Photography - Knowledge

Camera Sensor Cleaning - How to Avoid Dirty DSLR Image Sensor

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You put endless efforts into clicking the best shot with your DSLR camera. And later, you find out that all the images are blurry and patchy. There could be various reasons for these patches, but if all of them are showing at the exact same location, then that is only possible because your camera sensor has dust. Before we move ahead with the process of camera sensor cleaning, here are some things that you need to be clear about.

The Complete Guide to Camera Sensor Cleaning

No need to panic anymore, we bring a detailed and easy guide on how to go ahead with camera sensor cleaning. From automatic cleaning to manual cleaning of camera sensor we have curated everything that you’ll need!

What is Sensor Dust?

When you change your digital SLR’s lens, there is a possibility that dust can enter the camera and stick to your camera sensor. Most of the time, these dust particles are too small to be caught by the naked eye. But when you open photos on your laptop or any device, these dust particles will appear quite large, in the form of spots.

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Sensor Dust Source

How to check for dust on the camera sensor?

Dust is the last thing you want on your impeccable DSLR. Checking the sensor dust every time by clicking a shot, taking out the SD card, and then checking the snapshot on your device is clearly inconvenient.

Here is a way to quickly check the dust on your DSLR camera sensor.

1. You need to make some settings changes in your camera.

  • Camera: Aperture priority mode
  • Metering mode: Evaluative metering
  • Camera ISO: ISO 100 or 200 (Lowest number)
  • Auto ISO and Auto Focus: Off

2. Now set your camera to manual focus. Then, set the aperture to the largest number by rotating the camera dial.

3. Click a snapshot of a plain white paper by zooming in such that the paper covers the entire frame.

4. Then, on the rear camera LCD, zoom in on the image and analyze it completely for any dark spots.

Items needed to Clean the Sensor

To clean a camera sensor easily and efficiently, you need to have a sensor cleaning kit. Do keep in mind that you need to buy the correct sensor cleaning kit according to the type of camera you are using. Else, you might end up damaging your camera sensor using cheap and inappropriate tools.

1. Sensor Swab Kit

sensor cleaning kit, cleaning tips, dust cleaner
Sensor Swab Kit Source

This includes four sensor swabs, one e-wipe packet, sensor cleaning solution, and ten lint free and ultra-soft wipes.

2. LED-illuminated Sensor Loupe

camera sensor cleaning, dust cleaning
LED Sensor Loupe Source

It has 6 ultra-bright LED lights, which illuminate even the tiny particles of dust. Moreover, it has HD multi-coated optical glass to enhance details and avoid chromatic aberrations.

3. Electrostatic Camera Sensor Cleaning Brush

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Electrostatic Brush Cleaning Source

This brush is not just any brush but a proper dust cleaner. It is designed specifically for DSLR camera sensor cleaning with a flawless, subtle and uncoated brush.

4. Rocket Air Blaster

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Air blast rocket Source

It is a 7.5-inch long air blaster that sloughs away the dust from the camera lens. It has a one-way valve that would avoid sucking in the air and keep your camera lens speckless. The rocket air blaster provides filtered air so that the blasted air is clean.

Livingit Tip
Do not use canned air to clean the sensor, it might contaminate the sensor even further and create more problems than expected.

Do you have a passion for outdoor photography?

Then read the Basics of Outdoor Portrait Photography

Step-by-step Process to Clean Camera Sensor

Got all your camera sensor cleaning essentials? Now, let’s discuss the actual process. You need to take extreme care while you conduct the camera sensor cleaning process. In fact, many photographers consider it as the most complicated and difficult task.

Well! If you know the exact process and you use the correct tools, then there is nothing to worry about and the whole activity is pretty straightforward.

Auto Clean Mode

Start smart! Go for auto clean!

However, many cameras do not come with the auto clean feature. Check if your camera has an auto clean mode and if it does, then try to use it for auto cleaning. If it works, then you won’t have to use any of the other manual ways to clean the sensor.

Pre-requisites for Manually Cleaning your Camera Sensor

  1. Fully charge your camera battery so that it does not switch off in between the cleaning process and damage the sensor.
  2. Take your camera in an area where there is minimal chance of dust.
  3. Remove the lens and set the camera to manual clean mode.
  4. When it is done, the mirror will lock up, producing a sound and you will see the sensor.

