Lens Cleaning: Keeping fog or Losing a coating?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by firecracker, May 26, 2006.

  1. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I own a Summicron 50mm lens which currently needs a cleaning job. However, I'm so worried about losing the coating of the lens by the cleaning process in order to get rid of the fog.

    I've been told by the person at the repair shop that my lens, which is old enough will likely lose the coating a bit in the cleaning process since the coating has already been slowing decaying, and there's nothing I can do about it.

    Since it's not a cheap lens, I need to have a little sanity check here: Is it normal and acceptable to take this as a choice? Or should I cancel the cleaning and stick to the lens in the corrent condition with the fog and just keep using it until the fog really starts to bother me and ruin the image quality?

    What are your experiences on making your decisions for the lens cleaning when there's obviously going to be some loss?
     
  2. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    When you clean ANY lens, with ANY method, you WILL lose "some of the coating". Anything that comes in contact with the coating, including liquids, will abrade and remove some of it. In the interest of preservation - NOT cleaning the lens , it is good advice to mount a filter on the lens - "UV" or "Skylight" or some other such "clear filter" - and leave it there. You can go crazy cleaning the filter - if you like, and just replace the filter after it is completely opaque.

    In a different life, I was a Quality Assurance Specialist in a large company producing sophisticated optical systems. We were allowed ONE method to clean lenses: Distilled water and surgical cotton -- with NO pressure. If whatever foreign material could not be removed, the lens was sent to Technicians SPECIALIZING in lens cleaning. We had one really unfortunate instance involving the use of a common pencil eraser - I've never seen anyone fired so quickly in my life.

    However, you mention "fog". What is usually seen on the outside of the lens is dust. Are you sure that "fog" is on an external lens surface? If it is internal, it is probably fungus, and your one hope is to have it disassembled, cleaned and if necessary, re-coated.... not an inexpensive task.

    Your best bet there would be to contact Schneider USA, and talk to them.
     
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
  4. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2005
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    VERY interesting. Never heard of anything like this before. Thanks, Roger.

    (I love the pic of the old ULF camera on their website. Forget where I saw that before.)
     
  5. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

    Messages:
    1,670
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    While this may be true of early coatings used in the 50's and 60's, todays coatings are very hard. However, I agree that more lenses have be ruined by overcleaning than by not cleaning them. Kodak makes a good lens clearer that is safe to use.
     
  6. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

    Messages:
    1,325
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Louisiana, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm presuming this fog is on internal lens elements.

    Does the haze inside the lens actually cause any deterioration of the image? If it does, I'd opt for a good professional technician to disassemble, clean, lube and adjust the lens right now.

    If it's not an image quality issue, I'd just keep on using the lens as is until it absolutely had to be cleaned.

    Of course, if it's fungus you had best go ahead and get it taken care of immediately.
     
  7. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    "Todays" coatings ARE much harder. Any contact will still degrade the coating, granted, to a lesser degree than before, but it is still VERY advisable NOT to clean the lens if at all possible.

    I remember one instance, where I found a Multi-coated Heliopan filter, in a "Bargain Box", complete with a price sticker ($15) smack-dab in the middle of the glass (and coating). A helpful (at least well-meaning) clerk proceeded to remove the offending sticker ... and *grind away* at the adhesive residue with a dry paper towel.

    I think it took me about an hour to un-clench my teeth.

    There is an extensive sub-market for "miracle lens cleaning tissues/ fluids". I know not what course of action others may take, but as for me ... surgical cotton, distilled water, and a nearly complete lack of pressure ... once a year, if I cannot avoid it. I consider NOTHING to be "safe".
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for your comments here. I should've been more clear on the description of the lens and its condition.

    The lens is a collapsible 50mm Summicron from the 50's, and the problem is the inside.

    The person/technician at this well-known repair shop specialized in repairing old used Leica products in Tokyo told me that there are at least a few elements that have "something." What he has so far noticed are:

    A few very thin cleaning marks from the previous service,

    little dust/dirt,

    and the decay of the coating that's peeling off,

    which make the the lens look foggy or hazy.

    The outside elements both front and rear are clean.

    And he didn't mention about any signs of the fungus, which I asked because that's what I'm concerned the most, because Japan is a country with very humid summer.

    So, basically if he does the normal cleaning on these elements, that will remove the coating a bit (or should I say, the coating will naturally come off due to its old age). He cannot do any re-coating. His shop doesn't offer that service.

    But since it's an old vintage lens, I'm not sure if the lens elements can be re-coated. Or that might change the quality drastically or something.

    So, what do you think?
     
  9. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2005
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use an old (uncoated) Tessar on my 4x5. The lack of a coating hasn't stopped me at all.

    OTOH, if it ain't broke, why fix it! You've described what the lens looks like but... what do the images look like? If none of this stuff affects the images, why not just leave well enough alone?
     
  10. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for the comment/advice. My concern is about the rapid growth of fungus in the humid environment. Naturally Japan is a country famously known for that, and many people use drying cabinets, etc to prevent anything to grow in their photo equipment.

