Photographic equipment is not cheap and it’s good practice to protect your investment. There are a number of different ways to do this that are applicable in different situations and offer different levels of protection.
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Lens and Body Caps
The simplest protective devices are the ones that come with the camera – lens and body caps. These serve to protect the glass elements of the lens as well as the internal workings of the camera. Having these attached to the camera when it’s not in use offers the most basic level of protection but as I have previously discussed in Unpreparation, when you’re out and about, you should leave the lens cap off so that you’re always ready for that once in a lifetime photo.
Filters and Lens Hoods
An additional level of protection, one that still allows you to shoot, is that offered by a clear skylight or UV filter. Many photographers use these as protection for the lens and not for their filtering properties. A filter protects the lens from scratches – it’s much cheaper to replace a filter than it is to replace a damaged lens. If you go this route, make sure you buy a good quality one that doesn’t optically degrade the image.
Lens hoods can offer protection as well. The hood sticks out from the end of the lens, thus placing the glass in a recessed position, making it less likely to be scratched. There are other reasons to use a lens hood such as issues of lens flare, that make lens hoods my method of choice. I use them on all my lenses.
You could (and I personally have at times) wrap your camera in a T-shirt or towel but investing in a small bag of some kind is useful for protecting your camera when not in use and during transport. The most basic example would be a digital holster that fits the camera and single attached lens.
Stepping up from there, you have a variety of options in a range of styles and sizes. From simple messenger bags such as the Crumpler range to modular belt systems like those made by ThinkTank, all the way up to shoulder bags, backpacks and rolling bags. All offer padded compartments, usually in user-configurable styles. When you’re bag shopping, don’t forget to look at ones designed for tripods and lighting grip if you use it.
You should never, I repeat never, send your camera gear as checked luggage on a flight. Besides the risk of damage as bags get thrown around by baggage handlers, there’s also the risk of theft, particularly if you travel in a country or on an airline that doesn’t allow you to lock luggage (one of the great things about living in Asia is that these rules don’t exist here). If you do need to send it underneath the plane or otherwise protect your gear in undesirable conditions, Pelican cases are what you want.
Delicate electronic and optical equipment like cameras and lenses is at risk in humid environments. The airborne moisture can induce mold and fungal growth. At a minimum, you can store your gear with some packs of silica gel but the best option is some kind of dry box or cabinet. It’s generally recommended to store camera gear at about 40% or so relative humidity. Dry cabinets are relatively cheap – I paid about $70 for mine and it’s big enough to hold 2 bodies, all my lenses, 3 speedlights, flash triggers and so forth.
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