Following up on yesterday’s post, which covered 5 Ways to Clean your Sensor, today, the topic takes a tangent to focus on the angle of not how, but rather, when to clean your camera.  While there are no hard and fast rules, I usually start breaking out the cleaning gear for my camera under five different circumstances.  Here’s my take on Five Times To Clean Your Camera

Puerto Angel, Mexico
I cleaned the camera sensor after getting back from this trip.

1.  When the built-in cleaning mechanism is unable to keep the sensor clean.  This tells me that there is something sticking in place that is not easily removed on its own.  Further, when the built-in mechanism removes dust from the sensor, it has to put it somewhere.  When that “somewhere” gets full, the mechanism just can’t do its job anymore.  It’s like a vacuum cleaner loses its cleaning ability when the tank is full.  When that happens, I will usually pull out my Rocket Blower to get stuff off the sensor.

2.  When the Rocket Blower no longer is able to clan the tough spots with its powerful puff of air, I generally tend to take one last ditch effort with my own Lens Pen or PecPad solution to swab the sensor clean with that special cleaning solution.  The theory here is that if something really is “stuck” on the sensor, I should be able to wipe it off with this Lens Pen solution.  When my own efforts to remove sensor dust at this level are ineffective, it’s time for me to consider a professional cleaning.

3.  Because I live in a suburb of a larger metropolitan area, getting a professional cleaning is my next “level” of cleaning.  When it goes past my ability to clean, the guys over at CamRen do a great job of getting all the nitty gritty off my sensor, and for a reasonable price ($50).  Plus, it’s done very quickly (usually same day service), so my down time is minimal.  The only thing I don’t get is the “certified” service from Canon.  I don’t know if Canon does anything extra or special in their maintenance procedures, but I’ve never had need to use their services.

4.  Annual maintenance: I try to maintain a cleaning schedule of at least annually…meaning that even if in the past 12 months my sensor hasn’t gotten “that” dirty, I’ll get it cleaned professionally anyway, just because I am a little OCD about keeping things clean.  For me, the investment in keeping gear clean just makes the equipment last longer (and easier to sell if I ever upgrade).

5.  When it gets dirty! – I know this sounds rather obvious, but it probably does need to be said, at least to point out particular scenarios.  My general rule of thumb is that I will get an extra cleaning cycle in if the camera gets a lot of heavy use in a short period of time.  For instance, my trip to the Adirondacks, the coast of southern Mexico, or the Wild Sand Dunes of Colorado all ended with a professional cleaning.  I tend to change lenses a lot so when I do that “in the field”, more dust tends to get in more often.  So just to stay ahead of the game, I have a professional service done after such events, because odds are – a lot of dust hit that sensor!

Those are my five times to clean my sensor – but as stated above, these “rules” are not carved in stone.  Merely my own guidelines for how to clean my sensor and when to clean it.  In giving these guidelines the light of day, it of course begs the question to the reading audience:  When do you clean your sensors?  Do you have any criteria?  Schedules? Levels of filth that are tolerable versus intolerable?  What does it take before you clean your own camera sensor (or get it cleaned)?  How many of you have ever cleaned or tried to clean your own camera sensor?  I know there’s a lot of trepidation out there on this topic, so have no fear if that describes you – you’re not alone!

Coming up tomorrow, the $64,000 question – how to avoid getting dust on your sensor!

One thought on “Five Times to Clean Your Camera

  1. Jim Nichols says:

    I kept thinking my sensor was dirty, turns out it was my lens.

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