How to Clean SLR Camera Lenses

When it comes to cleaning SLR camera lenses, photographers use different methods that work for them. In this article, I will show you my way to clean DSLR camera lenses. I often get emails and comments from our readers, who ask to provide detailed information on this process, so I am including a detailed article along with an accompanying video to thoroughly explain the process. Cleaning lenses is a fairly straightforward process and is almost risk-free, as long as you are using proper tools for the job. If you are impatient and want to see the video where I show the entire process of cleaning a lens, skip all the way down. I hope you find the below article and video useful.

1) Why Clean Camera Lens?

Besides the obvious answer “because it is dirty”, keeping your lenses clean will ensure that you get the best and highest quality results from using your gear. During a Photo Walks that I led a couple of years ago, a novice approached me with a question about his camera. He told me that his images look cloudy and he had no idea why it was happening. I asked if I could take a look at his camera to see if I could find anything wrong with it. As soon as I opened the front lens cap, I knew exactly what the problem was. The front element of the lens was very dirty and had oily fingerprints and other stuff all over the place. I showed him the lens and asked if he knew about the problem. He told me that he had a toddler that likes his camera too much and apparently, that’s how the lens ended up getting all the stuff on it. He did not know how to clean the lens properly and after spending so much money on the camera gear, he was too scared to clean it himself. Gladly, I always carry my cleaning kit with me, so I took a picture before and then another after cleaning the lens. We compared the images and as expected, the first one indeed looked cloudy, while the second one was clear and sharp. This is one example of how dust, dirt and oil can affect your images.

Another important reason to clean your camera lens is keep your images free of particles that might show up in background highlights and other parts of the image. Take a look at my earlier post on “the effect of dust on lens bokeh” – you will see, that dust on the rear element of your lens will show up in your images, especially if you have large specks of dust there.

Dust is a normal part of a photographer’s life. While it is a good idea to prevent dust from landing on your gear, whether you like it or not, you will eventually end up in a dusty environment some day. So, it is not a matter of how, but when. If you see a beautiful sunset on a windy and dusty day, are you not going to take a picture? Some photographers say things like “do not get your gear dirty in first place”, which I consider to be a ridiculous statement. I would never want to miss an opportunity for a good picture, just because I wanted to keep my gear clean. Every time I go to places like Sand Dunes, I know beforehand that it is most likely going to be windy. Take a look at this shot:

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Nikon AE-L / AF-L Button

Whether you are using an entry-level DSLR like Nikon D3100 or a top of the line DSLR like Nikon D3x, there is a special button on the back of your camera labeled “AE-L / AF-L” that can be quite useful in many situations. After I wrote the Autofocus Modes article, I received several requests from our readers, asking me to explain what the AE-L / AF-L button does, when it should be used and how it can be combined with different autofocus modes. In this article, I will try to go through this button in depth and explain how I personally use it on my cameras.

Nikon D3100 AE-L AF-L Button

1) AutoExposure-Lock / AutoFocus-Lock

The AE-L / AF-L button stands for “AutoExposure-Lock and AutoFocus-Lock” and its primary function is to lock camera exposure and/or focus. What does this exactly mean? If you are using any of the camera modes like Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or other scene modes, the button could be used to force the camera to use a certain value for shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. Since in any of the automatic modes the camera uses its metering sensor to determine the optimal exposure, instead of having your camera re-evaluate the light every time you recompose, you could lock the exposure to a value you are comfortable with – hence the term “AutoExposure-Lock”. There are many cases where using this feature is very helpful. One example is when you photograph panoramas. It is extremely important to use exactly the same exposure from frame to frame in panoramic photography. If one exposure differs from another, it is practically impossible for panoramic software to stitch images together in a consistent, continuous form. Another good example is if you are photographing a subject with a constantly changing background and you want to expose the subject exactly the same way from shot to shot. Basically, any time consistency of exposure is required and you do not want to switch to a full manual mode, the AE-L button can be very useful.

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Nikon D5100 DSLR Announcement

On April 5, 2011, Nikon launched the Nikon D5100 DSLR, an expected replacement for the Nikon D5000 that was introduced first in April of 2009. As a upper-entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D5100 stands above entry-level Nikon D3100 and below the semi-professional Nikon D90 and D7000 cameras. The changes from Nikon D5000 are significant – not only does the D5100 get the much improved 16.2 MP sensor from the excellent Nikon D7000, but it also comes with a side-articulated 3 inch swivel LCD with 920,000 pixels (the Nikon D5000 had a bottom-articulated 2.7 inch swivel LCD with only 230,000 pixels), full 1080p HD video recording and a completely redesigned camera body.

Nikon D5100

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Nikon D3100 Review

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This long overdue review of the Nikon D3100 is based on my 30 day experience with the camera. I get plenty of comments and emails from our readers asking about the D3100 and whether they should buy it over the older Nikon D3000 and Nikon D5000 cameras, so I decided to post a review of the camera with some sample images and comparisons with other Nikon DSLRs to hopefully make it easier for our readers to make the right choice. Please note that the sample images provided below are “test” shots that have not been heavily modified in post-processing.

Nikon D3100

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Nikon D7000 Review

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This long overdue review of the Nikon D7000 is based on my 3+ month experience with multiple samples of the camera. Due to my busy schedule and a very high demand on the D7000, I was not able to obtain a copy earlier to test. I actually thought it was a good thing to wait, because I did not want to get one from the initial production (which seemed to be rushed, resulting in lots of bad samples out there). Ever since the Nikon D7000 was released, I have been getting many questions from current and potential buyers, asking about backfocus issues, overexposed images, bad video quality, autofocus problems, image quality at low and high ISOs and hot pixels. For this review, I made a note to myself to test the camera against each of the listed potential problems and report on my findings.

