Home >> Podcasts >> Abhijit Mutha on Renting and Maintaining Camera Gear
Show Notes

We’re back with another fantastic episode of Photosynthesis!

How did he get started in the rental business? What are the major challenges in the business? How to take care and generally maintain your cameras, lenses and other pieces of gear? What necessary precautions should one take for rented and personal equipment? When is it good to rent out vs buy equipment? What care should you taken when getting your equipment serviced from a service centre? We have all of these topics covered in today’s session with Abhijit.

Listen to the full Podcast on Spotify

Check out Primesandzoom’s stunning work on Instagram – Primesandzoom

References mentioned in the podcast –
This is Your (Well Our) Camera at Burning Man
Please, Don’t Take Our Photography and Video Gear to Burning Man

Indievisual’s Blogs on Renting Gear and Preventing Camera Damage –
Renting Photography Gear in India
The Top Threats to Your Camera’s Health: Identifying and Preventing Damage

A post by Abhijit on taking care of lenses –
Lens cleaning

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Transcript

Vineet (00:01.122) 

Hello and welcome back to Photosynthesis Individuals Podcast where we talk to photographers and videographers, some of the best experts we’ve met all over India to discuss the business and the art of this creative endeavor in fact. And the show where I regularly make Praveen my editor’s life difficult because I’m shooting next to a window. So highlights are always blown. Today we have with us Abhijit Muthaa. He runs primesandzooms.com 

He’s a very old friend. I’ve known him 20 years now, so that’s not why he’s here He’s gonna discuss with us all about the rental business in India and how to take care of gear Hi, Vijit. Welcome to the show 

Abhijit Mutha (00:42.906) 

Hi Vinit and thanks for inviting me to photosynthesis. It’s great to be here. 

Vineet (00:48.686) 

So how did you decide to get into the dentist’s business? Like how long have you been interested in photography? Before that. 

Abhijit Mutha (00:56.37) 

I picked up photography quite by accident because my parents got me a DSLR camera instead of a mobile phone that I had asked for and this was way back in 2010 that I started learning how to shoot. Eventually I came to a point where I wanted to convert my hobby into some sort of a business. 

So I was working as a management consultant at that point and this looked like a good excuse to quit the corporate life, move back to Pune and do something that I was passionate about. So that’s how Prime Zoom Zooms began in 2012. I started with about two cameras and five or six lenses. 

it’s been a great journey. We’ve seen a lot of support from initial customers. They’ve been very patient through all the learnings and mistakes that we’ve made. It’s been a great journey and today I think we are probably if you look at it in terms of the range of equipment, nobody offers the range that we do in India. 

Vineet (02:00.306) 

No, that’s quite amazing and I think it was the biggest online operation for sure. Like I haven’t seen at least others as big. Right 

Vineet (00:01.066) 

This can’t be an easy business, right? You’ve got its capital intensive for sure. You can only grow at a particular pace because equipment is really, really expensive, which is why people are coming to you in the first place. Insurance issues, transit issues, courier issues. What were the challenges? Some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced. 

Abhijit Mutha (00:08.706) 

it is. 

Abhijit Mutha (00:23.418) 

I think most of the challenges were around what you mentioned. The challenges in fact began with getting dealers to take us seriously. So when I went on the rounds to get quotations from dealers for the first round of equipment, most of them laughed me out of the store saying this is not a business that works. If it wasn’t that easy, we would have done it. 

Vineet (00:47.234) 

But rental is established, right? Like at least the offline rental business. That was established even then I am guessing. Right? 

Abhijit Mutha (00:54.167) 

Not so much and not in a city like Pune. Mumbai did have rentals for a very long time but restricted only to the industry. So if you are part of the fashion industry or the film industry or journalism, you did have access to equipment. But not for normal everyday people like you and me. So that was the first challenge. Even getting dealers to… 

take us seriously and do not be hostile towards us, do not look at us as a substitution for sales. So a lot of dealers once things started rolling then it began that, dealers started getting worried about we eating into their skills. So that was the biggest challenge on the supply side. 

After the dealers came the OEMs, even for OEMs to take us seriously took a while, especially because we were based out of a city like Pune and not in one of the metros. On the demand side, on the customer side, the challenges obviously are risk is the biggest challenge. Theft is always an omnipresent challenge, but more than theft, it is damages that hit us very hard. So, if somebody comes back with a damaged item and… 

Usually it’s fairly simple whether it was damaged before the rental or after the rental. For example, if a lens comes back in two pieces, it’s very obvious when the damage took place. So unfortunately, we see a lot of people trying to, they accept the damage at that point. 

