Is Cigarette Smoke Damaging to Cameras?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I bought a Nikon N90s that seems to be in nice shape, except it stinks of cigarette smoke. Out of the packaging, the stink was obvious, but I have managed to lessen it with some cleaning. The cleaning has been more effective on the exterior, as I can do only so much with the interior, but I have at least lessened the smell on the inside, too. In any case, is cigarette smoke damaging to cameras? I have some time left to return the camera, if necessary.

    Also, does anyone have any further advice on cleaning? I have used mostly alcohol and vinegar thus far.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2012
  2. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    It's not good for cameras that's for sure. It contains a number of very sticky chemicals that will coat electronics, AF sensors, exposure meters, optics, etc. And it will ALWAYS smell like an ash tray. With the abundance of affordable N90s cameras in the world, I'd return it for a cleaner copy.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Sticky tar residue can't possibly be good for the camera. I think, more important question would be, can you stand the smell of tobacco every time you use your camera? I can't.
     
  4. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    Good points--thanks.
     
  5. BobD

    BobD Member

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    Yes. If it is a German camera it causes Limburger's Syndrome, a rare disease which reduces the camera's value by at least half.

    But, in your case, it is a Japanese camera which is, sadly, much worse. The cigarette smoke causes reverse-bokeh astigmatism which results in the images it takes to all have sharp backgrounds, thus rendering the camera useless to all hipster photographers.
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I lived in a bar from the time I was born till the time I went away to college. The whole place was always filled with smoke. You could wet a napkin and wipe the stuff off the walls. It would come off dark brown.

    Although smoke can degrade paper, fabric or wood it never seemed to do permanent damage to hard surfaces. Yes, it makes things gummy, dirty and smelly but it could always be cleaned off with enough work.

    AFAIC, that's the problem... the work. The smoke and the resin will cloud optics and gum up mechanisms requiring a lot of work to keep them clean, clear and working correctly. The smell and the look add insult to injury.

    Windex has always done well at cleaning off smoke. You're going to want something more than just alcohol. I think you'll want some kind of detergent in the mix.

    Every year or so, we had to clean the walls in the bar. We did it with Murphy's Oil Soap, a bucket of water and a rag.
    After only a small section of cleaning, the water would be nearly black!

    I would say to use Windex for exterior (non-critical) surfaces.
    Use lens cleaner for the optics like normal. Just be more meticulous.
    For interior areas, alcohol will work.
    For film-bearing surfaces, trichlorethane or denatured alcohol. (Keep away from plastic! These things could melt or craze plastic!)

    That's, pretty much, how we clean movie projectors.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2012
  7. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    This might be a little unorthodox, but it's worked for me. Take off the lens, the back, and anything else that comes off like the battery cover, even the focus screen; then leave the camera to air out for a while, preferably in the sun (that's the unorthodox part... usual advice is to keep our cameras out of the sun!). I would not advise leaving it in the sun for a long time, or letting the sun strike the viewfinder directly... but instead do this in short stretches repeated a few times, maybe an hour a day? The ultraviolet light should break down some of the organic compounds causing the odor. It also helps kill mildew ... I've done this to fungus-affected lenses with some success and also my Yashica Lynx 5000e which stank of smoke and mold when I bought it, but is fine now. Of course it's a metal camera and the N90 has a lot of plastic, so be careful.
     
  8. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Personally I'd return it. Though if you decide to keep it get some Frebreze at any Target, Walmart or similar. In the air freshener dept. Spray some lightly on a cloth and wipe away. Very good odor eliminator. I bought a grey Contax T2 off eBay from a Japanese seller. It was in fine working order but obviously had been in a fire or near one. The camera was not damaged in any way I can see but reeked severely of bad stale house-fire smoke smell. A few sessions of careful Febreze cleaning/wiping eliminated the smell. I also got a camera bag used once from someone on a forum. Great price but obviously from a smoker. Same thing. Febreze took care of the smell.
     
  9. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I decided to return the "smoky" N90s. I did enough to try to de-smoke-ify it, and did not want to take the chance of having a problem. The KEH rep. said that they do not factor in "smell" as part of their evaluation and grading. I replied that they should, as smoke can be damaging to electronics...and some people are allergic to smoke.
     
  10. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    A "smoky" camera? How very strange. Can you imagine how he/she used it: light smoke, grip it in corner of mouth, raise camera, puff, puff, puff... eugh—! Don't know about others, but if I could smell cigarette smoke on a camera, it would be immediately ruled out, along with the place I was dealing with, which should have higher standards of respect for the public.
     
  11. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    What ever happened to the days of a brassed nikon F and some camel non filters or a Cuban. web_Z7S2131.JPG
     
  12. DesertNate

    DesertNate Member

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    Smoking while you shoot adds atmosphere to your photos, atmosphere which is usually invisible if you don't smoke.
     
  13. DesertNate

    DesertNate Member

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    Smoking adds atmosphere to your photos, atmosphere which is usually invisible if you don't smoke.
     
