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A clean camcorder is a happy camcorder; this month we round up a selection of products to help keep your video machine pristine and fit to be seen



A single grain of sand can wreck a camcorder's tape deck in just a few seconds. Dirt and dust increase wear, reduce life expectancy and resale value. Tar-laden smoke and grime impedes delicate motors and mechanisms and grubby lenses reduce picture quality. Camcorders attract dirt like magnets; they're used in unclean environments by unclean people, so it's no wonder that dirt and contamination are one the biggest causes of failure; so don't wait for your camcorder to develop dirty habits, give your machine a thorough spring clean now, before it's too late!


Dust and smoke particles are the biggest problem because they're so small, they can get in through the smallest holes and attack the hundreds of moving parts inside your camcorder, finding their way into the microscopic gaps in the tape heads, increasing picture noise levels and break-up. Dust is absorbed into lubricants, turning grease into an abrasive paste and fouling the tiny motors, servos and gears that operate the focusing, exposure and zoom mechanisms.  Grime, slime and other greasy substances are mostly confined to the outside surfaces of the machine and on the lens, where it will drastically impair picture quality and upset the action of some types of auto focusing systems. Dirt and dust on the viewfinder won't necessarily affect the operation of your machine but specks on the screen and eyepiece can be incredibly annoying and difficult to shift. External contaminants are less liable to do permanent damage, they still needs to be removed,  though, before they make their way inside...


Keeping your camcorder clean is common-sense but it's not simply a case of giving it the occasional wipe-over with a damp sponge, or worse still, using household cleaners; you could easily end up doing even more damage; that's something camcorder accessory manufacturers have been quick to recognise, as our survey of specialised cleaning products reveals.


The oldest and still one of the best ways of removing loose dirt and dust particles is the blower brush. They're simple, cheap and effective, use with care, though, as there's always the risk that you'll  blow or sweep dust into, rather than away from the camcorder's delicate innards. To remove dust from those really awkward recesses there are aerosol blowers, a can of compressed gas to blast away the dust. These are good at clearing out hard to get at nooks and crannies, though again make sure you blow out, not in. There's no chance of that with a mini-vac, miniature battery-powered vacuum cleaners that suck the fluff and dust out. Don't expect too much however, these little gadgets do work,  but their suction power is very limited and they can only lift small amounts of loose debris. Don't dismiss the old fashioned low-tech solutions, a decent quality paintbrush makes a very effective camcorder cleaning tool, half-inch ones are the best, but don't forget to wrap some tape around the metal collar, to prevent it scratching plastic surfaces.


Stubborn grime and sticky finger marks on lenses need to be wiped away and there has been at least one major technological breakthrough. No, it's not a wonder cleaning fluid or miniature floor polisher, but a new cleaning cloth, made from a material, sometimes known as Belima X. These cloths contain zillions of  micro-fibres (over 13,000 to the square cm), that soak up gunge like a sponge, yet they're soft and non-abrasive, so can safely be used on coated and plastic lenses. When the cloth will clean no more simply wash it out in warm, soapy water, and it's ready for action again.  They're about the most efficient way of cleaning lenses we know of, and  good value too, given that they're re-usable.


Persistent and widespread grime calls for more drastic measures; specialised isopropyl alcohol-based, anti-static cleaning fluids have been developed for cleaning camcorders, and similar items of optoelectronic hardware. Do not be tempted to use household cleaners or solvents as there's a good chance they'll attack the plastic, and if any of it gets inside, it could quickly ruin your machine. Specialised cleaning fluids should be applied, and wiped off with a soft lint-free cloth,  cotton buds are useful for getting into those tricky little places.


Whilst we've concentrated on lens and general cleaners a couple of other types of camcorder care products have crept in. Two kits contain cassette head cleaners, which we're going to be looking at more closely in a future Shop Window. We regard them primarily as first-aid measures, after the head-clog warning has come on, and before you take your machine to be properly attended to. The other one is a battery contact cleaner, which we've included because it's so unusual, and turned up too late for our recent survey of battery care products.




Just about everything you need to keep your machine looking like new . The cleaning solution is particularly effective, and it smells nice too.... Fair value, and well presented, in it's own sturdy carry case.


Type                         8mm cleaning kit

Contents/features    mini-vac, 'wet/dry' head cleaner cassette, cleaning cloth, lens cleaner tissues, cotton swabs, anti-static cleaner, carry case with handle


Ease of use               8

Effectiveness            8

Value for money       9



CAMLINK CLLK 1/2   4.95/5.95

Simple lens care kit, supplied with (CLLK2) or without (CLLK1) its own carry case. The lens cleaning fluid is rather watery but it doesn't smear or leave a residue. The lens cloth is on the small side.


Type                          Lens cleaning kit

Contents/features     blower brush, lens cleaning tissue, cloth and fluid, cotton swabs, carry case


Ease of use              8

Effectiveness           8

Value for money      8




The original microfibre cleaning cloth and one of the most effective ways of cleaning lenses. Unfortunately Canon no longer actively market Canoclear, so you may have to hunt around to find one; rival cloths are now better value.


Type                          lens cleaning cloth

Contents/features     microfibre cloth


Ease of use                 10

Effectiveness              10

Value for money          7



HAMA 5629  4.99

Glass-fibre cleaning brush, ruthless on rust, oxides and other undesirable deposits that find their way onto battery contacts, a major cause of power supply problems. Watch out, the fibre particles get everywhere, and if they get under your skin you'll be scratching for weeks...