But because we cannot charge them right away until we get an estimate from the service center about how much it’s going to take to fix it. And there’s also a certain amount of time that elapses before we get that estimate. And there are cases where then customers stop taking your calls or they just refuse to pay up for that damage or they may just say, you know, I never accepted it in the first place. I never admitted to that damage in the first place. So that’s one of the bigger challenges because simply because of the frequency with which it happens. 

Abhijit Mutha (02:59.012) 

Other than that, the third challenge is maintaining equipment in absolutely top-notch condition. We especially pride ourselves on the fact that our equipment… 

feels like it’s absolutely new and keeping it looking like that despite all the abuse that it takes through various renders and different kinds of handling is a bit of a challenge you need trained manpower to do it you need very high quality standards to be able to ensure that your equipment goes out without absolutely any flaws. 

If you look at the commercial people, they are fairly used to rental equipment being very beat up. But we do a lot of our work with enthusiasts and enthusiasts obviously expect a much higher level of quality and that’s what we strive to achieve. So that also is one of the challenges. And yes, from a management perspective, it is a capital intensive business and there’s only a certain rate of return that you can expect over time. 

Failures are unpredictable, theft is unpredictable, so you are never really sure whether you are going to make your money off that asset. It’s only in three or four years time that you get to know whether you’re going to be positive or negative on a particular asset. So those are the challenges. 

Vineet (04:16.91) 

Three or four years. Oh wow. Yeah, that’s a long time to get recovery on one piece of equipment. Wow. So, yeah, so like typically I’d say you’d make about one to two percent per rental, right? Can’t be more than that if you’re happy to discuss. 

Abhijit Mutha (04:33.834) 

Yeah, the average rental duration is about two days. So yes, about 2% on a rental. 

Vineet (04:40.962) 

So this is a business that runs on trust. How did you go about building that trust in an online business? 

Abhijit Mutha (04:49.703) 

So one of the surprising things that I encountered was that most people are trustworthy. At least until something goes wrong, most people want to be trusted. They can be trusted for the large part. There is a certain segment of people whose full-time business is fraud and rental houses are obviously targeted by such people. 

So the rigor with which you filter the customers that you’re working with is what makes the difference being able to sort of segregate the two. There are genuine customers and then there are customers only posing to be genuine. Over the years we’ve sort of built some feel for. 

what is likely to be genuine and what is likely to be a fraud. So there are some telltale signs that we look for without being judgmental about a particular customer. So that essentially is the… 

helps you build trust and obviously then out of 100 rentals you’ve got these 95 96 rentals that go perfectly well the customers are happy they bring back the equipment in good condition they are very careful with their equipment in fact they’re more careful with your equipment than with their own equipment and that sort of builds your trust in the business 

Vineet (06:07.07) 

I agree man, I sincerely believe that 98% of people are genuine. They want to do good. They want to do better than they promise. Having said that those 2% or even 1%, if your platform doesn’t weed out those 1% it will become full of those 1%. Like for example, so if you look at it too, like I have bought and sold so much stuff on OLX over the years. I have trusted people from other cities. 

Abhijit Mutha (06:15.106) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (06:24.683) 

Thanks. 

Vineet (06:36.118) 

Do a full transfer, I’ve transferred 50-60k to people based on a simple, you know, phone call obviously, video I might check their Instagram profile, but people are just trying to be genuine But if you allow scams, if you don’t clamp down on them then the other remaining 1-2% will just swamp you Yeah But that’s a tricky one, right? Because then every time your equipment comes back you need to do a very thorough check of every single lens and camera that comes back Must be like a 

Abhijit Mutha (06:53.797) 

Yes. 

Vineet (07:04.982) 

So you must have a clear process, right? A 30 point or 20 point check for each camera, body that comes back. 

Abhijit Mutha (07:09.742) 

Yes, yes, yes. We have checklists for every kind of equipment that comes back. So a lot of people think the rental business is simple. You do 100 rentals and you’ve recovered the cost of the equipment. It’s not that simple. Most of the cost is in the handling that every order goes through. Every rental order has to be manually picked back. 

given out, the customer checks it when it goes out, we check it when it comes back. So all that, building those processes, getting the people trained to check these equipment in the shortest amount of time possible for every single order, that takes a lot of effort. 

