Most of us are familiar with the idea of spring cleaning, that once a year ritual that chases out the mustiness of winter. Your camera gear will benefit from a yearly cycle of cleaning and maintenance too. Spend a little time taking care of your gear, and it will take care of you in the coming year.
Take an air blower designed for use on cameras (do not use canned air!) and blow away any dust on the outside of your camera. Stubborn grime can be gently removed with a soft, lint free cloth. Don’t use any liquids or cleaners on your camera! If you use a DSLR, this is a good time to check for dirt on the sensor. If the dirt won’t come off with a few puffs from the air blower, use a sensor cleaning kit designed for your camera or take your camera in to be professionally serviced. Check your battery for signs of leakage or corrosion, and make sure none of the screws that keep your camera together have come loose.
Check the optical surfaces of your lenses for dust, smudges, and other image degrading dirt. Use your air blower to remove as much dust as possible, then use a lens tissue and cleaning solution to get rid of any remaining grunge. I like to use packaged, pre-moistened lens cleaners for this purpose. I prefer the Bausch & Lomb brand, but Zeiss and other optical companies make them too. Examine any visible screws to make sure that they haven’t worked loose.
Bags and Cases
These essential items of photography gear are often overlooked, but benefit from a little time and attention as well. Check all the attachment points for straps and handles to ensure that they are secure. The bag may be padded, but that’s thin protection if the bag goes crashing unexpectedly to the pavement. Remove all your gear from the bag, discard any junk that may have built up over the last year, and vacuum it thoroughly inside and out. Dirt and dust can build up inside a bag and make its way to your camera, where you don’t want it to be. If your bag has a weather cover, take it out and make sure there are no holes or tears.
Check all the contacts, battery and hot shoe, for signs of corrosion. Examine the hot shoe for cracks or other signs of impending failure. Look over all the screws on the unit to make sure than none of them are wiggling loose.
Make sure your tripod’s leg locks are in good working order. Check over all the screws, springs and other bits of hardware for breakage or excessive wear. Replace anything that might be a problem. The last thing you want is for your tripod to dump your camera on the ground.