View Full Version : Risk of fungus

23-Oct-2017, 23:48
Hello everyone. New user here on the forums as I'm about to move into 5x4 film photography, and need a bit of advice before I do.

I am in the UK and have found a good shop with a knowledgeable proprietor, and good prices.

For sale is a MPP field camera, complete with a lens "showing signs of fungus". My plan is to remove that lens, and replace it with a lens not showing sign of fungus.

The camera apparently shows no signs of fungus, but my question to you guys is this: if the camera has been stored with a lens showing signs of fungus, is that camera a risk to clean lenses, even if it is not currently showing signs of a fungus invasion?

I do not want to take a stupid risk and ruin a bunch of lenses, but nor do I want to miss an absolute bargain if I'm over-worrying on the issue.

I plan to use a clear plastic box for storage, stored in a bedroom that is kept heated, and place silica gel in the box as a precaution. That aside, being a field camera, it will be used outside and outside in this country is often not so dry.

Your thoughts would be appreciated, especially since I really need to conclude the deal in the morning if I possibly can.

24-Oct-2017, 00:27
Don't fear, a camera that has some fungus can be treated easily... First, remove the back and give it a good sniff... If you smell fungus or maybe a sneeze, it's got fungus...

If you place the semi opened camera in a plastic bag (with the bellows slightly extended, and back removed) and spray a piece of towel, paper towel, or sponge with a heavy dose of Lysol spray, and seal the bag with both inside... Suspend the camera on a block, etc so there is a space under, and don't allow any of the bag to touch any part of the camera during fuming... Leave bag in a warm to hot place for a week to 10 days, the heat will set-up convection currents that will help the disinfectant spread to all parts of the camera... Sniff again, and repeat first step if necessary... When done, wipe down with 99% alcohol, avoiding soft leather, or painted surfaces etc (to avoid damage)... This will remove the surface growth... Then treat leather with Lexol, or a good leather preservative containing lanolin... Then do the normal camera check steps like the torch (flashlight) in the bellows trick to look for leaks, and so on...

Look at the surfaces of the lens on it with a loupe to see if there is any pitting from the fungus on them... Clean all the surfaces carefully with alcohol, and place it in another Lysol bag (like the camera bit) after unscrewing the front and rear element barrels, and to the bag not touching anything... Clean all metal surfaces, and final clean the glass with good lens cleaner...

This should get you started, and once disinfected, your other lenses will be OK on it, but store this camera in a dry place for awhile when not using, and if there is a very warm sunny day, leave it out in the sun for awhile to really dry it out...

Get started!!!! Good Luck!!!

Steve K

24-Oct-2017, 01:29
Yabbut - this is lens, not mould on the bellows or wooden parts (from the OP's description).

In which case, it's fungus eating the balsam adhesive between the cells of the lens. Remove it replace, and the problem has gone away.

Or live with it for a while; unless you can't see through it, the worst you'll get is usually only a little flare and/or reduced contrast.


Steven Tribe
24-Oct-2017, 01:46
I have a somewhat different opinion about fungus!

Giving the camera a general clean-up is a good idea. But, to honest, the air is full of fungus spores which will inevitably reach most surfaces. The important thing is keep the stored camera and lens in a dry and cool atmosphere.

Changes in air humidity and temperature means that water molecules will appear on metal and glass surfaces, whilst leather and materials do not get a wet surface. Old uncoated lenses usually get very whispy fungus which wipes off - leaving, at worst, some surface blooming. Modern (post- 1945) coated lenses get nasty fungus where there is transformation of the fluorides into fluoric acid which etches the glass well beyond the critical point.

The "Air tight box" and "active silica" is, in my opinion overkill. The day you forget to dry out the camera before this sort of storage will be expensive!

24-Oct-2017, 06:22
I too would not store in an air tight container. If the camera/lens has any dampness, it won't be able to dry out until you use the camera again, whenever that may be.

