I vacuumed the dust out of my SEL 18-200mm lens.

Started May 20, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Tom Hoots
Tom Hoots Veteran Member • Posts: 6,073
I vacuumed the dust out of my SEL 18-200mm lens.


I had plenty of dust in my NEX 18-200mm lens, with a couple of prominently large chunks that just bothered the heck out of me. And yes, I took a vacuum cleaner to it, and in the end I was 100% successful -- the dust is gone. Here's my story:

I had noticed the dust in the lens for months, and especially the couple of big chunks, which were stuck to the inside of the front lens element. But, as everyone says, "Oh, don't worry, you can't see it." So I didn't worry too much.

But then, recently, I bought a new NEX-7 (having moved from the NEX-5 to the NEX-5N, previously), and, as I always do with a new camera, I checked to see if it had any dust on its sensor, and the 18-200mm lens was attached at the time. And golly, it DID have a couple of spots at f/22.

Well, I cleaned the holy heck out of that sensor, and NOTHING worked to clean away those spots! So, wondering if indeed it might have something to do with those two big dust specks in the lens, I tried one of my other lenses.

PERFECT. No spots.

It wasn't the NEX-7 sensor, it was the 18-200mm lens.

Of course, I couldn't see the spots at lower f/numbers, with everything OK at f/11. Above that, I could see the spots.

So, I did some Google searching about using a vacuum, and decided to try it. There was talk of using some plastic wrap to go around the lens and the vacuum hose, so I tried that. At first, I used one of the Dyson handheld vacuums -- the one that comes with the "Digital Slim" package. And all of my attempts just didn't produce any results at all.

So, I decided to use a "corded" vacuum -- I have one of the Metropolitan heavy-duty vacuums, the "DataVac Pro/2" -- this thing, here:


Since its suction was so strong, I skipped the plastic wrap, and just held the end of the hose to various areas of the lens body. I was hoping that I could stay away from the rear of the lens, so I was holding it against the "joints" where the lens extends and contracts. And I got nowhere.

So, I finally removed the rear lens cap, and held the end of the hose in my hand, with my fingers keeping it from actually touching the lens. That really wasn't working, either. So....

I finally just put the end of the hose (it's a plastic piece that you would fit attachments onto) right up against the bottom of the lens. The hose fits inside the outer circle of the end -- with the contacts -- and fits fully around the actual opening for the rear glass of the lens. It couldn't be a more perfect fit.

So, I just held it and held it and held it -- while I used my other hand to control the length of the lens, as the vacuum was REALLY pulling the entire lens into its fully closed position. So, there was a relative TON of suction going through that lens. And slowly, eventually, all of the dust just started disappearing -- my two big chunks were gone, and presumably a bunch of smaller stuff was gone, too.

In the end, the technique is simple and would only take about five minutes or so -- just turn the vacuum on, place the hose up against the rear end of the lens, of course being careful around the contacts and such -- and let it suck the dust out of the lens. It sure worked for me.

When I did another test at f/22, I saw something I hadn't seen ever since I started this episode -- no spots at f/22, at all.

100% success.

Of course, then it occurred to me that I had better test the lens, so I took a number of shots around the house (this was about 10:00 PM), at all focal lengths from wide open to full zoom. And everything appeared to be just completely fine.

So, that's my story. It goes without saying that this is risky business -- I was fully prepared to lighten my wallet if I wound up wrecking the lens. So, of course, "only try this at your own risk." But in the end, the operation wasn't too lens-hostile -- probably all that could go wrong would be if the suction yanked the lens elements out of their settings, or out of adjustment. But, I'm not seeing anything wrong so far -- I'll do some outdoor test shooting when I get a chance, but everything looked completely fine from my indoor shots.

Finally, it became more than abundantly clear to me that probably the ONLY part of the lens that dust could have gotten into the lens through was the rear end of the lens -- I vacuumed like crazy around the rest of the lens, with no changes to the dust inside whatsoever. So, I think this speaks more volumes towards the "o-ring lens mount gasket" concept we have discussed recently, here:


I've bought the MSR kit mentioned, and it comes with two of these perfectly-fitting o-rings, and I will keep those in place between my camera and its lenses at all times. I hope it might help keep dust out of the lenses, as well as away from the sensor.

In the end, I'm thrilled. Gosh, it seems like if the dust could get in there somehow, you ought to be able to vacuum it out of there somehow. And it sure worked for me.

Tom Hoots

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