Humidity, Fungus & Cameras. How to care for your camera equipment in high humidity conditions

Solutions for Humidity and Fungus Problems with your Camera Equipment

Camera equipment is sensitive to moisture and dust. High levels of humidity (typically over 65-85% or over) could damage your lenses and certain parts of your camera body, by allowing fungus to grow and spread on the surface.

Here’s How to Stop Fungus Growth in Cameras:

  1. Store your camera equipment in an air-tight container with some means to keep the relative humidity around 45%.
  2. Make sure you use your camera and lenses frequently. Exposure to light and UV rays prevents fungus growth.

Here are some general camera maintenance tips – keep your equipment safe.

Where Does Fungus Grow on Cameras, and How Can it Affect My Lenses?

Fungus typically grows in-between lens elements and under the lens element’s non-reflective coating. Once it starts growing, it is difficult to get rid of, and causes soft spots in your photographs. It is like having a fingerprint smudge on your lens that blurs the image.

Removal of fungus is painstaking and can only be done by a professional. The lens will never be the same again. This is one case in which the prevention is better than any cure.

Why High Humidity is Bad for Your Equipment

Fungus or Mould thrives in dark, humid places where there is little or no movement of air (sounds familiar? look at where you store your camera equipment). Very often camera equipment ends up in drawers, cupboards, or basements; all of which are dubious places to store them.

Remember that keeping your camera in storage for too long is also a recipe for fungal (and mechanical) disaster. Lenses and cameras need to be kept in use and exposed to light and fresh air from time to time.

A camera or lens that is used well, and stored correctly is most likely to see many years of successful photography.

– Beyond Photo Tips

What is the Ideal Camera Storage Humidity Range?

Lenses and camera equipment are optimally stored at a relative humidity (RH) of around 35% to 45%. A good rule of thumb to figure the optimal RH to store your equipment at is to look at its optimal operating humidity-range and halve that number. For example, the Canon EOS 5D MK III’s operating humidity range is 85% RH or lower, so a good indicative range to store the camera would be between 35% and 45% RH.

Why Very Low Humidity is Bad for Cameras

If high humidity is bad, wouldn’t it be better to store your camera and lenses at ultra-low humidity levels? No. Ultra-low RH levels are also not good for your equipment.

All camera lenses and bodies have a number of moving parts – gears, sliding thingies, and rolling thingies – and they’re all lubricated with a special light machine-oil. Maintaining a very low RH could dry up that oil quicker than usual, making these parts wear out sooner, requiring you to have them repaired. I also think that the rubber on the camera tends to harden quicker in very dry air.

High Humidity can be bad for cameras
Photo: dawn_perry

Solutions that Prevent Fungus Growth

So what’s the solution? The cheapest option is to use your camera as frequently as possible. The exposure to light – especially UV light – kills the fungus. While this is not a problem for active enthusiasts, those who store their cameras for any length of time may need an alternative.

Option 1 – Sunlight / UV Radiation

Put your camera out in the sun from time to time. Remove the lens (or you could end up with a hole burnt in your shutter or some other part), filter, body, etc, and put them all out in sunlight for a while. If you manage to work this into your monthly camera care routine, you should be fine.

You could also try what some photographers do: use a High Power UV lamp in their storage area. Why? Because prolonged exposure to UV (Ultra-Violet) radiation kills or retards fungal growth, but also degrades rubber. Do remember to take your UV filters off if you decide to try this method out, because they are designed to keep UV rays out of your lenses. The lens coating blocks UV light too, to an extent.

Ok, so you’re exposing it to light on a regular basis, but what if you live in a region that is perpetually humid? See alternative 2 for an answer.

Option 2 – Use Desiccants or Humidity Control

As always, there are cheap options and expensive options. In either case, you’ll most likely need a Hygrometer so that you know what the relative humidity is at any given time.

1. Dry Cabinet for Cameras – Expensive

A Camera Dry Cabinet or Dry Box will let you keep your camera equipment in the ideal humidity range through the year, no matter the outside humidity. They’re usually electronically controlled and look like mini glass-fronted refrigerators with cameras stored in them. Lit well, these boxes can look very classy, and can keep your expensive equipment perfectly safe for years. Just look at these options on Amazon, they look positively delicious.

