Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Sometimes reusable isn't better.
The Long Version: I'm hardly an influential and famous reviewer, so when the North American distributor of the European "Green Clean" brand offered to let me try out some products that are just arriving on this continent, I couldn't skip the chance. This is the first review of three; over the next week or so I'll also be looking at their sensor swabs and a neat dust-removal method. But first up is their Green Clean Lens Cleaner.
There's a huge range of accepted methods for lens cleaning. Some photographers are meticulous to the point of wearing cotton gloves, while others will just wipe a visibly soiled lens on the back of their tie. (I exaggerate, of course – when was the last time a photographer wore a tie?) I admit that I fall somewhere toward the casual side of the spectrum; I usually just breathe on the lens to fog it and then give it a wipe with a handy micro-fibre cloth. Following Keith's review, I did pick up some Zeiss pre-moistened lens wipes. They've served me well, but when they're fresh I found that they would leave streaks that would still need to be removed with a dry cloth, possibly introducing new problems and negating the scratch-preventing benefit of the disposable wipe. The Green Clean Lens Cleaner solves that problem by combining a disposable wet and dry soft tissue in each packet.
To give it a bit of a test I took my Nikon 35mm f/2D lens and liberally flicked water drops all over the front element. As this hack job of a before-and-after photo shows, the Green Clean wipes weren't challenged by this at all; I also cleaned my eyeglasses at the same time, which is a great way to discover streaking. No problem.
I hadn't really expected such a simple task to stump the lens wipes, so I had another nefarious plan in progress. I took a glass of warm water and added sea salt until it was decidedly unpleasant to taste, and then did a number on three budget UV filters that I had lying around. They are Hoyas in 55 and 95mm, and a non-name "Topaz" filter in 82mm. Here's what they looked like after I was done spritzing them:
Of course, if your filter or front element has this much salt-water sprayed on it then your camera probably has bigger problems than a lens wipe can solve, but no matter: I wanted a torture test. I set these filters out to dry and harden under the gentle breeze of the air conditioner for a few days, and then tried my different cleaning methods on each one.
For the 55mm I used my typical huff-and-hanky cleaning method, and I wasn't at all surprised to see that it left a lot of the salt behind. Perhaps this is better than nothing, but probably not better enough to make any substantial difference. These before-and-after photos are actually quite flattering: all I really managed to do was average the salt out and send a perfectly good microfiber cloth off to the washing machine before its time.
I used a Zeiss wipe on the 82mm filter. The alcohol-moistened tissue did a good job of removing the salt, to the point where the filter looked mostly clean. However, a closer inspection and a different angle shows a lot of streaking and salt residue left behind.
The results from a single Zeiss wipe might have been enough to keep shooting without visible smudging of the photos, but I'd really want a second cleaning with another Zeiss wipe before I'd trust that filter with any important images. Since my year-old wipes can still leave streaks even when the lens isn't salt-encrusted, a third step to polish the lens with a microfiber cloth would probably also be needed.
The photo above is the before-and-after for the 95mm filter, which I cleaned with the Green Clean wet and dry wipes. The process is absolutely simple: open and wipe with the wet cloth, discard; open and wipe with the dry cloth, discard. For those who belong to the "You'll shoot your eye out!" school of lens scratch prevention, having a clean single-use tissue for each step is a tremendous coup.
The drying step makes a huge difference to the result: no streaking and no residual salt. In fact, I used the same wet and dry wipes to clean the residue from both of the other filters, with equally good results even though the 'dry' one was pretty damp by the end of it. I was prepared to be forgiving if the Green Clean couldn't handle this challenge, but I was impressed.
I'm going to continue using one of my ever-present microfiber cloths for light routine cleaning of my eyeglasses, camera lenses, and watches. My remaining stock of Zeiss tissues will spend the rest of their days cleaning the screen on my phone and serving as impromptu wet-naps. But for getting rid of smudges, oils, or any sort of residue from my optics, I'll definitely be buying a box of the Green Clean wet/dry wipes as soon as they hit the market.
This review introduces the "Review Sample" tag to mark that this isn't a product that the reviewer has personally purchased. The Green Clean products used in this review have been provided at no cost by the North American distributor for evaluation. However, anything that isn't consumed in the product testing is returned, and there is no financial relationship or incentive involved. But as always, the usual `thewsreviews disclaimer still applies.
last updated 22 aug 2011