How to Keep Your DSLR Image Sensor Clean

A Digital Single Lens camera is wonderful, however, there are a number of problems which can affect the image sensor. The problems with the CCD or image sensor are all caused by dust, and these are not normally problems owners of compact film cameras will ever have to worry about.

When the lens is removed, dust can enter the body of the camera and collect on the film or sensor. With 35mm film cameras, this wasn't a major problem because every shot used a new piece of clean film. However, with a digital camera, the sensor will stay put no matter how many shots you take.

Dust on the sensor can cause spots on the photographs that you take, which will make them much less professional looking. This problem will also get worse over time.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Camera Blower Cleaner
  • Sensor Cleaning Brush
  • Lens
  • Lens Cap 
  • Compressed Air

Step 1: Checking for Dust

Before you can decide whether or not cleaning is essential, you will need to check whether your camera sensor has any dust collecting on it. To do this, put a 50mm or longer lens onto your camera body and photograph a light background. Simply taking a photo of a piece of paper will normally be the easiest option.

Shoot a test photo at a narrow aperture, and then take a look for any specks of dust on your photo. The aperture needs to be f/22 or smaller to make it easier to see the dust. If there are lot sf specks on your cameras' photos, then something will need to be done about it.

Step 2: Preparation

Make sure that the battery in your camera is fully charged. If the shutter closes while you are cleaning the sensor, then it could cause some expensive damage. You will also need to work in a clean area with adequate lighting, as this will ensure that you don't get the sensor dirtier than it already is.

Read your cameras manual to find out how to open the shutter and clean the sensor. Generally there is an option hidden somewhere in the menus. On some cameras, this will open up the shutter, while on others, you might also have to press the shutter button. Once the shutter is open, the lens can be removed and protected with a lens cap.

Step 3: Non Contact Cleaning

Before you risk touching the sensor with anything, it's a good idea to clean the sensor using an air blower. This is like miniature bellows, which can be used to blow dirt and grit off the sensor (this will make it less likely you will scratch your sensor). Once you have done this, test to find out whether the specks of dust have been removed.

Step 4: Contact Cleaning

Blow compressed air over the bristles of a sensor cleaning brush to remove any dust and also statically charge them. Then, carefully brush the sensor, being very careful not to brush anywhere else other than the sensor. Test the camera again to find out whether or not you can stop cleaning at this point.

Step 5: Wet Cleaning

If all else has failed, then you will need to attempt wet cleaning. This is the most risky of cleaning procedures, but also the most effective. As long as you have followed the other steps, then there should be little chance of causing any scratches.

Step 6: Prevention

As always, a prevention is better than a cure. Try running the cleaning cycle of your cameras sensor regularly (if it has one), and also store your camera with either a lens cap or a lens attached to it.

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