Vineet (07:51.606) 

I’ll be honest, I’m like, I’ve only rented twice in my life. Once when I rented a Tokina 1120 from you, when I was going to Everest Basecamp. And then when I was going to Sarisika earlier this year and rented the 200 to 600 Sony from a place called Ball Flicks in Gurgaon. My, I’m, that’s a one and a half lakh rupee lens, I think. I was panicking throughout. I had to give a check. 

Abhijit Mutha (07:58.135) 

Thanks. 

Abhijit Mutha (08:10.281) 

Okay. 

Vineet (08:19.942) 

And I can’t deal with this stress. I would rather just when I’m doing wildlife, I will just buy eventually. But, uh, I know when it comes to that, I will never buy because it’s too expensive. And if I’m going to two safaris in a year, doesn’t make sense to buy. And I know if I’m buying a one and a half lakh or two lakh rupee lens, the care I need to put into maintaining it is also crazy. So if someone is coming to you for rental or checking online, what precautions should they take? What should they watch out for? 

Abhijit Mutha (08:33.57) 

Cut it. 

Vineet (08:49.662) 

And how should they care for the lens when it is with them? So that it comes back to you so that they also, you know, nobody wants to go through this stress of, you know, back and forth. So what do you recommend? 

Abhijit Mutha (09:02.434) 

So there are two types of incidents that can take place. One is an accident takes place where you either drop the equipment or it suffers some sort of impact or there is some sort of incorrect usage and hence the equipment gets damaged. So the first is you have to be very careful with how you use the equipment. 

You have to know this is especially true for things like gimbals or any kind of sophisticated equipment that requires a certain amount of training before you can use it. Drones would be the perfect example for this. 

So know the equipment that you are going to rent. Make sure that you understand it thoroughly. If you have never used it before, check with the rental house for what precautions you need to take. They will obviously not be able to train you for using the equipment, but they can give you a quick run through of the critical things that you should be taking care of. The second kind of damage that we’ve seen happen is damage that you’re not aware of. 

So you’ve got your equipment packed inside a bag and then you’re putting those bags in the boot of your car 

and somebody loads something on top of the bag and they don’t know they’re not aware that you’ve got a filter sitting in the front pocket of the bag whatever you load on the bag crushes the filter and you’re just not aware of something like that has happened it may not even crush it may just scratch it and just dent it and we’ve seen this happen a lot where people drop the bag without realizing that the lens has no outward appearance of any kind of damage but something inside has gone wrong either the VR stops working or 

Abhijit Mutha (10:37.22) 

elements get out of alignment etc. So my second caution is do not let any kind of equipment out of your sight. We’ve seen a lot of wedding photographers go through this where they’ve given a lens to an assistant the assistant is not completely open with them about what the lens went through or whether it suffered some kind of an impact or not. 

So be very, very careful on these two fronts. Other than that, when you’re renting equipment, you need to do a thorough check of any pre-existing defects on the equipment. If you notice something, if you’ve observed a scratch on an optical element or you’ve observed a major dent in the body, it’s always a good idea to make a note of it with the rental house before you take the equipment. In case you’re getting it delivered to your location, there’s a certain amount of time that we allow customers 

existing defects they have observed and usually it is just a question of confirming that. 

Similarly, when you are returning the equipment, you should do a thorough check yourself so that when you reach the rental house and they are checking the equipment, there are no unpleasant surprises there. If you do observe something wrong, if you do find that something is gone for a task, you should voluntarily report it. At least at Primes and Zooms, we definitely treat voluntary disclosure differently from no disclosure at all. So if you are going to disclose some kind of a different kind of disclosure, you should 

or if you damage the lens, it’s unusable, you call up right away and tell us this is what has happened. We try to minimize the hit that you take on the damages. So it’s a curtsy that you need to follow. You need to report any damage to the rental house so that they can make alternate arrangements for any customer who was supposed to carry the lens after you. It’s never a good idea to leave anybody in the lurch. So I think that’s it. 

Vineet (12:30.738) 

And also I guess cooperate because I guess damage also is very subjective and very relative I would say because someone might come back to you and say it’s a tiny scratch on the filter but you then can’t rent it out further because you can’t rent out a scratched filter even if it’s a small scratch. Your other customers have expectations that I’m getting something that is in great condition. 