    I know sometimes it's ovekill to think about storing the photo equipment properly, but this is not the case. It's just too chancy to leave and/or use them just like how I used to.

    So, where do I compromise when I see something inside the lens and it seems it's growing? I'm sure I need to clean it off. But will the lens cleaning leave any spots on the coating(s)? Are the spots going to be very visible/noticable? How much do they affect the images in both B&W and color? Will I be able to see them that in the enlargements like 16x20"?

    The last time I used that Summicron lens was a while ago, and because now I live in a different place with different light, and using different enlarging equipment for my photos, I cannot really compare the results so critically.
     
  11. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2005
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You said you asked about fungus and the tech "didn't mention" any. Could you be a little more specific? Do you mean s/he evaded or ignored your question, or s/he said there were no signs of fungus? Also, if the tech couldn't reassure you, maybe a second opinion would?

    Seems to me, if there are no signs of fungus, and your concern is fungus, you might want to keep a supply of a desiccant in your kit.
     
  12. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Not the cheapest method but call Schneider usa. Tell them you are sending them the lens for inspection. Tell them you wish to be instructed on the best way to proceed and what your options are.
     
  13. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,135
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Claire, the Summicron the original poster asked about is a Leitz lens. Wouldn't it be better to send the lens to Leica than to Schneider?
     
  14. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Schneider USA is the USA distributor fot Leica.
     
  15. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,135
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for the explanation.
     
  16. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm

    When the tech guy at the made an estimate based on his check-up. He said he didn't see any fungus. What he found was the decay of the coating among some dust and dirt that's making the (slight) fog and haze.

    The tech guy has told me that the decay of the coating will proceed over time, and that will make the lens less clear and affect the images more if it's already affecting, but I don't know because I have nothingt to compare to right now.

    And if the condition of the lens is like this today compared to, let's say 6, 7 years ago when I first got it, yes, maybe 95 percent of a chance it will grow more and get worse.

    But the particles of some kind of fungus/fungi that are not visible at this stage could be expected all the time, which is what I hear from other camera users in this country. People usually indentify fungus/fungi when it is/they are big enough to be growing like snow flakes or spider webs. But that's already too late.

    The last time the lens went to the service, but that wasn't for lens cleaning, so some inside elements have not been touched for a long long time. That's the only reason for me think it's time for me to get the lens cleaned by the professionals.

    I'm still debating, but I will have to answer to the tech guy today. Based on what I've read here, I'll be more confident to make my decision for sure. I'm likely to ask him to do the job.

    Thanks again.
     
  17. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Never thought of that as an option. Thanks. I'll try the next time since this cleaning job could be done over here (Japan). If it requires much more serious overhaul (severe damage on the optics, etc), I'll definitely contact them.

    But what happened Leica U.S.A. in New Jersey? Is it still around doing any service? If you have read my earlier post, I will not choose it again, but I still wonder if it's still doing the repairs for the Leica cameras and lenses...
     
  18. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Dan, thanks for your post(s). I guess things are changing so fast in the film camera/lens business world. I didin't know about the Leica distribution by Schneider, either.
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have to give you the update. Well, the funny thing is that when I called back and told the tech guy to do the cleaning, he had already been in the mood to not do it. So, by the end of the conversation, I was almost convinced that I was not going to be his customer at all and told him to just send me back the lens without any service.

    Maybe I asked too many questions, but that was needed. And now I have some time to do more research and use the lens in the meantime. :smile:
     
  21. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I can state with certainty that it would haveb been better for Claire not to have assumed the question was from a poster in the continental USA.
     
  22. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have to add that the last week and this week are for big cleaning for my camera gears. I have another lens (Canon) already in the shop, but that's already in the process of cleaning. Also, I have one more lens (Nikon) I have to send out. But these Japanese brands don't really give me a headache like the Leica one did because there are plenty of places that do satisfying jobs.
     
  23. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,135
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hmm. Might have been an honest tech. Ages ago I had the late Steve Grimes make a mount adapter for one of my process lenses. The lens in question had a little internal schmutz, so I asked Steve how much cleaning it would cost. He told me not to be so damned neurotic, explained that the lens wasn't in poor enough condition to warrant the trouble and expense. And it fact it shot quite well.

    On another topic, your tale of coatings that deteriorate spontaneously strikes me as very odd. Especially for fairly modern hard coatings. I have a couple of lenses whose external surfaces are just horrible, but all of them are pretty clean internally and its clear that something corrosive had got to them or that they'd been cleaned with sandpaper.
     
  24. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Right. That part of the question is still not solved. So I have to get more opinions from other tech people from other repair shops hopefully in the next 6 months or so.

    I believe the tech guy at the shop did all he could do and was 100 percent honest with me, which was very nice. I bet his service would probably leave no doubts for other customers with a similar issue as mine.

    Anyhow his explanation as well as your comments here have given me sort of a great relief for now.