Protecting your expensive camera against lens fungal damage is necessary to prevent lasting damage. Left unchecked, fungal growth can damage the glass elements in lenses forever.
Fungus is a living, growing microorganism which can form on camera lenses. This type of mold is most common in humid climates. Often the damage it causes is only minor, but a rampant fungal growth can ruin a lens.
Cleaning fungus on exterior elements of lenses can be relatively easy. However, you need to catch it before it becomes too advanced. Growth of mold on interior lens elements is more difficult to detect and it requires a skilled technician to be able to remove it. The lens must be stripped down, cleaned and then rebuilt – which is a costly process.
Prevention of fungal growth on lenses is far more preferable than having to remove mold. If left unrestrained, fungus can permanently damage a lens because it eats into the glass. Once cleaned, furrows remain in the lens and affects the way light refracts through it.
Methods for preventing lens fungus
Taking proper care of your camera equipment is always good practice. Well-kept equipment will last longer and retain higher used resale value.
Here are some ideas to help you avoid encountering the problem of fungal growth in your lenses.
Clean your lenses often
Many photographers are in the habit of cleaning only the front element of their lenses, or the filters that screw on to cover them.
Wiping down your whole lenses with a damp microfiber cloth from time to time is good for them. Particularly if you’ve been photographing in a hot, humid climate. The atmosphere and sweat from your hands can affect your lens.
Using a microfibre cloth helps to avoid leaving unwanted lint deposits on the lens. Once you’ve wiped your lens down with a damp cloth, have a dry one on hand to wipe it down once more. Using a hairdryer on a low heat will also help any moisture evaporate from your lens.
Don’t leave your lenses in the sun to dry them. This can cause other problems.
Store your lenses in a dry box with silica gel
An airtight box is a good place to store your lenses. It’s convenient to leave all your gear in your camera bag, but left there it’s susceptible to affect by moisture.
Including a quantity of silica gel in the box helps to absorb any residual moisture. Small packets of silica gel often come with consumer goods. These do not contain enough to make a significant difference.
Silica gel can be purchased at a store or online, in larger quantities. I prefer the type of gel that can be used more than once. It changes color from blue to an orange color once it’s absorbed moisture. It can then be dried out by placing it in a microwave oven for a few minutes at medium power setting.
A cup full of silica gel placed in an old or stray sock with a knot tied in it will help keep your gear dry in a box. You’ll want to make sure the sock has no holes worn in it.
Food storage boxes with good seals are useful. I use this type of box to store my film cameras and older lenses I don’t use often. Every so often I dry out the silica gel in the microwave oven.
A more expensive and robust option is a Pelican case. These rugged camera cases are completely airtight when closed. Depending on the size of the case you may need to add more than one sock of silica gel.
Keep your lenses in an air-conditioned room
If you have an air-conditioned room, this is also a good location to store your lenses and other camera gear.
Air conditioning not only keeps the air in a room cooler, but it lowers the humidity. Ideally, you do not want the temperature of the room to be too cold. If you live in a hot climate, this can be problematic when you take the lenses outside. They will fog up.
When a lens is very cold and then taken into a very warm environment, condensation can form quickly. You’ll have to wait for it to clear before you’re able to take any photos.
Use a dehumidifier
This is the type of household appliance which sucks water from the air. It will not cool the room, but it will draw out any moisture in the air.
Running a dehumidifier for a few hours a day in a small room in wet weather is usually enough to dry the air.
They are often portable and cheaper than an air conditioning unit. They also consume less electricity.
Buy a dehumidifier dry cabinet
This appliance is a dedicated piece of equipment. It’s designed for the task of helping prevent lens fungal damage in your camera equipment.
A dehumidifier dry cabinet is usually a glass-fronted cabinet. They are available in various sizes to accommodate as much or as little equipment as you have to store.
These units are digitally controlled so you can regulate them.
Taking good care of your precious lenses is well worth it. Finding mold in your favorite lens would be soul-destroying.
Investing in an appropriate storage solution can be far cheaper than having to pay for lens cleaning.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have any other tried-and-true ways of keeping your lenses from becoming mold farms.