Save yourself some money and learn how to clean your own sensor like a pro

Jul 29, 2016

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.

Save yourself some money and learn how to clean your own sensor like a pro

Jul 29, 2016

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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Learning to clean your camera’s sensor is one of the most valuable skills a photographer can learn. At least when it comes to camera maintenance. It’s a task that many are afraid to learn, worried that they’ll kill their camera. These things are a lot more solid than most give them credit for.

In this video from f64 AcademyBlake Rudis shows you how spot that you even have a dust problem, and then several ways to get rid of it.

YouTube video

While they sometimes leap out at you, dust spots aren’t always easy to… erm… spot. Adobe Camera Raw (and presumably Lightroom) has a great feature which allows you to visualise the dust spots on your image so that you can clean them up in post. While it doesn’t actually clean your camera, it does let you quickly see how dirty your sensor really is.

dust_spots

Actually cleaning it requires a few tools. Blake recommends these.

You want to start with the least invasive (the Rocket Blower) and work your way through. You’ll also want to take a shot and check it after each phase to see if it’s cleared up yet. If you can get by without having to touch the sensor, that’s your best option.

I learned to clean my own sensors in about 2003, a few months after I picked up a pair of D100 bodies. There was no built in “dust off” feature that we see in today’s DSLRs. No local camera shops or services were available to do it for me. So, If I wanted to have my sensor cleaned, I’d have to send it off to Nikon or learn to do it myself. Needless to say, I learned to do it myself.

I use the same Rocket Blower as Blake, never canned air. One big, and far more important point, I feel, that Blake didn’t mention about canned air is residue. Canned air can spray out fluid leaving whatever it touches in an nasty residue that can be difficult to remove. It also comes out at sub zero temperatures after a couple of seconds, freezing any moisture in the air. So, dust busting abilities aside, you can potentially do serious damage.

box_of_dust

I don’t use a brush. In my experience, you’re better skipping the brush and going straight to the swab if the blower doesn’t clean it. I’ve found the brush doesn’t actually pick anything up, but just move it around your sensor. So, if the Rocket Blower can’t shift the dust, I use Sensor Swabs with Eclipse fluid.

That being said, I have heard great things about the Sensor Gel Stick. It’s a bit like a combination between a brush and swab. People tell me it’s wonderful, although I haven’t used it myself.

One other tip I will offer you, is to not travel with your cleaning kit. Unidentifiable liquids that may contain flammable ingredients aren’t typically allowed on flights. You can still fly with your Rocket Blower, but you’ll probably want to cut off the fins.

Do you clean your own camera sensors? Will you give it a go now you’ve seen how easy it is to do? Or will you keep sending it away or take it to the local camera shop to pay somebody else to do it? Let us know in the comments.

[via f64 academy]

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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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12 responses to “Save yourself some money and learn how to clean your own sensor like a pro”

  1. Billie Sue Cockeram Richter Avatar
    Billie Sue Cockeram Richter

    Aaron Harris

  2. ShotByJacob Avatar
    ShotByJacob

    Making me wanna clean my sensor myself. Gonna order some supplies on Amazon.

  3. Vladimir Khudyakov Avatar
    Vladimir Khudyakov

    Thanks :))

  4. Carlos Felipe Castillo Avatar
    Carlos Felipe Castillo

    Camilo Paz Velasco Helder Yesid Castrillon Juan Carlos Pachon

    1. HenryH Avatar
      HenryH

      There’s no way that would work. He forgot to flip up the mirror first.

    2. jason bourne Avatar
      jason bourne

      Cool.. I’ve got to try this… Maybe when I’m taking a shower. ;)

  5. Reed Radcliffe Avatar
    Reed Radcliffe

    I have used the SensorKlear system for several years now. It does not use any sort of liquid which can leave a residue. Nothing can ruin your photoshoot faster than a big hunk of dust on the sensor.

  6. James P Avatar
    James P

    Good post, helpful tips. I really didn’t like the sensor gel stick – for me it did much more harm than good. Even brand new or thoroughly cleaned, it seems to leave residue no matter what. I ended up just using it to clean the back of my viewfinder. I can confirm that Eclipse fluid works wonders with the correct fitting swab.

  7. jason bourne Avatar
    jason bourne

    What if you don’t have/use Lightroom?

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Pretty much all image editing software will allow you to adjust the contrast and easily see dust spots. The latest versions of Adobe Camera Raw (which is part of Photoshop) and Lightroom just have a feature specifically built in for it.

      A simple curves adjustment would help to make them just as obvious.

      1. jason bourne Avatar
        jason bourne

        Ok, thanks. :)