Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why Camera Lens Fog and How to Prevent It

This is an article I wrote for Associated Content (later acquired by Yahoo and became Yahoo Contributor Network). Guess Yahoo did not think it is worth their while to host and assign resources to it and they are shutting it down end July sending many self employed writers into survival mode. I am posting it here so folks can continue to read this article.

Why Camera Lens Fog
The reason why lens fog up is very similar to why our eyeglasses fog when when we step from a nice warm car into a colder outdoor or vice-versa, when we step outside from an air conditioned car to a hot outdoor. If left unattended, this will lead to mold growth on the lens interior (and exterior) and by then most remedies are too late and the lens is basically useless. If your lens fog often, there is usually more to it than just the fogging. The lens is probably rather old or has probably seen some serious wear and tear . Moisture tends to creep more easily inside an old lens that has not been well cared for when it is subjected to extreme temperature shock. If that is what inflicts your beloved lens frequently, I am afraid it is time for you to think about getting a new lens when the next big sale come around.

Let's start with steps you can take to reduce fogging:
Always put your camera/lens in a Zip Lock bag before and after using it and zip it airtight. It does not matter whether you were using it indoor or outdoor. It must become a second nature to you if you care about your camera. This is especially necessary if you have been shooting in the cold and are returning to your warm car or going indoor where the temperature is warmer. The air inside the Zip Lock bag acts as a cushion and will allow the lens to adjust to the temperature change more slowly. Any condensation due to extreme temperature change will accumulate on the inside surface of the zip Lock bag. Try to give it some time to adjust before you pull the camera out again to shoot indoor. Be gentle with your camera, great photography often comes from time spent composing the image in your mind and not from an impulsive shoot.

Shooting winter/snow scene, being outdoor on a chilly day for many hours. If you plan on doing outdoor photography the next day, think ahead. Put your camera and lens inside a large Zip Lock bag. Zip it tight and leave it in the trunk of your car (I would only do this if my car is parked in my garage and can be locked up of course). This will mean the lens should be at about the same temperature as the outside temperature when you pull it out to use the next morning. Also if you are stepping out of a warm car into the chilly air to take a snapshot when you are driving and your camera is coming right out of your backpack in the warm and toasty car, keep your camera close to your body inside your fleece jacket until you are ready to use it and do so quickly. Have a Zip Lock bag handy, put the camera in the Zip Lock bag and zip it tight before you get back into the car.

An old lens will be more prone to fogging as mentioned above (unless it is the expensive Canon L lens with weather sealed lens elements). This can become a big problem over time and mold can infest the inside surface of the lens. Can that be fixed? you ask. Yes, but at a price that is prohibitive and highly uneconomical. The camera shop technician will likely advise you to get a new lens from his colleagues in the sales department instead due to the cost of repair. There is also no guarantee that the mold will not return once you had the lens clean.

What to do if you have a foggy lens?
If your lens fogs up because it has just gone through temperature shock. Remove the lens from your camera bag. Use a clean lint free cloth (lens cloth) and wipe the dust and moisture off the exterior of the lens. Dry off all other parts of the lens well and place the lens on its side about 10-12 inches from a reading lamp. Rotate it 45 deg every 20 minutes or so to allow the lens to warm up and dry evenly. The lens should clear over time so relax. Don't check on it every 5 minutes. It will likely take anywhere from 1-3 hours for the lens to clear completely depending on how big the lens surface area is and how bad it has fogged. I am assuming that is the only problem you have. Once the lens has cleared. Hold it up against the light to see if there is any other dirt or problems. If you see dusts hopefully on the outside, clean the exterior lens surface gently using lens cloth and cleaning solutions.

If you don't already use a lens filter on your lens, get one! A UV/Haze filter will do the job. It protects the front element of the lens in case you accidentally drop the lens. More importantly, the filter adds an extra insulation between the cold air and the actual lens surface and often that will prevent fogging of the lens as the air between the filter and lens surface helps protect it from the temperature shock. Changing lens. If you need to put a new lens on, make sure the camera power is turned off before you remove the lens and put the new one on. Static will draw dusts onto the camera sensor - the most delicate and important part of the camera. This will result in black round spots appearing on your images. The dust spots will first show up on your landscape photos (when you are shooting at smaller f/stops, e.g. f/11, f1/13, f1/16) and they will become more and more apparent and will eventually show up on all your digital shots, ruining the pictures. Do not attempt to clean your digital camera sensor yourself, no matter how much you want to. Any mis-step can ruin your camera for good. A reputable camera shop will do the sensor clean for $60 a pop.

The moral of the story: take great care of your camera equipment. Give it plenty of TLC. As you know, water and electronics don't mix well so treat moisture on any part of your camera or your lens as your biggest enemy. Dry the moisture off thoroughly with lint free cloth each time. To clean the front element of the lens, spray lens cloth with lens cleaning fluid and wipe it gently, recommended after each photo session. Put the lens cap back on, never leave your camera lens exposed. Many things can happen to your camera when you least expect it. Little things like that may be a no-brainier. Simple preventive measures will go a long way in keeping the camera in ship shape condition for many years to come. I have seen many camera disasters: A friend of mine once dropped a brand new camera into a bucket of water while on a sailboat at the dock. Despite grabbing it out of the bucket in a split second, removing the batteries and wiping it dry, that camera was finished. Finito!!. Nothing would have saved that $490 Canon A640 from the water. Ouch! but to make a point, cameras don't like water!!

