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SENSOR CLEANING INTRODUCTION

If you have never cleaned your camera sensor before, this page will help you understand how to safely clean the sensor and decide what products to buy.
The Digital SLR is one of the most versatile camera tools available today. Unfortunately its Achilles heel is that by allowing the photographer to swap lenses, dust usually makes it way into the camera body and onto the imaging sensor. The resultant dust spots that appear on the images are unsightly and can be time consuming to retouch.
There are many products on the market designed to tackle this issue and it can be confusing to the photographer to know which products to purchase. Equally, there are many scare stories and a lot of mis-information is circulating, which can and does lead to confusion. Generally, most people can clean a sensor without any problems. If your hands are steady enough to thread a needle you should be fine. If not, take the camera to your dealer or the manufacturer for cleaning.
The purpose of this page is to inform and educate the photographer so that an intelligent purchasing decision can be made with regard to sensor cleaning. The goal is to allow you to clean your sensor safely, effectively and at low cost.

If you are new to digital slr photography, we have a complete tutorial designed for beginners here;

»Beginners Tutorial

which helps to explain how your camera functions, as well as dealing with sensor cleaning.
If you are already cleaning your sensor, we have a discussion on the various cleaning techniques and the advantage and disadvantages here

»Methods Tutorial

To clean a Digital SLR (DLSR) sensor safely you need to know how to do four things.

 

  • Assess the level of contamination on the sensor
  • Access the sensor for cleaning
  • Clean away dry dust particles
  • Clean away persistent ‘stuck-on’ contamination 

(1) Assess Contamination
The best way to do this is to take a test shot of a blue sky with the camera set to aperture F22. You can also use a clean piece of white card. Look at the image on your computer monitor to decide if the sensor needs a clean. Use your imaging application to zoom in and to see the contamination clearly.

 


Blue Sky Shot showing sensor contamination


(2) Access the sensor for cleaning
The sensor is inside the camera behind the mirror and shutter. You need to remove the lens, then use the camera’s menu system to raise the mirror and open the shutter to reveal the sensor. This is often called ‘Mirror Lock-Up' mode. Consult your camera manual. Ensure you have installed a freshly charged battery before using mirror lock-up. Never use 'B' mode to access the sensor.

Example menu system for sensor access ( Nikon)

Mirror locked up for sensor access (Canon)

 

(3) Dry Clean
Clean away any dry dust as the first stage of cleaning. You can use a blower for this.

 


Using a blower

 

But a better tool is the Dust-Aid Platinum cleaner as this tool traps any dust on the sensor and removes it from the camera.

 


Dust-Aid Platinum sensor cleaner

 

After ‘Dry Cleaning’ the sensor, it’s worth taking another test shot to see how the clean the sensor is. Any remaining contamination will be ‘stuck’ to the sensor and must be cleaned away with a swab and solution. Since this will involve physically rubbing the sensor with the swab it’s important that the dry clean has been carried out properly first, to remove anything gritty prior to swabbing.

(4) Wet Clean
We recommend using Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs and Eclipse cleaning solution to wet clean the sensor. These swabs come in different widths to suite different sensor sizes. There is a comparison chart here (Swab Selector) that lets you see which size swab you need for your model camera. Sensor Swabs are guaranteed not to harm the sensor, so they can be used quite safely, provided the instructions on this page are followed. After wet cleaning, take a further test shot to verify the sensor is clean.


Cleaning with Sensor Swab and Eclipse

 

Summary

Dust is everywhere in the modern environment and it is futile attempting to stop dust from entering your camera. Trying to keep your sensor 100% clean for 100% of the time is almost impossible. It’s easy to waste a lot of cleaning materials striving to achieve it. It is a lot less frustrating if you manage the issue and only clean occasionally rather than cleaning every time a single dust spot appears.

Recommended products

If you have never cleaned a sensor before.
Sensor Cleaning Starter Pack or Introductory Cleaning Kit ( Click here)

Dust Aid Platinum for dry cleaning is on this page  (Click here)
Sensor Swabs and Eclipse for wet cleaning are on this page   (Click here)

Reference
Swab size chart  (Click here)
Frequently asked questions here (Click here)
Digital Sensor Cleaning for Beginners Tutorial here (Click here) 
 

Our range of sensor cleaning tools can be found by clicking on the manufacturers links below.

If you require assistance with cleaning your camera, please call us on 01793 855663 for free advice.
If necessary, we can show you how to clean the sensor safely ( for a nominal charge). Please call for an appointment.

 

   

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