Tag Archives: Cleaning

Dirt kills kit – protect your equipment

Tripod With Bags • Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit

• Tripod with protective bags •
Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit.

Dirty photography gear will stop working.

It is surprising how much dirt will get into your gear. It’s a kit killer, damaging everything. You can prevent it with care. You will save a big expense down the line too.

Dirt is preventable

There is no doubt your equipment will get dirt on it. Even simple shoots can get close to dirt. Outside it’s almost certain that dust and will get on your kit. In Summer photogs use cameras on beaches, in fields and many other dusty environments. What should you do to protect your kit?

Observation is the key. Keep an eye open for anything dusty around you. Be particular about sand and grit. If you get those in your camera you will suffer a huge clean up problem. Sand and small dirt particles will get under the focus rings on your lens, under the lens cap and possibly into your camera body. There are two key points.

First, think about your environment. Small particles hide even in very clean places. There are some particular things which you should look out for around you. This post has more details: 10 Tips for Saving Your Camera

Secondly, pay attention to your clothes and other equipment. Yes, that’s right. The biggest danger to your camera is transference. Your clothes, shoes and other equipment collect dirt particles.

Transference – The secret route for dirt

I first noticed this problem when changing a lens in the boot (trunk) of my car. I put a lens down on my coat to put on another one. As I put it down a cloud of dust puffed out from under the coat. The dust caught in the sun as it drifted out. It occurred to me that all sorts of outdoor items go in the car boot. It is a dusty place. When I swept the carpet I found all sorts of particles. These came from boots, coats, ordinary clothes and other equipment. If you have pets the problem is much worse.

Looking more closely I also discovered my tripod was a source of grit. After shooting on a beach I had just put it back in its bag. There was lots of dirt and grit in that bag. Looking more closely, sand and dirt had got into the legs of my tripod too. Where I had clamped them shut the sand had left scratches and damage on the paintwork. When I shook the tripod I could hear dirt rattling inside.

After that I looked for ways to keep the tripod feet clean. The result can be seen in the picture above. Where dirt or grit is found I use a rubber band and plastic bag on each leg. Before putting the tripod away I simply remove the bags. I dispose of them sensibly. Nothing is transferred into the camera kit.

Camera kit is delicate

Most of our equipment can be damaged by dirt. The hidden routes to getting it into our camera are all around us. Try to change lenses and store your equipment in clean and cleanable places. Try to find ways dirt can be transferred into your bags and storage places. Find simple ways to eliminate it. In the long run it is cheaper and more convenient to protect than to pay for repairs.

Research photography cleaning equipment.  External link - opens new tab/page to Research photography cleaning equipment..

Recommended cleaning tool
Dirt on your camera, or worse, on your digital sensor? You need this tool. An efficient blower, the stream of air will clear dirt and grit from damageable places. Use it to clear dirt from the camera sensor and to blow out dust . It is an indispensable tool for the keen photographer. Giottos Rocket Air Blower – Black.  External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.

How Safe Is Your camera sensor from dust?

The camera sensor is incredibly sensitive to dust. Your shots can be ruined!

The camera sensor is incredibly sensitive to dust. Your shots can be ruined!
Image Sensor picture curtesy of Wikipedia  External link - opens new tab/page

Your image sensor is your camera!

Without it, you have no means of taking pictures. It makes sense to look after it and to prevent dust from getting onto the working surface. What can you do if it does get dust or other substances on it?

How does dust get onto your sensor?

In a variety of ways… The main entry point is the lens hole. Every time you open your camera, you expose the inside to dust. It is impossible to avoid this. However you can minimise the potential for dust entry…

  • Avoid any opening of your camera unless necessary.
  • Avoid dusty environments. Wipe down your camera with a slightly damp cloth and wipe dry before opening.
  • Avoid windy environments. Get out of the wind before opening.
  • Avoid damp environments: dry before opening. Moisture kills cameras and takes dust inside.
  • Hold your camera with the lens hole pointed toward the ground so that dust/skin/hair cannot fall into it.
  • Avoid having an open lens hole for any longer than necessary.
  • Do not breath or blow directly into the lens hole!
  • Avoid opening the camera in the warm soon after coming in from the cold. The same when entering air conditioned places from hot out-doors. Temperature differences cause air to be sucked in and moisture to condense inside the camera. Allow several hours to equalise temperatures inside and out before opening.