These boxes usually have fine-grained controls to set the relative humidity to exactly the level that you want. They also have built in Hygrometers, but I’d suggest getting your own to monitor the actual interior status.

2. Silica Gel – Cheaper

Silica-Gel is the cheap way out. It is a desiccant (something that dehumidifies the air in the vicinity of your camera equipment).

You can buy Silica Gel either as crystals, or as tiny spheres. Most often you find them in porous sachets so that they don’t disperse among your equipment. If you decide to go with Silica Gel for your cabinet, remember that you should get the indicative variety. The crystals of Silica gel are blue coloured when they’re fully absorbent, white-ish when they’re partially full of moisture, and pink when they’re fully saturated with moisture and can not absorb any more. You can Recharge your Silica Gel at this point. Please read my in-depth article about recharging silica gel for more information.

In fact, keeping the silica gel in the camera storage beyond its saturation point can see some of the moisture escaping back into the atmosphere.

You’ll need a container like the Dry Storage Silica Gel Dehumidifier (Link to Amazon) to store it, yet create enough airflow through the crystals. You’ll also generally need lots of silica gel (link to buy on Amazon). But remember that it lasts a long time, and needs no further investment.

Again, remember that keeping fully-saturated silica gel in your camera storage could do you more harm than good by actually releasing more moisture into your camera storage area, so monitor its condition and recondition your Silica Gel as needed.

3. Room Dehumidifiers & Air-conditioners – Expensive

Full-room De-Humidifiers use mechanical means to reduce the relative humidity of the air. You may have seen some dehumidifiers on shopping websites already if you live in a humid area. However, you should remember that a small, or low-powered dehumidifier will most likely not help you achieve the result that you’re looking for.

De-Humidifiers are usually quite effective and can reduce the time you spend on modifying your camera’s environment, but they tend to draw significant amounts of electricity as they’re trying to dry out an entire room, not just a small box.

Air conditioners are useful if you live in region that is both hot and humid. You’ll benefit from the cool air too, but of course, running it all the time is probably not practical or healthy.

Your Air Conditioner will reduce the ambient humidity to a level that should be safe for your camera equipment. This is because Air Conditioners dehumidify as they chill the air, leaving a comfortable storage humidity for lenses and cameras.

No matter which solution you end up going with, you should get a hygrometer to monitor the air quality around your camera equipment.

Summary

To wrap up, remember that the best maintenance / fungus prevention plan for your camera and lens is to use it often. Regular use keeps the lenses and camera body aerated and exposed to sunlight, thus killing any fungus.

If you don’t use your camera often, make sure that it is stored in a well-ventilated area with an ambient humidity range of 35%-45% RH. Also, remember to take it out often and expose it to sunlight.

If you live in a humid part of the world, you could try one of the other three options mentioned above – Chemical Desiccants, Camera Dry Cabinets, or full-room De-Humidifiers.

If you have had experience with fungus and humidity affecting your camera equipment and have found an alternate solution to those mentioned above, please do leave a comment so that our readers may benefit from your experience.

My personal favourite is the dedicated camera dehumidifying cabinet for its ease of use, low power requirement and aesthetics. What’s yours?

Featured Photo: ~jjjohn~

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37 thoughts on “Solutions for Humidity and Fungus Problems with your Camera Equipment”

  1. I wound up with a colony of mold on a Nikon NC filter. Didn’t affect the lens the filter was on. Ordered another NC filter – problem solved, but what to do with the challenge, namely, the fungus-infected filter?

    Lens cleaning solution was ineffective. (I knew it would be, but I had to try … )

    Next brainstorm: a few moth crystals (naphtha) and the filter in a sealed glass jar. Over a period of several days, the mold spots are shrinking, and some have disappeared entirely. A cure? Temporary or permanent? Time will tell.

    Anyone else try this remedy?