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  15. DesertNate

    DesertNate Member

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    Cigarette smoke

    I should add also that since your photos might get more valuable after you die, smoking dramatically increases the appreciation rate of your art.
     
  16. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Those days are gone. The Camel/El Ropo smokers all died of emphysema and mouth cancer, and we are buying up their cameras at bargain prices.:smile:
     
  17. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    I bought a eos1-n off ebay several years back that was a smoker's camera/ashtray. The seller forgot to mention it. As of recently, it no longer smells but the shutter has failed so it's time to remove the lens and use it as a proper ashtray.
    Keh has a ton of gear listed as "sticky" by the way.
     
  18. PentaxBronica

    PentaxBronica Member

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    I've had one or two cameras from ebay which reeked of tobacco. They do stop smelling after a while though!

    I found that cleaning the body (pay special attention to the leatherette wrapping as dust and dirt congregates in the crinkles) with a glasses wipe before replacing the light seals helped, after which I left the camera with the back open in an empty room for a few days. It did have a bit of trouble with the film speed/exposure compensation dial which led it to underexpose by two stops most of the time, but a few drops of computer monitor cleaning spray into the relevant potentiometer followed by turning it back and forth solved that one.

    Remember, smells are particle based. The reek of tobacco comes from the soot landing in the nooks and crannies of the camera. The smell doesn't transfer to the camera and will go when you clean it.
     
  19. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I thank all here for the thoughtful responses.

    I, too, was puzzled by KEH selling me this camera. It was in one of their higher condition grades, too.
     
  20. Double Negative

    Double Negative Member

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    It can be, if exposed to enough of it. Though mostly in the form of a film (deposit). Perhaps most troubling on optical surfaces (e.g. viewfinder, mirror, etc.). Most of the time it's just on the outside though. I prefer to use a product called "Endust Electronics Cleaner" which comes in a spray can, and can be applied to a soft microfiber cloth to clean the camera. Doesn't leave it feeling greasy, dispels static and dust and smells decent. It's not necessarily easy to find, but is located near furniture cleaning products in your local grocery store.
     
  21. cyberjunkie

    cyberjunkie Member

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    I am petrified...
    Tobacco smoking habit is a perfect example of how easy it is, to brainwash an (almost) entire population, within the short time span of a single generation.
    Not so long ago, you had Hollywood movies, with all the actors puffing like locomotives!
    Right now, some tobacco smell is enough to disqualify a camera as being a first grade choice.
    There must be something that evades my understanding capabilities. Maybe my 54 years old brain cells are too gummed up by my long tem smoking habit, to be up to the task anymore.
    Nevertheless, i think i can still remember many non-smokers using my cameras at length, with full satisfaction, and without complaining about the stink.
    Letting the health-related problems aside (the killer combination is tobacco PLUS fatty, high-colesterol, junk food), i still remember the days, when ordinary non-smoking people didn't feel any disgust, if exposed to a smoky environment. Only a small minority found it unbearable, probably because they were allergic to one of the myriad of volatile substances, produced by a burning cigarette.
    There must be something cultural, involved in this change of perception... i just marvel at how sudden that change has been. Usually behavioral changes take a lot more time.

    Many great photographers were heavy smokers, and that habit didn't affect their pictures, or cause any major problems to the tools they used.
    If you keep your front lens capped, when not in use, it's just a problem with the exterior of the camera - usually a leatherette in need of a good cleaning. There are even some products meant to remove the odour.
    BTW, if you don't use the front lens as an ashtray, it should be perfectly cleanable.
    I found that all greasy residues (plus most fungal growth) are treated with very good results, using ROR (Residual Oil Remover) lens cleaner.

    We are in a photographic forum, so i am going to spare you any sociological consideration... just a small question:
    why all the following "inventions" originated in the USA?
    - drug prohibitionism (early 1900)
    - alcohol prohibitionism
    - the so called "war on drugs" in Central and South America
    - present not-so-subtle criminalization of tobacco smoking (while poisonous food is still actively promoted)
    I don't have a single answer, but i think that asking yourself a couple of questions, every now and then, could even help in understanding if a problem with the odour of a camera has to do more with your own senses, or with the cultural boundaries we accept as a revealed truth.
    Of course, everyone would find his own personal answer.

    have fun

    CJ


    Sent from my Android tablet
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2012
  22. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    I always set my cigar down when using my camera. Inevitably I'll burn myself or the camera if I don't.
     
  23. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Just don't set it on the camera...
     
  24. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    none of my cameras smoke.
     
  25. Double Negative

    Double Negative Member

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    Drinking is far more dangerous. :tongue:
     
  26. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I gave up reading non-serious answers. The truth is that the smoke particulates are rater sharp jagged hard ash which can coat the lens with a light film reducing sharpness and contrast. This can be removed, but if your "scrubbing" is too harsh the small hard particles can cause small scratches in the coating which is permanent.

    Since your camera is closed and sealed, the only effect would take place when changing lenses or film.

    The chemicals in the smoke are harmless to film but deadly to people.

    PE