Abhijit Mutha (12:42.838) 

Correct. Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (12:51.522) 

It’s about understanding the equipment as well. So like I said a filter, especially if it’s a circular polarizer or a neutral density filter, these usually go on wide angle lenses. And if you’re using a filter, you’re going to shoot stop down. If you’re shooting stop down, you’re definitely going to photograph the scratch on that filter. 

So yes, you need to be aware of what kind of damage is minor and what constitutes functional damage or what impairs the functionality of the equipment. 

Vineet (13:22.91) 

Also, now I’ll ask when should one rent and when should one buy? 

Abhijit Mutha (13:30.912) 

There are two or three factors there. One if you are a commercial shooter, if you make your living from photography or any kind of videography, you should own a basic kit of your own. A lot of the times you get shoots at the very last minute and that doesn’t always leave you time for renting equipment. So there has to be a basic kit that you can use when you are not able to rent anything. 

Having said that, any kind of advanced equipment, if you are going to use a lens at least 30 or 35 days of the year at some minimum, then you can consider buying it. Anything less than that, usually renters work out a lot cheaper and renters also allow you to pick up the right equipment for the job. So even if you are not a commercial photographer, if you are a wildlife photographer, you can 

be photographer you have the freedom to switch lenses based on where you’re going if you’re going to Africa there’s a completely different kind of lens you want to carry if you are going to gym corvette then there’s a completely different kind of lens you want to carry based on what you’re shooting so unless you see you see your frequency of usage is that high you should not buy and there are some kind of some kinds of lenses especially which you will never want to buy 

and these are the really expensive ones, the super tele lenses. Usually super tele’s cost anywhere from 10 lakhs to about 20 lakhs a piece. And very rarely does that kind of money, you know, recover its worth. So for very expensive equipment, rentals will always work out cheaper. Especially if you look at super tele’s, the per day rental is less than 1% of the cost of the lens. So there are those kinds of items where 

Renting works out a lot cheaper than buying the equipment and maintaining it yourself. 

Vineet (15:25.706) 

And I guess also trying out equipment before you decide if you want to buy it or not. Go take it out on a trip. See if it makes sense. Because for me, like this was the first time I’d taken a tele like a 200, 600. Now I know it’s not for me because I’m not that into safaris. Right. And I like, I know that if I have such a heavy lens, I just won’t take photos. So I’d rather have a hundred, 400 lose the really, you know, really close focus, but 

Abhijit Mutha (15:32.407) 

Absolutely. 

Abhijit Mutha (15:49.102) 

Thank you. 

Vineet (15:54.686) 

At least I’ll use it. So renting that way really helped. 

Yeah. So that’s interesting. So that is one. Now I want to move over to general maintenance and care and go over in detail. How should one, so one is rented equipment, obviously, but also their own. How should one treat camera bodies and lenses and accessories? So let this stay new. What care should one take at home? How to account for weather, dust conditions, and just general care. So camera bodies, how should… 

What kind of precautions should I be taking at home? 

Abhijit Mutha (16:33.598) 

Okay, so camera bodies most of the time the maintenance that you need to do is on the outside. Bodies collect a lot of dust especially if you are shooting in dusty environments, if you are shooting on wildlife safaris your body will collect dust. The best way to clean it is to use a dry brush. If a brush is not sufficient you can use a blower to force dust out of some narrow crevices in the body. 

Other than that, my recommendation is do not use any kind of fluids for cleaning camera bodies, especially do not try to clean the optical viewfinder or God forbid do not even try to touch the sensor of the camera. 

The sensor is extremely delicate. Sometimes you may observe dust in your viewfinder. So in the optical viewfinder, you can see specks of dust. A lot of people assume that dust is on the sensor. It’s not on the sensor. It’s just on your either on your mirror or on your pentabrism if you’re using a DSLR camera. If you’re using a mirrorless camera,  

Abhijit Mutha (17:42.91) 

If you are using a mirrorless camera, it’s a very rare possibility that you will see dust in the live view. But if you do see it, then there is probably a lot of dust on your sensor. If that happens to be the case, just submit your camera to the service center and let them do the sensor cleaning. It’s very easy to damage sensors, focusing glasses, mirror assemblies and trying to clean them yourself. It’s not worth the trouble. 

