How to Deal With Lenses When They Fog Up

Living in Houston, it’s usually very hot and humid here. One of the downfalls is coming from inside a building or the car with AC on cold and then proceeding to go outside to shoot when it's hot outside. Whether it's moving from a cold to warm environment or vice versa, the drastic change in the temperature could cause your camera lenses to fog up. What can you do?

Unfortunately, there aren't many options to help remedy the problem. You could grab a lens cloth to wipe the front of the lens and if that doesn’t help then you just have to wait. So what can you do? Pre-planning for your shoot can help reduce the chances of your gear from fogging up as David Bergman explains in the video from Adorama.

If you know you are going on location to shoot and it’s going to be a drastic change in climate, leave the camera in the trunk of your car or leave it out prior to shooting to give it time to adjust. I wouldn’t suggest leaving it on the ledge of a balcony as shown in the video, as that could lead to other issues. Another idea is to leave your lens in a plastic ziplock bag and let it sit for a couple of minutes in the sun. The condensation should form on the bag and not the lens. If you have any of those silica gel packets you could throw those in as well to help. Hopefully, these tips help you in preventing your gear from fogging up for the potential shoot. Any other tips, leave them in the comments below.

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17 Comments

Michael Yearout's picture

I get this in the winter - moving from a very cold, dry area into a warm, humid interior. I use a great big Ziplock bag. Before bringing the camera and lens into the humid, warm interior I put camera and lens into the Ziplock, seal it and bring it in. Of course the drawback is it has to set for a few hours to warm up, but I don't get any condensation. I'm sure it work for the opposite situation - cool/cold interior to a hot, humid outdoors.

I use a ZipLock bag and a DampRid container. I place the lens inside the bag with the DampRid and I leave them inside the trunk of my car for at least two days. At the second or third day, the condensation has disappeared.

I do the same thing too with my cameras and lenses but with a plastic box and a dehumidifier. I don't worry about the winter 'cause there's none here in the Philippines but it's very muggy especially when it's too hot in the morning then it'll rain in the late afternoon. :)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I've actually seen Jeremy Cowart create some really rad portraits by leaving the fog on the front of the lens

Adam T's picture

Just stick it down your pants and warm it up with your thighs, at first it will feel like someone poured water down your pants but after a couple of seconds your meat suit will heat up the lens and you'll have a nice cool lower body.

WARNING!!

Not recommended for people that use chafing creams and powders, although the look on your client's faces when you pull out a lens covered in FROMUNDA cheese will definitely give them a memorable experience, so it's a win either way

Jens Unger's picture

The title is misleading. How to deal with it when it happened already... I was looking for solutions. But the text is more about preventing it. Anyway, thanks for the post.

As states in the article and video, the only thing you can do is wipe with a lens cloth or wait it out. Prevention is key.

Eric Yiskis's picture

Happens often in Florida, but there's an easy solution. You drive to the shooting location, right? Just turn on the heater in your car and hold the front element of the lens in front of the vent to warm it up. Then it won't fog. Works even on big lenses.

Find the nearest bathroom and the hand dryer! They can warm up the whole camera and lens and fix the fog quickly, especially if it is a hot hand dryer. Working in the midwest in winter as a photojournalist, I would often have to cover swim meets, high school basketball games, etc and coming in from the arctic cold and needing to quickly get to work despite the lenses fogging up. As someone else suggested, placing the camera bag near the heater vent in the car on the way to your assignment helps.

Graeme Teklenburg's picture

I was battling with this recently doing a photoshoot in a heated pool. After half an hour I couldn't figure out why I couldn't see anything then realised it was fogging, thing is the fogging was inside the lens near the sensor. Took it out of the housing for 5 minutes and it cleared up. I figured there was too much humidity inside the lens to start with and have since kept the camera and lens in an airtight box with a portable dehumidifier and haven't had a problem on the last three shoots...I know it's not exactly what the article was about as I'm using a full housing etc but thought there might be something keeping the inside of the lens free from humidity.

All you need is a usb powerbank and usb dew heater. https://www.ebay.com/itm/292065770081

In Houston hold it over the fan of your outdoor air conditioning unit for a few seconds.

Wiping a fogged lens under the conditions described does NOTHING but spread the moisture around and streak the front element. As an assistant cameraman having worked on 70 motion pictures in all environments, the absolute best and quickest way to defog a lens is to blow compressed air (from a tank or Dustoff, carefully) across the front element. The idea is to evaporate the moisture. It can NOT be wiped away.

Jon Wolding's picture

I've been dealing with this issue for almost two decades of shooting in Florida.

There IS a best solution. And it's free.

1. Find a sunny spot (read: direct sunlight, but be careful if you're on a windy beach covered in sugar sand).
2. Then drag your camera bag/case/whatever to said sunny spot and open it up.
3. Arrange all your frigid (WHY did you set them so close to your hotel room's ac unit?! Moving on...) lenses so that they're directly facing the sun.
4. Remove the front lens caps, leave the rear caps on, and leave whatever screw-on filters that were already attached.
5. Let them bake. Depending on the humidity and ambient temperatures... they'll be ready to go in 5 to 15 minutes. Also, if it's early morning, get your case a few feet off the ground or you'll have to wait for all the dew to burn off, too.

This is much faster than silica gel or calcium carbonate. And it's not so fast that it might potentially leave behind a film or water deposits (salt, dust, oil, hard water, etc). And you don't run the risk of forcing dust INTO your lens (with the various hot air methods).

Gabrielle Colton's picture

This is very helpful. In Oregon it's so dry I never had this problem but when I moved to Kentucky I didn't know what to do with it!