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Nikon LensPen NLP-1 Disappointed with its poor performance removing "real" fingerprints.
on March 9, 2013
Often, something appearing trendy and cool can fool us. This is especially true when a respected company like Nikon puts its name on a product. After you review our test procedures and results, you can decide for yourself whether NLP-1 LensPen is worth the money (and the potential risk to lens surfaces), despite the majority of pundits that have praised this device.
If you've read this bio from another review, please skip it, no sense in boring you twice....For the record...My background after leaving the Military, as a photo wet lab instructor, with "several" hours of photo reconnaissance in the Far East, included a 20 year paid affiliation with a respected optical use and applications laboratory of a Fortune 50 Corporation. I am "retired" in Florida with a home grown photo testing lab and a reseller of Canon Gear.
Although, they've been around for a few years, I recently purchased 6 genuine Lens Pens and 50 "genuine" counterfeits to run some performance tests and comparisons. The "fakes" are covered in a separate review.
The ads for the genuine Lens Pen were always intriguing; a compact, 4 1/2" pen sized cleaning device, fits in your pocket, good for cleaning all lenses, filters, eyepieces, and according to their website, lasts long enough "to remove 500 fingerprints". Wow! All this from an "uncapped" retractable 1" by ½" synthetic bristle brush at one end, and a tiny screw capped ½" chamois pad, impregnated with carbon black, perched on a ½" flexible rubber platform at the other end.
My first skepticism started with the brush. Retractable yes, but fully protected, no. Why no protective cap to cover the brush tips? The tips of the bristles, the most critical part of the brush, were left exposed inside the tube. The uncapped tips not only can pick up dirt, dust and lint in a shirt pocket or a camera bag (also mentioned by other reviewers), they do! In my opinion, this is a careless design, for a $6-8 item so highly touted.
Secondly, the size of the ½" in diameter chamois "pad" (2/3rds the size of a dime) to clean common (D)SLR lenses having an average diameter of between 52mm and 77mm (2-3inches), (That's 4-6 X larger surface area than the pad itself), seemed to defy the laws of physics. Further, we are instructed by the LensPen Web Site NEVER to clean the pad with any cleaning solution, or even distilled water to remove the trapped soils collected from previous lens cleanings, allowing any soil residues to remain permanently on the tiny chamois pad or on the 1/2" X 7/16" foam plug the chamois pad rests against inside the tube.
The LensPen's method of claimed "cleaning replenishment" comes from screwing the cleaning head back into the cap, which nests against a ½"x 7/16" foam "plug" lightly impregnated with carbon black. Just about now, I began to lose my objectivity. All I could think of was how this procedure reminded me of, after finishing a meal, having to put the dirty silverware back into the clean silverware drawer, and even worse, taking these same dirty utensils the next day and reusing them. Nevertheless, I decided to finish the evaluation to see just how many of my fingerprints could be removed, before the pad "quit" and started to streak. The LensPen ads and Web Site claim this device will last through 500 cleanings or long enough to remove "500" of their "laboratory generated fingerprints".
Our test procedure was designed to be practical, and one you can run yourself, as follows:
I rubbed the side of my nose with my forefinger and rubbed the sebum (skin oil) on to a 52mm filter, covering an area the diameter of my forefinger, approximately 10/16".
The first attempt at removing this fingerprint with the Nikon LensPen NLP-1 went FLAWLESSLY...100% AS ADVERTISED, and done in under 10 seconds!
The pad was then placed fully into its cap for carbon black "replenishment", and the above procedure, repeated.. This time, however, the second fingerprint removal took almost twice as long, as some smearing was evident. However, after about twenty seconds, the lens was again sparkling clean, even under 60x magnification.
For the third time, the pad was once again placed fully into its cap for carbon black "replenishment", and the above procedure, repeated.
This time, however, the filter surface never got clean. The filter surface remained, streaked and smudged, even after 3 more attempts to renew the pad by screwing the cap into the foam plug with the carbon black refresher.
To be fair, we need to rerun the test using a different new Lens Pen, which BTW is the "new design" and genuine.
The test was repeated with the new Lens Pen NLP-1. Results: exactly the same outcome, as the first. After the second wiping of the skin oil fingerprint, the Lens Pen could not clean streak free the third time.
Finally, we let the pens "rest" for a day, and the next day, tried each one on a totally clean 52mm filter, without any soil to be removed. I rubbed the first pen lightly on the clean filter, and as you probably guessed, the pad left a streaked residue from the retained oils from the lenses "cleaned", the day before..... same results with the second pen on the second clean filter.
1. A bad batch of pens used for these tests?.. Not very likely this time, as this test was repeated a total of 6 times using 3 different vendor sources of NLP-1 LensPens.
2. The more likely conclusion is that the tiny Lens Pen cleaning pad could not absorb all the oil, and as a result, redeposited the unabsorbed oil right back on to the clean filter surface. My real concern, and perhaps yours as well, after this observation, was what if it wasn't just oil being re-deposited, but instead, retained micro grit from its previous use that could not only scratch the lens coating, but also scratch the lens itself?
3. In our test repetitions, the Lens Pen lasted through only TWO successive applications removing "real" fingerprints from skin oil, significantly underperforming the claim of "500" stated both in the LensPen ads and on the LensPen Web Site. However, on a relatively clean lens surface, or one with "laboratory generated finger prints", a new Lens Pen does a great job with no streaks. For that matter, under most circumstances, so will our breath and a clean split microfiber lens cloth or lens tissue.
Summary: For a lens surface that "really" needs cleaning, the classic, but less cool and safer method, in our view, still prevails...Begin by blowing, and or BRUSHING FIRST with a clean, natural hair lens brush (100% goat hair), followed by a "boringly effective" disposable lens wipe, made by Zeiss or Nikon, or a clean brand name micro fiber cloth and a lens cleaner, made by Zeiss, Nikon, ROR or Kodak. It may not be trendy, but will always do the job thoroughly and safely. And, if you are one of those that faithfully cleans their micro fiber cloth after each use, you need never worry about redepositing residues from lenses cleaned previously with that same cloth, a claim that the newest NLP-1 model LensPen cannot match, as evidenced in the tests detailed above....Steve
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