Clean Your Own Camera Sensor

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Sensor dust.  The scourge of  DSLR photographers everywhere…

The hot, dry summer months, along with increased camera use during vacation adds up to lots of dirty sensors. Considering that most photographers have likely never cleaned their sensors,  it’s a sure bet that most digital cameras in use today have a significant amount of debris on their sensors.

“Not me. I take great care of my camera…”

Not your camera, you say? Trust me, if you have never cleaned your sensor, it’s filthy – you just don’t know it.  And don’t say to me, “But I never take the lens off…”  either…  Camera systems are not hermetically sealed. All brands and models are prone to contamination when used regularly.  Ironically, the bigger the sensor, the more likely it will attract dust.

Since most photographers shoot  between  f/4 and f/11, they don’t realize that their sensors (actually, the anti-aliasing filter protecting the sensor) are dirty.  At that range the depth of focus is relatively shallow so any dust on the sensor may not be visible. Once you start shooting at f/16 and smaller, it’s quite likely you will start noticing dust spots. Especially in areas that have consistent tonal values, ie:  the sky.

Should you send your DSLR in for cleaning,
or should you attempt cleaning it yourself?

Frankly, it’s not that scary or difficult and you can easily clean your own sensor with the right materials.  The first step is to determine if you  actually NEED to clean the sensor at all. Although there’s certainly some dust on it, you should only attempt a cleaning if there’s visible dust on your images.

First, check your DSLR sensor for dust…

Don’t be fooled by the dust you observe in your viewfinder.  That’s actually on the ground glass prism and does not show up on your images. You need to create a test image to accurately determine if there’s is dust on the sensor.  Here’s a step-by-step process I use:

1) Attach your longest lens and rack it out to it’s maximum focal length.

2) Set your lens to manual focus. Now focus the lens to its closest distance.

3) Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av) at it’s smallest aperture (ex: f/22, f/32) at ISO 200.

4) Take a photograph of a neutral colored / non textured subject. I usually photograph a patch of clear blue sky, or a piece of paper.

IMPORTANT:
The image should NOT be in focus and a long shutter speed is OK.

5) Review the image on your camera’s LCD monitor.  Zoom in to 100% magnification and inspect it.  If you’re at home, it’s easier to review the test image on your computer.

6) If you see some blurry dark spots, those are dust specks on the sensor.

clean spots

Time to Lean? Time to Clean!
Dry Method or Wet Method?

There are many different methods for cleaning sensors and much debate on which method is best.  Generally speaking, they’re categorized as either  “Dry” or “Wet”.  The “Dry” method uses a blower (not compressed air!) and/or and special brush. The “Wet” method uses a special methyl alcohol solution and swab. The most challenging jobs will require both.

Visible 2157 800px  Dry 2159 800px

Cleaning Your Own Sensor

1) Determine if you really need to clean the sensor by reviewing a test image shot at the lens’ minimum aperture (f/22 – f/32)

2) Activate the Manual Sensor Cleaning mode on your DSLR .  Make sure the battery is fully charged before starting.

3) Use the “dry method”  first by using a hand-held blower such as Giottos Rocket Air Blaster to dislodge any loose dust particles. It’s best to face the camera in a downward position while blowing off the sensor.

Blower 2153 800px

 4) If needed, continue by using one of the many specially designed sensor-cleaning brushes. These are use micro fiber bristles that are specially treated for cleaning sensors. Do not use a small paintbrush. Those are too harsh and will scratch the sensor.

For stubborn dust specks still remaining, you’ll need to switch to the ‘wet” method using a swab wetted with sensor cleaning solution.  I prefer using Sensor Swabs (Type 2 for cropped sensors / Type 3 for full-frame sensors) and Eclipse Solution.

5) Apply a very small drop of the Eclipse solution to the SensorSwap and, working quickly, swipe across the sensor in a firm and smooth motion.  The motion is similar to running a squeegee across a window.  I work from left to right, then pivot the swab, and then work back right to left.

6) Discard the swab. Do not use it again. Don’t even think about it.  If the sensor requires another pass, use a fresh swab.  Repeat as needed.

Cleaning your sensor can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, the instructions above, and some basic common sense, you can save a lot of time and money by doing it yourself.

Fiat lux (mundi)…

-Jeff Greene

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5 Cool Features on the New Canon EOS 7D Mark II

 
By Jeffrey M. Greene

Canon has finally upgraded it’s popular EOS 7D DSLR with the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

The 7D Mark II has a pro-level set of cutting-edge features
and a robust, ergonomic design. The new 20.2 Megapixel APS-C
CMOS sensor with Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, plus a host of
new and refined capabilities, makes the EOS 7D Mark II the
perfect camera for photographers looking for a pro-grade APS-C DSLR.

Here are 5 significant upgrades:

20.2 Megapixels
APS-C CMOS Sensor utilizing Dual Pixel technology.Canon 7D Mark II

65 point auto-focus system
All cross-type 65 pt sensor utilizing Canon’s ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR) focus system.65pointAF Eagle

10 frames per second
When shooting in continuous mode. Shutter rated for 200,000 actuations.10fps bike

Dual memory slots:
For Compact Flash and SD (SD, SDHC, SDXC) memory cards.CF and SD

GPS
For geotagging images with longitude, latitude, and attitude…
Very useful when logging photo trip locations and details.
Geotagged

Most retailers are now accepting pre-orders with the first orders expected to be available on November 28th…
Canon EOS 7D Mark IIbody only   $1799.00
Canon EOS 7D Mark II w/ Canon 18-135 f /3.5-5.6 IS STM     $2149.00