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Camera preservation, Part 2 (07/16/2006)
By Tom Hirsch

Last time we covered ways of avoiding damage to a camera caused by impact such as dropping it or bumping it into things. But there are other bad things that can happen to a good camera. Some of these are environmental factors such as water, dirt and fungus. As with impact damage, all of these can be avoided. We'll tell you how, and what to do if the camera should be affected by any of them.

Water is especially damaging. Moisture inside the camera's mechanical parts can cause corrosion, so if there is any possibility that the camera could get wet, take your pictures with a substitute, or make sure that your camera is one of the waterproof or water resistant variety. A good alternative is to buy an inexpensive water resistant (or splash-proof) disposable camera that's designed for wet conditions

If your camera does get wet and you're sure that it's only on the outside, dry it as soon as possible with a soft cloth such as a kitchen dish towel, or any soft absorbent material. Water on the inside of the camera is a different matter. Dry the outside of the camera, then, as soon as possible, take it in for repair. Time is an important factor because water is corrosive, so tell the clerk exactly what happened and that you'd appreciate it if the camera could be examined as soon as possible.

If the inside of a camera is exposed to sea water, consider it a lost cause. Saltwater is extremely corrosive, and corrosion begins almost immediately. Rinsing the camera in clear water won't do any good either. Just throw the camera away and buy a new one. First, though, check your insurance policy to see if it would cover such contingencies. A standard policy probably wouldn't, but a rider covering your camera equipment might. It never hurts to check.

Dust, dirt and sand inside a camera are almost as bad as water, except that they don't have the corrosive properties. They can, however, render the camera inoperable. If at any time something seems to be sticking, don't try forcing the camera. This could cause further damage. Take the camera in for repair and accept the consequences.

To prevent this type of environmental damage, avoid exposing the camera to these environments. This includes not putting an uncased camera in a car trunk or purse, or in any enclosed compartment in which dirt might be lingering.

Another potential problem is fungus or mold between the elements of a lens; the result would be fuzzy pictures. Humidity or moisture seeping between elements of a lens can create this problem. Moisture can occur in a humid climate, or almost anywhere that humidity tends to climb in the summer months. A basement can be an especially bad place to store a camera throughout the summer.

Fungus can be avoided if the camera is used on a regular basis outside in sunlight during the warm months of the year. The lower humidity and the ultraviolet rays of the sun will dry out the camera and reduce the possibility of fungus growth. You can also prevent fungus by storing the camera in a cool, dry place, and keeping the camera in a carrying case along with the packet of silica gel that came with the camera. And always keep the lens covered when the camera is not in use. This will help protect the front element of the lens from moisture, dirt and dust, scratches, and impact damage if the lens were to get bumped.

Still more information next time. 


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