Livingit Tip:
Do not touch the sensor; you need to be extremely careful.

Clean your Camera Sensor without Touching the Sensor

The sensor says, “Hey Shutterbugs, touch me not!”

Now that you have followed all the prerequisites mentioned above, keep the camera upside down—such that camera body is pointing towards the floor and camera chamber is upfront—and then, check for the particles of dust using the sensor loupe. You’ll see the tiny particles of dust glowing white.

  • Do keep in mind that the sensor produces an inverted image which is then flipped by the camera.
  • Now blast air a few times around the chamber of the camera and the sensor using the rocket air blaster.
  • After that, analyze again using the sensor loupe.
  • Finally, turn the camera off and replace the lens and check if the dust particles are removed by clicking a photograph and analyzing in any large sized device such as a desktop or tablet.

Dry Clean your Camera Sensor using the Electrostatic Brush

The sensor is an important part of your camera, so be gentle with it!

When you use the electrostatic brush, you only need to focus on the camera sensor. Do not touch any other area of the camera, as some parts of the camera chamber have lubricant on them which can easily destroy the sensor.
As we did in the previous method, follow all the prerequisites and then move forward.

  • Charge the electrostatic brush using the air blower and then move it down towards the sensor.
  • Move the brush in a single motion from one side of the sensor to the other and then, take it outside the chamber.
  • Again blast the brush using air blower and repeat the process of single motion;
  • Check the sensor using a sensor loupe after every motion.
  • When all the dust particles are removed, assemble the lens and click a photograph to check if the sensor is clean.

Wet Clean your Camera Sensor

No, no don’t wash your camera sensor!!

If dark spots are still visible on the photograph, then remove the lens again and place the camera screen on a surface; set it to the manual clean mode again.

sensor cleaning kit
Sensor Swab kit Source

In your sensor swab kit, you must have received the sensor swabs.

  • Take out one sensor swab stick and put two drops of sensor cleaning liquid onto the swab.
  • Make sure you do not put too much liquid on it.
  • You just need to wet the cloth wrapped on the swab stick such that the liquid does not spill inside the camera.
  • Now, move the swab in one single motion—just like you did with an electrostatic brush in the previous process of sensor cleaning—slowly moving the swab stick from one side of the sensor to the other side without applying force.
  • Now take out the swab and repeat the process from another side of the swab for a single motion.
  • When you are done using both the sides of the swab, throw it and use another fresh swab in case you need to repeat the process.
  • Click test photographs to verify if the dust particles are removed and repeat the swabbing again if required.

So, it is quite simple to clean a camera sensor, right? Follow these steps with care and you are good to go.

Livingit Tip
Wet sensor cleaning is an utmost camera sensor cleaning step and if you aren’t confident about self-cleaning, we suggest you go for professional camera cleaning.

Now that you are a pro on camera sensor cleaning, how about learning How to Clean DSLR Camera Lens

Tips to Prevent the Image Sensor from getting Dirty

“Precaution is always better than cure.”

It is always better to take precautions; no matter how easy the process, it will take some of your time. Here are some tips to prevent the image sensor from getting dirty.

  • Always turn your camera off while you change lenses
    This guideline is also specified in the manual that comes with your camera. The reason behind it is that some cameras have the sensor, which produces an electric charge that electrostatically attracts the dust directly through a lens opening. Besides, it is always easy to turn your camera off just by flicking the off switch than cleaning the sensor all the time.
  • Hold your camera upside down
    People who are new to DSLRs generally have a tendency to hold the camera lens such that they many times accidentally touch the camera lens, which allows dust particle to enter the camera when an image is clicked. Hold your camera upside down such that your left hand is under the lens and hold the right side of the camera with the other hand such that your thumb is on the back. It will balance the camera so that you never end up touching your camera lens and it will also help you click steady shots instead of blurry images as a result of slight shake of a hand.
  • Make sure your lens is ready when you exchange camera lenses
    It is extremely necessary to be quick while changing the camera lenses. But it does not mean you hustle and end up breaking the lens. Just relax! Take a deep breath and change the lens smartly and quickly.
    If you keep the camera body open for a long time, the dust swirls directly inside the camera. And there are high chances that those particles will enter the camera sensor.

Now that you know about the camera sensor cleaning, go ahead and explore the world with your photography.

Click a better photograph every day and explore the Hidden Functions of your DSLR camera.

Happy Clicking!

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