Looking through Spotless Glass – My first impressions of the Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit

Having experienced stained optics and filters on my vintage Russian glass, the need soon arised to make a thorough cleaning of my lens kit, both the Zenit Meteor 5-1 and the OKS 3-10-1, with attached ND and UV filters. On my last three shoots, both the experimental shorts Mirrors and The Red Stone, as well as a project in the making entitled A Curious Day at Snooper’s Haven, this has became acutely apparent. All my current Russian ND filters, both the 77mm and 62mm, needed a major cleaning job, as well as the 10mm OKS 3-10-1 lens which exhibited a serious stain in its rear lens element. Doing some research following the making of Mirrors, I soon found out that my local photo shop had the Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit for a reasonable price (at 299 SEK or $35). Reading several favorable reviews about that particular kit, compared to other similar kits, I finally decided to buy it, but my budget allowed me to purchase this kit not until a week ago which came handy just prior to the shooting of my latest project, The Giant Flee. The kit comes in a nice cardboard box with a well fleshed out product description at the front, stating the following: 100% oil dissolving, gentle cleaning for all optical surfaces, no streaking or haze. The label at the back states: 10 pre-moistened cleaning cloths, 1 microfiber cloth (180 mm x 180 mm), 1 cleaning solution (30 ml), 1 lens brush, 1 dust blower, and 1 pouch.

Unboxing the Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit

Opening up the box, one finds the contents of that pouch, a seemingly well designed bag made from sturdy weather sealed plastic canvas cloth that can be fitted to your belt, complete with a velco strapped lid. Opening up the lid, feeling the strong resistance of the velcro lock (it won’t open up by accident), one finds a tag which reads “Made in China”. (All contents of the pouch are produced in China as well.) The pouch has three compartments. One contains the set of ten Cleaning Tissues, that is, disposable pre-moistened lens cloths or wipes, which comes wrapped in paper packets in five pairs that are supposed to be ripped apart at the precut centre before torn open. The back of each packet states that each cloth is 100% oil-dissolving for all optical surfaces. It also contains an instruction that reads: “Remove folded cloth from packet and dust from lens surface. Wipe the lens with the pre-moistered cleaning cloth using a circular motion, starting in the center and working outwards.” The stated constituents of the cleaning tissue is as follows: “Less than 5% cationic and anionic tensides.” Asking the seller if I could order spare disposable cleaing tissues, he suspected that this product was discontinued and difficult to find. However, after doing a simple Google search I found many sources that sold them, as well as any other item in the pouch. Personally, I will only use these disposible cloths when needed in the field, like a first aid kit for my lenses and filters, as it makes cleaing much simpler. I haven’t opened up any packets yet so I cannot report the looks and feel of the actual tissue.

Opening the pouch and unravelling its contents, the wipes, dust blower, lens brush, cleaning solution and microfiber cloth

Next pouch compartment contains the dust blower, lens brush and cleaning solution. The dust blower or bellows is pretty standard and straight forward, consiting of a elongated blue rubber ball with a flat underside for standing the blower on a table or any other flat surface. The white beak is made of hard plastic. The overall impression is that it is quite large and that it works well, i.e. does its job. It sprays the air quite strongly and in a narrow beam. The lens brush in the pouch looks different from the one on the picture of the cardboard box or any of the illustrations; it’s flat rather than round. Originally, it was wrapped in a translucent plastic wrapping. It consists of a plastic white shaft with a corresponding plastic lid or cap, containing the actual brush. It is opened with a button on the narrow side which is fitted to a groove, which allows the brush to extend from the base in increments of two stops, halfway and fully extended. I suppose that the brush extended halfway through creates a somewhat more stiff resistance when brushing, compared to the fully extended brush which feels quite gentle to the lens surface when removing dust. The brush itself is all in black and its hairs seems to be made of plastics (not taken from a Camel’s tail, which is the exclusive variant of a lens brush). Unfortunately, the hairs fall of the brush, one at a time. Not much to affect the functionality of the brush though.

Microfiber Cloth unwrapped and Lens Brush extended in its two modes, soft and hard

The cleaning solution or agent consist of a transparent plastic flask with a spring loaded plastic cork that functions as a spray when pressed down with the finger, which is protected with a opaque plastic cap. Its label states that the flask contains 30 ml of cleaing fluid for high-quality optics. The label furthermore contains an instruction, which reads: “Spray the lens cleaing fluid on the microfiber cloth. Clean lens with circular motion starting from the center of the lens and working outwards.” It also cautions the user that the solution is not for contact lenses, and also to avoid contact with eyes as it contains Butyldiglycol. I don’t know if the contents of the solution is the same as that soaked into the disposable tissues, but I suspect that they are. The microfiber cloth itself has its own compartment in the pouch. Its 180 mm x 180 mm of whiteness is folded and fitted into a plastic opaque pocket which is sealed with a lid in the simplest of ways. When folding out for the first time, it contained a small cardboard card in the size of a business card to keep its form; I immediately disposed of this card. Every item has the characteristic “ZEISS” label in blue stamped on them, including the microfiber cloth. Everything fits nicely into the pouch and seems to be quality products built according to the specifications of Zeiss.

