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Cleaning Camera Lenses and Sensors

~  Article by John Fox

Cleaning Camera Sensors and Lenses

Using your time to fix spots on every photo after you have taken the shots, uses more time than cleaning your equipment before every shoot. Your photography equipment is very expensive and so this needs to be done with great care.

 

Cleaning your lens:

Lenses

 

  • This needs to be done in a well-lit area as it will help you see dust and smudges on your lens.
  • First, you need a blower or a can of compressed air, use this to blow dust and sand off the front element. This gets rid of particles that would otherwise act like sandpaper when you wipe the lens with the cloth. Try to blow at a shallow angle so the particles blow off and away and are not driven down or into the lens. When using a can of compressed air start by blowing away from the lens in case liquid comes out the can then bring the jet of air to where you want it, always keeping the tin upright so more fluid doesn’t come out.
  • Then you can use a micro fibre cloth to wipe the lens clean. Use light pressure; start in the middle, and moving in growing concentric circles, move out towards the edges.
  • If you have fingerprints (oil) or other dirt like mud, you can moisten the cloth with lens cleaner solution or alcohol bought at a pharmacy. Be aware that the lens surface has multiple thin layers of coating to boost light transmissions, reduce aberration and flair. These are very thin and very sensitive.
  • Repeat for the rear element if necessary.
  • A UV filter may help protect your lens and it is better to clean that than the front element suffering continuous friction from repeated cleaning.
  • Remember to also clean your lens cap as it may have dust that goes straight back onto your freshly cleaned lens when you reattach it. This can be done by blowing it out or with a soft clean paint brush to remove the dust.

 

Cleaning your sensor:

 

Sensor

  • Most cameras are able to clean the sensor through the built-in ultrasonic vibration. This shakes the sensor to knock the dust off the sensor. This is unfortunately not always enough.

  • Your camera will also have a function for cleaning your sensor by locking the mirror up. When you activate this the mirror moves into the upper position and the shutter opens allowing access to the sensor if you have removed your lens.
  • Do not touch the sensor at all if it can be helped; use a blower to blow out dust and hairs. Note: compressed air from a can in not recommended by the camera manufacturers.
  • If this does not get rid of everything then there are products like the speck grabber which lifts dust off the sensor. Read all the instructions for third party sensor cleaners carefully and avoid sensor contact if it can be helped.
  • Switch off your camera to return the shutter and mirror to their default position. Replace your lens back onto the body.
  • To test if the sensor is clean, shoot clear blue sky, open the image in Photoshop and apply auto levels. This forces a very high contrast which shows up dirt very, very well.
  • If you find lots of dirt start the process all over again having taken note of where the dust was on the sensor.
  • Be mindful when changing lenses to do it in an area of little dust and make the swap as fast as possible leaving the camera’s insides exposed for the shortest possible time.
  • To swap lenses turn off the camera so the sensor has less static charge to attract dust.

 

Warning!

Manually cleaning your camera’s sensor is a risky affair. If you cannot get rid of dust and grime through using the automatic sensor cleaning method, we recommend that you take your camera into your camera brand’s local service centre  If you decide to take the risk and manually clean the sensor, you do so at your own risk. 


Want to learn more? Check out our thorough article on this topic “Camera Maintenance | How to keep your Sensor and Lenses clean

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About the Author:

John Fox
I find photography to be a fantastic outlet for my creativity, it really is the best form of soul food I know. I particularly enjoy doing very detailed work as it requires a huge amount of concentration, which silences the world around me. This drew me to the technical challenges of macro photography where I can happily lose hours while tinkering. The way I work to keep photography a rewarding and fulfilling endeavour is to shoot primarily for myself. The quest to shoot natural objects with a patience and dedication to honour their inherent beauty led me to fine art photography. I have found that the principles of fine art photography now permeate every aspect of my work and I can no longer shoot anything I cannot embrace for the artistic and meaningful philosophies that drive my passion. The only thing I enjoy more is to share what I have discovered with others, and so DPC is my dream job.

2 Comments

  1. Kristen Watters 2012/11/13 at 10:15

    I own a Nikon D90 and this is really my problem. I am afraid to clean my lenses because I might touch something that will destroy my lens. For now I haven’t found any center in my location that will cater on cleaning services for camera lens and sensor. I don’t want to risk cleaning it by my own.

  2. Xaviera Rye 2012/11/06 at 09:59

    Very informative blog which is very helpful for camera enthusiasts. I also learned a lot which might come in handy when I can already afford to buy onefor myself. I have seen the prices of these lenses and they are certainly not the cheap kind to be played with. It should then be well taken care of so that it will last long.

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