Nikon D7000

1) Nikon D7000 Specifications

Main Features:

  1. High Resolution 16.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor
  2. High Speed 6 frames per second continuous shooting up to 100 shots
  3. 2,016-pixel RGB (3D Color Matrix) sensor
  4. Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage and approx. 0.94x magnification
  5. Twin SD Card Slots with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card compatibility
  6. Built-in Speedlight flash with i-TTL and Wireless Commander support
  7. Optional MB-D11 multi-power pack
  8. Two User Definable Settings (U1, U2) on the Mode Selector Dial
  9. Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
  10. Virtual Horizon Graphic Indicator
  11. Full 1080p HD Movie capability with Full Time Autofocus and external stereo microphone jack (up to 20 minutes of recording time)
  12. Dynamic ISO range from 100 to 6400 expandable to 25,600 (Hi2)
  13. Customizable 39 point AF System with nine center cross-type sensors
  14. Magnesium-alloy top/rear covers and weather and dust sealing
  15. 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system
  16. 3 Inch, 921,000-dot Super-Density LCD Monitor with 170 degree viewing
  17. Fast Start-Up time of 0.13 sec and 50ms Shutter Lag
  18. Compact EN-EL15 Battery (850+ shots)
  19. Built-in HDMI Connection
  20. Active D-Lighting for enhancing details in shadows and highlights
  21. Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait Scene Modes

Mt Sneffels in Snow

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DSLR Autofocus Modes Explained

Most modern digital SLR cameras are equipped with advanced autofocus systems that are often hard to understand. Whether you are shooting with an entry-level or professional DSLR, knowing how to use autofocus system effectively is essential to get sharp images. A badly-focused, blurry image can ruin a photograph and you cannot repair it in post-processing. Some professionals often end up converting their images to black and white, to hide their focusing problems. If you learn how to focus correctly, you do not have to resort to such measures and you can deliver much better results to your clients and family. Simply put, accurate focus translates to sharper images and that is something everyone is looking for in photographs today. I know some photographers will argue with me on this, saying that sometimes image blur yields a “creative” look, but it is one thing when you do it on purpose and another, when you consistently mess up just because you don’t know how to focus well with your camera. Once you learn how to properly focus with your camera, you can then decide whether you want to blur something on purpose.

Blue Heron in Flight

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Nikon Commander Mode

Instead of creating another post, I updated the “How to get the best out of your pop-up flash” article to include plenty of information and a new video on Nikon’s Commander Mode on semi-pro and pro-level Nikon camera bodies. Information on how to set up the built-in pop-up camera flash to be a commander, as well as configuring Nikon speedlights (SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 and SB-900) is also included.

Here is the video on how to use the commander mode + flash communication basics:

Our next upcoming article + video is going to be about Nikon speedlights and how to use them in various configurations indoors. Stay tuned!

Nikon D7000 vs D90

Ever since Nikon released the new Nikon D7000, I have been getting a lot of emails from people who are asking if they should go with the D7000 or with the older Nikon D90 that has been dropping in price. To make it easier for our readers, I decided to post a quick comparison between the two in this “Nikon D7000 vs D90” article.

Nikon D7000

The new Nikon D7000 is a new generation DSLR that sits between D90 and D300s, which can be classified as an “semi-professional DSLR”. It features a brand new sensor from Nikon, which has been specifically engineered for the Nikon D7000 and possibly other upcoming cameras. The Nikon D7000 is the second camera announced this year by Nikon with the new Expeed II processor, allowing faster image and video processing up to 1080p (the previous Expeed processor could not handle more than 720p video).

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Nikon vs Canon vs Sony

I have been getting a lot of questions from our readers about whether they should pick a particular camera from Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax or some other manufacturer. These inquiries are only increasing over time, so I decided to post an article on what I think about different camera systems and why you should go with a particular brand versus others. Many of the questions are something like “should I go for Nikon D5000 or Canon 1000D” or similar, with readers asking me to tell them why I would recommend or pick a certain brand/type of a camera over another. When it comes to the question of Nikon vs Canon vs Sony, there are lots of heated debates over the Internet, so I wanted to share my personal thought on this subject matter as well.

As you know, I have been mainly writing about Nikon – simply because pretty much all of my gear is from Nikon and it is the system of choice for me. Why don’t I shoot Canon or Sony? Is Nikon superior than these brands? No, not really. Read on to understand why.

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Nikon D3100 vs D5000

This is a comparison between the new Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5000 for those who want to know the differences between the two. I get a big number of requests from our readers, asking which one to buy and I hope this quick comparison in this “Nikon D3100 vs D5000” article will make it easier to make the right purchasing decision.

Nikon D3100

The new Nikon D3100 is an update to the existing Nikon D3000 line which was released in 2009 as an upgrade to the Nikon D40/D40x/D60 line. Similar to the D40/D40x/D60/D3100 cameras, the Nikon D3100 is classified as an entry-level, affordable DSLR camera that is targeted towards photo enthusiasts that want to get into the DSLR world. The Nikon D3100 was the first camera announced by Nikon that features the new Expeed II processor, allowing faster image and video processing up to 1080p (the previous Expeed processor could not handle more than 720p video).

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