Tag Archives: DSLR

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’.

Ten great tips for photographing landscapes

Landscapes appear inherently attractive to the eye.

We all love taking landscape shots at some time or another. However, they are also quite a challenge. There are a few simple things that you can do to get a great landscape shot.

Use a tripod!

The most important landscape photography technique is to use a tripod. For your shot to be successful you need to get the sharpest and most carefully framed shot.

  • Framing: When you put up your tripod you give yourself the best opportunity to get the framing right because you can take your time. Look around the shot. check the edge of your frame. Make sure you have all the right composition elements and have a meaningful subject in your viewfinder.
    See more on framing here.
  • Stability: The tripod will give you the most stable platform for your shot. Most photographers miss this essential when starting out. Sharpness makes or breaks a landscape shot. Starter landscapers often think a hand held stance is good enough. It may be possible – sometimes. The chances are reduced. If you want to get right into the shot you must get pin sharpness.
    See more on why you should use a tripod here.
Vibration elimination

Beating the movement blur of the hand-held shot needs more than just a tripod. Your tripod technique is critical too. The most important part of using a tripod is to reduce the vibrations through it. Here are my ten tips for making your tripod-based landscape shot pin sharp.

  • Tip 1: Keep the legs as short as possible and don’t use the middle elevating column. The short legs and no-column policy keeps the tripod tight and that reduces any integral vibration in the tripod itself. The vibration is reduced because the tripod is stiffer overall if the legs are retracted. If you must elevate it, make sure you extend the thinner, vibration prone, bottom of the tripod legs last.
  • Tip 2: Use a cable release: Pushing the release button (shutter button) moves the camera and creates vibration in the tripod. A cable release of some type will set the camera off without your heavy finger involved.
  • Tip 3: Use mirror lock-up: Most DSLRs will have a menu setting that will lift the reflex mirror before the shot is fired. The number one source of vibration in a camera is that mirror twanging up and down! The mirror lock-up function will remove this vibration. Check the manual to see how it is done on your camera.
  • Tip 4: Turn off auto-focus: The engine and the act of the camera tuning its focus causes vibrations in the tripod. These set up a resonance up and down the legs – the vibration affects your shot. You will produce a much more accurate focus by hand anyway.
  • Tip 5: Turn off image-stabilisation: If you are on a tripod you don’t need it. However, the slightest breeze or vibration through the ground will set it off. The motor attempting to compensate for tiny vibrations in the tripod will in fact create more vibrations. All image stabilisation systems are designed to iron out natural hand movement. Vibration in a tripod creates its own peculiar vibration which just aggravates the stabilisation system.
  • Tip 6: Hang a weight on the tripod hook under the centre column: This weight adds tension to the legs and forces greater stability to the tripod. One more way to reduce movement.
  • Tip 7: Stay away from vibration sources: Its not always possible, but roads, railways, fairgrounds, airports, ferry terminals and ports as well as the obvious wind all create ground vibrations. Less obvious are underground trains and tunnels under your feet, tall buildings swaying in high wind, bridges vibrating from feet and vehicles… well it’s a long list. Think carefully. You may find you have put your tripod right in the centre of a major vibration source.
  • Tip 8:Remove your camera strap: or as a secondary measure peg the strap tightly to the tripod. If you let it hang loose it will catch the wind. That will move or vibrate the camera.
  • Tip 9: Longer exposures: The camera shutter is also a significant source of vibration. Nevertheless, it has to open. Using a longer exposure is better because the shutter is open completely with no movement for at least part of the shot. This reduces the impact of shutter shake. The shutter release and movement still creates a vibration profile. By design, it has been carefully calculated to reduce the impact of the shutter movement – but it does not reduce shutter vibration completely. So, longer exposures help reduce the vibration just a little more.
  • Tip 10: Use a wind-shield: Even a light wind will induce vibration in a tripod. So, shelter it from the wind. Hold your coat in front of the tripod (not touching it) to shield the wind. Better still, if you are going to be there for a while, put up a staked-out wind-shield to divert the wind properly. Alternatively, take the shot from cover of some sort.

Remember, these measures all add up. Sharpness in your shot is the result of working at all of these. Put all of the above in place and you will get a really sharp shot.

More you can do…

Here is a list of some more top tips to work on for your landscapes…

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’.

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Focus – great tips for better understanding

Learning to focus is about understanding the shot.

With every shot, you must know what your subject is going to be. Your focus on it is about directing the viewers attention to the ‘point of interest‘. Learn to control your focus and you will control the viewers eye on the shot.

The important thing about understanding focus is that it gives you control of the way that you are approaching your subject. The shot is complete only when you have pressed the release button fully and the focus is captured in the final exposure. It is that point of commitment that is important. The click of the button. For it is in that moment the subject you have capture is immortalised. The focus you have provided on that scene is the way it is immortalised. In so doing you have given the viewer your view of your subject.

Knowing how to control that moment, the focus, is perhaps the most committing act of composition. It is also the moment of truth about your skill. So be careful with your focus. It is the ultimate moment of your capture.

In the video below Phil Steele shows you how to get sharp photos with your DSLR. he gives five five focus tips which will help you get the right focus and make the commitment to your exposure correctly.

Finally, a point not made in the video. If your stance is bad your focus will almost always be off. You will probably miss it at the last moment because you moved or did not hold the shot properly for the capture. So make sure that you work to improve your stance at the same time as your focus. Try reading this post… Simple tips for a good stance.

Some great tips here. Enjoy!

Published on Aug 16, 2012 by steeletraining; http://www.steeletraining.com

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’.