What is Lens Fungus and How to Avoid It

How to Avoid Lens Fungus

Lens fungus is one of the most common problem every photographer hates. How could we remove them from affecting our images? Huge clumping of web-like organisms in front of your lens is a common problem I think. But how could we remove it? Usually, the best move is to go to a service center and get your gears cleaned. There, your lens or camera will be opened, cleaned, and put back together. It is pretty costly I think.

First, let me introduce you with what a fungus is. What is lens fungus by the way?
Lens fungus is a type of fungus which is found on lenses or cameras. Fungus is a primitive organism.  Mushrooms, molds, and mildews are also a common examples of a fungus. But I do not know exactly in which family  the lens fungus belong. Fungus is almost everywhere as it live in air, in soil, in water, and in plants. That is why it could end up in one or all of your lenses and cameras.

It is one of my dilemma in the present. I found several fungi on two of my lenses. I panicked quite a bit because this could be the start of my photography being ruined. Because of this, I started looking for solutions in the internet. Luckily, I found several articles which I think could help me in understanding more about this as well as how to solve my problem with fungi growing in my lenses.  But what I have found could be a good find for the future. I have learned how to avoid fungus from developing inside my photography gears. Yes, I believe prevention is always better than cure.

You don’t have to panic if you find them starting to build up but you don’t have any time to ignore it.

What will fungus do to your lens?

Fungi found on cameras and lenses are diverse. There are different kinds of it. Each kind has different characteristics and effects on your gear. Some of them are just growing there and building this web-like screen clogging in the glass. This prevents light passing through the lens. It also blocks your sight from viewing what are you shooting. If it is so many in front of your lens, the sensor could not capture what you wanted it to record. Instead, it will give you a dark abstract image. If it doesn’t clogged the lens just yet, it will give you a dreamy image as if you applied a filter or a preset.

This is not yet the worst thing you could get from a lens fungus. Some fungus excretes enzymes which acts as acid and remove the coatings of your lens or maybe the fungus itself is eating the coating. It could either one of the two or both. Well, some of the articles online said one and another said the other one but I think they could be both right. If the glass coating was damaged then it is an issue. This could affect the performance of the lens. It may affect the sharpness and exposure.

These are the reasons why you should be wary if you noticed some fungus on your lens. Some might be unnoticeable but you can actually check whether your lens is becoming a garden of fungus.

How to check fungus on your lens?

Lens fungus could be easily seen in your lens. In some instance, it is not visible just yet. Did you know that there are simple ways to check whether your lens is harboring fungus?

The first step is to check the front of the lens by directing some light on it. A fungus-free lens should be clear. If there is some short thread-like object on it, bad news. Fungus might look different. Some might appear like a web, others are small dots, small strip of hair, etc. They also have different colors.

Next, you check the other end of the lens for the same indications. After that, hold your lens as if your seeing through it. Zoom in and zoom out until you think you checked enough. Always remember that it is easy to check for fungus if you direct some light on the lens and make use of different angles. This is because the change in angle, whether you move the light or the lens, provides you different look and the light will have a change in reflection through the lens.

Lens Fungus
This is one of my lens with fungus.

How to prevent fungus on lens?

As what I have said before, prevention is better than cure. If your lens does not have any fungus yet, you are quite lucky because there are ways on how to prevent fungus on your lens.

We know that fungus could be found anywhere or almost anywhere. If that is the case how could you prevent it from conquering your most precious lens? Bear in mind that fungus could be associated with moisture. A moist, dark, and warm environment is the perfect habitat for it to survive and thrive. So, eliminating at least one of these factors will prevent fungus from developing.

Eliminate at least one of the three factors

You should place your camera and lenses in a well lit area. In this way you avoid the darkness in which fungus thrives in. But do not let your equipment from direct sunlight because too much of this will damage your camera or lens.

In every photoshoot, you expose your camera and lenses to dust,  moisture, and other external factors. That is why you clean your equipment every after each shoots. Make sure you removed the moisture, dust, etc. That is a simple way of protecting your camera and lenses. However, some of trapped moisture remains even you did the cleaning thoroughly.

There are several ways on how to remove any trapped moisture. One of which is by putting your lenses or cameras into a dry box. You can buy a dehumidifier/dry box in Amazon (click here if you want to buy). Or you can make your own dry box. You can make a simple but effective dehumidifier.

DIY Dehumidifier/Dry Box

You should have a plastic box huge enough to fit in all your gears or just some of it. Make sure the box is water tight so you wont be sucking the moisture outside of the box (into the dry box). Place a foam inside to serve as cushion for your lens. Then put inside the lens, the camera, batteries, etc. Next is the vital piece of your DIY dry box, silica gels. You could find silica gels on your shoe box, your lens box, etc. Silica gels are known to absorb moisture from around it. So by placing silica gels in the dry box, you let it do its job. The principle here is to move the trapped moisture from the lens (or camera, etc.) to the silica gel. With this, you remove the moisture needed by the fungus to grow.

Does lens fungus affects image?

The effects of fungus in your images depends on the extent or on the kind of fungus present in your lens. As I have said, some fungus damage the glass coating which actually is not good for your lens. This in return will affect your image.

For a lens with shorter focal length, let me say 100 mm and below, there might be some spots present in the image. But for a longer focal length there might be no effect in the image at all. This is because you are shooting farther which cancel the fungus in the composition. On the other hand, the spots will be more evident and visible in the image if you are shooting macro. This is how I discovered that my lens has fungus. I use extension tubes with my Tamron 18-200 mm and noticed that the image has  some spots in it. So I checked my lens and found out what I fear. Some other effects of fungus in the image are a dreamy or soft image, the image might not be sharp, hazy image, out of focus, etc.

I would say that the degree of effects are different and dependent on the gravity of the situation.

How to remove fungus without opening the lens?

There is a way I discovered to be effective in removing lens fungus. Since fungi are living organisms, they could die when exposed to ultra violet or UV light. There are two ways on how you could get UV light into your lens. First, you could expose your lens in the sunlight for a couple of hours or more. But don’t get too excited. We all know that direct sunlight is harmful to the lens. So be sure not to expose your lens to direct sunlight. Another one is by letting a UV light go through your lens. There are UV lasers and gadgets that are available in the market.

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