How To Check Lens For Fungus

By | 25/11/2022

I recently picked up a really cool camera for $10 at the flea market. The transaction was so quick, that I didn’t fifty-fifty take the chance to test it. Turns out, that lens has a pretty bad fungal infection.

How bad is it to have mold or mucus in your lens?

A fungal infection inside a lens will slowly ruin prototype quality as it grows, significantly reducing resale value. Fifty-fifty if the fungus is killed with UV light, it may persist and spread inside the lens. Oft if one lens has fungus inside, other cameras or lenses stored in the same weather condition will also contain some amount of fungus also.

A mold or fungal infection in your lens isn’t exactly a death sentence. The camera will go along to part and it may even accept years earlier you notice a reduction in image quality.

Nonetheless, it’s ever better to fix the trouble sooner rather than afterward. Over time, that fungal or mold infection will worsen. If you find some of your equipment is becoming moldy, the problem may be starting from your equipment’s storage conditions.

Fungus inside a camera lens
This is what fungus inside a lens looks like when backlit. Once fungus gets to this stage, it’s easy to identify, just very hard to clean. Some repair shops will refuse to work on moldy photographic camera equipment, fearing spores will spread.

How to identify a mold or fungal infection in your camera lens?

Fungus and mold have a very item pattern when compared to dust. Dust will but appear as dots inside of the lens. But mold and mucus will branch out.

The easiest manner to observe out if there is mold is to ensure the lens aperture is completely open, and to then shine a light from your phone through the lens. If your lens has a leaf shutter, open the shutter with bulb mode and shine the calorie-free through the front end chemical element.

Avert looking directly into the light — particularly with a zoom lens — as this could hurt your optics. Try to look at the dorsum of the lens from the side. The light will illuminate whatever dust, scratches, mold, and haze on the lens.

You tin can tell it’southward fungus or mold if there are little branches extending from the heart. The longer the mold has been active, the longer the lines coming out from it will be.

If yous encounter anything like to this when looking at a used camera, put information technology back. It’s simply not worth the hassle — no matter how skillful of a deal the camera may be.

Here’s why you should never buy a camera at a flea marketplace.

What is the problem with lens fungus or mold?

Mold or fungus will continue to grow inside your lens and eat away at their coatings. When that happens, the lens volition show a reduction in contrast where the mold is most present, and the may also showroom fringing or flaring.

Overall, the decreased image quality can ruin the fun of using a particular lens. Bad flaring means it volition no longer be expert for capturing subject backlit, as the flares will reduce the dissimilarity around the edges.

The lens coatings are also important for reducing color fringing, or chromatic aberration. Colour fringing makes images appear less sharp on high dissimilarity edges, because the color spectrums are separating instead of striking the picture show at the same betoken.

Some of these bug tin can be fixed in Photoshop, but overall they’re incommunicable to fix in the darkroom. Some photographers will apply an unsharp mask in the darkroom to reintroduce sharpness, but that is a hard process to master.

Mold volition also reduce the resale value of any camera or lens that it affects. Taking a quick await on eBay, the cameras or lenses with fifty-fifty a pocket-sized spot of mold or fungus will immediately be valued twenty-40% lower than clean copies. If you’re an honest seller, yous will have trouble getting rid of a mucus-y lens.

How does fungus grow within a lens?

Fifty-fifty in the almost inhospitable locations, life e’er finds a style.

Mold gets into the lens via dust particles in the air. And the tiny bit of wet, and nutrients inside the lens is enough to keep it alive and slowly spreading. It makes its way inside when zooming or focusing with the lens when the moving elements create a small vacuum that drags dust and spores within.

Mucus and mold are usually found in cameras that were stored in boiling climates. Cameras purchased from South E Asia and Japan are particularly prone to mold if they were stored exterior of a dehumidified chiffonier.

That said, whatever rainy, damp, or cold climate can likewise provide moisture for lens fungus to grow. Information technology is important to e’er wipe down any condensation that forms on your camera equipment when bringing it inside from a cool walk or hike.

How can y’all get rid of mold or fungus?

Getting rid of mold is no easy job. In general, mold is like shooting fish in a barrel to kill temporarily using UVC Light or by gently cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide — then long equally you’re willing to disassemble the lens.

If you practice plan to detach the lens, ensure that you have a large, clean working space. Go on everything in the order you took it apart, and don’t lose any minor screws.

