(This is a new series for me, some basic camera “how-to’s” that I feel like writing)
Cameras, careful as we may be, will always get dirty eventually. Some will get filthy faster depending on the area a photographer lives in, such as a coastal, desert, or tropical area (salt, sand, and humidity issues, respectively). However, the constant for all of us is that our viewfinders get very dirty, very quickly. Grease from our faces and dust from our eyelashes are the two main culprits. When we are sweating or blinking, this only speeds up the process. After about a month of shooting for me, the viewfinder on my NEX-7 gets awful, enough so that images are a bit cloudy–getting to the point of making it hard to get accurate focus on some shots.
Warning, the following picture is pretty nasty.
Wow, when I looked at this photo up close, I wondered if I could ever end up with a clean viewfinder after cleaning. Here is the following method I used, and what I recommend to others as well.
- Air Blower (I recommend the Giottos Large Rocket Air Blower)
- Basic non-alcohol lens-cleaning solution.
- Cotton swabs, NOT a micro-fiber cloth. You won’t be able to get into the nooks and crannies of the sides of the viewfinder with a cloth
And here’s the steps:
- Use air blower to remove large dust clumps from the glass. If you skip this step you run the risk of scratching your viewfinder with the swabs–you never know if that dust clump may actually be a small grain of sand.
- Hold cotton swab a few inches away from lens-cleaning solution sprayer and spray it once. You want to get just a little bit of solution on it. Too much and it may leak inside the viewfinder.
- Gently rub away the grease and dirt from the viewfinder with the wetted swab with light circular motions. Keep from pushing down, even when trying to get the grit from the edges.
- Use clean cotton swab to remove the dirty solution still on the viewfinder until it is dry.
- Repeat steps 2-4 with a new swab until viewfinder is free of any grease and dirt. Do not worry about the extreme edges, they are impossible to clean (at least without specialized tools).
- Use air blower to completely dry the viewfinder and remove any dust from the cotton swabs.
That’s it! The aforementioned patience is necessary because depending on the condition of your viewfinder, it may take about five minutes of careful wiping to get everything off the glass. The end-result should look something like what’s pictured below. Remember, the edges are close to impossible to really clean (they don’t block any of the image, anyway), and disregard the ambient reflections such as the light in the upper-left edge.
Hope this helps, and just remember to always be patient when cleaning sensitive optical equipment. Also important, even when all precautions are taken, things can still happen; I was cleaning my 180mm f/2.8 AI-s ED a little while back and there was a tiny speck of grit on my microfiber cloth that left a narrow but long scratch on the coating of the front element. It will literally do nothing to the image quality, but still, it was flawless (besides being a bit dirty) before the cleaning. This is why you should always try to clean your lenses/viewfinders/etc. as seldom as possible.
Anyways, thanks for dropping by guys and gals, and as always, have a great day!
P.S. The lens used to take these close-up shots of the viewfinder was the 105mm f/2.8 AI-s Micro-Nikkor with its PN-11 Extension tube.