Thursday, August 26, 2010

Keeping Your Equipment in Great Shape – Camera Care

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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While it is all too easy to overlook the importance of proper camera care, it is equally simple to make sure that your camera equipment is being properly cared for. With correct storage and maintenance you can ensure you will be using your digital camera at peak performance for years to come. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules; including using good protective gear, observing proper storage, and performing routine cleaning.

Protection: Your first line of defense in caring for your camera is obviously protecting the camera and each important part, whether it is a lens, the memory card, or even a battery. The two most common things that can damage cameras and equipment are shock or impact damage, and moisture. Shock can be prevented many ways. The easiest is simply to get a good protective case, and properly package all the equipment so that it is padded and well protected. A good strap can keep your camera from falling while you shoot. You should always use protective filters and cases for all lenses as well. If traveling, make your camera bag your carry-on if at all possible. Take proper care when using the camera too. Keep in mind the environments you are shooting in. If the environment is very dusty, for example, or especially humid. Smoke, steam, mist, all of these things can impact your equipment. Any extreme of temperature can affect your equipment as well. If your glasses fog up from changing temperatures quickly, you can bet your exposed lens just did too. Keep your equipment well protected whether you have your camera in hand or not.

Damage Protection Plans: There are as many different things that can go wrong as you can come up with, trust me I've heard every story (and keep hearing new ones), and I have seen the results. One of the best things you can have to protect your equipment is an actual Damage Protection Plan. Manufacturers warranties are very limited, and none will cover damage caused by external forces, such as impact, moisture damage, dog attack, etc. Yes, I've seen cameras that suffered dog attacks. Luckily there are contracts you can purchase to cover just such damage. Penn Camera offers up to three year damage protection plans that are available for everything from a point and shoot or video camera, to a DSLR or other interchangeable lens camera, as well as any lenses, flashes, and some other equipment. In addition to protecting your equipment from accidental damage, they vastly expand the manufacturers coverage of malfunctions and defects as well. For the cost of a few dollars a month, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that if you do damage your camera, you're covered. Some people won't even take a camera places like the beach for fear of sand, and water, but no one wants to miss a great shot because they're worried about their equipment.

Cleaning: If protection is your first line of defense, maintenance is certainly the next. It isn't enough to just keep your equipment clean; dust can creep onto your image sensor, or into your lens, and will worsen over time, affecting the quality of your images. It is important to have sensor cleanings done on interchangeable lens cameras at least once a year, more often depending on the type of environments that you frequently shoot in. Yes this is true even for the cameras that do automatic in-camera "sensor cleaning"; believe me, that is no substitute for a true cleaning. The best option is to have your equipment professionally serviced, but if you are feeling confident, you can at least tackle sensor cleaning on your own. Penn Camera carries multiple options for home sensor cleaning, and instructions can usually be found in your camera's instruction manual (yes you need to keep that). Keeping the lens clean is just as important, so always make sure there is no dust, or fingerprints, or especially any kind of residual buildup. When you are cleaning a lens, don't use compressed air. Use a soft blower or brush for dust and dirt particles, and a microfiber cleaning cloth or a lens pen on things like fingerprints. When it comes to cleaning, remember the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Storage: This is where most people are a little more lax caring for their equipment. Many people tuck away their gear in a closet or somewhere convenient and out of the way, and it may sit there for weeks, or months. Where you decide to leave your equipment is important though. Cameras should never be stored anywhere humid or dusty. Temperatures should be neutral, and the environment should be clean. It can be a good idea to leave the desiccant packages that come in your camera bag in, to prevent condensation. You should also not store your digital camera near magnets, or leave the battery in the camera while it is being stored.

With the right protective equipment, and proper camera maintenance and storage, you can keep you camera in great shape for years, and ensure that each picture you take is as good, or hopefully even better than the last one.