Dust particles on a camera sensor is an inevitable part of the trade in photography, whether you’re an outdoor photographer who regularly changes lenses or even a studio photographer. But cleaning your sensor can be a simple and easy task.
When it comes to cleaning a camera’s sensor most photographers freak at the idea, believing that the sensor is far too delicate to touch. But with a bit of patient and with the right tools, this task becomes almost second nature.
How to know if your camera sensor is dirty
Although a vast majority of modern cameras come with a self-sensor cleaning option, it is still likely that your sensor needs a clean.
To test for dust on your sensor, stop down to the smallest aperture on your lens (the largest f-stop) and the lowest ISO (to avoid mistaking grainy images for dust). Then take a photo of a neutral/white background (a piece of paper or white wall will do fine).
Open this image in your choice of photo editing application, adjust the brightness/contract of the image and zoom in to identify any dark specs.
See those marks? Well, your sensor needs a good old clean.
The equipment you’ll need
Although you will find many accessories for camera cleaning, there is only a handful of tools you really need to clean a sensor:
Cyclone Blower – £4.95
Micnova MQ-7X Sensor Loupe – £24.95
Cleaning your camera sensor
- Make sure that your camera is fully charged. This is important as many cameras will not allow you to perform a manual clean unless the battery is at full power.
- Activate auto cleaning mode. Many modern cameras have an auto cleaning mode, so activate that by finding the settings on your camera (if your camera doesn’t have this mode – don’t worry!) The auto cleaning mode produces a series of micro-vibrations that shake the larger dust loose from the sensor.
- Clean your camera’s exterior. By cleaning the body of your camera this will minimise the risk of more dust and dirt getting into the sensor.
- Clean your workspace. Exactly the same reason for cleaning the camera’s exterior.
- Activate manual cleaning. To access the camera’s sensor the mirror needs to be permanently set to up. To do this, look for the “manual cleaning” option in your camera’s settings (check the manual if you can not find it). Detach the camera lens and select. You will then hear the mirror click back and reveal the sensor.
- Examine the sensor. Once the mirror is up and the sensor is out, take the Micnova Sensor Loupe and examine the sensor. The bright LED lights and magnifier will reveal where the dust particles are on the sensor.
- Use a Blower Brush. Using the Cyclone Blower blow air onto the camera’s sensor to remove large particles, being extremely carefully not to touch the sensor with the end of the blower.
- Wipe with cleaning swabs. Once you have the right sized cleaning swab for your camera’s sensor (either full frame or APS-C), using little force wipe across the sensor just once, one way. Flip the swab over and wipe the other way, only once. If you need to repeat, throw away the swab and use a new one.
- Examine the sensor again. Once you have cleaned the sensor, examine it once again through the Micnova Sensor Loupe to check that all particles have been removed.
- All done. Turn off the camera, which will release the camera’s mirror to cover the sensor, and attach the lens. Then finish off by taking another reference photo to see how clean your sensor is now, compared to when you first started.