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.
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.
Actually cleaning it requires a few tools. Blake recommends these.
- Giottos Rocket Blower
- D-SLR Sensor Cleaning Brush (get the right size for your sensor!)
- VSGO Sensor Cleaning Swab Kit (again, get the right size)
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.
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]