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11-06-2008, 11:45 PM   #1
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Fungus Nightmare!! - How to store photo equipment??

Hi All,

I've been away from the forum for quite some time now. I have moved back to India and was very busy setting up a new business. In all the excitement I didn't have much time to spend with photography and as a result my equipment was neglected. They were stored in a cupboard in their Lowepro bags. BIG MISTAKE!!

After about six months or so, I finally opened the bags yesterday to do some cleaning - it is fungus fungus everywhere. I now live in a coastal town in southern India where the weather is hot and very very humid through out the year.

My leather tote bag is almost covered with a greenish fuzz. The focus ring on the my Minolta A2 is in similar condition. (Pics attached). There are traces of fungus on my Sigma 24-135, Pentax-DA 18-55 and Pentax-F 35-70. Thankfully the rest of the stuff seemed unaffected. The Minolta A2 GT lens is also unaffected.

Anyway, I rushed the whole setup into the sun and will dry it out over a couple of days. All the silica gel sachets I put in the bags were completely saturated, I need to get more. I will do some cleaning over weekend and access the total damage. Any tips as to what to look for when checking the lenses & converters?

Let my experience be a warning to those who do not store their photo equipment properly when not in use. I just wanted to share my sorrow with the community and ask for advice on how best to salvage the situation.

What can I do about the fungus on the lenses? The infection is very small and while I am happy that I caught it when I did, I worry if I can stop it from getting worse and spreading to other lenses. I read up almost all the stuff available on the net and will make a plan to tackle the issue. Any and all advice is welcome.

Also, what is the best way to store the equipment? I now know that it is a bad idea to store them in the camera bags. I plan to get an air-tight rubber-maid type box, line it with foam and store unused lenses and equipment wrapped individually in foam casings. Lots of desiccants to absorb any humidity in the box. Leather is a strict no no - it is a breeding ground for fungus. Will this be sufficient to prevent recurrence?

Thanks for listening.

Cheers
Teja


Edit: Hmm... not sure if this is the right forum. Maybe this should be in the 'SLR Lens' forum. Moderators, please feel free to move to appropriate section. Thanks.
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Last edited by Teja; 11-07-2008 at 10:59 AM.
11-07-2008, 04:58 AM   #2
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You can buy "dry cabinets" fairly cheaply that run a fan and a heater type setup automatically to keep the humidity and temperature even.

A friend of mine bought one for about $350 AUD a while back, seems to do the job. You have a lot more equipment than he does though, might need a larger one.
11-07-2008, 05:18 AM   #3
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First thing is to get rid of the bags, liners, filter pouches. They will never be clean of fungus now.
The equipment will need to be cleaned extremely well with alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide.
The suggestion of a dry cabinet is the way to go. Silica gel packs in a bag will never protect the gear under your conditions.

Oh, and forget the foam idea. It just holds moisture near the gear, And provides a breeding ground for more fungus.
Dry air flow is needed to keep the fungus out.
11-07-2008, 05:31 AM   #4
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I think you can separate this in two problems:

1. Avoid Fungus spores.
2. Avoid environments that favor fungus growth.

Regarding 1. As I'm working with some scientists who analyze air borne fungus spores using DNA technique, we have found fungus spores everywhere, but there is clear seasonal and meteorological trends in the concentrations. So spores are not only found in say a moist cellar, they are everywhere, coming from soils, debris vegetation etc. The seasonal trends makes me think that there will also be large differences in between climate zones. I would suspect that for example the tropics have much higher fungus spore concentration than say temperate or Arctic regions. But they are everywhere to some degree, but concentrations change several orders of magnitude. Since the worst thing is probably to get fungus inside a lens or camera, it makes sense to be very careful about where you open a lens or camera, I mean open as taking apart, where it is serviced. Exposing the inside to high spore concentrations means bad chances for the future. Probably they were originally mounted in industrial clean room environments...but a lens service in the wrong place will undo all that. I would suspect that in some regions there will be so much spores everywhere unless you have a professional clean room, that it is vain to try to avoid the spores. ...for some zoom lenses I believe air is pumped in and out of the lens when zooming, which is probably bad!

2. In your case I suppose the spores must have had close to ideal conditions for growth, so it might not matter how much spores there were originally. Presumably warm and moist is good for them. Really cold or dry is bad (good for the lens owner). I realize that this it is not easy to get such storage in all climates. Here at some 60 degrees north I'm "lucky" to have a long cold winter that kills/hybernates(?) lots of them (as it does with most vegetation) and often quite low absolute humidity. I suppose there should be the same rule here as for when you build and isolate houses: Too well closed compartments are dangerous. If you get moisture into a closed compartment, and it then becomes slightly colder than originally, the relative humidity will be high and probably favorable for the fungus. So here is a contradiction: you want the storage closed to avoid letting fungus in, but you want an open storage to let moisture out. Perhaps a close storage with enough dry gel? Keeping it dry with some sort of air condition might be good in that it could prevent them from growing fast, but it will constantly pump in new spores, unless you have a good filter in the ventilation.

