Windex and a Q-TipI’ve been using my HTC EVO 4G LTE for quite a while now, and for the most part it’s been a pretty sturdy beast. My wife got the HTC One recently so we could get better pictures of our newborn than her old EVO 3D allowed, and interestingly, the quality of those recently had me thinking my camera was absurdly inferior. This is spite of my camera comparisons in the past between the two, when I came up not hating my camera.

Yesterday I was filming a video and couldn’t keep anything in focus; today I was taking a picture of a box and it had a halo around it; I took another shot, and the colors were exploding out of the areas they actually existed in. As it turns out, this was all the result of the lens being filthy.

The lens being recessed on my EVO 4G LTE, it’s not really ever collected anything more than lint, or required cleaning. Of course I ruled out that the lens was dirty in my head and went at flashing a different camera app, a stock ROM, and was about to flash old firmware before I finally looked at the lens.

Evidently my beloved EVO 4G LTE had fallen into the hands of my baby sometime in the past couple of days. I suspected her by the tell-tale tooth imprints on the corner of the gel case and the slobber marks around the power button. Fortunately, cleaning the lens is an easy task on most smartphones and you can do it pretty cheaply.

You’ll need a Q-Tip, and some Windex. I’m sure there’s a blog out there that will tell you that you’re damaging your phone irreparably by not using distilled water and a $5 camera cleaning kit that costs $11 to ship. Your phone may require that, mine didn’t. Don’t spray the Windex.

Get a bubble froth on the Windex spray nozzle (usually accomplished by half-pulling the handle), stick an end of the Q-Tip in, put that end gently on the camera lens, rotate, done. Wait a minute and take a picture. Too much Windex on the Q-Tip and you’ll float any oils to the edges where they’ll dry again, although you can use the dry end of the Q-Tip to swab around the outer ring.

Signs of a filthy lens

  • Halos around objects (could potentially be Christmas ghosts)
  • Camera can’t focus or goes in and out of focus
  • Corners of pictures appear distorted
  • People with larger heads than normal on the side or top of photos (oil buildup makes a magnifying glass effect)
  • Constantly over or under exposed photos
  • Chunks of dirt on camera lens

Blurry Jabra photo One cleaning Jabra photo Slobber Monster

Above pictures: (Left) blurry halo/Barbara Walters camera; (middle) one-pass Q-Tip cleaning; (right) suspected cause of camera gunk.

So before you drive to the store to get your camera repaired or upgrade your perfectly fine phone, check the lens. Less than a penny’s worth of products could get your camera back up and running like new.