How To Clean A Camera Sensor

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In the summer months especially, dust has a way of finding its way into even the most weather-sealed camera equipment. London photographers and filmmakers have the added issue of some of the poorest air pollution in the continent. Whilst it’s inadvisable to open up your sensor unnecessarily, sooner or later, the quality of your images will be affected by rogue dirt, dust or hair particles. At this stage, it’s time to clean your camera sensor.

How To Spot Dust On Your Camera Sensor

First off, how to identify whether your sensor needs cleaning. The following tips from the helpful folks at Photography Life are the best place to start:

  1. Switch your camera to Aperture Priority Mode.
  2. Set the metering mode to Matrix/Evaluative Metering.
  3. Set the camera’s ISO to the lowest number (ie. 100 or 200) and turn off Auto ISO
  4. Turn off autofocus and set your lens on manual focus.
  5. Set the aperture as high as possible by rotating your camera dial.
  6. If outside, point your camera up towards a clear sky and take a picture. If you’re inside, find plain white paper, zoom in so that the paper fits the whole frame and make sure that the lens is completely out of focus; then take a picture. Make sure that your focus is way off (completely out of focus) – that way only dust particles will be visible.
  7. Zoom in on the image (rear camera LCD), scroll from left to right and top to bottom all over the image and see if you can find any dark spots.
  8. No spots? You’re clean! However, if you see any dark spots, then it’s time to get cleaning. But fear not, the below video from Peter McKinnon will get you started.
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Dark spots on your images may mean it’s time to clean a sensor [Image: Photography Life]

How To Clean Your Camera Sensor

Check out the below 13-minute tutorial by YouTube photographer Peter McKinnon on how to clean camera lenses and sensors.

Three key takeaways from McKinnon’s tutorial:

  1. Whilst many believe compressed air is the best way to rid your camera of dust, McKinnon opts for a simple rocket blower. Why? Compressed air can often push dirt further into the camera. The rocket blower is more gentle – in fact, McKinnon uses it every time he changes a camera lens.
  2. Sensor swabs are the best tool for the job. These disposable swabs are best used with cleaning fluid.
  3. You can create a ‘clean room’ in your house by running a shower on full heat for 5 minutes, until your bathroom’s steamed up. According to Peter, this will weigh down any dust particles present in the air, giving you a safe environment in which to work.

What’s The Best Lens/Sensor Cleaning Equipment?

Here’s what you’ll need before you get to work:

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Peter McKinnon uses a VisibleDust Sensor Loupe Magnifier

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