Leather they can probably eat, unlike synthetic material. They might be able to eat real rubber as well. I'm not sure. But there can also be enough tiny organic particles deposited on the metal/plastic/synthetic parts of the camera/lens/bag together with the spores to give them something to eat. What really puzzles me is that they appear to be able to eat something in the lens coatings!!!

My five cents as they say...

(and don't ask me more specific about fungus...I'm not the biologist in that research project, I'm the guy who understand how they stay floating in the air for long distances)

11-07-2008, 05:36 AM   #5
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You actually don't have to throw away bags that are constructd from Man made materials (poly, nylon etc). Just wash them in soap and javex in the washing machine a couple of times. The fabrics can take the Javex and generally the bleach won't cause colour runs. The bleach will kill the fungus. Any leather etc is garbage.

For cleaning lenses, it's tough as they need to be stripped down and cleaned inside. You may find it easier and cheaper to just replace them.
Maybe have a small room (maybe where you keep other sensitive equipment like the computer) where you can close the door and run a dehumidifier and leave the gear out on a shelf exposed to the air.
11-07-2008, 06:00 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildlifephotog Quote
Oh, and forget the foam idea. It just holds moisture near the gear, And provides a breeding ground for more fungus.
Dry air flow is needed to keep the fungus out.
Thank you. Makes a lot of sense. No foam.
11-07-2008, 06:04 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Maxington Quote
You can buy "dry cabinets" fairly cheaply that run a fan and a heater type setup automatically to keep the humidity and temperature even.
Don't know if something like that is available off the shelf in my corner of the globe, mate. But I get the idea, I will probably have to get it custom built - plywood and aluminium cabinet with a small hot air blower & thermostat to maintain temperature.

Thanks.
11-07-2008, 06:07 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Peter Zack Quote
You actually don't have to throw away bags that are constructd from Man made materials (poly, nylon etc). Just wash them in soap and javex in the washing machine a couple of times. The fabrics can take the Javex and generally the bleach won't cause colour runs. The bleach will kill the fungus. Any leather etc is garbage.
Actually did wash the bag liners, straps etc. Have to see if I can wash the Lowepro bags itself. Will have to check their website for washing instructions.

QuoteOriginally posted by Peter Zack Quote
For cleaning lenses, it's tough as they need to be stripped down and cleaned inside. You may find it easier and cheaper to just replace them.
Maybe have a small room (maybe where you keep other sensitive equipment like the computer) where you can close the door and run a dehumidifier and leave the gear out on a shelf exposed to the air.
Only one lens (the Sigma 24-135) is showing fungus on inner elements. The two others only had it on the surface of the front element and almost came off nicely when I cleaned it with a lens cleaner. There is still a bit sticking to the surface, I will try a better cleaner or peroxide tomorrow.

11-07-2008, 10:38 AM   #9
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Here is cheap option that will get the humidity out of the air, in an enclosed space:
Cabela's -- Golden Rod
11-07-2008, 10:58 AM   #10
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I guess that's one more advantage to living in Utah - not humid enough to grow fungus in the house.
11-07-2008, 11:01 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by 7.62lew Quote
Here is cheap option that will get the humidity out of the air, in an enclosed space:
Cabela's -- Golden Rod
You find the same thing in pipe organ consoles to keep the contacts from corroding. They are cheap and effective. Just make sure you don't grab it with a bare hand until it has cooled down. Been there, done that, OUCH.

On the other hand, Casavant Freres just put an ordinary light bulb in there (not fluorescent) on a number of organs I have met.
11-07-2008, 11:08 AM   #12
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When possible, air conditioning is your friend regarding humidity.
11-07-2008, 04:09 PM   #13
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you can put them in godrej bureau locker. they are safe and will not allow fungus to grow.
just throw your bags. they are the root cause for your problem. leather at your place might not be dried properly. the residual moisture might have lead to your problem.

just store them covered in news paper (The hindu or similar). that way it will have free air circulation and the paper will absorb moisture.
do not use the bags that lead to this problem.
11-07-2008, 04:38 PM   #14
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Would a microwave oven kill fungus in non metallic items such as leather or fabric bags?
11-07-2008, 06:47 PM   #15
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Thread starter, what you need is a dry cabinet like this:

Digihub Singapore

Most photographers where I'm at keep their gear in one of these electronic dry cabinets to reduce the relative humidity inside. This is proven to work and is far, far better than using silica gel.
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