When I was recently buying a lens, I wondered how long they last. I had heard some people saying that their lens started making noises or weren’t good enough after only a couple of years, while some stated that their lens was perfect even after a decade of usage. So, I did some research to find out how long a camera lens lasts and what factors influence its longevity.
So how long does a camera lens last? Lens longevity is something that is hard to nail down, as there are a number of factors that influence it, but if it is of high build quality and it is taken proper care of, a camera lens may last for decades and may outlast your camera life most easily.
Many photographers are worried about the life of their lens. Every photographer naturally wants that the lens that they had bought is useful for a long time since they had invested a lot of money on it.
Hence, they look for ways to prolong the lifespan of their lens. There are actually a lot of things you can do to ensure that your camera lens lasts long, and these will be discussed later in this post.
Camera Lens Longevity
Longevity of a camera lens is something that cannot exactly be stated. There a variety of circumstances and factors that influence and affect it. However, there are mainly two factors that define how long a lens may last—build quality and maintenance.
Build quality is a factor that plays an important role in the longevity of a lens. Build quality matters significantly in lens life since anything that is not made of good quality might not be able to stay and function perfectly after a year or two. A lens that is made up of cheaper parts and that is not weather-sealed may not last long. In contrast, a lens that makes use of high-quality precision parts and that is weather-sealed to be protected from harmful environmental compounds will have a longer life.
Another defining factor in lens life is the kind of care and maintenance it is given. Just like any other mechanical device, a lens also requires regular and proper maintenance. Proper treatment and maintenance provided to a lens will help improve its lifetime.
Apart from these two factors, a lens can break anytime accidentally or for any unforeseeable reason. It may get dropped or crushed or used improperly or it may have a manufacturing defect. All these may lead to sudden lens failure, but this is rare and if proper care is taken, chances of such occurrences leading to lens failure are minimized.
Common Failures in Camera Lens
Lenses wear down over time but there are some common problems that can develop in camera lens, which, if identified, and addressed on time, can help prevent future problems and prolong lens life. Some of these include:
- Wiggle — With frequent use, a lens mount can become loose over time, which may result in slight wiggling in the lens when you mount it to the camera.
- Zoom Jams — Jamming up when zooming is also a problem that may happen with time. This is usually a problem with the internal parts of the lens and requires immediate servicing in order to prevent it from getting worse.
- Image Stabilization Units — With prolong use, some image stabilization units can become a problem. When focusing, if you experience abnormal jerky movements, or no bouncing when panning, or loud motors, there might be some problem with IS.
- Sand and Water — Lenses have a lot of moving parts and when sand gets in, it can stop those moving parts and damage the lens for good too. Similarly, water is also a damaging factor and even for lenses that are weather-sealed, water damage is something that can easily kill the electronics in the lens.
- Dust Accumulation — A little amount of dust on or in a lens usually do not have any effect on the quality of an image, but it can sit on the sensor and result in dust accumulation if not removed and cleaned. When dust is accumulated, it will require professional services to get it cleaned and it will not just be time-consuming and expensive, but it may also harm the lens and bring other problems.
- Breakdown of a mechanical, motorized or electronic part — Sometimes, electrical or mechanical problem may also occur within a lens that will make them faulty. In modern autofocus lenses, a major concern is the failure of electronic focus, aperture and image stabilization, which means they might have a shorter lifespan as compared to older manual lenses.
Ways to Prolong the Life of Your Camera Lens
First and foremost, as mentioned earlier, lens build quality is a significant factor in the camera lens life. If the camera lens is of good quality, the life of a camera lens can be prolonged if it is provided with adequate care, maintenance, and regular and on-time service.
Care and Maintenance
When it comes to camera lenses, their life is often times dependent on the care they get from their owner. A photographer who take care of their equipment like a baby will never put a lens in a bag without ensuring the preventative measures of the lens and seeing if there is dust in the air.
This is in contrast to a photographer who is reckless about their lens and puts their lens anywhere in the bag and does not care about them during weather changes.
Such a photographer’s lens may look old and get damaged after just a couple years of usage. Hence, taking care of your lens is an important factor that can prolong the life of your lens.
This would include cleaning the lens when exposed to water or rain or morning dew using a microfiber cloth and these kinds of simple and easy but required steps.
Watch Out For Extreme or Rapid Changes in Temperature
Another important area that impacts lens life is extreme or rapid changes in temperature. For example, you are shooting in the snow, and as you finish it you move into a nice, warm cabin.
In such a scenario, it is essential to be careful, since warm indoors will cause condensation on your cold gear, which could short out the electronics inside or cause fungus growth inside your lens.
To prevent this from happening, it is a good idea to keep the camera and lens sealed in a camera bag and put it out in the cold so that it warms up slowly for 20-30 minutes.
Similarly, in hotter climates or indoor ACs, condensation is also caused when you move from an AC room to hot outside.
Regular Servicing of Your Lens
For prolonging the life of your camera lens, it is important that you identify the problems within the lens at the early stages. For this, you need to check your gear often to make sure everything is working properly.
If there is some problem, it is recommended that you send in your lens for servicing at the earliest. For example, if the lens is jamming when zooming, or there are any problems coming with image stabilization, or there is a wiggle in the lens when it is mounted to the camera, it will require immediate services.
So, with the right care and maintenance, lenses can even outlive you. It is necessary to take care of your equipment if you wish that your lens has a long life and continues to produce sharp and clean images.Taking care of lenses is easy and doesn’t require a lot of efforts. As you take care of your lens, your lens will last longer and will continue to capture quality images for you.