There’s Nothing Like Lens Condensation That’ll Put a Damper on Making Photographs

Lens condensation happens. Here’s how, why, and ways to deal with it.

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It’s a hot and muggy summer in DC. We’ve been getting daily thunderstorms, which I like being in, but the rain isn’t the only thing that dampens our equipment. It’s the kind of weather that could get us some lens condensation.

The first time this happened to one of my lenses, I had no idea what was going on. I panicked. I thought my lens would be damaged and I’d need to get a new lens. But luckily, there was a more experienced photographer who set my mind at ease.  

Since lenses are glass, they’re fair game for condensation. And if our lenses have condensation, we’ve gotta put off making pictures until it clears up. Or, better yet, do our best to prevent the condensation from happening in the first place.

What is Lens Condensation? 

Lens condensation is when drops of water form on the lens’ surface and make it “foggy.” Most of the time, this happens on the outside of the lens, but it can happen on the inside too. And if it persists, it can cause mold, corrosion, and other not-so-good stuff. 

How Does It Happen? 

Condensation happens when there’s a significant change in the temperature of the lens glass and the air surrounding it. It’s the same thing that happens to a cold bottle of our preferred beverage on a hot day, except it’s our lens and not enjoyable. 

For example, Suppose we’re making pictures outside in hot weather and move into a significantly colder space like an air-conditioned building. In that case, we’ll probably get lens condensation. The same thing could happen when going from cold to hot.  

What Can We Do To Avoid Lens Condensation? 

If we want to avoid lens fog, we should do what we can to prevent the lens from going too quickly from one extreme temperature or another. It’s best to transition the lens slowly between different humidity and temperature spaces. 

In other words, we’ve gotta give the lens time to acclimate to the new temperature. It shouldn’t take that long, maybe around ten minutes, but we’ve gotta pay attention when changing our environment. 

Humidity’s got a lot to do with this, too. We want our equipment to be constantly dry. If we’ve got a good quality camera bag, we can put silica bags close to our equipment; they’ll soak up moisture and help keep our equipment dry.  

And, of course, if we notice any moisture forming on any of our equipment, wiping it to get the moisture off is a good idea. 

If We Get Lens Condensation, What Can We Do? 

The smartest thing to do is to wait for it to go away on its own. It should take about 10 minutes, but it could be longer. We can move the process along by wiping off the lens with a good-quality lens cloth once in a while. We’ll briefly get a clear lens, and we could probably make a picture or two before the fog comes back. 

If we’ve got filters on the lens, take ’em off. Sometimes, it’s just the filters that get fogged up. And if we’ve got more than one filter on, separate ’em all and wipe each off. 

And if you’re curious and feelin’ a bit adventurous, why not take pictures while the condensation’s happening? Sure, some details in the image will get lost, but so what? Who knows? We might like the effect it has on what we’re photographing. 

If we get a lot of condensation on the inside lens, the best we can do is to keep the lens with silica bags and wait. Give it a few days or a week. If the lens still has condensation after that time, we should get it to a repair shop to remove it.



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Lens Condensation