Footnote: For years, I wrote articles as a Yahoo contributor (formerly Associated Content) and Yahoo has just announced they are shutting that down, and all the contents and rights will be returned to the writer/contributor. I have expected it for some time now since Helium (a similar article site) "went off the air". I wrote a total of 40 articles on photography, food and How To and so I am going to be posting some of the more popular articles on my blog to make them available to readers after July 31st. This is the first of my articles I wrote for Yahoo Contributor Network and it is the most popular one. The article has received over 15000 page views and has been linked to and referenced by many websites.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover .....

In my last post I talked about how "ugly" my Quantaray zoom lens is. The is the third party telephoto lens that came bundled with the Elan body I bought on ebay in May. There was definitely no "love at first sight". With the signature green lettering at the rear end of the push pull lens barrel, this CN-Tech (Quantaray, made for Samy's Camera?) 75-300mm zoom lens has a max f-stop of 4, a deal breaker in low light. This lens is old, manufactured ages ago! I did not expect much. When I first tested it without film, the focus seemed fast, albeit a little noisy but the noise is not any louder than the Canon EF 70-210 f/4 lens. The lens is light, made mostly of plastic. The push pull zoom barrel is slightly stiff but works nonetheless. The only way to judge the lens is to shoot with it. Armed with a fresh roll of Neopan 400 film in the Elan with the rather unconventional looking lens I set out on foot to the harbor at 4pm yesterday. The harbor was picture perfect as always. There were many sailboats, power boats and a dozen very salty looking fishing trawlers. This is a place of my daily evening stroll except that this time it was 4pm and the sun was a long way from setting. The 400 ISO film was an over-kill but it was the only film I had left. There were a few kayakers and paddle boarders in the water, a group of school kids and their parents with puppies in tow having some family fun. The sea surface sparkled and danced in the gleaming sun.


"Three kayaks at the Rent A Kayak Center, Neopan 400, Adonal, Elan, Quantaray CN Tech 10 75-300mm f/4-5.6"


It was easy to finish 36 shots on the Neopan 400. I could always find photo ops, even the most mundane objects. I am a sucker for lines and shapes, hard shadows. Give me anything and I will find an interesting angle to make a photo out of it. As soon as I got back to the office, I developed the negative (Adonal 1:50, 11 minutes) and was pleasantly surprised. Nearly all the images from this roll were fantastic (if they were not it was my fault entirely). Focus spot on, images sharp. In black and white film, the inferior Quantaray glass almost did not matter. The 300mm focal length was definitely very handy.


"ABOVE - Giant shovels used by harbor fishermen"


An interesting side note on these giant shovels. These huge shovels have a 16 x 12 inch pan size and measure almost 5 ft long with the handle. Fishermen use them to quickly move buckets of shaved ice into 5 ft x 5 ft x 5 ft blue plastic tumblers as hundreds of freshly caught squids come off the conveyor belt into these tumblers. The tumblers of shaved ice and squids mix are then loaded into a 20 ft container, hauled to Long Beach Harbor and shipped to China for processing!! The squids, cleaned, cut, sorted and packaged in some port city in China would then make their way back to the US supermarkets. This sounds crazy but true

And below is my Elan and Quantaray CN-Tech 10 telephoto lens that could produce such respectable results. One thing to note. This is a film only lens, it does not work with Canon dSLR


This Quantaray zoom lens cost me almost nothing, $25 to be exact. It is now a keeper. Work with the limitations of one's gears, one shall be rewarded with good results!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Getting Back To Film After A Long Hiatus ......

I have not shot a roll of film in quite a few months. Jan to April each year is when I am busiest, as my other day job is that of a tax preparer at a CPA office, 60 hr week for about 10-11 weeks. Finally that is over and I can have a bit of R & R. Fall 2013 I bought a basic Canon Elan camera body on ebay (just because... it was cheap, I could not past it up). It came with the ugliest looking Quantaray telephoto lens. I wanted to see how bad a cheap lens can be. It actually seems to focus rather fast although it is a slow lens with max aperture of 4.0. It does not hurt to have a 35mm film SLR lying around that could share some of the better lenses I own. I also added to my gears a 200mm f/2.8 L lens from ebay, for $200. Before you said Wow, what a sweet deal! It is cheap for a reason, it has a broken USM motor and only the manual focus works. That did not bother me, I was after the glass and bokeh of a prime L lens within my budget for a hobby. My kind of photography is slow mo anyway. I prefer to take my time to shoot and let my heart leads.


First off I am so out of practice that I had to reel the films thrice as they kept kinking on me and all that inside a large changing bag. Still it did not feel like it was properly done but I eventually gave in and decided I am going to develop the film and live with the consequences. Rodinal/Adonal is always my developer of choice and it gives me good control over the development. It is a one shot developer which means I can prepare just enough for each run and not worry about the rest going bad on me.


The Canon Elan turned out to have an unpredictable shutter (no such thing as free lunch.. things are cheap for a reason, I can only laugh at myself now).The shutter jammed at low speed and I had to turn it off and back on for the mirror to return leading to light leaks on the entire roll. It would work at fast speed, but the entire roll had already been exposed while the shutter stayed open when it jammed. This roll came out blank (clear) except for the frame numbers. I had a second roll of Neopan 400 shot partly on the Canonet QIII 17 and partly on the Canon Elan with the 200mm f/2.8 L lens that was processed along with the first roll of Neopan 400 in the same tank. You can imagine how relieved I was to find a few good shots on the second roll.