Sensor Dust – Full Service or DIY

Ever take a picture and have it look like this? We hope not. This is an extreme case of sensor dust — probably as bad as you’ll ever see. Dust is a part of everyday life and getting it on a digital SLR’s imaging sensor is a problem every photographer has to deal with.

We offer a full service sensor cleaning available for $49.99 (DX sized sensors and smaller) or $79.99 (full frame sensors). We’ll take a picture before and after the cleaning, so you can see the results first hand.  We also can show you how to do it on your own, and sell you all of the supplies you’ll need. Either way, sensor cleaning is a regular and expected part of normal maintance on most all digital SLRs.

A DSLR’s sensor carries an electronic charge and it loves dust, just like a tube television. Changing lenses, zooming, even something as minute as focusing can bring dust into the camera. We find the best way to determine exactly how much dust is on your sensor is to take a photo of the sky at f16 or higher. Make sure your camera is set to manual focus – otherwise the lens will keep seeking a focus point. Next, load up your image in Photoshop and enlarge it to 100%. That’ll give you the ability to see every tiny bit of dust that’s plaguing your sensor. Don’t worry if there’s a Boeing 767 on your sensor – it’s most likely just in the sky.

So now that you see the dust, what do you do with it? There’s always the option of cloning out all the dust in Photoshop, but that’s an hour’s worth of time better spent behind the camera. If you have the courage, you can clean the sensor yourself with the right equipment and supplies.

If you decide to try it yourself, check to see if your camera has a “clean sensor” option in the set-up menu. Many DSLRs require you to have a fully charged battery in order to clean the sensor. If the “clean sensor” option is greyed out, a low battery is most likely the reason. Charge your battery fully and give it another go. If you have an older dSLR, it’s possible that it does not have a “clean sensor” option. At that point, in order to access the sensor yourself, your only option is to put the shutter on bulb and clean it that way — but it’s a very risky method. If you accidentally release that shutter while cleaning, it’s going to be a costly repair. Also, the sensor will be activated, increasing the chances of even more dust appearing.

Okay, so now you have access to the sensor. What now? Whatever you do, DO NOT use compressed air to clean your sensor. Many types of compressed air emit tiny particles of liquid propellant which can damage your sensor. Always use products meant specifically for sensor cleaning, such as Sensor Swabs and E2 solution available from BCC. Bulb blowers are a great way to do a quick cleaning; never do a wet cleaning unless it is absolutely necessary. You can even buy small, travel-friendly bulb blowers for cleaning on the go.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to try it yourself, but beware – some camera manufacturers’ warranties become void if you clean the sensor yourself.

If you’re having dust problems please feel free to stop by one of our stores. If you’d like to purchase the cleaning products and try it yourself we’ll be happy to walk you through the process. If you’re more of the butterfingers type and don’t want to risk it, bring your camera into the store and we can clean it for you.

One thought on “Sensor Dust – Full Service or DIY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *