Camera fungus problem
June 1, 2010 6:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I retard the fungal growth in my camera lens?

I've got a Sigma macro lens that has the beginnings of some kind of spiderweb fungal growth on the internal surfaces of the lens.

At the moment, I'm not seeing anything significant appearing on my photos as a result, but I'd obviously like to stop it spreading.

Any suggestions on how to kill it or get rid of it without leaving anything nastier on the lens?

Any ideas on how the fungus appeared in the first place?

Finally, is there any risk to my other lenses from this one, or should I store it separately?
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to kill the fungus (UV exposure or diluted household bleach ought to do it, but might damage plastic parts – alcohol might be the best way to go, actually) and then clean the debris. You have to be able to completely disassemble the lens in order to clean it – call the manufacturer for help with that one, or take it to a professional. If it were me, I'd write it off and consider it a lesson in proper lens storage.
posted by halogen at 6:49 AM on June 1, 2010

Apparently it's not an unusual problem for lenses built before the 80s.
posted by halogen at 6:51 AM on June 1, 2010

Lens fungus is a heartbreaker. Unless you're just looking for a project and you can take or leave this lens, don't mess with dissembling the lens yourself, would be my advice. Also, you can't just clean off fungus--its byproducts actually etch into the surface of the lens and may require a repolish.
posted by availablelight at 6:59 AM on June 1, 2010

To kill it some say to set the lens out under a strong UV light (could use sunlight, an uncoated halogen bulb or a black light or even some grow lights which emit UV).

To avoid the problem don't store your lenses in dark, warm, damp/humid conditions. If you've been using the camera out in the cold let your gear get up to room temperature before storing it away again. Wipe you gear down if there's water, dirt or other debris on it before storing it away.

This article recommends soaking the element in hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and some distilled water, though if the fungus is between cemented pairs nothing will work and, they'll have to be separated, cleaned and reassembled.

is there any risk to my other lenses from this one

Depends on your level of paranoia. I have a lens with some fungus that came to me that way, but after all these years all the other lenses are fungal free. If you want to be on the absolute safe side then, yeah store it separately.
posted by squeak at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2010

Most glass absorbs UV light to some degree, perhaps entirely, so setting your lens in UV light to kill something that's behind 1/4" of glass isn't going to work very well, from a straight-up engineering perspective. If the internet stories say it works, though, who am I to argue?
posted by aimedwander at 10:42 AM on June 1, 2010

Don't bother trying to "kill" it, and don't fret about it spreading. Lenses - everything everywhere, actually - are already covered in fungus spores, new or old. People who complain about fungus "spreading" are actually victim of poor camera care, thus their other lenses are going down due to the same conditions, but not the same fungus as their infected lenses.

Trying to dissemble a lens and then soak can be much much more trouble than it's worth, especially when the growth is between cemented pairs.

Squeek gives excellent advice. Keep it somewhere dry, dark, and not too many big temperature changes. Consider buying a bag of silicon for your camera bag. You will probably find, with good camera "hygiene", the fungus may never spread more than it has now.
posted by smoke at 5:04 PM on June 1, 2010

I live in Taipei, which is incredibly humid and conducive to lens fungus growth. Anyhow, there are several camera repair stores here which will disassemble your lens, clean out the fungus or dust, and reassemble the lens for about US$20. I'm sure there's gotta be some camera repair shop in your neck of the woods that can do the same thing albeit perhaps more expensively.

Once you get your lens cleaned up, you should buy a dry box and keep all your gear in it to prevent fungus growth from happening again.
posted by alidarbac at 7:50 PM on June 1, 2010

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