Previously on the blog, we’d taken a look at both how and when to clean your camera sensor to ditch those dust bunnies.  The final point of discussion here though is really to get back to the source of the problem by avoiding sensor dust in the first place.  Here are my Five Tips to Avoid Sensor Dust:

Leafy Water Drops

1.  Avoid changing your lenses in the field – Let’s face it, dust enters from any uncontrolled area, and the area where you have the least control is in the field.  I’ve seen folks change out lenses in the field all the time, so it’s certainly not going to damage your camera or sensor unless you are completely reckless, but anything that opens your sensor to the ambient air also exposes it to ambient dust.  Wanna know how much dust is actually in the air?  Turn on a flashlight in the dark!  We oooh and ahhh over beautiful sunbeams in photos – what’s actually happening though is sunlight bouncing off dust particles in the air!

2.  Point it Down – If you have to change your lenses out in the field because you only have one camera body (like me), or for some other reason, don’t let gravity help!  Point the front end of your camera toward the ground when swapping out lenses.  In general, things fall down not up, so by pointing the sensor toward the ground, dust is less likely to settle in there.  It will take a bit of practice, because in essence, you are swapping a lens out blind, but this just speaks to the principle of knowing your gear!

3.  Be quick – So many times I’ll see photographers think of swapping that wide angle lens with a zoom, prime or some other lens.  The first place they go is the camera!  They take the lens off, cap the lens, put it in the camera bag, pull out the other lens, uncap it, and then mount it to the camera on their tripod.  Meanwhile, the camera sensor has been exposed for about 60 seconds.  That’s a long time to be exposed to the elements.

Cleaning a sensor is tricky, but cleaning a lens is a simple wipe from a microfiber cloth and a dab of lens cleaner.  I do it the opposite way.  I take the destination lens out, uncap it, and even position it right next to my camera.  Then in one fluid motion I unlock the lens on-camera, twist it off, and put the new lens on.  Cap the old lens, put in the camera bag, and the sensor was only exposed for about 3 seconds!  Which do you think lets more dust in: 3 seconds or 60?

4.  Use a dust bag – In some environments, there is dust everywhere.  I’ve shot on beaches in South Carolina, dusty conditions in Colorado and Mexico, and more places than I can count where the amount of dust in the air was just nasty.  For circumstances like that, it might be worthwhile to consider a dust bag.  The idea here is to insert your camera and the new lens into a bag where there is no dust, and swap out lenses inside that.  They are usually translucent s0 you can see what you’re doing,  and you don’t have to worry about keeping the sensor face down. The caveat to this is that by inserting a camera and lens inside one of these bags, you are already introducing dust, so the “clean” environment theory is blown right there.  Unless you are trying to change your lens in a sandstorm in the desert, this one is not as high on my recommendation list – but that’s not to say it is without merit whatsoever.

5. Cap the camera – A lot of people forget that their cameras come with a custom cap so that when there is no lens attached, you can put the camera cap in place to help protect it.  Sure, I usually have a lens mounted and at the ready, but if you are not deft enough with your hands to remove a lens and attach a new one, the camera cap can be a great interim step.  Also consider this – what if you send a camera in for cleaning?  Do you really want to send that 70-200 f2.8 lens in with it?  Extra weight, extra shipping, extra handling, all make for more possible damage and loss points – why put even more gear out there like that?  Cap your camera!

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There ya have it – 5 ways to clean, 5 times to clean, and 5 methods to avoid sensor dust on your camera!  Whew!  What a week of sensor talk!  What are your thoughts on the topic?  Did I cover it in enough detail?  Too much?  How and when do you clean your lens?  What’s your best strategy to avoid the dust bunnies?  Sound off in the comments, or via email, as always!  You know I love to hear from the reading audience!

Anyway, that’s it for this week kiddos – have a good weekend and keep on shooting.  Just a teaser of a preview for ya…as next week is gonna be a fun one!  If I can get off my $%^& and finish some writing this weekend, there will be a couple book and lens reviews forthcoming, as well as a surprise release for all you newsletter subscribers (I’ve not forgotten you)!

8 thoughts on “Five Ways to Avoid Sensor Dust

  1. Good article, and be sure to turn off the camera to avoid the electronic field around the sensor and the low pass filter collect the dust.

  2. This is good advice, and something we’ve not yet covered in great detail. It certainly is very important with such expensive gear – thanks for sharing…

    1. Hi Harold,

      What an interesting idea. The translucence of the Dust Shield is the main part that I might be concerned about as that could seriously affect optical quality.

      Of course price is always a consideration, and for $20, that’s not too bad, but based on that, I am curious as to how long one would last before needing to be swapped out

      1. What about stuborn spots that won’t come off?
        What to do with them? Live with it or?

        btw You know who I am, (clue) eh?

        1. Yes, of course I know who you are…and glad to see you in other venues now that you’ve left the one! 😉

          As for stubborn spots, I am pretty comfortable with the sensor swabbing technique, but if I can’t get a spot off myself in two swabs (maybe three if I can see I am making progress), I’ll just get it cleaned at CamRen (local shop).

  3. For some reason, I never thought of pointing the camera down, but it makes sense. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Glad you liked the topic Miguel, always nice to hear that people enjoy the posts! Thanks for taking the time to write in…

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