Sensor replacements can cost anywhere from about 25000 to a lakh depending on how high end your camera is. So do not attempt to clean the sensor at home no matter how much you think you are good at it. 

Vineet (18:27.366) 

But I do like so Sony is actually used to be infamous for this. Now I don’t know what the latest body. I haven’t taken it on a track yet. It would get dust on the sensor. I very often see specks of dust on the directly on the sensor when I’m changing lenses. What should I do? Like just use a blower or avoid that. 

Abhijit Mutha (18:35.327) 

Ah, get filled. 

Abhijit Mutha (18:42.062) 

Okay. 

Abhijit Mutha (18:45.374) 

Yeah, just use a blower that’s the most invasive you can get. Do not try to do any kind of contact cleaning. If you use even the softest of cloth to clean the sensor through contact, you’re going to end up scratching your sensor because cloth usually absorbs dust particles and dust particles tend to be hard. 

and if you end up scratching, rubbing that cloth on your sensor, you will, there is a very high likelihood you will scratch it. A scratch sensor will definitely show up on your images. So you are better off with a dusty sensor than a scratch sensor. 

Vineet (19:17.165) 

and… 

Vineet (19:20.654) 

So two questions, one is there are these swabs you get on the, on Amazon for sensor cleaning. So are those for professionals? Those are best avoided. So, I’m going to go through the process of getting the sensor cleaned. 

Abhijit Mutha (19:24.354) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (19:30.634) 

Those are best avoided unless you really know what you’re doing. Because even those swabs are meant to be used in a particular way. They carry certain chemicals. I haven’t met a service center who endorses these swabs. But if you are, you know, if you frequently have to, like we have to frequently clean our sensors, we use those swabs. But we’ve learned how to use them. We figured out. Yeah. 

Vineet (19:54.946) 

Yeah, you’re professionals, you know what you’re doing. 

Abhijit Mutha (19:58.086) 

And it’s a commercial risk for us. Unlike photographers, unlike hobby photographers, it’s not a commercial risk. If you’re going to spend one lakh on a sensor, it’s just a killjoy. 

Vineet (20:08.906) 

And the second question is how expensive is the service typically? Broad range, how expensive, how inconvenient? 

Abhijit Mutha (20:17.774) 

Servicing camera bodies is usually in the range of if it’s a full-frame camera you’ll probably be charged about 2500 to 3500 excluding any parts. So this service usually includes exterior cleaning. It may or may not include sensor cleaning depending on the service center you’re dealing with so it’s always best to find out beforehand. The service center may add a charge on top for cleaning the sensor. 

Smaller bodies, crop sensor bodies will be slightly lower on the labor charges and obviously flexion bodies will be in the higher bracket somewhere around 5000 for it. 

Vineet (20:58.558) 

Okay and typically what other kind of problems might I be facing with my body that I might need to go to the service center for? Of course damage is a separate thing altogether. Anything else I need to worry about? 

Abhijit Mutha (21:07.122) 

Right. One very important thing is when you’re shooting any kind of event and there are laser lights flying around, it’s best to just shut off your camera and not shoot anything at all. Laser beams can very quickly burn your sensor and you may not even realize it, you will only start seeing a line either a vertical line or a horizontal line or all your images from that point forward. 

Vineet (21:17.238) 

Oh yeah. 

Abhijit Mutha (21:34.37) 

So that’s one kind of problem you may observe. Other than that, problems are usually with, if you’re using a DSLR, your shutter count has exceeded the rated shutter count for that particular body, in which case you need to replace your shutter assembly. This does not very easily manifest itself as something you will observe. But if you exceed the rated shutter count by a significant margin, then you may start observing certain lag in your shutter. 

shutter it will not give you exactly the speed that you have set on the camera. So if you are set for say 1 by 100 seconds it may be slightly slower than that. So it’s not something you will observe very easily. 

Vineet (22:05.87) 

So it gets sticky, what happens? Like what symptoms do you see? 

Vineet (22:17.858) 

But then… 

But then that’s only two or three things that I need to take care of besides of course physical damage and my body stays in perfect shape. 

Abhijit Mutha (22:24.618) 

Yes. Normally it does unless you’ve done something to it, unless it’s got some impact. One of the other things that happens is your the internal clock on your camera stops working or it loses time. It just resets to zero or you have to set the time every time you switch on the camera. When that happens, it’s just a question of replacing the CMOS battery inside the camera. It’s a simple replacement that the service center can do for you. 

