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How to clean finger prints from the lens?

uday Singh , Jul 30, 2006; 09:24 a.m.

I noticed that one of my lenses has a lot of finger prints on it. What is the safest way to clean the lens? Can I use alcohol swabs?

THank you, -uday


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Frank Skomial , Jul 30, 2006; 09:37 a.m.

I use Nikon's penbrush. One end is a soft brush and the other end has a most porous rubber type end that has air tight cap. Finger prints will require usage of the moist end, while dust can be removed with the brush. Perhaps the moist end does not use alcohol.

It is an inexpensive and small device handy for travel. I have been using one 3 years, and yet the moisted end has moisture it it, just have to keep it air tight when not used. I live on a desert land that is called Los Angeles with dry air and high temperature all year round. The pen could possibly last long in any environment, but eventually may need to be replaced by a new fresh one.

I am not sure about usage of alcohol. Sounds harmless for lens, but depending how pure it is, and what lens coating you have, that may not be the best solution ? Rather than not being sure, I would use a dedicated solution.

Moshe ben Asher , Jul 30, 2006; 09:43 a.m.

I rarely clean LENSES because I always use a filter of one kind or another--although occasionally I clean the lens on my wife's camera. On my own camera, I use a blower to remove loose particles from the filter glass before attempting to clean it.

Some time ago I read a recommendation from a pro photog to try using Scotch tape. When I raised the question (I believe it was on one of the dpr forums), the reaction was almost universally unequivocally negative. As far as I could tell, in virtually every case the posters were not speaking from experience but speculating on what they IMAGINED the damaging effects would be--like remove the lens or filter coating, leave a residue, etc.

What I've found, however, is that the use of high quality, FRESH Scorch tape--simply pressing it on that part of the filter where there is a fingerprint or some contaminant, and then carefully removing the tape--works like a charm and has no discernable negative effects. It doesn't leave any residue and, under examination with a magnifying glass, apparently doesn't effect the coating.

In rare cases, the tape doesn't do the trick. Then I resort to the usual lens cleaner and tissue.

Good luck with whatever method(s) you pick.

William Kahn , Jul 30, 2006; 09:48 a.m.

Over time, any chemical cleaner will probably have an effect on the lens coating. I use a blower first to remove any dust paricles and debris, then an old, lint free, 100% cotton T-shirt, breathe on the lens, wipe very gently.

Sandy Labana , Jul 30, 2006; 10:47 a.m.

I follow the following: 1. Clean any dust with soft brush attached to rubber bulb for blowing air. 2. Moist lens cleaning paper with lens cleaning solution. 3. Wipe the lens gently with moist paper. 4. Wipe with dry lens cleaning paper. you can buy these at camera store or an optical (eye glass) store. Be gentle when wiping the lens. Use multiple moist wipes if spot is stubbern rather than heavy pressure. Biggest danger is if you do not remove dust before wiping, then you may scratch the lens or it coating. Lens coating is pretty hard but the dust particle is pretty hard too. Alcohol will not harm the lens or its coating and you can use it if you wish. Sandy

Ben Anderson , Jul 30, 2006; 11:13 a.m.

Breath on the lens, the condensation is equivalent to distilled water, use a clean microfiber cloth to gently massage off the mark. People treat their kit with far more reverence than it really needs, take a look at a PJ's kit if you ever get chance.

David Miller , Jul 30, 2006; 11:31 a.m.


I think the "Nikon penbrush" that Frank refers to is a rebranded LensPen

I've been using one of these for some time, and have been delighted with how it removes any grime from misplaced fingers or residues of anything that might have splashed onto my lens' front element.
The fact that Nikon rebrand it is a good indication that it's an effective, trusted and non-damaging way to clean your lenses.

Always remember the two steps:
1. Use the brush to remove all the dust - if you don't, application of the LensPen will result in you making long, deep scratches in your lens coatings
2. Give the cap on the LensPen a half-turn before removing to refresh the tip before following the instructions to remove all the smears.

Getting hold of a LensPen should be quite easy, they're widely available both with the original branding and rebranded by individual stores. Their DigiKlear pen for removing smudges from LCD screens is also highly recommended.

Bob Atkins , Jul 30, 2006; 01:14 p.m.

I'd use a microfiber cloth.

See http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tutorials/lens_filter_cleaning.html for lot sof stuff about cleaning lenses.

You can use alcohol swabs if you need to but a microfiber cloth is usually my first choice. Even if you use alcohol swabs you still may end up using a microfiber cloth.

Kevin Conville , Jul 30, 2006; 07:03 p.m.

Bob's right. Microfibre cloth.

Lots of threads on this with lots of suggested methods and materials. Nothing I've ever tried works as well, with as little wear and tear, as a micro fibre cloth and fogging the lens with your breath.

Noah K , Jul 30, 2006; 11:44 p.m.

I also use the lenspen, and am completely loving every moment of it, don't know how i ever survived without it. Also, unless frank is mistaken in his description, he's not talking about the lenspen (carson) that we know and love, as it's non bristle brush end is completely dry, not moist. O, and Moshe ben Asher.... (I'm Nachum Zemmel ben Gavrial by the way) unless you're amazing at keeping you're filters in pristine condition, you're gonna have to clean them once in a while. (lenspen!)

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