Friday, 16 March 2012

Wet Spring Cleaning

As with most things commercial, there are a million different products claiming to be the ultimate solution. However it is difficult to narrow these down without recommendations and worse (if you are in the UK) then once you have decided to follow a recommendation, you are likely to find that what you want isn't readily/easily available.

This is not a set of notes regarding lens cleaning - there are far better/more experienced resources available - but this is set of buying bookmarks for myself.

Moose Peterson, a respected and well published Nikon wildlife/landscape photographer, has a brilliant set of videos that talk you through body/lens/sensor cleaning. Of his recommendations, he loves the Rocket Blower along with old Kodak lens tissues paired with Lensclens cleaning solution. Seemed like a good start.

Now, the first problem: Lensclens has no local dealers/distributers and due to what the company cited as US export regulations, they are not willing to ship internationally.

Second problem: Kodak no longer produces the lens tissues as recommended - although you'll find with careful searching that Tiffen produced the product for Kodak.

So, it looked like I'd have to find alternatives before I even started.


Following more searches, I came across 2 often recommended lens cleaning solutions: ROR and Photosol's Eclipse (not E2) along with the usual recommendations for ethanol/rubbing alcohol - over time I had acquired and used both ROR and Eclipse.

The price difference between the two products is actually quite large, with Eclipse being about 2-3x more expensive (although you do get more: ROR's 28ml vs Eclipse's 58ml) but appear to be marketted at slightly different usage.

ROR is noted as an excellent cleaning solution for oil based residues - hence its name (Residual Oil Remover) and from my experience, this lives up to it's name. I have found that ROR will happily remove oilly, cake stained fingerprints from optical glass with no problems and usually in one application - in one application I removed what appeared to be the remains of a cream cake smear from the front element of a Nikkor 24-70mm with no issues. To me, this was simply brilliant.

Other cleaning solutions, including Eclipse, on lesser stains could take 2 or 3 applications to get clean.

Eclispe in it's own right appears to be a fine lens solution, even with the note above. However, whilst Eclipse can be and is used for cleaning optical glass, the manufacturer's website also markets this as a sensor cleaning product and as such, it has a quick evaporation rate leaving little/no residue/streaks.
As a side note regarding the solutions leaving streaks - as Peterson's cleaning tutorials note, the trick behind leaving no/minimising streaks is to clean with one tissue (with just ENOUGH solution) and then to quickly clean with a new/dry tissue.
Given that I have both cleaning solutions, which one do I use the most?

I generally use Eclipse for normal cleaning and ROR for really tough items although I would gladly use either. The one thing to note is that it is not transparent what the active ingredients are of the solutions but ROR does have a smell that reminds me of ammonia. Whilst optical glass and it's coatings are intended to be robust, I have to wonder whether this could be a problem. Anything that destroys grease and oil in the way ROR does make me think but over
the last few years I have not noticed any problems with my lenses.

ROR is an American product but distributed via an established UK distributor NewPro who also represent many other recognised photographic products. Direct from NewPro's website, ROR can be ordered at a cost of 3.99GBP but postage is quoted at 3GBP. Confirmed dealers include JackTheHat who was a presence on Ebay (5.49GBP incl VAT+P&P) and also on their independant store (5.25GBP incl VAT + P&P). Both are higher cost than in the US where I acquired my sample for ~7USD at B&H, NY.

Eclipse is readily available on well known/reputable sources such as Amazon and Calumet UK for ~11GBP.


Having the cleaning solution is no good without the applicator. Some suggest using a microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution but I never did trust this method since the microfiber cleaning cloth my pick up items that can scratch the glass. Similarly, lens pen products just seem more likely to pick up particles that can scratch.

Therefore I continued to go with the disposable lens tissues. With no Kodak papers (although I later found the Tiffen equivalent) I was recommended Rosco lens tissues. These are large 6x4 tissues in a single booklet with individual perferated sheets which are good for not getting dropped and littered across the floor - the Tiffen/Kodak tissue packs are lose.

The only issue with the Rosco product is that Rosco is generally used in a higher end productions/film rental houses and the suppliers/sources represent that. Further to this, most postage costs were a little prohibitive - some websites quoted (flat delivery rates) at ~10GBP.

The one source I found with reasonable costs were Panavision (note the film association) who supplied the Rosco 100x lens tissue 7446 at 3.00GBP excl VAT, with 1.96 P&P - total (incl VAT) = 5.95GBP. That is a book of 100 sheets.

The Tiffen/Kodak tissues (Kodak EK 154 6027 T/Tiffen 50x lens tissue) were found at CVP at 2.49GBP exl VAT, with 2.50 P&P - total (incl VAT) = 5.99GBP. That is a book of 50 sheets.

I have used both companies previously for different items (CVP for the Westcott Apollo softbox for instance) but choose the Rosco tissues from Panavision and they have turned out to be very suitable and as advertised: lintless, soft tissues. Perfect.

Whilst the Peterson recommended items were not sourced, very good alternatives at reasonable costs have been found and used successfully here in the UK: for topics photographically, this isn't always the case.

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