The worst thing that can happen to any photographer is suddenly realizing that their camera lens has worn out right before taking a picture. But that shouldn’t happen, right? Aren’t camera lenses supposed to last forever?

Camera lenses do wear out after a period of time, depending on the quality of the lens and how well taken care of it is. A well-built, well-cared-for lens can last for decades and can outlive other components of a camera, such as shutters, apertures, and sensors.

While a camera lens can wear out over time, especially if it isn’t a high-quality lens, to begin with, you can extend its life with good care and anticipate if and when your lens will wear out. Read on to learn some tips and tricks for your camera lens life.

How Long Do Camera Lenses Last?

The lifespan of camera lenses depends on a variety of factors. Usually, you should have at least 200,000 pictures before your lens wears out.

In a perfect world where no outside factors damage or shorten the lifespan of your lens, the lens will last until you reach the “shutter count” of your camera, which can be found in the instruction manual.

However, several things, some of which are beyond your control, can severely shorten the lifespan of your camera lens.

What Can Shorten the Lifespan of My Camera Lens?

Here are some of the most common ways your camera lens can wear out sooner than later:

  • Sand and dust. Dust is a photographer’s worst enemy regardless, but did you know that sand and dust can scratch your camera lens? Sand and dust particles are very small and can easily get stuck on your lens even after the most thorough of cleanings.
  • Physical damage to the camera. Yes, accidents happen. Cameras can get damaged all the time. But any damage to the front of the camera can crack your front lens and expose the rest to the elements, making your photos all blotchy and blurry, and no one wants that!

How Can I Tell if My Camera Lens Is Worn Out?

If you are worried that your camera lens may be worn out, here are some surefire signs that will prove your suspicions:

There Are Dark Spots or Scratches on The Lens

A dead pixel or two on your camera screen should not show up on your printed photographs, as that’s an issue on the screen itself and not the camera. Black splotches on your printed photographs, however, should not be the norm and are a telltale sign that your lens is worn out.

The Lens Will Not Focus No Matter What You Do

A lens that is good in shape will steadfastly focus on the subject of your photos, even if the lens proper is a little looser than what it used to be. However, if the zooming of your lens is uneven or nonexistent, no matter what you try, then chances are that the lens is worn out.

The Lens Is Cracked

This is the most visible sign that your lens is ready to be replaced as soon as possible. A cracked lens can expose the most sensitive parts of your camera to water and other small particles and can cause more damage than intended!

How Can I Prolong the Life of my Camera Lens?

If you are worried about your lens wearing out before you realize it, here are some ways to prolong the life of your current one:

Use a Lens Cap When You Are Not Using Your Camera

A lens cap can be the first line of defense against the elements for your lens proper. It may just be a simple plastic cover for your camera, but it prevents any dust or moisture from seeping in and damaging your lens!

Most cameras come with it, but if you don’t have one, it is easy to find replacements, like this 58 mm lens cap bundle.

Make Good Use of a Camera Bag

A camera bag will protect your lens –and by extension, the rest of the camera– from small particles and most physical damage. There’s a reason why most cameras come with one!

For the most reliable protection for your lens, use a camera bag specifically made for your camera’s dimensions. However, there are sturdy bags for multiple camera sizes, such as this one.

Clean Your Lens with a Microfiber Cloth

Microfiber cloths are made of closely knitted threads that thoroughly clean sensitive objects, from instrument strings to phone screens to camera lenses. Make a habit of cleaning your lens before and after every photo shoot you do, as well as before you put your camera back in your bag.

There are plenty of good quality microfiber cloths you can get on the internet, but ones like the Xthel Microfiber Cleaning Cloths for Electronics are best suited for camera lenses.

Keep Your Camera Away from Extreme Temperatures

Camera lenses, like other sensitive equipment, can get damaged in extreme heat or cold, especially if it experiences a rapid temperature change!

Be sure to not bring your camera into a warm setting if you used it in the cold weather and vice versa; slowly warm it up or cool it down instead.

How do I Replace My Camera Lens?

To replace your camera lens, first, find a replacement lens that matches your current one in size. Most standard ones will be available from your camera manufacturer.

However, unless you know exactly what you are doing, it is advised that you get your lens replaced by an expert in the matter. If you prefer to do it on your own, however, follow these steps:

  1. Equip a lens cap on both your current and replacement lens.

    If you don’t have lens caps, try and buy some before you replace your current lens! The caps will keep any and all particles out of both lenses, as well as preventing damage to your new lens.
  2. Turn off your camera

    If you try and replace your lens while the camera is still on, you will risk getting dust on your camera, as dust is attracted to electricity, and you don’t want to get dust in your camera!
  3. Remove your current lens by rotating it while pointing down

    On a sturdy, flat surface (like a table), place your camera so that your capped lens is facing the surface. Once you do that, hold the rest of your camera with one hand and use the other to rotate it, making sure that the lens is becoming looser.
  4. Remove the cushioning from your new lens and place the lens on the camera, but don’t tighten it yet!

    Once your current lens is loose enough to be removed, set it down on your surface and remove any remaining packaging from your new one. As quickly as humanly possible, attach your new lens to the camera to prevent any exposed camera parts from being damaged. Be sure it’s properly on the camera before you tighten it, though.
  5. Attach the new lens to the camera

    Finally, rotate your new lens to properly attach the lens to your camera. Congratulations, you’re done!


And there you have it, how to tell if your camera lens is worn out, as well as some other tips to care for and replace your lens. Have fun with your photography – and take good care of that lens!