    Reply
  2. This is a very interesting article although I knew certain things I still had doubt about them. This article made it clear for me. I live in Malta and our Humidity is exaggerated…

    recently I took my Canon 350D to a service technician to remove what I thought it was only dirt… He ended up telling me I was infested by Fungus growing all up inside and risking of eating my mirrors.

    I don’t use my camera very often and I used to seal it in my bag cause I thought it would be protected. I’m trying to get rid of this fungus… in two cheap ways as described in this article… Stuffing my Bag with packets of Silica gel and leaving my gear outside in the sun.

    But I’m still asking some questions as I still a noob on such matters:
    -When leaving the camera in the sun do you take off the caps leaving the sensor & lenses unshielded? as I removed the UV filters and the lens from the body but not the caps.

    Reply
    • Ivan,

      thank you for stopping by. While leaving your camera out in the sun, do remember two things.

      Read your camera’s instruction manual. It tells you what you can/should do and can/should not do.
      Your camera is affected by heat just as it is affected by humidity and dust. Remember that leaving it out in the sun for long periods of time will spoil it. My suggestion is to use it often, and just expose the insides to the sun by removing the lens for not more than a couple of minutes at a time.
      Exposing your sensor to the sun is surely a bad thing. Don’t try it.
      When exposing your lenses to sunlight, remember the same guidelines. And do remove the lens caps at both ends for a short while
      Remember to keep your camera dust-free by doing this indoors, or in a place with minimal/no breeze. Breeze typically carries dust.

      Above all, remember to use your camera frequently. That’s the best medicine… It’ll teach you to love your equipment, and to treat it with care. It will also hopefully reward you with beautiful memories and a wonderful hobby.

      Reply
  3. Hi,Susheel. I have read your articles and it is very helpful for me. But, I wonder if you could give me additional tips because I am living in tropical country. And I invite you to visit my blog at (bad link). Your advice is highly appreciated since i’m still an amateur.Success be with you!

    Reply
  4. Hi there…,

    Wow that was some great advice there really appreciate the effort i too did learn alot abt storing my camera…!!

    I just wanna know is that is it ok for me to leave the camera with the lens on or remove it and store them separately…. in da dry cabinet i have a 40L dry cabinet and i had the RH at around 30% then now i got it to maintain at 40% its fine rite…

    Regards

    Reply
  5. Hi Shirantha Rajapakse,

    Thanks for the feedback. Personally, I don’t think that there’s much of a difference. However, it may be that the air inside the camera body and at the rear of the lens may be better dehumidified if they are stored separately.

    However, I doubt that this is of much importance, and that it will not make much of a difference practically. So, go ahead, store them as you prefer.

    Reply
  6. Susheel Chandradhas,

    Thanks for you article, this really help. Now I know how to take care my lenses. I just send one of my lenses, Nikkor 18-200 VRII for service due to fungus containminated inside the lens. It’s really hurt me. one question, can I store the effected lenses with the good ones ?

    rgds
    Ricky

    Reply
    • Ricky,

      This is a great question, but one that I don’t have a definitive answer to. All the evidence goes towards it being OK if you store them together, as long as the humidity is under control and you use the lenses, and expose them to UV light on a regular basis, however, only time will tell for sure. If you’re uncomfortable with storing them together, identify a nice dry spot, that’s not dark, and place the affected lens there, away from your good lenses. I’m sure you won’t regret that. In the short term if carrying lenses together in a camera bag, I don’t think you’ll have trouble. So go ahead and do it; but remember to use your silicagel sachets.

      All the best.

      Reply
  7. Some great suggestions and practical advice, thanks.

    Here is a trick that worked for me when I needed to store my gear for a long period. I cleaned it all up in a really cold air-conditioned room and then glad-wrapped everything and left it lying around while the room temperature was gradually brought back to ambient over a few hours to avoid condensation. Worked really well, lenses and bodies all free from fungus after almost 5 years of storage, when I re-opened them.

