DIRTY LENS? NO, IT’S A DIRTY SENSOR.
Welcome to a guide on how to clean the camera sensor. Ever wonder why there are dust particles on your photos no matter how much you much clean the lens? No matter which lens you use?
That is because you have some dirt stuck on the sensor itself, and cleaning the lens will do no good. If you have this “stuck dust” problem, it is time to clean the sensor. Not to worry, this is actually a pretty common thing, and it is but a simple 2-3 steps process.
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
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WHAT YOU NEED
- A lens blower – Do not use air spray cans or powerful spray guns… Don’t even think about blowing with your own mouth. [Get from eBay]
- Disposable Wet Sensor Swab – A “cotton swab” to clean the sensor. [Get from eBay]
HOW TO CHECK IF THE CAMERA SENSOR IS DIRTY
Before we start, here is a quick method to check if any dust is stuck to the sensor. Put on a clean lens, and set the aperture to the smallest (e.g. f/22). Take a photo of a piece of clean white paper or white wall. Dust particles will show up clearly on the otherwise white surface.
Every camera will have a few dust particles after prolonged usage, and that is not a cause for panic. You only need to clean the sensor if the dust affects your images.
STEP 1) AUTOMATIC SENSOR CLEANING
Thankfully, newer cameras these days come with built-in automatic sensor cleaning functions. By default, the automatic cleaning will run by itself whenever you switch on or off the camera. You can manually activate this cleaning function, and let the camera do its own magic.
- Nikon Users: Setup menu > Clean image sensor > Clean Now
- Canon Users: Menu > Tools > Sensor Cleaning > Clean Now
- Sony Users: Menu > Cleaning Mode > Enter
STEP 2) MANUAL SENSOR CLEANING
If the dust problem persists after automatic cleaning or your camera does not have automatic cleaning function – You will need to manually clean the sensor. Depending on the brand and type of camera, this step will be done slightly differently.
- Mirrorless camera users: You can access and clean the sensor once you take off the lens.
- Nikon DSLR users: Setup Menu > Lock mirror for cleaning
- Canon DSLR user: Menu > Tools > Sensor Cleaning > Clean Manually
Once you have access to the sensor, face the camera downwards and use the lens blower upwards. It is important that the camera is facing downwards, so that gravity will take the dust out and not put more dust into the camera.
When you are done with the cleaning, take another photo of a piece of white paper again. Confirm that the dust has been cleaned out, or try to repeat another cycle of cleaning to get the dust out of the camera.
STEP 3) WET CLEANING
Still getting spots on the photo after using the lens blower? The lens blower cannot remove a certain dust spot no matter what? That is probably because you have stains on the sensor or stubborn pieces of dirt. This calls for the use of a sensor swab, something like a disposable clinical wipe. Just gently wipe the sensor with the swab, and take a test photo to verify again.
A word of warning – Do not use water, soap or any other harsh chemicals to clean the sensor. You might end up with a damaged sensor, and replacing that is going to be very expensive. If you are looking for a good cleaning solution, I will recommend the Aeroclipse.
We have come to the end of this guide. If you are somehow still getting dirt spots after cleaning with the sensor swab, it could be a different issue with the camera. Do not force clean the sensor anymore, and send it back to the service center for analysis.
I hope this guide has been useful to you, and shoot on!