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Whether you have only one camera body or several, regular cleaning of your Nikon camera gear is a good idea if you want your investment in photographic equipment to last a long time, or to have an optimum resale value. In this blog article I cover some very simple steps you can take to maintain and keep your camera bodies clean (I decided NOT to cover DSLR sensor cleaning here). Taking care of your photographic equipment is a great idea whether you plan to keep it a long time or if you are a photographer that sells to partially fund your equipment upgrades to newer models. Maintain your gear in excellent condition and you will command the highest resale prices.
Perhaps the best “tool” that a photographer can invest in for keeping gear clean is microfiber cleaning cloths. These are available all over the place these days and are relatively cheap. The better ones can be found among automotive detailing supplies. Wipe down your gear with a dry microfiber cloth on a regular basis to remove dust and oils (deposited from your hands) especially.
Another handy tool to help remove dust and dirt, especially between dials and controls on the top of the camera body is a soft brush. Even a soft-bristled toothbrush is helpful in this case, and the soft bristles will not mar the surface finish of the camera body. For best results, brush first to get the crevices clean and free of any grit and grime, then wipe down thoroughly with a dry microfiber cloth. Done.
Beyond routine – more thorough DIY cleaning
The best thing to do is to keep up with the routine cleaning as I have discussed above. However, as I am guilty of not being sufficiently regimented in my equipment maintenance duties, circumstances may call for a more thorough DIY cleaning session. In this case, I turn back to the automotive detailing section (of any auto parts store or big box merchandiser that carriers these supplies) for automotive interior cleaning products.
The product that I use and like very much, because it cleans well and has such a pleasant and mild odor, is “P&S Detailing Products Xpress Interior Cleaner.” To use this or any other automotive interior cleaner of your preference, just spray it onto the surface of a microfiber cloth (and NOT directly onto the camera) to moisten the surface. Rub the moistened microfiber cloth all over the camera body, working into crevices, and then immediately wipe dry with a dry area of the same cloth or a second dry cloth.
I have found that this simple but slightly more thorough cleaning makes my gear look almost brand new. If you feel anxious about putting anything on your expensive camera, try this on some other article that you have and handle frequently, perhaps binoculars or even a briefcase. If you find, as I have, that the product is gentle enough then it is safe to use on your photographic gear.
The Nikon sticky rubber grip problem
Nikon cameras that have rubberized grips and that are older models (perhaps mostly in the 15-20 year old range) sometimes develop a “stickiness” on the surface of the rubber grip. This feels annoying, at best, and fortunately there is an easy way to remedy this problem if you are experiencing sticky rubber grips on any of your cameras.
I had this very problem on my Nikon F100, one that I purchased used in 2004. The serial number on my camera is 202XXXX and assuming when first produced in 1998 Nikon started with 200XXXX mine was produced after the first 20,000 or so came off the production line. My guess is sometime before 2002. By 2017 my F100 had sticky rubber grips, with an estimated age of 15 or more years since it was manufactured by Nikon.
Automotive products to the rescue again
The remedy is easy enough, but may seem unorthodox. On my first attempts I used isopropyl alcohol (common rubbing alcohol) which is effective at least temporarily in removing the stickiness. Later I found online that other Nikon owners had success in using an automotive product, ArmorAll Original Protectant, to remove the stickiness.
I used ArmorAll wipes that I had purchased for my vehicle and thoroughly wiped down the rubber surfaces. Not only did it eliminate the sticky surface, it worked so well that the finish looked as if it were brand new! Because of this successful experience I used ArmorAll wipes on all of my Nikon Bodies. I am happy to report that of this writing, some 3-1/2 years later, none of my Nikon camera bodies has relapsed to any sticky surface residue on the rubber grips.
From my earlier career as a chemist that I assume that the sticky stuff may be a “plasticizer” used as an additive in the rubber grip material to keep it pliable. This stuff can and does migrate to the surface over time – ever notice when you have a new car that a greasy film tends to build up on the inside of your windshield, especially in the heat of summer? This is the same phenomenon I assume is happening with the grips. Some of you may have also experienced with the vinyl in cars that after about 10-12 years the material tends to crack. My Nikons are all beyond this age but the grip material is still in good shape. Using the ArmorAll makes perfect sense in this case – it maintains and protects the integrity of the rubberized grips.
Nikon lens cleaning
To clean your lenses you can use the very same techniques outline above, EXCEPT for the glass. There are very fine woven microfiber cloths available expressly for the purpose of lens cleaning, and I recommend using those dry cloths if a lens is smudged or dusty. I have also used the vapor of my breath to moisten the lens surface for more difficult smudges and coupled with the finely woven microfiber cloth I have never needed to use any other type of cleaner – ever.
When not in use, keep your lens caps (front and back) on to protect the glass from damage and from getting dust and any other grime on the glass surface. The lens cap is the best protection for your glass between the time you actually have it mounted on your camera body. So it pays to keep front and back lens caps/covers clean too! These are easy – just use a mild soap and water solution to clean them periodically, or use the damp microfiber cloth method for camera bodies described above.
Nikon camera cleaning service
For any Nikon gear that has some serious neglect, and perhaps is in need of repair or part replacement it may be best to send it in to Nikon for service. You can expect to pay at least $25 for shipping, and likely $75 or more for simple cleaning and adjustment. Contact Nikon directly if you feel this is what you need for your Nikon camera.
Taking care of your Nikon camera gear is most often a simple DIY project. Our friend is the detailing product section in automotive parts stores for things like microfiber cloths, interior cleaners, and protectants such as ArmorAll.
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