Vineet (22:53.906) 

And now we come to lenses, which I would think are much more delicate and need much more care. What kind of precautions do I… And again, physical damage aside. Okay, let’s also talk about physical damage. What do I do to avoid physical damage? What care should I take when I’m on the road? What care should I take at home? Let’s start with that. 

Abhijit Mutha (22:56.45) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (22:59.842) 

Yep. 

Abhijit Mutha (23:15.73) 

In terms of maintenance, lenses do require much more cleaning than cameras do. So the first thing is obviously the body of the lens should be cleaned with a soft cloth or a brush. 

The optical surfaces are delicate, they have optical coatings on them. So do not use any kind of detergent, any kind of glass cleaner, any kind of solvent on the optical surfaces of the lens. Even on the body, avoid using any kind of solvents because it’s very easy for a solvent to seep inside the body of the lens and damage the electronics. 

So any kind of cleaning you do should be as dry as possible. If you observe stains on the optical surfaces, for example, you’ve got a front element that’s got water stains that have dried up. 

It’s best to use only a lens pen to clean them. Do not try to use any kind of cloth or do not try to rub the element to get the stain off. A lens pen will usually do the job perfectly fine. At most if you need some moisture to remove the stain, just breathe on the lens and use that condensed moisture to clean off the optical surface. 

Vineet (24:22.85) 

How do I then clean off? Because then I’ll be rubbing off, like rubbing a cloth on the surface, right? 

Abhijit Mutha (24:27.686) 

not with a cloth only with a lens pen. So if you are breathing on the lens front element just use the lens pen to pick the stain off. And lens pens are usually good at picking up any dust or any kind of residue on the element of the lens. 

Vineet (24:29.695) 

Only with lensmen. 

Vineet (24:44.994) 

Yeah, because this is a very common occurrence, right? You get a few specks of dust on the lens front element. Happens to me all the time. And even Noida, there’s dust everywhere. There’s construction dust all over the place. Yeah. Okay. A lens pen. What about care when traveling? 

Abhijit Mutha (24:54.656) 

Right. 

Abhijit Mutha (24:58.262) 

Mm-hmm. 

Abhijit Mutha (25:05.986) 

When traveling one of the most common problems you are going to face, especially if you are traveling in, let’s say you have gone to Goa and you are traveling in an AC car and you have just got out of the AC car and it’s a bright sunny day outside, extremely humid, the first thing you will observe is that your lens will condense. 

there will be moisture on the elements of your lens. So when that happens, in fact to avoid that, when that happens, the only thing you can do is wait for the moisture to disappear. Do not try rubbing the front element with a cloth to get the moisture off, because a lot of the times, the moisture will also be inside the lens. 

To avoid that, you have to make sure you expose the lens to the temperature difference as gradually as you can. If possible, put it inside a zip lock, bring it out gradually before you start shooting. Let the temperature change be as gradual as you can make it. That’s one thing. The second thing is when you’re traveling again, dust becomes a problem. A lot of the times you will get dust inside your lens. If you’re using 15600 for example or 100400. These lenses… 

Vineet (26:10.134) 

any kind of lens with an external, what’s the term, the external zoom 

Abhijit Mutha (26:13.11) 

Yeah. 

Abhijit Mutha (26:16.874) 

And especially if they expand or contract when they zoom in and zoom out, they’re pulling in a lot of air when they expand. 

So that air is bound to carry dust with it. My advice is do not try to do anything to that dust. Do not try to open the element on your own or try to get it clean. Usually, especially with telephoto lenses, you will never see the dust in your images. Unless you’ve got like a really thick layer of dust on it, or fungus on it, it’s not going to hurt your images at all. So just let it be. And at a periodic interval, whenever you’re getting the lens serviced, the service center can clean it up for you. 

Other than that, I think just protect your lenses from impact, any kind of impact, any kind of sand and any kind of moisture. Sand and moisture have a very nasty way of finding their way inside your lens. So those are two things. 

Vineet (27:07.63) 

Practically speaking, like, so let’s say I’m going somewhere on vacation, I’m carrying two lenses, one prime, one zoom, like a standard zoom and one prime, right? I’m going to put them in the same bag next to each other. Hard cases are typically not very common when it comes to lenses. Typically, they just give a soft case. What should I then do to take care of that lens when it’s inside the camera bag with my camera? And another lens attached to the camera. 

