Camera equipment is sensitive to moisture and dust. When it comes to humidity, sustained high levels of humidity – typically over 65-85% or more – could damage your lenses and certain parts of your camera body. High humidity allows fungal spores to grow and spread on camera lenses, damaging them permanently.
Here are some steps that you can take to make sure that your camera equipment is always stored in a humidity-controlled environment. This will not allow any fungus growth. Let’s take a look at them.
How to Stop Fungus Growth in Cameras:
- Store your camera equipment in an air-tight container.
- Use Silica Gel or other desiccating material to keep the relative humidity around 45%.
- Make sure you use your camera and lenses frequently. Exposure to light and UV rays prevents fungus growth, and frequent usage prevents rubber parts from degrading.
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. You’ll notice that it causes soft spots in your photographs. It’s like having a fingerprint smudge on your lens that blurs the image.
Removing fungus from a lens is painstaking, and can only be done by a professional. The lens will never be the same again. This is one case in which prevention is better than any cure.
Why is High Humidity Bad for Your Equipment?
Fungus or Mold thrives when it is in a dark, humid place with little airflow. Very often camera equipment ends up in drawers, cupboards, or basements; all of which are dubious places to store them.
Keeping your camera in storage for too long is a recipe for disaster. Lenses and cameras need to be kept in use and exposed to light and fresh air from time to time.
High Humidity also accelerates the degradation of rubber parts on a camera’s body.
A camera or lens that is used well, and stored correctly is most likely to see many years of successful photography.– Beyond Photo Tips
At What Humidity Should I Store My Equipment?
Lenses and camera equipment are optimally stored at a relative humidity (RH) of around 35% to 45%.
Rule of Thumb: To calculate the optimal Storage RH for your equipment, look at its optimal operating humidity range and then 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.
Is Low Humidity 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 oil that lubricates your camera quicker than usual, making these parts wear out sooner, requiring you to have them repaired.
Low relative humidity also affects rubber parts on the camera and lens. Rubber is affected by low humidity and can start cracking if it is not used often.
How to Prevent Fungal Growth
Fungal spores are sensitive to UV light and need humidity to grow. If they are taken out of their ideal environment, they don’t grow.
So what’s the solution? The cheapest option is to use your camera as frequently as possible and to keep it in an airtight humidity-controlled storage container when it’s not being used.
Exposure to UV light kills the fungus, but for photography enthusiasts, the humidity-controlled storage option is the best option.
1. Exposure to Sunlight or UV Light
Using your camera in sunlight from time to time exposes it to UV light. However, you should not leave your camera in the sunlight unattended as it could be seriously damaged. Prolonged UV exposure also degrades rubber.
Ok, so you’re going to use your camera on a regular basis, but what if you live in a region that is perpetually humid?
2. Humidity Control Cabinets, or Using Dessicants
As always, there are cheap and expensive options available to solve your problems. In either case, you’ll most likely need a Hygrometer so that you know what the relative humidity is at any given time.
i. Dry Cabinet for Cameras – Best Option
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 humidity outside. They are usually electronically controlled and look like mini glass-fronted refrigerators with cameras stored in them.
These boxes usually have fine controls to set the relative humidity to the exact level that you want. They also have built-in Hygrometers. However, having one to monitor the actual interior status is probably a good idea.
ii. Silica Gel –
Indicating Silica-Gel is a cheap way to remove humidity from the air. It is a desiccant (something that dehumidifies the air in its vicinity).
These crystals of Silica gel are either orange or blue colored when they’re fully absorbent and green or pink when they’re fully saturated with moisture and can not absorb any more.
You can Recharge your Silica Gel when they are fully saturated with moisture. Please read my in-depth article about recharging Silica Gel for more information. Keeping the silica gel in the camera storage beyond its saturation point can make some of the moisture escape back into the atmosphere, so be sure to recharge it often.
iii. Room Dehumidifiers & Air-conditioners – Expensive & Unnecessary
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.
Air conditioners are useful if you live in a 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 reduce the ability of the air to hold humidity in it, as they chill the air.
No matter which solution you choose, you should get a hygrometer to monitor the air quality around your camera equipment.
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, killing any fungus spores before they make their way inside the lens.
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 at regular intervals for some sunlight exposure.
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.
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Published: October 19, 2008 | Last Updated: December 16, 2021