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If you have an interchangeable lens camera you will (at some stage) need to clean a DSLR sensor. It is as simple as that. Every time you change your lenses in the field you’re inviting dust into your camera. It will stick onto anything inside there that it can. Aside from the viewfinder, the main place of concern is the sensor.
A typical clean in a shop can run you upwards of £30 (not including any shipping) and this doesn’t include the time you are without a camera. So take 5 min to learn just how easy it is and learn how you can do it yourself.
A word of advice up front: Make sure you use the right tools to clean your sensor. The biggest risk of undertaking this procedure is that you’ll damage your sensor. In saying that they are not as sensitive as you would imagine. I have done this many times and have never had a problem.
Which Cleaning Swabs To Buy
I have used these generic sensor cleaning swabs that you can pick up for around £10 or even less when on sale. Or you can pick up a full sensor cleaning kit, because if you have never cleaned your camera before, you’ll really need to work hard to get all the dust off.
How to clean a DSLR sensor [VIDEO]
Step by Step
- Go inside for this one. You need to a clean space that is free of dust and other dirt.
- Put a fully charged battery into your camera. Activate the sensor cleaning mode. This should be in the system settings of your camera. A quick google search should help you find it if you’re lost: “sensor cleaning mode YOUR CAMERA HERE”. The sensor will then be uncovered.
- Use an air blower to take any easily removable dust from the sensor. I do this often as it is a fast and easy way to remove light dust from the sensor. You’ll need an air blower (included in this kit) which you can get for very little money.
- Now take the swab and insert it into the camera on a 45-degree angle then straighten it up so that it reaches all the way across the sensor.
- Wipe the sensor from left to right (or right to left). Turn the swab over and repeat if necessary.
- Remove the swab and turn the power off on the camera. Affix lens and retest for any sensor dust.
The following images are what I took before cleaning and after cleaning. They are JPEGS taken directly from the camera.
Recommended settings when searching for sensor dust: ISO 100 at f22 on a TRIPOD! See video for further details.
You should now have a clean sensor. Repeat should you need to remove any further dust. If that doesn’t work then you’ll need to look at “wet cleaning your sensor”. Essentially, you can add a few drops of cleaning solution to the end of the swab. But personally, I have never needed to do this.
It seems like a daunting procedure at first, but trust me it’s relatively easy to do and will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Just give it a try, carefully!
Thanks for reading. Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you get your sensor clean. If you have any further questions please let me know on any of the social channels or in the comments section below.
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New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!