Abhijit Mutha (27:18.316) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (27:23.966) 

Right. Correct. 

Abhijit Mutha (27:35.85) 

So one is make sure you do not load anything on top of your camera bag. That’s one of the most common causes for damage. Second, do not keep your bag in precarious positions where somebody is very likely to, either topple it or. 

Sometimes you have straps dangling all over the place and somebody catches their hand in a strap and then just pulls the bag off the table or something like that. Make sure there is no impact to the bag. Even if the bag is padded, a lot of the lenses can be damaged with all that padding. 

Apart from that, use good camera bags. I think that’s something a lot of people try to skip on. They will use regular bags for camera equipment. Just don’t do that. Camera bags are designed to minimize the impact that your equipment takes even if something untoward happens to it. So use good camera bags. Spare a certain amount of your budget for a good camera bag. 

Vineet (28:32.662) 

Yeah, yeah. And also now keeping like how do you protect it from the elements at home? So a lot of photographers are really worried about fungus. Is that a very common problem with the humidity in India and what should one do to take care of that? 

Abhijit Mutha (28:40.779) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (28:48.29) 

Fungus is very common and fungus is more likely to grow inside your lens if there is condensation inside the lens. So like the scenario that I mentioned earlier, you stepped out of a very cold room into a very humid environment, a lot of condensation occurs even inside the lens. If it does not dry out on its own, then it will lead to growth of fungus and fungus usually appears as a dot surrounded by very filmy, fibrous… 

strands it looks very yeah it looks very you know like lint it looks very much like lint. 

Vineet (29:19.17) 

like an icicle sort of thing. 

Abhijit Mutha (29:29.102) 

So when it starts growing, you do not need to right away get the lens clean. So similar to dust, minor specks of fungus are not going to appear in your images most of the time. Unless you are shooting on a wide angle lens at the wide end, completely stop down, you will not even notice the spots of fungus on your images. 

Abhijit Mutha (30:37.774) 

So fungus is fairly common, you don’t need to attend to it right away, but you do need to take steps to minimize the growth of fungus inside your lens. You have to understand that lenses are fundamentally two sets of assemblies. There is a mechanical assembly which is all the mechanical components of the lens, the electronics etc. And then there is an optical assembly which comprises all the glass elements of the lens. 

Mechanical repairs are relatively easy because they do not require opening up the optical assembly. Fungus cleaning on the other hand requires opening up every element that has fungus on it and then putting them back together again. And most of the times it’s very tricky to put it back the way it was assembled inside the factory. 

So every time you’re getting fungus cleaning done, you have to make sure the alignment is fine. The lenses are gone soft, et cetera, et cetera. Service centers normally do this for you, but you also need to watch out for any kind of issues. So the best thing is to avoid getting fungus in the lens in the first place, which means when you store your lens, you have to store it in a dry place. 

Avoid keeping your lenses in the dark with the caps on for too long. Even if you are not shooting for an extended duration, bring the lens out, just expose it to some daylight just to make sure the fungus growth inside does not really explode. 

If you can invest in a dry cabinet, that’s a good idea, especially if you’ve got a lot of equipment. It makes sense to invest in a dry cabinet that will keep the humidity at a certain level. And this is especially important if you are living in a coastal city like Mumbai, for example. Without a dry cabinet, within a year or two years, you may start seeing fungus grow inside your lenses. 

Vineet (32:22.002) 

And yes, fungus is easy to clean for a professional service center or even for them it’s very tricky. 

Abhijit Mutha (32:28.33) 

Okay, you know in appearance fungus looks like it’s cottony. You know you think you just wipe a brush over it and like the web of a spider it will probably just get pulled along by the brush. In truth fungus is extremely hard. 

It is so hard that even after you’ve cleaned the fungus, the fungus will have damaged the optical coatings that it was setting on. So fungus cleaning in that sense physically is not a very easy task. Service centers do have the solutions to do a good job of it. But remember that post fungus cleaning your lens is not going to look the same as it did before you had the fungus. A lot of the times streaks are left by the fungus. Sometimes it may be impossible to get an element clean completely and the only solution may 

There are sandwich elements where two elements are grouped together and they cannot be opened up for cleaning but fungus does find its way inside the air gap between these two elements. So it is always simply best to avoid these situations of getting fungus in your limbs. 

