Spring cleaning. It’s a good thing, at least that’s what my wife says! One area of our cameras that can be neglected is the sensor. Dust mites and smudges add extra time in post-production and can mess up a print if they sneak through unnoticed. Make time to clean the camera sensor to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Fear of sensor cleaning
It can be a bit scary to get into the sensor area and touch that magical surface. This is only natural. You certainly don’t want to mess up your camera sensor! If you are careful you can go in there and save yourself a lot of time and money.
If you don’t think this is for you, take your camera to a camera shop or send it to the repair depot and have the sensor professionally cleaned. The price for this service varies between $35 and $100, depending on your camera and service center. If you are unable to hand over your camera, shipping costs may also be incurred.
Do I need a camera sensor cleaning?
How do you know if you need to have your sensor cleaned? Sometimes it’s pretty obvious when you find yourself always needing to clean up your images during post-production. Follow your camera manual to keep the shutter out of the way. If you don’t have power, make sure your battery is fully charged.
Look inside at the sensor. Shine a light, and add a magnifying glass if possible. Even if you don’t always see predominant spots, there may be a deterioration in your files. Test it. Take a photo of a plain white piece of paper that is evenly lit. Or photograph a clear blue sky. Once you have downloaded your image, open it in your processing software.
I use Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). In ACR, click Recovery Window. At the bottom is a Visualize spots checkbox. This will give you a good indication of whether you’re ready to go or need some extra attention. There’s a corresponding checkbox available in Adobe Lightroom if that’s your preferred processing software. You can create a similar look if you open the image in Photoshop, add a Curves layer, and manipulate the curves.
Need to clean, now what?
If you are going to clean the sensor yourself, there are many products on the market. One you probably already own is a squeeze blower. I recommend the Giotto’s Rocket Air Blaster.
This will help remove loose dust. Don’t use compressed air as the force may be too strong and it may splash some liquid propellants which can really mess things up. After using the squeeze blower while holding the camera lens down, take another test shot. By the way, it’s a good idea to keep the opening side of the camera down all the time so that gravity doesn’t get any dust in the first place.
My favorite cleaning tool
I’ve worked with many methods for cleaning camera sensors over the years. I’m a big fan of the Eyelead sensor cleaning system from Germany. This has given me the best results with minimal effort. A dust stick bar removes the dust with a touch of the sensor. The dust is removed from the handle using a sticky viscous paper. 10 sheets of this adhesive paper are included in the kit. You can order additional packages 20 cleaning papers for about $19. Repeat if necessary until all dust appears to have cleared to the eye and test again with white paper or a clear blue sky. Note: Never touch the end of the fabric stick as the oil from your fingers can make it unusable.
Eyelead makes it different dust stick bar for some sony cameras.
If you have really stubborn spots or oil on the sensor, you’ll need cleaning fluid and cotton swabs. Cotton swabs are a one-time option. Make sure to apply only a few drops to the swab and never directly to the sensor. Throw that cotton swab away after one pass. Repeat if necessary. If this doesn’t clear the sensor, it’s definitely time to send the camera to the official sensor cleaning technician.
Once you’ve done the sensor cleaning, you’ll see it’s not as scary as you might have thought. Make sure you have a clean space to work in and take your time.
If you’ve had success with this or any other method, let me know in the comments below.
Yours in creative photography, Bob