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09-03-2012, 01:29 PM   #1
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Fungus among us

I was under the impression that a lens wih fungus in it is a threat to the other lenses it is stored with. I asked Eric H, who some of us use to service lenses, about that, and he said that it does not travel from lens to lens suggesting that the 'healthy' lenses are not threatened by the presence of fungus in any of the others. I'll take Eric's word for it, given his expertise, but I am wondering if anyone has confirmation of that assertion.

I was also wondering, if you see something that looks like a little fungus in a lens, whether exposing the lens to light for a few days or to a UV light would kill the fungus so that it becomes inert even within the lens?

09-03-2012, 01:53 PM   #2
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Everything I have read says the spores were in the lens from the outset.
09-03-2012, 02:00 PM   #3
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The spores that cause fungus are everywhere, but as long as you don't give it an environment to grow it won't. Fungus likes darkness and dampness, light and dryness will kill it. It won't disappear, but it will stop growing.
09-03-2012, 02:47 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spodeworld Quote
UV light would kill the fungus so that it becomes inert even within the lens?
UVC will mutate the fungus so it can not reproduce, the problem is that the lens-elements will block most of that wavelength so dismantling the lens is necessary.
So just bathing the lens in UV light is not going to work. I wish it was that easy, I would be buying a UVC sanitizer lamp right now.

09-03-2012, 02:50 PM   #5
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Right. That is what I was wondering. If you see a little fungus and keep it exposed to light long enough to kill it, then I assume what remains behind, if a small quantity won't really have an impact on the images or on other lenses. Is that a correct assumption? And, I wonder what it takes to kill it when you see a thread or two? What steps and for how long (assuming you are not disassembling the lens)?


QuoteOriginally posted by elliott Quote
The spores that cause fungus are everywhere, but as long as you don't give it an environment to grow it won't. Fungus likes darkness and dampness, light and dryness will kill it. It won't disappear, but it will stop growing.
09-03-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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OK, if the UV is too attenuated by the glass of the lens, does keeping the lens with lencap off for a certain period of in a light environment kill the fungus that is just starting to rear its ugly head? If so, any guesses how much exposure is required?
09-03-2012, 03:30 PM   #7
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My understanding on it is that the light will halt or retard the growth, not kill it.
09-03-2012, 03:37 PM   #8
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So, it doesn't sound like there is any way to kill it without disassembling the lens.

09-03-2012, 03:38 PM   #9
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The spores that cause fungus are in the air all the time and most likely in all of your equipment as well. As noted above they need warmth, moisture and food to grow. Give them that environment and they will grow, take anything away and it dies. Generally the easiest thing to remove is moisture so keeping your gear dry is the best preventative. If you do get wet, then drying things out is the cure. A warm box is one method, this is just a cabinet with a small light bulb inside, the heat from the bulb will warm up and dry out everything.

The theory that fungus will spread has been around for a long time and while it is appropriately scary for an urban myth it really makes no sense to anyone with a science background. To spread it would have to grow out of your lens, across the gap between lenses in your bag and into the next lens. I have ever seen anything like that happen. Some have said that it will spread by releasing additional spores, while I suppose this is possible, I have never seen lens fungus old enough to 'fruit'. Fungus threads that we usually see are similar to leaves on plants, non reproductive, to make spores the fungus will produce a fruiting body that when ripe releases the spores. But again, I've never seen lens fungus old enough to produce a fruiting body, it usually dies rather quickly as soon as the moisture or food is used up.

The mushrooms we eat are fungus. The part we eat and see and usually consider the 'mushroom' is just the fruiting body. The biggest part of the 'mushroom' is actually underground and looks a lot like the threads we see in lens fungus.
09-03-2012, 04:03 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spodeworld Quote
So, it doesn't sound like there is any way to kill it without disassembling the lens.
Pretty much the bottom line AFAIK.
09-03-2012, 04:06 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spodeworld Quote
So, it doesn't sound like there is any way to kill it without disassembling the lens.
I think you are missing the point. Even if you disassemble the lens, sterilize it and reassemble, the first time you zoom in or out and suck in air you have a new set of spores. Keep your gear dry is the only thing you can do.
09-03-2012, 04:23 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
I think you are missing the point. Even if you disassemble the lens, sterilize it and reassemble, the first time you zoom in or out and suck in air you have a new set of spores. Keep your gear dry is the only thing you can do.
100% agree.
But how to evict the ones that start to feel comfortable and set up shop, feeding on your precious lens-coatings, that is the question for all camera/lens/telescope users. Me included

This started from a insect(tiny baby spider) that died inside the telescope, the filaments just expanded from it`s body. I should have taken a picture of it with the dead bug.

Last edited by Ex Finn.; 11-11-2014 at 05:47 PM.
09-03-2012, 04:43 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ex Finn. Quote
But how to evict the ones that start to feel comfortable and set up shop, feeding on your precious lens-coatings
Only way I know is to keep the gear dry. That halts or prevents growth.

I have cleaned several lenses that I acquired with minor, and one not minor, cases of fungus. I found that disassembling and cleaning with rubbing alcohol worked rather well. Make sure to use pure alcohol, not anything that has additives like scents or moisturizers. Regular glass cleaner would work as well. But when the lens is open you have to think 'clean room', dust, finger prints, whatever that you might not notice when assembling are glaringly obvious once you think you are done.

The real hard part is taking the lens apart and putting it back right. Cleaning the fungus threads was not a problem. I have read of cases where the coatings were etched and thus the lens ruined but I have not experienced that. All the lenses I've cleaned came out perfect.

You can also get fungus in the glue between elements and in that case I think the lens is a lost cause. If it were extremely expensive it might be worth professional repair but getting lens elements back together correctly is beyond most amateurs and certainly beyond me.
09-04-2012, 11:51 AM   #14
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I got the moisture part...but now, a silly question about the light part.

Someone suggested a clear plastic box for the lenses. Is the problem that the lens is covered with both the lens caps and light is not getting inside the lens? Does it even matter if the box is translucent/clear box if the caps are on?
09-04-2012, 12:40 PM   #15
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Fungus on Lenses

A brief educational link...


I also grew up with a descendent of...

John Brashear - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

...and a few other well renowned "optical & photography" masters that gave me quite the education on items such as this.

I've even seen a few people build well controlled cabinets/tanks to place (extremely) valued optics in.
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