smears, and anything else that might one day cause permanent—or at least expensive—damage to your lens.

Best compact kit: Nikon 8228 Lens Pen Pro Kit

Minimal Fuss and Muss

Includes two lens pens for quick and careful lens cleaning. Amazon

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Nikon cameras and lenses are used by millions of professional and hobbyist photographers the world over. The company’s lens kit keeps things simple with two lens pens and a microfiber cloth, all of which is stored in a sturdy, zippered case. The kit handles fingerprints and dust nicely, though it won’t provide the more thorough cleaning of a solution.

Keep your lens cleaning kit organized with a case

A good lens cleaning kit also includes its own carrying case. Small and compact, it’s designed to keep these necessary tools of the trade organized and handy when you need them. You’re already juggling a camera, some lights, filters, and any number of other specialized gear—you don’t want to waste time fumbling for cleaning solution while you risk missing out on the perfect shot.

Carrying cases also protect your cleaning supplies and, yes, keep them clean. That microfiber cloth isn’t going to be much good if it accidentally falls out of your bag and lands in some dust. And you don’t want your cleaning solution leaking out and getting on your delicate memory cards.

Some carrying cases for lens cleaning kits include zippers and padding, while others are transparent to help you quickly see what supplies are running low. The trick is finding a case that’s not too bulky and that won’t take up too much space in your camera bag. Some photographers keep a bigger kit in their studio and a more streamlined version in their bag. Pay attention to how you like to travel, how you pack your photography equipment, and how much physical activity is involved in your shoots when thinking about which style of case works best for you.

Best lens cleaning kit for travel photographers: Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit

Leave Your Camera Bag at Home

Convenient belt pouch keeps your cleaning supplies nearby for when you need them. Amazon

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Zeiss is a noted lens manufacturer, so it’s no surprise they’d make a lens cleaning kit, which includes a microfiber cloth in a small pouch, a cleaning wipe, a bottle of solution, a blower, and a soft brush. What makes this travel-friendly kit stand out is the compact pouch which is designed to be worn on a photographer’s belt. This is convenient for situations when you don’t want to carry a camera bag with you but still want to keep your lenses free of dust and smudges. Zeiss lenses aren’t cheap, however, and neither is their cleaning kit compared with many of the brands out there.

The best lens cleaning kits aren’t always the most expensive

When it comes to lenses, you often get what you pay for. Exceptions abound, but high-quality, well-built lenses with superior optics don’t come cheap. Thankfully, maintaining them is a much less expensive proposition. Lens cleaning kits are by their nature disposable—cleaning fluid and microfiber tissues get used up. Consequently, even the best lens cleaning kits aren’t particularly expensive. In the world of photography, any chance to save some money is worth taking, especially if you’re not a professional who earns money off their photography equipment. Don’t be afraid to spend a little less on simple kits if they still provide the cleaning options you need.

Best cheap lens cleaning kit: Professional Camera Cleaning Kit for DSLR Cameras

Budget-Minded Solution

Five microfiber cleaning cloths keep you prepared for emergencies. Amazon

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This inexpensive kit includes a lens pen, blower, additional brush, and five cloths—enough to keep your lenses clean. It also comes with a small spray bottle, but you’ll have to fill that yourself with a lens cleaning solution. The kit doesn’t have its own case, so make sure you find a solution to keep everything organized.

FAQ: people also ask

As a beginning photographer, should I use a beginner lens cleaning kit?

Lens cleaning kits are pretty basic, and there really isn’t such a thing as a beginner’s or professional’s kit. As long as you’ve got the proper cleaning solution for modern lenses, some good microfiber wipes, and a gentle blower, you’ll be able to keep your lenses looking sharp.

How do I use a lens cleaning kit to clean my lens?

Start by using a squeeze blower to gently blow debris from the glass elements. You can follow this up with a microfiber cloth or tissue. If you notice fingerprints or oily smudges, use a cleaning solution designed for modern lenses. Remember to spray it on the cloth, not directly on the lens. Start cleaning in the center of the lens and work your way out. Let it air-dry for a moment or two and it’ll be ready to use.

How do I clean the inside of my lens?

Sometimes dust can get inside the body of a lens; it might be visible behind the glass element, or it might be further down inside. Unfortunately, if there is a problem with your lens, you’ll need to take it to a qualified professional for repair. Lenses are complicated and delicate pieces of camera gear and you shouldn’t try taking one apart if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. You run the risk of permanently damaging it. Replacing the lens is often much more expensive than letting a pro clean it in the first place.

A final word on shopping for the best lens cleaning kits

The best lens cleaning kits are essential camera accessories for any photographer, and should be kept inside a camera bag as a matter of course. Using a cleaning kit is one of the best ways to keep your lenses performing like new so they can bring you years of enjoyment as you pursue your art. But cleaning supplies won’t do you any good if you don’t get in the habit of using them—so remember to check your lenses every time you remove the cap.

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