Everyone with a digital SLR has had to deal with sensor dust on images: there is no avoiding it. When you are dealing with electronics and dust, the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. So how do you control the amount of dust you have to delete in post processing? I am going to give you some suggestions that will help eliminate most of the sensor dust in your camera, but not all of it.
The first part of eliminating dust happens in the field, while you are shooting:
- First of all, always keep the front and back lens caps on your lenses: it keeps dust out. I have seen many people when I’ve been out shooting never place a cap on the back or front of the lens: that’s asking for trouble.
- When changing lenses, I always flip the camera face down in my lap after removing a lens to prevent junk from falling into it. I have the lens that’s going to replace the one I removed ready to attach. There is always a spare back lens cap in my bag to place on the lens I have removed.
- If it is windy, try to place the camera bag in front of you while you block the wind with your body. One gusty day at Pt. Judith, I had my bag open near some bushes and a myriad of seeds blew into the bag; they were hard to remove and I later found one inside my camera on the mirror…
- Work as quickly as possible to change lenses.
- If your camera has sensor dust removal in the menu use it periodically: mine does it every time it powers up or down. This doesn’t work well, but it gives you a nice fuzzy feeling.
This is my process for cleaning the sensor when I get home:
- Take the lens off and select “manual clean” in the menu on the camera; blow the sensor clean with a rocket blower. The manual cleaning cycle locks up the mirror. If you take off the lens without locking the mirror (unless you have a mirrorless camera), the blower is doing nothing but cleaning the mirror. Sometimes if the dust is oily the blower does absolutely nothing…but if it isn’t, this can work pretty well.
- The next day, go out and shoot a blue sky at f22..the smaller aperture will make the sensor dust more evident..look at the images on your computer: enlarge them. If they look ok, you are finished..however, if there is a lot of dust, there is more to be done.
- This is a warning: if you don’t have a steady hand and feel nervous using swabs don’t do this next part…bring your camera to a professional to have the sensor cleaned if it is really dirty.
- I have had very good luck with Sensor Swabs…they are sized according to the sensor size on your camera. I use the ones that already have eclipse solution on them. Two swipes on the sensor and it seems to work very well, but you must follow instructions on the package as there is a technique to doing this…since I have done it many times, my proficiency has improved.
- There is also a product called a Butterfly which a lot of people use; it is a brush that spins on the sensor; it won’t work on sticky dust…and it sort of scares me spinning inside my camera.
- For a long time, I used the Dust Aid Platinum sensor cleaner; it is a pad that you put on a sticky surface that comes with the product, then tap the pad lightly on the sensor..however, something went wrong one day and the sticky surface migrated to my sensor from the pad: my sensor had to be cleaned professionally it was so gummy.
Good luck…you can do this!