Kent in SD

24-Oct-2017, 10:50
I live near the coast where the RH generally runs 50 - 60%. Since August, 2000, when I bought the camera new, I've stored the Pentax67II wrapped in a Domke lens wrap along with 9 Pentax 67 lens in their soft storage sacks in an aluminum Hakuba case with a few packets of silica dispersed without a problem: The glass is as pristine as when they were new. If the camera/lens were exposed to rain or heavy fog during an outing, I'll dry and let them "air-out" before storing. Once the fog/RH was so high that the cloth focal plane was soaked but it dried out as new. My other cameras and lens are stored in Pelican waterproof cases.


John Kasaian
24-Oct-2017, 13:45
I'd simply replace that fungal challenged lens and press on. Since I don't know what the practices are in the UK, speak with local LFer's and listen to what storage solutions works for them. As I recall there is quite a LF support group in the UK. There are certainly members from the UK on this forum who can fill you in on the skinny.

Alan Gales
24-Oct-2017, 15:21
I'd simply replace that fungal challenged lens and press on. Since I don't know what the practices are in the UK, speak with local LFer's and listen to what storage solutions works for them. As I recall there is quite a LF support group in the UK. There are certainly members from the UK on this forum who can fill you in on the skinny.

Hey John, don't people out in California consider fungus health food?

24-Oct-2017, 15:22
I have found that fungus cannot grow if the temperature is less than 70F and relative humidity is less than 60.

24-Oct-2017, 17:37
Hey John, don't people out in California consider fungus health food?

Ah, no. I've heard they smoke it.

Kent in SD

24-Oct-2017, 21:02
The description of the process above is for cameras/shutters with tell-tale signs of fungus... The "sniff test" is good, as your nose is a sensitive instrument, so if it is a little musty smelling, at least bag/fume the camera for at least 2-3 days, so the "colony" does not activate and contaminate your cases or gear locker if infected...

I briefly lived in Gulf Coast rural Florida (where mold/mildew was an issue), and would sometimes open up a case that was stored in an outdoor shed, and there might be one of my cameras covered with an 0.5mm layer of bright lime green mold that looked like it would glow in the dark if exposed to a bright light briefly... Most would just throw it away, but I have restored several that even I can't tell there was a huge mess on them now (and still use)...

Some that I know have bought online gear from the SE USA, that reeked, made you sneeze, and bothered your eyes when opening the package, and I think these had to be treated before bringing inside the home... Sniff test everything you buy, as I have been on studio shoots where someone would bring in gear or props that were infected, and less than hours later, the air in the large room had this stuff floating around in it, causing irritation, could make you ill, and can't be good for stuff in the space... Note that some soggy places have more than usual levels of heat/mold/mildew, and some hot/dry places less, so consider where your purchase will come from...

As a tech/restorer, I have a policy (for myself) called a "critter check", which means that ANY item (photo/antique/electronic etc) that I bring home gets a through (about 10 min.) inspection before I bring it inside... What else lives inside the item I will be working on??? Photo stuff not usually a culprit in there that can't be found with a "sniff test", but wooden items are carefully checked for maybe a small pile of sawdust near a tiny hole inside the back, maybe black widow spiders, rough/sharp edges that can cut me when I grab it, all electronic gear gets it's covers pulled off for a peek inside (I do this from when I was an audio tech in NYC long ago, and someone asked me to see what was wrong with a stereo receiver, checking on the bench I was inspecting the outsides for obvious issues, and when turning the tuning dial I noticed that that the station pointer was moving "backwards" as I turned back and forth, but a closer look was that a roach was inside running away from the pointer, so I brought it outside (on the NYC street) and removed the cover, when about 70ish roaches all escaped at the same time from inside...) and look for signs of life, loose parts etc... I do this in daylight, and shoot it with a digicam for a record before starting...

Steve T is right about fungus + glass, but I'll add that most post-war lenses are coated (and where elements containing fluorite are common), so if you see some coating issue, there's probably a trace of fungus under it causing it, and usually pitting of the glass, but as mentioned, sometimes it still can be used...

There are more aggressive methods involving thymol for cleaning, but the above is usually fine for normal cleaning (and less toxic for you), and generally safe for gear...

Steve K