    Reply
  8. Hi Sir Susheel Chandradhas,

    thanks for the article above, it’s helpful! I just wanted to ask about my electronic moisture absorber or auto silica gel electronic recycled device, i read some articles about it and i read there that it dries moisture even the lubricant or light machine oil, is it true? All my gears are in my lowepro bag with silica gels and the device, is this safe? thanks alot sir. i’m from the philippines!

    regards.
    Raisin

    Reply
    • Hi Raisin,

      Yes, it is true that lowering the humidity level a great deal can dry out the lubricant oil in the camera. Which is why we recommend that you keep a tab on the humidity levels using a hygrometer (follow the link in the article to find some good ones). I use a hygrometer to ensure that the camera equipment stays around 45-55%RH.

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  9. Fungus? This is what I do. Insert lense into a condom (not a joke). Squeeze out the air that traps between the lense body and the condom wall and tie a knot at the open end. No air no fungus. Use of a vacum container will extract the air that is contained inside the lense body and once the container is opened, humid air from the open will sneak back into the lense and will cause fungus growth inside the lense. Use a big baloon for a big SLR body. Indoor or outdoor, the equipment is protected from fungus. Don’t untie the condom at once, if it is taken out from an aircon room to outdoor. Wait for 15 minutes, atleast. Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Thanks a lot ! I didn’t know that this could happen ,it’s
    my first DSLR, do you know if Canon will clean/repair under
    guarantee ? (camera has less than 1 year) I feel a bit upset that
    it happens with this expensvie camera when it never happened with
    cheaper ones ! Can we clean it at home or really need a shop ?
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi! Well, it’s not really a fault in the manufacturing, so it won’t be covered under warranty. You should be able to get fungus that is on the top element with regular cleaning, but you’ll have to go to a shop if the fungus is in one of the inner lens elements.

      Hope you manage to get it cleaned without trouble.

      Reply
  11. I have what looks like some form of crystal mould on my camera body, possibly from silica gel packets, which surrouded it. The camera was stored in a cupboard for quite a few years without being used or seeing the light, I’m ashamed to say.
    Any ideas how I clean the mould off?

    Reply
  12. Thank you for this insightful article. Just one question though: i recently came up with a homemade dry box (tnx to some diy vids in youtube) but i am not confident on its functionality. I purchased a cheap hygrometer to find out if its rh is good enough, and it yielded a 17% result. Assuming the reading is accurate, would this be considered too low, and therefore, is not recommended for use? Thanks and hoping to hear from you.

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,

      I think anything over 20% is pretty decent, but as mentioned, it’s usually the zone around 35% to 45% that’s the sweet spot. That said, don’t worry about it too much. Use your equipment often. Have fun with it, and don’t store it away for too long. Things should be fine. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Hi Susheel.
    I wonder if rice could be used to reduce the amount of moisture in the air surrounding the equipment. I have seen it used successfully on water damaged phones etc.

    Reply
    • Hi Mick,

      You probably could use rice; I don’t have any proof either way. But tell me, why would you put organic material into your camera’s storage area that could promote fungus growth by itself? Silica Gel is much more efficient, and since it’s inorganic, is definitely a safer option. You’ve spent a lot of money on your camera, don’t leave the rest to chance. Silica Gel is inorganic, safe, and can be reused multiple times. I definitely suggest using Silica Gel over rice.

      Reply
  14. Referring to: … to figure the optimal RH to store your equipment at is to look at its optimal operating humidity-range and halve that number. For example, the Canon EOS 5D MK III’s operating humidity range is 85% RH or lower, so a good indicative range to store the camera would be between 35% and 45% RH.

    Do you in this example divide 85% by 2?, How do you derive lower and upper limits?

    Do we really need know a camera operating humidity because quite commonly recommended range of 35-45% has known to damage selected equipment?

    Reply
    • Hi Kelvin,

      Yes, I did divide 85% by 2. There is no real hard and fast rule for the upper and lower limits. But I’ve seen similar humidity ranges mentioned on some camera manufacturer websites… A quick google search turns up this reference: https://www.sony.com.sg/electronics/support/articles/00160168 where they mention “between 40 and 50% RH”.

      Could you help us all out by sharing the resources that show 35-45% to have damaged equipment. I’ll look too…

      I do know it’s possible for it to happen, so showing concrete examples of when not to use that low a RH range would help explain correct usage.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your note. Much appreciated.

      Reply

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