Type                           Battery contact cleaner              

Contents/features      propelling glass-fibre brush


Ease of use              9

Effectiveness         10

Value for money      9


HAMA 5952  8.81

Eco-friendly compressed air can,  just give the built-in pump twenty or thirty strokes for a good stream of air. Not quite as powerful as the larger aerosol blowers but it's good exercise, and works out a whole lot cheaper in the long run.


Type                           Compressed air canister

Contents/features      pump-action, reusable


Ease of use               8

Effectiveness          10

Value for money      9



HAMA  44726     15.23

The most powerful of the mini-vacs, and the most expensive. The dust-catcher is also easier to clean. Fine for those inaccessible corners and particularly good for safely sucking dust out of ventilation slots and grilles.


Type                           Battery powered mini-vac              

Contents/features      mini-vac and attachments


Ease of use             9

Effectiveness          8

Value for money     8




HAMA 5916  2.99

The largest of the microfibre cleaning cloths, and a slightly different texture to the others but no less effective at cleaning the glassware, very good value!


Type                           Lens cleaning cloth              

Contents/features      microfibre cleaning cloth


Ease of use              10

Effectiveness           10

Value for money      10



HAMA 5932  5.99

The highly effective, concentrated alcohol-based lens cleaning fluid and classy blower brush account for the relatively high price of this kit, but you get what you pay for...


Type                           Lens cleaning kit              

Contents/features     blower brush, cleaning fluid  and lens tissues

Ease of use              9

Effectiveness           9

Value for money      8



JESSOPS JECA-450   5.99

Industrial strength canister of compressed gas, capable of delivering a good powerful blast that will shift the most awkward detritus. The can doesn't say what's inside but it claims to be free of CFCs and other nasties.


Type                         Aerosol air-duster  (450ml)

Contents/features   CFC/butane free compressed gas


Ease of use              10

Effectiveness            9

Value for money       7




Basic, no-frills  lens cleaning products, including a larger than average blower brush, decent-sized cloth and generous supply of  soft tissues, more Dixel than Izal. Good value.


Type                         Lens cleaning kit

Contents/features    blower brush, cotton swabs, lens cleaning cloth, tissues and cleaning fluid


Ease of use              9

Effectiveness           8

Value for money      9




Moderately useful mini-vac plus an assortment of practical cleaning aids. The pump-action bottle of cleaning fluid works well and once again they're not stingy with the tissues and cleaning cloth,  good value if you're keen on the mini-vac.


Type                            Mini vacuum cleaning kit

Contents/features       mini-vac, spray cleaner, cotton buds, lens cloth and tissues


Ease of use              9

Effectiveness           7

Value for money      9



LINXS 90101 8.49

Bare-bones mini-vac with attachments, which include angled pipe and brush or open-ended fittings. A partial solution to the cleaning problem but not especially  good value in this instance..


Type                          Mini-vac

Contents/features     mini-vac and attachments


Ease of use               9

Effectiveness           7

Value for money       8



LINXS 90120  11.99

A good assortment of general cleaning aids. Neatly packaged in their own fitted carry case, and the only one with anything other than the most cursory instructions on how to use the various products.


Type                         8mm cleaning kit

Contents/features    blower brush, leans cleaning fluid, tissue, cloth, cotton buds cleaning fluid, carry case, cleaner cassette


Ease of use              8

Effectiveness           9

Value for money      9




VIVANCO VRP-04    2.99

It's difficult to wax lyrical about blower brushes, but as these things go it's a good 'un, with a pliable squeezy bit, and soft bristles.


Type                            blower brush

Contents/features       just a blower brush...


Ease of use                 9

Effectiveness              8

Value for money



VIVANCO  APS-41 2.99

Similar in smell and cleaning abilities to the liquids supplied in several of the kits we've seen; a good general-purpose camcorder-friendly cleaner.


Type                           cleaning fluid

Contents/features      pump-spray cleaner


Ease of use                 10

Effectiveness                9

Value for money           8


VIVANCO VDL-03  4.99

It may be small but it packs quite a punch, and the extension tube provided directs the gas to where it's needed. Expensive, but it's small enough to slip into a gadget bag and carry around for emergencies.


Type                            aerosol air cleaner

Contents/features      CFC-free compressed gas


Ease of use                 10

Effectiveness               8

Value for money          7


VIVANCO VOT-06  3.49

Yet another microfibre cleaning cloth, this time available in a range of colours (magenta, white and blue etc., and supplied in a neat plastic wallet, to keep it clean, dry and ready for action.


Type                          lens cleaning cloth

Contents/features     microfibre cloth


Ease of use                  10

Effectiveness               10

Value for money           8





CAMLINK -- see Lamba


CANON UK  Unit 4 Brent Trading Centre, North Circular Road, Neasden, London

NW10 OJF.  Telephone 081-459 1266


HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood,  Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke,

Hants RG24 OWF. Telephone (0256) 708110


JESSOPS Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester, LE3 1TZ

Telephone (0533) 320033


JOSTY LTD Perry Avenue, Teeside Industrial Estate, Thornaby, Cleveland

TS17 9LN. Telephone (0642) 769000


LAMBA plc Albion Mills, Albion Road, St Albans, Herts AL1 5EB.

Telephone (0727) 840527


LINXS -- see Josty


SIMA -- see Prisma


PRISMA Europe Ltd Priory House, Pitsford Street, Birmingham, B18 6LX

Telephone 021 554 5540


VIVANCO Unit C ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS

Telephone (0442) 231616



(c) R.Maybury 1993 3004


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