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We are doing everything we can to get our australian landscape photography out there and guess what..... it's bloody hard work!! So please visit the gallery and if you like what see, share it with your friends.

Thanks, we really do appreciate your help. - Russell

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Rusty's Ramble #1: Dust and the DSLR Camera

There is a lot of hype made of the dust problem in DSLR cameras (you know, the ones with interchangeable lenses), enough so, that many photographers are missing out on the DSLR camera experience all together, because they fear the dreaded "dust bunny" so much :-( (BTW: Why is it a dust bunny? Who made that up? Is it because dust is often seen as little fluffy things? ...hmm??)

I just want to say that dust IS an "issue" with DSLR, but thankfully it is easily managed. For many years (even prior to digital... do you remember those years?) photographers have been dealing with dust. Dust on the film, dust getting stuck in the film canister entry and scratching the film on rewind, dust on the processed film, dust on the enlarger lens, dust, dust and more dust!!!

So for years we have been cleaning things and spotting prints with tiny brushes. Admittedly, film was good because what ever dust that was on it, went with the film and didn't hang around in the cam, but it was still a concern.

These days Photoshop makes it easy to remove any dust issues in your image (a "How to" on removing dust from images will follow soon) and digital printing virtually removes all dust issues on the printing side, with our prints no longer being projected through lenses to expose the paper, but rather LEDies and lasers are doing their thing.

So dust on the sensor is where the main issue now resides. There are a couple of things we can do to help minimise dust, like... avoid changing lenses in dusty environments if possible (...der!!), or change lenses with the camera body facing down, but basically a time will come when you will need to clean the sensor.

This is not as daunting as it may sound. Firstly, we never actually clean the sensor, as it resides behind anti-alias filters, IR filters and in most cases micro-lens arrays, but even so, damage one of these and it will require a trip to the doctor to be fixed, so be careful... but not scared.

There are a number of cleaning techniques and equipment on sale for this task (personally, I use a blower and static brush to clean mine) and I would suggest that you do some research to see what you think right for you.

Once you have cleaned your sensor a few times, you will become quite comfortable with the task (you may not even sweat like you did the first couple of goes) and it will become a normal part of your camera management routine.

The big thing to remember is NOT to be paranoid about dust. Often most sensor dust will never be seen on an image, often you will need to be shooting f16 or 22 for it to become visible, so if you are not seeing it in your every day images, don't bother cleaning. Only when it effects your images is it time to clean.



Australian Digital Photo Of The Day

UPDATE: The current marketplace has expanded and there is now a large variety of cleaning tools available, however this is what I still use and find the best...

Tags: camera dslr sensor cleaning dust removal brush swabs pec pads blower photo photography photographic


  1. Just an update to my cleaning technique. Normally I would rely on the static properties of the brush to pick up dust as it sweeps past. This works for the most part, but stubborn etched on bunnies can still be left behind.

    So recently I changed my technique and now use the brush as a chisel.

    Here is what I do....

    1: Hold the camera facing down and blow out the mirror box using a Rocket Blower.
    2: Blow the brush clean with the Rocket Blower.
    3: Trip the shutter in Sensor Clean mode and expose the sensor.
    4: Use the very tip of the brush in an angled forward motion like a chisel to loosen dust. Cover entire area in multiple directions, ensuring NOT to touch the sides where additional dust or grease may reside.
    5: Blow out the entire chamber again with camera facing down and close shutter.
    6. Test with an out of focus shot of blank wall and view at 100%.
    7: Repeat all steps if required.

    It is VERY rare that I have to resort to a wet clean after using this method.