Review: The LensPen Original Is Still a Great Way to Clean your Lenses

Review: The LensPen Original Is Still a Great Way to Clean your Lenses

The LensPen has been around a long time, and you've seen it under a variety of brand names that act as OEMs for the original product. I had never used one, but often read about it. I was sent the original model (the NLP-1) for testing. 

The LensPen is designed for just that, cleaning a lens. The company also has some similar products targeted at other types of gear cleaning, like filters and even drone cameras. The LensPen is about the size of a magic marker. It has a clip so it can stay in your pocket like a normal pen, but I've kept mine in my camera bag accessory pouch. 

It's simple enough to use. There is a sliding tab that will expose a soft brush.

At the other end, there is a piece of plastic that unscrews and reveals the lens pen itself. There are no liquids involved in cleaning, but the business end of the lens pen uses a form of carbon that can remove fingerprints and smudges on the lens.

Carbon is a great cleaner, which is why people used to clean windows with old newspapers. It was the carbon newsprint that did the magic. Of course, paper can scratch fine optics, so the LensPen uses a rubber tip. That tip is refilled with the carbon cleaner when the cap is back on. LensPen says the device will clean about 500 lenses, then it's time to replace it. 

Using the LensPen

I pulled out my Tamron 28-75mm zoom. With some light on it, it was a mess. It's not a lens I mistreat, but shooting here in Arizona, there's no end to dust when I'm outside.

Using the brush, almost all the dust was removed. I was afraid the dust would simply be pushed around, but it actually was removed, unlike my normal cleanings with a lens cloth. 

There were a few small smudges on the lens as well, and they were quickly dispatched with the LensPen cleaner. You go over the spots with a circular motion until the smudge simply disappears. One thing I noticed during my cleaning with the brush was that new dust would occasionally drop on the lens. It didn't appear to be what I removed, just dust particles floating around my kitchen where I did the testing. I removed those particles too and quickly capped the lens.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised how much dust and how many smudges my lenses were accumulating outside. I would always give them a quick glance, and they looked clean, but under directed lighting, it was obvious how much dust and other stuff is out there. I purposely put part of a fingerprint on the lens to see how the LensPen did, and it removed it quickly and completely. 

I'm convinced and now understand why the LensPen is popular with photographers. At under $10, it's worth keeping with you. Even indoor photographers have no idea how much dust there is inside. The LensPen can tame it. I'm not giving up my dust blower, though. I think it's best to start by blowing the lens free of most of the dust first, then use the LensPen brush, followed by the cleaning tip if needed. The LensPen I tested really is just for lenses; other models are better with filters. I did find that the model I tested worked very well on telescope eyepieces. 

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use and carry
  • No liquids are used in the process
  • Effective on multiple lenses I cleaned, even with grease and fingerprints

Cons 

  • Brush retracts into body of pen but is not covered, meaning it could pick up debris
  • It doesn't last forever, with some users reporting it really can't be used 500 times and others reporting it lasts a very long time

Purchase

You can purchase your LensPen here.

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5 Comments

Rick Knight's picture

I use a clear UV Filter to protect the lens so I just clean the filter. I wonder if the Pen is better than using liquid lens cleaner with that very thin lint free lens paper. I guess I'd need to try it. Thanks Mel.

Rick Knight's picture

I use a clear UV Filter to protect the lens so I just clean the filter. I wonder if the Pen is better than using liquid lens cleaner with that very thin lint free lens paper. I guess I'd need to try it. Thanks Mel.

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

I've still got mine from 15 years back... still works!

Euan Gray's picture

I bought one of these five years ago thinking it would be a wise purchase and help keep my lenses clean. I won't make that mistake again. The lens I used it on still has carbon dust on it and nothing removes it.

In reality a little dust, some fingerprint smears and even minor scratches on the front element of a lens are unlikely to be noticeable in the photograph. Dirt and defects on the rearmost element are more likely to be noticeable but that part of the lens is invariably less exposed.

There's a video somewhere on YouTube in which someone progressively vandalises an old lens and takes pictures with it. He even cracks the front element with a screwdriver and it's only with really major damage that you can see an obvious defect in the photograph.

A simple microfibre cloth is more than enough to keep the glass clean. It's also cheaper and washable.

Travis Ackerman's picture

I really like the one I have. It actually has covers on both ends.