Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ask Clane - Camera Batteries and Lens Storage

Hi Clane,
A couple of housekeeping questions. I read that it’s a good idea to take the battery out of the camera when I’m not using it for long periods of time. Should I also take the lens off when I’m not using it? Or can I keep the camera in the case with the lens attached?

Any other tips of the trade you can think of to keep the camera in tip top condition?

-- Betsy

Hi Betsy, thanks for the question.

Re: battery. All digital cameras these days have lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Li-ion batteries have no memory effect, as was common in ni-cad rechargeable batteries. Memory effect causes batteries to hold less charge over time if they are not completely discharged in between charges. The reason many people recommend that you pull the battery out of the camera in between uses and over long periods of time is simply because the battery will slowly discharge if left in. There is no effect on the overall life of the battery if you leave it in. Personally, I always leave the battery in my camera unless the charge is low. When charging li-ion batteries, be sure to not leave them on the charger overnight. Leaving li-ion batteries on the charger for a long time after they are fully charged will cause them to burn out much sooner. This is the case with camera batteries, cell phone batteries, laptop batteries, etc. If you leave it plugged in all the time your device will get significantly less run time out of the battery in just a few months. Thus, charge it during the day so you can take it off of the charger when it's fully charged, and it doesn't really matter if you leave it in the camera.

Re: lens. The only time that the sensor of the camera is exposed to dust is when you're switching the lens. Even with advanced dust-reducing technology in many new camera bodies (such as your Rebel XSi), taking the lens off and on all the time in between uses will allow more dust into the body of the camera. I highly recommend leaving the lens on the body all the time unless you are switching lenses.

Re: other tips? These cameras are very durable. I've beat the crap out of my cameras and they still work like new. They don't need to be 'babied', in fact, the way to get the best photos is to not be afraid of damaging it. I've dropped my camera many times, taken them into the desert, underwater, exposed them to extreme temperatures, rain, fog, etc and the bodies are fairly tolerant to abuse. The lenses are a bit more sensitive, but most L lenses are weather-sealed and are more durable than standard "non-L" lenses. I've destroyed the 17-85mm EF-S lens by taking it into a slot canyon in Arizona and dropping it in sand, but in general Canon cameras are extremely durable.

I've put well over 100,000 actuations on my camera, and I expect it will last at least 100,000 more. The best thing to do is to buy a small lens-cleaning kit (should be $10 or less) and keeping your equipment clean. DON'T buy those canned air blowers and use them on the back of the lens, EVER. If you do use canned air, use it on the front lens element ONLY. In general, the best way to get the most out of your camera is to know how it works! Read the manual, and if you're not down with that I'll be teaching a class in the next month or two. So get out there and don't be afraid to use your camera to it's fullest!

Email your photography questions to me: clane {at} clanegessel {dot} com