Camera cleaning check 03: Sensor
Dust and dirt can easily find its way inside your camera, and produce spots on your images.
These are particularly noticeable if you shoot at small apertures and with wide-angle lenses.
Cleaning inside your camera needs to be done with care and using the right tools, otherwise you can do more harm than good, but it’s quite simple to do.
First you need to go to the mirror lock-up cleaning mode for your camera, which is normally found in the setup menu of most cameras, and then follow the instructions for your camera to activate this feature.
Then, take off the lens and hold the camera so that the lens opening is facing slightly down.
For a basic clean, use a hand powered air blower, such as the Hurricane Blower, to dislodge any loose dust and dirt.
Don’t be tempted to use an aerosol blower, though, as these contain propellants that can get into the camera – plus they are also very powerful, which can cause damage to the delicate mechanisms inside the camera.
For more stubborn dust you can use a brush designed for sensor-cleaning, such as the Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly brush to carefully wipe it away.
But if there are water marks from spray or condensation you will need to use a wet cleaning swab such as those from Sensor Swab (and, see this weeks Take Five for more on cleaning kits).
It’s important that the swab is the right size for your sensor, and that you follow the instructions carefully.
Typically, you apply one or two drops of the specialist sensor-cleaning solution to the end of the swab, and then gently wipe it across the sensor in one direction, and then back across in the other direction.
Don’t be tempted to swipe again, though, as any dust or dirt picked up during the first pass will be dragged back over the sensor.
After each clean you can check that the dirt has been removed by photographing a clean sheet of white paper at a small aperture, such as f/22, then carefully checking the image on your camera’s rear screen for dust spots (or on your computer monitor is you’re being really particular).
If there are still spots, repeat the procedure using a brand new swab – don’t be tempted to re-use them for the reasons outlined above.
Don’t bide the dust: a perfectly safe guide to sensor cleaning
Full frame sensor size explained: how to exploit its advantages and cool effects
What your camera captures at every lens’ focal length: free photography cheat sheet
Getting sharp images: every photo technique you need to know starting out