When cleaning the elements, exist sure not to impairment them by rubbing too hard, or using too strong of a hydrogen peroxide solution. If the mold is tough, you can dip the elements in the solution for a half-hr, but be sure to fully clean the solution off so that it doesn’t slowly ruin the lens coatings.

If you lot’re not comfortable taking on this task, then the best move may be to accept your camera or lens in for service. Otherwise, it’due south usually possible to purchase a broken parts camera fairly cheaply to practice with.

Using a UV light to kill mucus in a lens

UV, or ultraviolet lite can be a useful tool for killing mucus and bacteria. The sunday naturally emits some UV low-cal, which tin can kill mucus and mold with a week or a months’ worth of exposure. But if you desire quick results, or alive in an overwhelmingly clouded climate like the Pacific Northwest, the adjacent best solution may be to purchase a UV light.

But non all UV lights are made equal. Most commercially available UV pens don’t produce a low-enough ring of light, making them almost useless confronting bacteria and mold. The ones that really work (and are used in hospitals and other medical institutions) utilise the UVC spectrum instead of just UV.

UVC has a spectrum between 200 and 280 nanometers (nm). Simply the most common UV lights on the market typically use 365-380nm, which ways they’ll be ineffective at killing the fungus within your lens, fifty-fifty over a long catamenia of exposure.

The flashlight guy tested ane UVC lite by Fenix, which purportedly has a 280nm LED low-cal that has been shown to kill 99% of bacteria in lab tests. If it’south used close enough to the lens surface for a long enough fourth dimension (with adequate protection), information technology should be plenty to impale the fungus. But I would merely recommend rushing out to purchase one of these if the fungal infection is new.

For more information on UVC lights, take a look at this article by the CDC, where virtually of the safety and efficacy information published on UVC lights is sourced from. This commodity, published past Regency Lighting, contains a useful infographic on the different spectrums of UV calorie-free and their uses.

Information technology’due south difficult to source flashlights that emit UVC wavelengths. There are cheap lite bulbs available that shoot out 250 nm wavelengths and will fit into a regular socket, but users tin’t exist in the room when those lights are shining, or they take a chance sunburns and astringent damage to their eyes. In the end, information technology’s hard to suggest a UV light equally the all-time solution. Even if it does piece of work, the expressionless mold or fungus will nonetheless be in the lens, and some living parts may even be protected inside the guts of the camera body itself.

How to prevent mold from forming in the starting time place

The best offense confronting growing mold colonies on your equipment is defense.

Mold loves 3 things: h2o, dust, and oil from your fingerprints. Keep the lens clean and dry to forestall mold from forming in the first place.

If yous come up in from the rain, make clean your camera gear with an antiseptic wipe, and ensure it’s every bit dry every bit possible. Silica is your best friend if anything gets moisture. I personally keep a bag of silica packs, like this one from Amazon, around for this exact purpose (it’s likewise saved my cellphone on a few occasions).

Avoid touching the front and back elements of your photographic camera lenses, and make clean it promptly when you practise. That will reduce the hazard mold has to start growing on your lens in the first identify.

But the very best affair you lot can do is prepare the trouble as soon as you meet it.

If the mold is already growing, so the best thing you tin do is to stop it in its tracks by shining a UVC light through the lens. But be aware that these lights can harm your pare and eyes, and so protective glasses and habiliment should be used at all times.

Final thoughts

If yous see a camera or lens that has mold or fungus, merely pass it up. It doesn’t matter how good of a bargain the camera or lens may be. Mold or mucus is non worth the hassle. Information technology ruins image quality, significantly hurts resale value, and can even get within your other camera bodies and lenses.

All in all, it’due south not worth the hassle — unless you actually like cleaning, and want to acquire how to practice photographic camera repair on a cheaper body. And if you’d like to learn more than most film photographic camera body bug, take a expect at this article I wrote on the top 5 bug to bank check on a film camera earlier ownership it.

Have y’all always dealt with a fungus-y lens or camera? Let me know your story downward in the description beneath! Or, make a mail service virtually information technology in the Learn Film Photography official Facebook group and Instagram account — I always love hearing your stories.

By Daren

Daren is a journalist and wedding photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. He’s been taking personal and professional photos on film since 2017 and began developing and printing his own photos after wanting more control than what local labs could offer. Check out the print shop to see his latest photos.