Cleaning my lens kit following the instructions, and the resulting stain on the microfiber cloth

The package also contains a brochure that folds out with instructions in pictures and written instruction in different languages. However, it is to large to be fitted into the pouch, if not folded in half (which I feel reluctant to do). The instructions admonishes the reader to “pay attention to the provisions of these Instructions for Use so that the care of your objective lenses will produce the desired result in the long term – perfect optics for brilliant images.” They describe two different modes of cleaning a lens or optic, one quick and one thorough. The quick cleaning (presumely in filming field conditions) with brush and without bellows, is a follows:

  1. First use the brush to remove the larger dust particles. (The accompanying illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand removing dust from the optics with the outfolded brush.)
  2. Open the packaging of one of the wipes and unfold it. (The illustration shows the right hand holding the packing containing the wipe at the lower angle and the left hand tearing off the top portion of the packing.)
  3. Clean your lens by making circular motions from the center to the lens outward. (The illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand making clockwise circular motions from the center and outwards, with the right index finger holding the wipe against the glass.)
  4. Dry the lens immediately with a microfiber cloth. (The illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand making clockwise circular motions from the center and outwards, with the right index finger holding the microfiber cloth against the glass.)

The thorough cleaning (presumely in calmer homy situations) with brush and bellows is a follows:

  1. First use the bellows to remove the larger dust particles from the surface of the lens. (The accompanying illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand removing dust from the optics, blowing with the bellows on the glass.)
  2. Next use the brush to remove the finer dust particles without damaging the surface of the lens. (The illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand removing dust from the glass with the outfolded brush.)
  3. Spray a small amount of lens cleaning agent on the microfiber cloth. (The illustration shows the left hand holding the microfiber cloth and the right hand holding the flask while the right index finger is making a spray.) Important: Do not spray directly onto the lens.
  4. Clean your lens by making circular motions from the center to the lens outward. (The illustration shows the left hand holding the lens and the right hand making clockwise circular motions from the center and outwards, with the right index finger holding the microfiber cloth against the glass.)
  5. Use a dry spot on the microfiber cloth to wipe off any residues of the lens cleaning agen. (The previous illustration is repeated.)

Lastly there are some instructions for washing the microfiber cloth, which is done using a washing machine: “After using the microfiber cloth 5 times to clean your lens, we [that is Zeiss] recommend that you wash it at a maximum of 30ºC without fabric softener and bleach.” After which is displayed the following symbols:

That is, Machine Wash 30ºC and Do Not Bleach.

However, making my first cleaning test with the Meteor 5-1 17-69mm f/1.9 (and its UV-1x and ND-4x filters) and 16 OKS 3-10-1 10mm f/2.1 (and its ND-2x and ND-4x filters), I didn’t read any of these instructions at all prior to the cleaning (as I only found it in the cardboard box afterwards) and instead turned my attention to the instruction film produced by Zeiss, as seen above. In brief I did the following procedure:

  1. I blew the dust off the front glass element of each lens using the bellows.
  2. Next I used the lens brush to remove any remaining dust on the front element, sometimes with the brush extended fully and sometime halfway (in the latter case especially when dusting off metal parts and grooves on the filter threads).
  3. Then I sprayed a couple of times with the lens cleaning solution on the microfiber cloth and cleaned the front element with circular movements from the center and outwards, as well as the surrounding metal, in several moves.
  4. Lastly, I used a dry part of the microfiber cloth to wipe off any residues of the cleaning solution on the glass.
  5. Following this, I repeated the same procedure as in 1-4 with the rear element of each lens.
  6. I repeated the same procedure as in 1-4 with each of the four filters on both sides of the glass, as well as blowing and brushing off the lens caps.

My impressions of this first try using the Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit is that it went very well and smooth without any incidents; the process is quite easy. Although i did note that some drops of the cleaning solution hit the filters laying on the table in the closest vicinity, ready and prepared to be cleaned, when spraying on the microfiber cloth; to take heed of the admonisment not to spray directly on the optics, make sure beforehand to keep any lenses or filters at a secure distance as the spray does have a broad target area, creating a cloud of solution in the air. Making a quick ocular inspection, its seems that all of the glass has been thoroughly cleaned. I cannot see any spots or stains at all; the glass is shining as I have never seen it before. There are no oily or greasy patterns to bee seen on the surface. Indeed, I have high expectetions that the result on screen will be very promising as well. I did all of this cleaning two days prior to the shooting of The Giant Flee which will serve to be the Test Movie No. IV, partly trying out how well the cleaning kit has behaved on my Russian glass, which is a hard test indeed because of its vintage character and previous issues with spots. What I can conclude now already at this point is that after cleaning two lenses with attached sets of filters, the microfiber cloth aquired a large dark stain of dirt in one of its corners (I used the same corner in all of my cleaning, to spray the cleaning solution), to the point that the cloth may have to be machine washed already after one use. On the other hand, there is lots of room left on the cloth that is clean. I will probably aquire the habit of using one side of the cloth to spray the cleaning solution onto and wiping clean the glass from spots and stains, and the other side to wipe the optics clean from any residues of the solution.

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