15 February, 2008

Quick Photo Tip: How to Clean Your Sensor.

I'm writing this post because when I took a quick shot for yesterday's Valentine's post, I noticed that a pesky little speck of dust was on the sensor of my Nikon D70s. In my loyalty to all things simple, I refused to re-shoot and posted the image anyway. Laugh at it here.

If you're shooting with a regular point and shoot. . . this post is not for you. But I still love you to pieces and hope you'll check back soon. In fact, I'm currently working on a piece entitled The Majestic Point and Shoot: How to do your mad photography skills justice on your point and shoot camera. Today's post is however for us DSLRers.

I need to acknowledge that some sophisticated cameras now days come with built in sensor cleaners. These are very helpful to be sure, but everyone I've talked to and everything I've read tells me that you're still going to have to clean your sensor manually at one time or another.

"WHAT IS A SENSOR?" You may ask. Well I'll give you a quick description, as always, in layman terms. If you'd like an in depth description check here.

Behind your removable lens, there is a mirror. The mirror's function is to reflect the image in front of you to your eye as you look through your camera's viewfinder. When you click your shutter button, that mirror flips out of the way and exposes your camera's SENSOR to the light. The light is recorded on the sensor and you've got your shot. . . when we say that you have dust on your sensor. . . it's actually on the filter that covers your sensor and not on the sensor itself. . . but that's not very important.

Your next question is probably: HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE DUST ON MY SENSOR???

Well the speck of dust on my sensor was so large it was CLEARLY visible in my image. But what I did to be sure it was on the sensor and not just a smudge on my lens was I cleaned my lens thoroughly and then I set my camera to an f stop of 22*. I then took a picture (no flash or you'll wash out the image and may not be able to see your dust) of a clean white wall (a white sheet of paper may work even better because it is likely to be cleaner than your wall). I uploaded the image and the dust specks were clearly visible. If there is dust on your sensor, it will look like your wall or your sheet of paper has a few freckles or maybe quite a few if your sensor is really dirty. If you're not ever switching out lenses. . . it's unlikely that you'll have any dust on your sensor.

So you DO have dust on your sensor? Well, never fear! Help is on it's way, Natalie style.

First things first. You've got to set your camera to it's "sensor clean" mode. Look in your camera's manual to learn how.

On a Nikon D70s you'll do the following:

1. Turn the Camera on. . . :) I'm of the mindset that instructions can never be too simple.
2. Hit your "menu" button.
3. Bring your "cursor" all the way to the left column by pushing the left arrow.
4. Use the up and down arrow to select the wrench icon.
5. Once you've selected the wrench push your right arrow once then scroll up and down until you see "Mirror lock-up" and hit enter.
6. You'll then select "Yes" and hit enter again.
7. Next you'll need to push your shutter release button. At this point you should hear the mirror move out of the way, exposing the sensor.
8. Remove your lens at this point. Try to keep your camera pointing down as much as possible to avoid more dust falling into the sensor.

To look for your camera's instruction manual online try here or here or just google search.

Once you've got your sensor exposed, you're going to need a BLOWER of some sort to blow any dust off of your sensor. You need to find something specifically for use on DSLR Sensors so that it has a filter and doesn't just suck more dust up and blow it into your sensor. Here's a good one.

Keep your sensor pointed down while you use the blower so the dust doesn't just fall directly back onto the sensor.

Once the sensor is clean, you'll need to lower your mirror again. On my Nikon D70s, all I have to do is turn the camera off and it lowers automatically. Check your manual to see how you do this for your specific camera.

PLEASE NOTE: NEVER TOUCH YOUR SENSOR with your finger, or a q tip, or a wash cloth, or a cotton ball . JUST DON'T. Thanks. If there is a speck or a smudge on the sensor that isn't coming off with your blower, then you're going to need to buy a bona fide Sensor Cleaner. The one I have is SensorKlear by LensPen . . . I think I paid around $15 for this at a local camera supply store. Their slogan is "It's a necessity, not an accessory!" Click the image on this page for an instructional video on how to use this little "necessity."

Happy Shooting!



*To set your camera to f22, go to Aperture Priority Mode: generally A, AE or AV on your dial. From there you can choose your Aperture: If this confuses you, you're not alone. Check your camera's manual FIRST and THEN google "how to set aperture for a Canon 40d" or whatever your camera type is. If you're STILL having problems, please feel free to email me. I'm glad to help. natalienorton@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Janna said...

Thanks for posting this very useful information. I already paid somebody $100 to clean mine once a few months ago. Since then, I try to always leave my most used lens on my camera. When I do change lenses, I only do it inside if possible, pointing my camera downward. Instead of taking a picture of a white wall, I aim at the sky on a cloudless day. The first time I realized I had dust was when viewing pics taken at an airshow. I have watched a video about cleaning before, but I'm too nervous to attempt it myself for fear I would scratch the sensor. Maybe next time I'll try it myself.