Some cameras leak in other places too… The battery cavity, plugs and jack holes for cables may allow air and dust inside. Every time you put a battery into the camera you are creating a piston to push air (and dust) into your camera. Beware – apply the same rules above for all plugs, batteries and cards movement.

I suspect dust on my sensor – how can I tell?

It’s sometimes difficult to tell if dust is on the lens or on the image sensor, or even if it is on the viewfinder. Here is how it is done.

A dust spot most often shows up on your pictures in the lightest areas. If you are looking for dust, hairs and specks then photographing blue sky does the trick. First, thoroughly clean your lens with lens cleaner and a proper lens cloth. It is best to do the photographs in aperture priority mode. Choose f22 or the smallest aperture. Zoom out to the maximum amount. Then, manually focus to infinity (the camera will probably not be able to auto-focus in a clear sky). Take a few pictures of the sky – the blue areas only.

Download the pictures to your computer. Enlarge them on-screen to the full size. Any dark spots, specks or lines you see on every picture in the same place are dust, other detritus or hairs. Birds, aircraft and UFO’s will be in different positions on the pictures.

What can I do about dust I find?

The simple answer is, clean it. This sounds terrifying. It really is not. It can be done in a few seconds with one simple piece of equipment. You will need to buy a blower. They are simple pump-action nozzles that expel fresh air against the sensor and blow off the dust. Here is the one I recommend… I have used them for years without any problem.


The Rocket Blower

Once you have your blower find out how to lock the mirror up on your DSLR. The mirror lock-up function will be somewhere in your menus. Check in your manual.

The procedure below is best with the camera on a tripod. You can look into the camera with your hands free to use the blower. There will be no danger of moving the camera while doing the blowing.
To blow-clean the sensor with the Rocket Blower:

  1. Mount camera on a fixed position/tripod away from contaminants.
  2. Take off your lens so the lens hole is open.
  3. Turn on your camera.
  4. Set mirror lock-up to enabled in your menu.
  5. Activate mirror lock-up for cleaning (as advised in the camera manual).
  6. There will be a click and you will now be able to see the sensor.
  7. Hold the blower so the nozzle points at the sensor, at about 60mm to 100mm from it.
  8. Squeeze the bulb of the blower about 3 to six times, directing the air at the sensor.
  9. Unlock the mirror lock-up (as advised in the camera manual).
  10. The mirror will click and drop.
  11. Turn off the camera.
  12. Replace the lens.
  13. Retest for dust – re-take sky pictures and view on the computer.
  14. Repeat if dust is still present. (Normally once or twice is enough).

The whole procedure for one test and clean-up should be about five to ten minutes.

Check that the procedure is compatible with instructions in your camera manual before proceeding. Follow any variations suggested.

Common Sense

Be sensible. While you are cleaning your sensor make sure you…

  • Use only air.
  • Use only the type of blower shown above (any similar brand).
  • Do not use compressed air (especially canned). It may damage your camera beyond repair.
  • Do not use other gases (they may contain particulates, corrosives or moisture).
  • Do not use anything to directly touch the sensor.
  • Do not use your mouth to blow into the hole – grease and bodily fluids will be forced onto the sensor surface and will not come off again.
If after three or four attempts you still have dust…

The next level of cleaning involves wiping the sensor with a sensor cleaning fluid and using a cleaning implement. This is a much more delicate operation. It should only be carried out if you are confident dealing with delicate electrical components. I do not cover this operation here. If not confident, take it to a properly accredited service agent for your camera manufacturer.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.