Should I Be Worried with Dust On My Lens?

Wall-E using my Wacomb Bamboo Pen Tablet..

Some of you have probably seen the photo above. Yeah, it was my photo of the day for Jan. 28, 2010. Notice anything? Probably not. Take a look below. Our photo above was shot using my Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II mounted on a Rebel XS,  with a pencil tied up in front of the lens.

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This brings me to the dust issue that most of us have.  A month ago, someone ask me if I have dust on my lenses, then he showed me his EF 28-135mm with a few dust spec on it. He told me he is somewhat annoyed and a little worried the dust might show up in the photos.  I told him not to worry about it and showed him that even if he shoot at a low F Stop like f/16, dust won’t show up on his photos.

Most if not all, lenses have at least a little dust in them, especially zoom lenses because when we zoom in and out, air are pump into the lens causing it to suck dust.  But, should we be worried? No, here’s why, dust particles inside our lenses are too small and too far from the plane of focus and they are far from the DOF even at F/22 or below.  Dust usually doesn’t have any effect on our photos, even in print unless the amount of dust in that lens is huge (take for example the photo above). If the dust in your lens is as thick as the pencil, then yes, you should be worried and you have to send your lens for cleaning. Small amount of dust on our lenses, should not cause an alarm. It can happen to all lenses(mostly on zoom lenses), especially if we are using it.

In my experience, a few dust specs on my lens is fine and does not affect the quality of my photos. Even scratches in front element of your lens will not show up under normal shooting range and if you mostly shoot around F/8 to F/16, then you should be ok. Take a look at sample photos below:

Wall-E using my Wacomb Bamboo Pen Tablet..
Shot at F/1.8 @ 50mm
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Shot at F/6.3 @ 50mm
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Shot at F/8.0 @ 50mm
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Shot at F/13 @ 50mm

Using the EF 50mm F/1.8 II, the shadowy image of the pencil only became visible at F/6.3, and more pronounced at F/8, F/13 and lower F Stops, this only shows that a dust spec on the lens shouldn’t worry us unless your lens has a huge amount of dust that almost covers the front element of your lens. As I have mentioned above, even scratches in the front element of the  lens shouldn’t worry us a bit.

So how do we prevent dust from getting into our lenses? I’m sorry but there isn’t any. It’s a fact of life. Dust is everywhere and overtime dust can find a way into the lens. This especially true with zoom lenses which suck dust everytime we zoom in and out. We can however do something to minimize the amount of dust that gets into our lens and hopefully avoid it, here’s what I do:

  • Get a Rocket Blower if you don’t have one. Like the Giottos Rocket Blower.
  • I make sure I clean the outside of the lens, in a 17-50mm, zoom in to 50mm and wipe clean the  inner tube of the barrel that extends in and out when you zoom. If there’s dust around that tube, and you zoom in and all the way out, it will suck air bringing the dust inside your lens, so make sure it’s always clean. When you’re outside shooting, it helps if you glance at it sometimes and maybe blow the dust off with your rocket blower once in a while.
  • Using a rocket blower, it’s a good practice to blow dust away of your lens front and rear sides.
  • Use the rocket blower to blow dust off the front element of the lens before you wipe it to avoid scratches.
  • Once a month I manually clean my sensor by just blowing dust off of it. This will also minimize dust from entering my lenses.
  • It helps to sometimes clean your camera body by just wiping it clean.
  • Make sure your gear closet  is clean and dust free.
  • Avoid if not minimize changing lens outside if you can.
  • If you do change lenses, never put your lens cap in your packet, I put in a clean compartment in my bag.
  • Always clean your gear bag, after using it, especially the inside.

I got the pencil on the lens idea from Ron Brinkmann, his post from a year ago suddenly came back to my mind a week ago and thought it would be a great  example for the Dust in Lens topic. You can read his post at his website at DigitalComposting.Wordpress.Com.

I hope you find this post helpful. I love hearing from you, if you have any corrections, inquiries, comments or suggestions, please let me know. You can send me an email of yet, feel free to post a comment below. Thanks and have a great day.

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