The Dos and Don’ts of Submerging Lenses

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It happens more often than you’d think. A call comes in from a customer informing me that a lens was dropped in water. My immediate response consists of two questions. One, fresh or salt water? And two, dunked or submerged? The answers to these two question drastically effect the prospect of repair. A lens submerged in salt water is almost certain death for a lens (if not properly cared for) whereas fresh water usually has a good chance of being repaired to perfect working order. I’m pretty sure the worst water damage I’ve seen was a Zeiss lens that went for a dive in the Salton Sea. The customer was just as smart as they were quick and took our advice, rinsing repeatedly with fresh water and delivering in a sealed Tupperware of fresh water. The lens was fully repaired and restored to perfect working condition shortly thereafter. The folks over at ZGC put up a great blog post that shows the horrifying results of a lens submerged in salt water if not treated with appropriate measures and punctuality. They also go into more detail on what to do if you find yourself with a salted lens. Give the post a read and take notes!

It happens in real time; so quickly you can only watch as that lens, which costs many thousands of dollars, plummets to the floor. An expletive escapes as you attempt to stop the lens mid-fall but, alas, you just aren’t fast enough to overcome Newton’s Law. There’s that horrible feeling in your gut as you watch the lens hit, and maybe bounce a time or two, because you know you are the responsible party: How are you going to explain what happened?
OK, look on the bright side. Maybe it’ll only be a few parts that need to be replaced. It’ll put the lens out of service for a while, but the lens will most likely go on to live another day.
Now let’s take a look at the “Dark Side”. Instead of the lens landing on the floor it lands in the drink. No, not that drink. (You know, the one you’ll probably have to calm yourself after “The Drop”). The drink I’m referring to is that body of water that covers the majority of the planet: sea water. Unlike a fresh water pond or river, sea water has an element that just doesn’t mix well with lenses. Sodium Chloride (NaCl), otherwise known in its common term as SALT. NaCl, aluminum and brass don’t go well together.

To read the full article, head over to ZGC’s blog here.

Published by

Matthew Duclos

A connoisseur of fine motion picture lenses, Matthew has spent over half his life servicing, refining, selling, manufacturing, and collecting cinema lenses from around the world. Chief Operating Officer of Duclos Lenses and Founder of TheCineLens.com, Matthew has been contributing to the motion picture industry for over 15 years, and to this site for over 5 years.

3 thoughts on “The Dos and Don’ts of Submerging Lenses”

  1. Hi Matthew. ZGC says to rinse the lens and seal it in a Ziploc bag, but they don’t say the same thing that you do, i.e. send the lens completely submerged in water sealed in a plastic container. Which is the preferred method?

    1. Dave, it really depends on the circumstances. The particular instance I mentioned involved the Salton Sea, a substantial saline body of water. If the lens can’t be flushed out confidently, it’s better to just leave it submerged in fresh water IF (that’s a big if) the lens can get to a technician quickly.

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