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Caring for Digital Cameras

You've made an investment in equipment. It is smart to take care of it. Not many things can go wrong, as long as you keep your camera dry and away from extreme temperatures. Use a wrist strap or neck strap at all times. Digital cameras contain delicate electronic parts and aren't meant to be dropped or thrown around. Keep your camera in a protective case when you aren't using it. Some cameras come with cases. Other companies sell the case separately, or send it to you as a premium when you return the registration card (see Figure 3.20).

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 The well-equipped photographer.

Even if you use the case that came with your camera, investing in a photographer's shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack is a smart idea. After all, even with the simplest snapshot camera, you'll want to carry around a notebook and pencil to make notes on what you shot, spare batteries, an extra flashcard, and lens cleaning tissues. You may eventually add lenses and filters and perhaps a folding tripod. You need a convenient way to keep it all together; the shoulder bag is probably the best choice.

If your camera came with a lens cap, use it! I keep mine on a loop of heavy nylon twine attached to the camera strap. It's a bit of a nuisance to have it dangling, but at least I always know where it is. Just make sure you pop it off before you start shooting. Otherwise, you could end up with lots of photos of the inside of the lens cap.

Lens and Screen Cleaning

Sooner or later, you'll get fingerprints or dust on the lens or viewscreen and have to clean the camera. If the maker has provided a lint free cloth, use it. (Be sure you keep the cloth in its plastic bag when you aren't using it. It can pick up grit otherwise, and do more harm than good.) If you don't have a special cloth, go to a camera store and buy a package of untreated lens-cleaning tissues. Never use the chemically treated tissues made for eyeglass cleaning. They may damage your camera lens.

To remove visible dust from the lens, tear out one sheet of tissue. Roll it, and then tear the roll in half, so the jagged edges of the tissue make a sort of paper brush (see Figure 3.21). Use this to brush dust very gently from the center out to the edges. If the dust seems stuck, breathe on the surface of the lens. The moisture from your breath loosens the dust. Follow manufacturer's directions regarding the use of lens-cleaning fluids.

Figure 3.21Figure 3.21 Making a brush from tissue.

LCD viewing screens can be cleaned in the same way. These are more prone to fingerprints. You may have to use gentle pressure on the screen to remove oily fingerprints.

Batteries and AC Adapters

Digital cameras don't just run on batteries. They eat them! I never go out for a day of picture-taking with fewer than three sets in my bag. Batteries can get expensive, to say nothing of being wasteful and bad for the environment. Disposal of dead batteries is a problem municipalities are beginning to recognize. If you incinerate them, they explode, sending chemicals into the air. If you bury them, they corrode and leak chemicals into the ground, where they eventually end up in the water supply.

Most snapshot digital cameras use AA batteries, which are available anywhere. Alkaline batteries are the least expensive, but lithium batteries last longer. Rechargeable nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries are the best alternative, although they cost the most initially. It pays to have several sets of batteries, so you can switch when necessary. Of course, you also need a charger. It pays for itself in about 10 photo sessions.

A couple of tricks are necessary when working with NiCad batteries. To get the most use out of them, discharge them completely before you recharge them. If you put half-charged batteries into the charger thinking to "top them off," you'll discover a strange effect. The battery tends to remember the amount of charge it took, and next time you try to charge it, it accepts only half a charge.

NiCads eventually wear out. If you number the batteries and keep a notebook to remind you how many times you've recharged each set, and approximately how many pictures you were able to take after each charge, you'll have some advance warning when they're wearing out, and can plan accordingly.

Some of the more expensive cameras also use more expensive, rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries (Li-Ion, for short). These last a good deal longer, but you still need to carry a spare if you're planning to take a lot of photos.

AC adapters are little cubes that plug into a standard outlet, and contain a transformer than converts the regular 110 volt electricity to the same strength as the camera batteries. It's helpful if you do a lot of work on a copy stand or in a studio situation where you can leave the camera plugged in. If your camera can use an AC adapter, it will have a socket for a small plug labeled "DC in." Some, but not all, AC adapters can also recharge the camera's rechargeable batteries in place. Read your manual to find out whether you need to put your batteries into a separate charger.

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