How much do you really need to worry about damaging your camera’s sensor?

Jun 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How much do you really need to worry about damaging your camera’s sensor?

Jun 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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No, that thumbnail isn’t clickbait – at least not entirely. Photographer Arthur Reutov does indeed take a box cutter blade to a Sony sensor in this video to see just how much effort it takes to actually damage a camera sensor. The video was made in response to criticism he received after posting a video about the Sony A9 and constantly leaving the sensor exposed to the elements.

While Arthur doesn’t abuse an actual working camera in the video, he did buy a Sony A6000 sensor module in order to perform various tests to see how dust, soil, fingerprints and even sharp objects might damage the sensor. The good news is, you probably have nothing to worry about.

The big issue with leaving your sensor exposed is dust. But is it really a big deal? As the video shows, at worst all it’s going to do is show up as spots in your images. As Arthur demonstrates in the video, dust, soil and fingerprints have no long-lasting negative effects on your sensor as long as you clean it properly.

First with a blower, and then with a swab. Good as new, right? Well, yeah, pretty much. It’s a pretty extreme test, and sensors would be unlikely to be exposed to such harsh conditions in the real world. And if they were, then chances are that the sensor’s condition would be the least of your concerns.

Sure, in the middle of a job when you actually still need your sensor to be clean for the rest of the shoot, take every precaution you can. But in general, just learn how to clean your sensor properly and you really don’t have all that much to worry about. As long as you’re not shoving sharp, pointy, metal objects through your lens opening, you should be pretty safe.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “How much do you really need to worry about damaging your camera’s sensor?”

  1. Hugh Dom Avatar
    Hugh Dom

    The photo makes me uncomfortable

    1. Vilim J. Peterman Hlušička Avatar
      Vilim J. Peterman Hlušička

      I’ll say that’s usual thing with photographers. I, also, clean my sensor with scalpel.

  2. Collin McLaren Avatar
    Collin McLaren

    +50 anxiety

  3. A. David Wunsch Avatar
    A. David Wunsch

    I wrecked a sensor. I used a rubber bulb enema syringe to blow out the dirt. It has a few drops of water inside which landed on the sensor, and that did it in. It was an expensive repair.

  4. Michael Beckerman Avatar
    Michael Beckerman

    I don’t think most people worry about damaging their sensor at all. They worry far more about getting it dirty when they change lenses outside more than anything else (THEN they might worry about hurting it when they go to clean that dirt off, of course). Now, they DO worry about getting dead or stuck pixels on their sensors and that’s a very legitimate concern, but that’s all based on manufacturing quality, it’s not nothing really to do with the user at all.