Feb 14 2012
Dust is all around us. We can’t escape it. And dust is the bane of photographers. Dust collects on lens surfaces, viewfinders, and LCDs. It also invades camera bodies where—horror of horrors!—it settles on the sensors that are the hearts (and eyes) of modern digital cameras. The inevitable result? Your photos are marred by distracting specks, blobs, and squiggles.
And what’s the cure? Well, if there aren’t too many dust specks on an image, you can sometimes clone them out in your “digital darkroom.” But it’s far better to attack the source of the problem: Get rid of the dust before it causes trouble. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you simply put your lips together and blow, you’ll spray a fine organic mist—othewise known as spittle—all over the very surfaces you’re trying to clean. Nor is “canned air” the answer. Not only is it costly (and clumsy to use), but it often contains trace amounts of contaminants.
Which explains why many pros opt for a decidedly low-tech solution: the bulb blower. Most “lens care” kits include one, and for years I made do with a blower-brush from such a kit:
I kept the rather coarse brush away from my lenses, using it only on camera bodies and suchlike. But the blower works as a blower—after a fashion. It has two drawbacks, however. To begin with, the thing just doesn’t have much puff. On more than one occasion it’s failed to dislodge dust until I engaged in a frantic orgy of squeezing. And that brings me to drawback number two: The tip is hard, sharp plastic. If your hand twitches while you’re using it—and that’s difficult to avoid if you’re squeezing frantically—it’s all too easy to gouge the delicate coated surface of a lens. Farwell’s Zeiss binoculars bear witness to the resulting damage.
Still, the blower-brush mostly did the job I asked it to do. Until recently, that is, when my Pentax digital SLR fell victim to a pox-like plague of dust specks, an eruption that proved too much for my little puff-piece. If I was going to shift this dust, I’d have to invest in some heavier artillery. So I sought the advice of fellow members of the Pentax Forums. Their nearly universal recommendation? The Giottos Rocket-Air. And that’s what I ordered. It arrived within a week, and to be honest, my first thought was that I’d been on the receiving end of a practical joke. But see for yourself:
Rocket-Air, indeed! But looks aren’t everything. The Big Question remained: Does it work? And the only way to answer that question was to blast off, going boldly where I’d never gone before:
The bottom line? Giottos Rocket-Air rocks. It moves a lot of air, and it makes that air move fast. In short, this blower is a blast to use:
Even the goofy-cutesy design turns out to make sense. The tail fins make it easy to stand the bulb upright, so the nozzle won’t pick up crumbs (or worse) from your tabletop. And if it should ever tip over, it won’t roll away. Moreover, the working end has a smooth, blunt tip—one that poses little threat to lens surfaces should you ever misjudge your distance. The Rocket-Air even has lanyard holes so you can wear it around your neck. (I’d imagine it’s a great conversation piece at parties.)
But how long will it last? Well, the bulb is made from natural rubber, and rubber rots. So it won’t last forever. Still, with reasonable care it should be blowing strong for several years. The instructions suggest storing the Rocket-Air in a well-ventilated place, away from strong sunlight, and that sounds like a good idea to me. (I’d also keep it away from electric motors. Ozone and rubber don’t mix.) I slipped mine into an open plastic bag to keep the nozzle clean and then popped it into a drawer in my gear cabinet. That should do the trick, I think.
What about you? Are your photos starting to look a little spotty? Don’t blame your camera. Or you eyes. The problem may be dust. But there’s no need to despair. With a Giottos Rocket-Air you can blow your troubles away. It just might be the best nine bucks you’ve ever spent.
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