One of the annoying "features" of digital SLR cameras is the seeming ease in which the sensor gets dirty. Sure, you can clone dark specks out of a sky with your image-editing program, but it's often easier to practice good prevention measures. Following are tips and techniques from BetterPhoto's instructors, all experienced professionals:
The Extra Large Giottos Blower Bulb
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The key to keeping a sensor clean is to be a fanatic about cleanliness. I frequently vaccum my camera bag to eliminate as much dust as possible, and take maximum care when changing lenses. It's at lens change time that most dust enters a DSLR camera so it's important to do so quickly, preferably in an environment without blowing dust. Frankly, prevention is preferable to the solution.
I turn off the camera and point it straight down when changing lenses. And I try to change lenses as fast as possible. I use the biggest blower bulb that I've found - the largest size Giottos - in order to blow off the back glass of the lens and to blow any specks dust out of the mirror/shutter area inside the camera. I avoid switching lenses outdoors if it’s windy or dusty - and, instead, go inside my car or a building ... Of course, if the light is getting great or the subject is moving fast, then I’ll keep my back to the wind, hunch over, change lenses, hope for the best, and start shooting! :-)
I'm vigilant about changing lenses quickly and watching the direction of the wind when I am changing lenses. I try to use my body to shield the lens mount area. Using zoom lenses helps because it means having to change lenses less frequently. But there are times when I need the speed of primes and do have to change lenses, obviously.
I turn off the camera when I change lenses. That's about it. Honestly, I am seriously lazy about this task and pay for it with lots of cloning.
Before each shoot, I use my Giottos Rocket Blower to clean the inside of the mirror box and sensor.
I never leave a lens off the camera body for more than the time it takes to put a new one on. I am cautious about changing lenses in dusty conditions. I keep the camera body and lens clean. I keep my camera bag clean (I actually vacuum it out if conditions are bad). Finally, one of my digital SLRs is an Olympus E-330 and the Olympus dust removal system is excellent.
Here are my thoughts on helping to prevent dust settling on the surface of the low-pass filter:
- Always keep a body cap on the camera body when no lens is attached.
- Tilt the camera body down when changing lenses and inspecting the low-pass filter.
- In dusty environments, store camera bodies in a sealable plastic bag, as an additional barrier to the ingress of dust.
- Clean the base of the mirror box regularly to prevent fine particles that get worn off the lens mount flanges every time you attach or detach a lens from migrating to the low-pass filter.
- Always store the camera body upright, or on its front – never on its back – make gravity your friend.
- Periodically clean out the interior of your camera bag.
- Keep your lenses meticulously clean (front and back) – much of the unwanted material that ends up inside a camera is sucked there through the action of zooming and focusing a lens, as the groups of lens elements are shifted small differences in air pressure are created, which draws dust into the camera.
About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
The content manager and course advisor for BetterPhoto.com, Kerry Drager is also the co-author (with Jim Miotke) of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (2011) and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (2012). In addition, he teaches photography online at BetterPhoto's digital photography school. See his instructor bio and list of courses...
Be sure to check out Kerry's Pro BetterPholio website - www.kerrydrager.com.
Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.
Also see his Visual Creativity photography blog, and follow Kerry on Facebook.
Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, in the country near Sacramento, California, with their six Newfoundland dogs, four cats, two horses, and a mixed terrier.