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After you’ve bought a new camera lens you’ll have to overcome your initial excitement of upgrading your setup and take the time to properly inspect it to ensure that it’s all working correctly and has no manufacturing faults.
Of course, you’ll want to get straight out there and start working on your projects but before you do so there’s a few things that you need to do first; so write down a quick checklist and work through it every time you get hold of a new lens. The following are things you should do once you get a new lens:
Carefully Inspect The Lens.
Generally speaking, you will probably have bought a new lens but even so it’s essential to inspect the lens properly; however, if you’ve bought a second hand lens then it’s doubly important. You always need to inspect your newly acquired lens in a methodical and systematic manner.
Firstly, check the lens mount – this is what you use to attach the lens to your camera. Look to see if it is worn down, especially if it’s second hand, or has traces of previous use. If you’ve bought a ‘new’ lens this is a real warning sign and you may have to return it and ask for a new one. When a lens has been used before you’ll normally notice bits of dust and dirt on the rear lens cap and the metal mount. What you want to see, and certainly if it’s a new lens, is a clean layer of grease on both.
Next, you should inspect the rear glass on the lens and ensure that it has no scratches and is nice and clean. Any scratches on the glass element will distort or ruin you photos so this is crucial to check for.
Thirdly, you can use a regular flashlight – or the torch on your phone – to shine into the lens from the rear end to see if there are any large chunks of dirt or plastic behind the front glass of the lens. If there are large pieces of plastic, which can accidentally occur in the manufacturing process, then you should immediately return the lens and request a replacement. If you see tiny specks of dust it should be okay though.
Finally, just give the barrel of the lens a quick look over to make sure that there are no scuffs, scratches, dents or obvious damage.
Clean the Lens Connectors and Rear Mount.
When you’re checking over your new lens it’s normal for it to have some grease on the mount of the lens. This is usually put there by the lens manufacturer to help it mount smoothly onto the camera but also to stop microscopic pieces of metal becoming detached when it is attached to the camera. So this is nothing to worry about.
However, if there is too much grease then you can give it a quick clean because too much grease can impact on the camera’s ability to communicate properly with the lens if dirt gets stuck in the grease!
To remove excess grease you need to use a clean microfiber cloth and carefully give it a soft rub. Simply put a few drops of medical grade alcohol onto the cloth and rub down the rear lens mount and all of the contacts. You do not want to touch the glass while you are doing this so you’ll have to be careful and work slowly. After you’ve cleaned the mounting element you can clean the rear lens cap with a fresh cloth.
Use a Filter to Protect the Lens.
To make sure that you keep your lens safe over time you can use a clear UV filter. This not only keeps it safe from scratches or accidental damage but it also makes it easier to clean further down the road. With the clear filter in place the lens itself will be kept perfectly clean so you’ll only have to remove dirt and dust from the protective filter; and if the worst happens and it gets scratched it’s much cheaper to replace the UV filter than the lens!
The other main thing that the UV filter does is to protect your lens from atmospheric damage and prevents your lens from losing its sharpness. The clever design also has weather sealed layers that block moisture and dirt from getting into your lens element. Some people have argued that these filters can reduce the quality of your photos however this is only true if you are using a cheap, low quality filter.
Remember to make sure that when you’re buying a clear UV filter that it’s the right size and is fully compatible with your lens.
Test the Lens.
Once you have finished checking the main elements of your lens and attached the right UV filter to help protect it, it’s finally time to take it for a test run! Mount the lens onto your camera and then start testing it.
You can test the lens wherever you want but it’s usually good to take it outside and try testing its full range of capabilities. For instance, if you have purchased a zoom lens then take some photos of subjects from a distance but also from closer distances. Try using different aperture values while paying attention to the quality of the focusing mechanism. Take multiple pictures of a single subject with different apertures and focal lengths so that you can compare them later.
Once you have finished taking your photos you can go home and carefully study them. Are the photos in focus? Is the lens taking clear, undistorted pictures? Most new lenses are very well made and you should have no problems but occasionally there are manufacturing issues which can lead to the lens not being properly calibrated. If this happens then you should contact the manufacturer who may ask you to send in your camera and lens for a full recalibration.
For more advanced photographers you can also check for decentered lens elements, micro-distortions, focus shift issues, chromatic aberrations and field curvature. However, for most photographers these higher level checks are not necessary.
Register Your New Lens.
It may seem like a hassle but you should always register a new lens with the manufacturer from whom you bought it. Manufacturers require that you register the lens for your extended warranty to be valid. It’s very easy to register your lens. All you need to do is visit the website of the manufacturer and click on the ‘Product Registration’ page.
Another reason why you should register your lens is because if the company recalls a product due to a manufacturing fault you will be informed and will automatically receive an equivalent replacement.
Every lens will require some time for you to get used to. There will be new techniques and methods that you will have to learn in order to make the most of your new purchase. Take a few minutes to read through the instruction manual and then start shooting photos! If you’ve bought the lens for your work then you want to be 100% sure that you know how it works and won’t have any last minute surprises!
When you’re practicing with your new lens you should not only be looking for the things it can do well but also the lens’ limitations. Every lens is designed to perform well in certain circumstances while being less effective in other situations. You need to learn when it’s the right time to use the lens and when you should switch it out for another.
When you’re practicing with your new lens you should be shooting realistic photos that are similar to what you plan to use it for later. This will allow you to make the most of your practise time and give you a better idea of how it will perform in the field.
Post Production Considerations.
No lens is absolutely perfect and you’ll need to learn how to correct any minor distortions or aberrations in the photos. Spend some time working through your practise photos with your post processing software finding ways to tweak them to improve the finished products.
One of the most popular and functional post production software’s is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This software has an excellent feature which is called ‘Lens Correction’ that can quickly, and automatically, fix vignetting issues, chromatic aberrations and distortions. Alternatively, you can roll your sleeves up and take care of any issues yourself.
Buying A New Lens Is Great Fun But You Need To Do Your Due Diligence.
As a photographer there are few things that are more exciting than buying a new piece of kit; and second only to a camera, a lens has got to be the most fun! However, before you can start to shoot photos you should always give it a thorough check for scratches, dirt, manufacturing faults and other damage. Once you are satisfied that the lens is in good condition you should always remember to register it with the manufacturer so that you can get the full extended warranty that’s available to you.
Once you’ve completed your checklist of things to do after buying a lens it’s time to take it out and get used to working with it. Your new lens will open up opportunities and photographic possibilities that would otherwise have been impossible; and as you get used to using the lens you’ll see your output improve in both quality and scope.
Is there anything specific that you do once you get your new lens?