So many of us fall victim to the dust bunnies, it’s inevitable that at some point we’ll have that perfect shot only to find on detailed review a smudge on our sensor, a lingering piece of dust, or other foreign particle that makes us just cringe.  Never fear, there are many ways to remove sensor dust (or avoid it), and that’s the topic for today’s post – Five Ways to Remove Sensor Dust

Dust Delete Screen

1.  Let the Camera Do It! – Many cameras today have a technology called “Dust Delete Data” where you can identify portions of your sensor that have evidence of sensor dust.  Once the camera has these points identified, it will digitally remove said exhibitions of dust and you can go on your merry way.  I’ve never used this method though, with the understanding from others who have that it is not 100% foolproof.  Additionally, in my mind – the dust is still there, so if the camera can’t do it automatically, I want to!

Photoshop Toolbar

2.  Edit manually – Many purists may think it’s a time honored tradition to pour over your image, pixel by pixel and eliminate dust spots using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop, dodging and burning in the darkroom or correcting for its.  While this is certainly a viable method, and is likely the best way to ensure all dust spots are cleaned.  The problem is that over time, this can become very tedious.  Quite frankly, with all the software tools and services available, the usefulness of this approach even for the thrifty-minded has really become more time and labor-intensive than most people can tolerate, so not sure this is as viable an option as it used to be…nevertheless, it is an option, so I would be remiss in not mentioning it!

Giottos Rocket Blower Cleaning Kit

3.  Use a Rocket Blower  –  Often times, dust is just a light piece of foreign material that snuck its way onto your sensor when you were swapping gear out in the field (We all do it…).  The good news is that stuff like this is easy to clean out using a Rocket Blower (like this one from Giottos) to blow any errant dust off the sensor and let gravity do the rest.  The reason this is good news is that you don’t have to touch the sensor (yikes!), and 9 times out of ten, you are all set to go shooting again at a minimal cost (these can be found pretty cheaply on B&H, Adorama, or your own favorite retailer).  The bad news is that if this doesn’t work, now you gotta spend some money!

4.  Clean it yourself – There are many solutions available on the marketplace ranging from a full Rocket Blower and lens cleaning kit (like the one featured above), or the popular Lens Pens,  to dedicated full cleaning kits like this one from Delkin and alcohol swabs where you can gingerly switch your camera from auto cleaning mode to manual mode and reveal the sensor for you to dabble as best you can.  While the long term benefits of this solution are quite good (a good cleaning kit will cost you about $50 – the price of one professional cleaning and can last for dozens if not scores of cleanings), you run the risk of damaging your camera if you aren’t both a) very careful and b)steady with your hands!

5.  Pay a pro – The course of action to take if you are beyond the Rocket Blower, and just don’t want to muck around where your Thunder Thumbs don’t belong in the first place!  Most cities have services where you can drop off your camera and pick it up the same day for anywhere from $50 to $100.  Most vendors also offer a cleaning service from them.  The problem there is you have to ship it to the service center, pay for the privilege, and then be without your gear for a certain period of time!  Now if you are a member of the Canon Professional Service, these cleanings are done for free (but the price of entry isn’t cheap in terms of gear ownership!).  I’m pretty sure Nikon and Pentax have similar offerings for professionals who use their gear.

Thankfully, a few shops here in Denver offer this service, and when my gear gets sticky enough, it’s time to take it in!   I think it’s time, given the amount of dust in the first image:

A Photo with Substantial Sensor Dust

Versus the amount of time it took to clean this in post production (about ten minutes…this was just the upper left corner)

After Manually Removing Sensor Dust

So, this naturally begets two more questions, right?  How often should you get your gear cleaned?  and How to Avoid Sensor Dust in the First Place!  Well, you’re in luck, because guess what’s coming up tomorrow! (You had to see this was coming, right? 🙂  Happy shooting (and cleaning), and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!


Don’t forget, the monthly photo contest is on – win a free Lensbaby Composer!  Get your shots in for a chance to win a super cool lens worth $300 retail! (Still trying to get the folks at Lensbaby to let me review the new one…)

3 thoughts on “Five Ways To Remove Sensor Dust

  1. I was always confused whether to touch the sensor or not. Glad, I have a fix now…

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