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Removing Sensor Dust


Probably one of the scariest things for a person who spent their life-savings on a camera, is cleaning the sensor dust in your camera.  Luckily, it's not as hard as you may think.  Just make sure you are careful, and don't try to do it while you're out shooting….

The sensor lies hidden behind the mirror in your camera, and can only be accessed with mirror lock-up mode, or when the shutter button has been clicked.  You will need to remove your lens before performing a sensor cleaning.

Sensor spots are a common occurance with a little usage of a camera, especially if you change lenses a lot.  Here's a cropped sample of what the final image will look like if you have a dust spot on your sensor…

Dust on Sensor


Here are a couple tools you will need before you begin.

-Sensor Swab that matches your sensor size. We recommend Vswabs by Visible Dust
-Sensor cleaning solution

These two are the more simple solution, but may be all you need if the dust isn't too stuck.

-Sensor Loupe with sensor pen (not necessary, though very helpful!) We use this kit by SensorKlear
-Sensor Blower (Not necessary, but a great option for a real quick fix in the field)

Here is a typical camera sensor when it's not mounted in camera.

Now for the method to the madness.  Try to relax, being calm will help this process go much more smoothly…

1. If you have a loupe, use this first, and see if you can use the sensorpen to eliminate the dust.
2. If the dust is really stuck on, prepare your swab by following directions on the side of package.  Usually apply 2-3 drops of fluid about half way up the swab.
3. Bend the swab below the head to get a better angle, and make sure the damp part of the swab will make contact.
4. Place your camera in mirror lock-up mode, which should be a setting somewhere in your menus.  If you don't have it, you can either use a remote trigger to hold the shutter open until your done, or put camera on a 30 second exposure, just be sure to get the swab out of there well before it closes!  If you don't get it out in time you could seriously damage the camera.
5. Gently rub the swab in the same direction on your sensor to remove all spots.  Use the dry side after the wet side to help get the fluid off the sensor after the spots/dust is gone.
6. Re-inspect with loupe (if you have one)
7.Close the shutter.  If in mirror lock-up mode turn camera off to close.
8. Put lens back on with camera turned off and tilted downward (always do this when changing lenses to help reduce dust exposure on sensor).

That's it!  It seems like a lot but will only take a minute or so once you've done it a few times.  Just remember to be gentle, and to make sure you don't close shutter when the swab is in the camera.  Also, be sure you have a full battery when cleaning so it doesn't close shutter mid clean due to power failure.
Disclaimer:  If you do damage your sensor, APS is not responsible!  It's your own choice to do this by yourself.  Please let us know how it goes in the comments below, we love to hear success stories!
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At only 25 years old, Connor has been published in many major international publications and is a signed Getty photographer. His writing and photos have been published in Photoshop User and Light It Magazines, amongst many others. He believes that if you work at what you love, you'll be able to make a great living. Connor currently resides in Edwards, CO with his wife, Kelly, and dog Tucker. You can view his portfolio at www.cnwphoto.com


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