Vineet (33:32.81) 

Yeah, so I think maybe it’s safer to assume that you can get it repaired, but it will just assume that it will never be the same again. So yes, prevention is that important. 

Abhijit Mutha (33:42.064) 

Yes. 

Vineet (33:43.422) 

And otherwise lens servicing, how often should one get it done? Is there a reason to get it done regularly or only if there’s a problem? 

Abhijit Mutha (33:48.399) 

What? 

You may not want to service your lens unless there’s a good reason to do it. Most of the time, individual used lenses will not require periodic servicing. Unless you notice something wrong with the lens, it’s either soft or it’s not focusing, it’s back focusing or front focusing. It’s hunting for focus. Unless you observe some kind of a problem, my recommendation is you don’t really need to get your lens serviced. But yes, if you see a large buildup of dust inside, if you see a large buildup of fungus inside. 

or if you notice the VR jumping around etc. then it may be a good idea to get the lens serviced. So unless you have a specific problem it’s best to avoid opening up the lens. 

Vineet (34:32.606) 

And finally about accessories, filters, etc. Any special care needed or just keep them safe from damage. 

Abhijit Mutha (34:38.73) 

Again, the same kind of guidelines use very soft materials to clean filters. It’s very easy to scratch a filter. 

other than filters there are a lot of accessories that we use like flash guns, tripods, monobots, etc. Sand is the enemy of almost all photography equipment. So if you are shooting by the seaside, on a beach or any of this, take a lot of precautions. Make sure you do not get sand on your hands because your hands will carry that sand all over the place. 

And the same goes for moisture. Water is the enemy of practically all photography equipment except GoPro’s probably. So make sure that these two elements are kept as far away from your equipment as possible. 

Vineet (35:22.506) 

There’s this really interesting post on Lensrentals.com where they took apart a camera and a lens that went to the Burning Man festival and they showed so many photos of how it’s just completely destroyed that camera is rogered, it got so much sand into it and the people who rented it were like, no we never took it 

Abhijit Mutha (35:30.229) 

Mm-hmm. 

Abhijit Mutha (35:35.341) 

Yes. 

Vineet (35:43.554) 

So yeah, we’ll actually link to that fantastic breakdown of what sand can actually do to a camera without you even realizing it. Yeah. Anything else, any other precautions that a photographer needs to take beyond just don’t buy too much. 

Abhijit Mutha (35:49.541) 

Yes. 

Abhijit Mutha (36:00.178) 

I think the best precaution or the best philosophy to follow is prevention is better than cure and if you must solve a problem, do not get very aggressive about it. Just you know. 

are on the safe side be very sure about what you are doing and if you are in doubt submit the equipment to an authorized service center they know their job they have got the right tools to do it they have got the right materials to do it a lot of the times you may need replacement of spare parts and it’s very difficult to get it done in third party service centers so it’s always best to submit your equipment to OEM service centers. 

Vineet (36:39.85) 

Yeah, and personally I only use the Sony Service Centre in Delhi. It’s always been a happy experience. They’re very quick and I thought they would be much more expensive than they were. 

Abhijit Mutha (36:49.314) 

they’re usually not so expensive. 

Vineet (36:51.71) 

Yeah, and they did a very thorough job. So, where all do you rent out? Only in Maharashtra or like you rent lenses across the country? 

Abhijit Mutha (37:01.598) 

We rent out in Pune and Mumbai regularly. So we’ve got two sections to our website where you select whether you’re from Pune or Mumbai and accordingly the website figures out the transit times etc. On request we do the rest of Maharashtra. In exceptional cases we’ve also done deliveries in other cities outside Maharashtra, in Bangalore, Delhi etc. So on a case to case basis we are able to take that call. 

there is a requirement we can definitely look at serving it. 

Vineet (37:34.966) 

Perfect. Thanks Abhijit. This has been a very interesting conversation on how to take care of lenses and how to look at rentals versus procurement. If you are in Pune or Mumbai and you want to rent lenses visit Primes and Zooms. And yeah, we link a couple of very interesting pieces in the show notes. Thanks for joining us Abhijit. 

Abhijit Mutha (37:56.162) 

Thank you, Vinit. Bye. 

Vineet (37:57.698) 

Thanks, bye bye. 

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