Those annoying specs on your digital camera come from sensor dust. And there are lots of things you can do to help reduce or eliminate that dust.

If you own a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the kind with interchangeable lenses, sooner or later, you will have to face the fact that dust will start to show up as specs in your images. You should take action to remove this dust on a regular basis.

Here are some quick tips to help you control that dust.

1) Make sure you turn your camera off when you change lenses. The static electricity that surges around your camera when it’s powered on attracts dust.
2) Make sure you always have a lens or a body cap on your camera.
3) Exercise more care when changing lenses in a dusty or dirty environment.
4) Avoid push/pull zooms since they actually pull air INTO the camera body bringing dust along with it.
5) Clean the backs of your lenses and even your body caps once a month to make sure they are debris free.
6) Get a large blower bulb and regularly blow out the dust from your camera body. DO NOT USE CANNED AIR!
7) Use a sensor swab when the sensor is really dirty and blowing air won’t help.

Depending on your situation, there are many sensor cleaning alternatives. I use a combination of a LensPen and the Visible Dust Sensor Swabs to take care of my Nikon D3.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 38 Comments

  1. I have been very pleased with this kit: https://www.micro-tools.com/store/item_detail.aspx?ItemCode=E2-KIT4B-F

    They provide a lot of accurate instructions (with pictures) both with the kit and on their website. The foot powered blower is simple, but better than a hand-held one, imo.

    Reply
  2. I have been very pleased with this kit: https://www.micro-tools.com/store/item_detail.aspx?ItemCode=E2-KIT4B-F

    They provide a lot of accurate instructions (with pictures) both with the kit and on their website. The foot powered blower is simple, but better than a hand-held one, imo.

    Reply
  3. I’d like to hear what others experiences are with the various sensor cleaning systems available.

    So far I been careful and lucky – the camera’s sensor shake and a blower have worked for me, but I fear it is only a matter of time before I have to attack it with some sort of swab

    Reply
  4. I’d like to hear what others experiences are with the various sensor cleaning systems available.

    So far I been careful and lucky – the camera’s sensor shake and a blower have worked for me, but I fear it is only a matter of time before I have to attack it with some sort of swab

    Reply
  5. I’ve been very happy with the kits from Copper Hill Images.

    Reply
  6. I’ve been very happy with the kits from Copper Hill Images.

    Reply
  7. Has anybody tried Sensor-film? I’ve heard it discussed on TFTTF, seems effective but scary.

    Reply
  8. Has anybody tried Sensor-film? I’ve heard it discussed on TFTTF, seems effective but scary.

    Reply
  9. @jbuttitta – mine’s been completely useless, see this photo:

    dust0

    Don’t be afraid to clean your sensor. I use the Eclipse solution. I was really nervous about trying it but after taking the above photo I knew I had better get after it tout suite. Not much point in using a 70-200L and 16-35L when your sensor is covered in a layer of grit, grime, and dust. I just followed the directions to the letter and had no problems and was able to get rid of all the dirt.

    Curious as to how often everyone else is cleaning theirs, also…? And how often your camera body is exposed/lens switching? Thanks!

    Reply
  10. @jbuttitta – mine’s been completely useless, see this photo:

    dust0

    Don’t be afraid to clean your sensor. I use the Eclipse solution. I was really nervous about trying it but after taking the above photo I knew I had better get after it tout suite. Not much point in using a 70-200L and 16-35L when your sensor is covered in a layer of grit, grime, and dust. I just followed the directions to the letter and had no problems and was able to get rid of all the dirt.

    Curious as to how often everyone else is cleaning theirs, also…? And how often your camera body is exposed/lens switching? Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Scott,
    I saw that you wrote it in this post and I have heard you say before that you use a lens pen to clean your sensor. I believe I also heard you mention you were going to do a video about it. Are you still up for it? I’d really like to see it as I have a very annoying spec on my sensor that I haven’t been able to dislodge even after countless “swabbings”.
    Thanks
    Simon

    Reply
  12. Scott,
    I saw that you wrote it in this post and I have heard you say before that you use a lens pen to clean your sensor. I believe I also heard you mention you were going to do a video about it. Are you still up for it? I’d really like to see it as I have a very annoying spec on my sensor that I haven’t been able to dislodge even after countless “swabbings”.
    Thanks
    Simon

    Reply
  13. I use visible dust products along with E2 solution. Visible Dust also has some good videos for cleaning. Here is the link.

    http://www.visibledust.com/video.php

    Reply
  14. I use visible dust products along with E2 solution. Visible Dust also has some good videos for cleaning. Here is the link.

    http://www.visibledust.com/video.php

    Reply
  15. @Simon I’ve moved away from the LensPen. It was great for cleaning cropped sensors on Canon DSLRs but ineffective on the full frame D3. Been using Visible Dust stuff with SOME success but must admit, D3 is hardest DSLR to keep clean out of all the cameras I’ve used. D700 is a bit easier only because it uses Antidust shake.

    Reply
  16. @Simon I’ve moved away from the LensPen. It was great for cleaning cropped sensors on Canon DSLRs but ineffective on the full frame D3. Been using Visible Dust stuff with SOME success but must admit, D3 is hardest DSLR to keep clean out of all the cameras I’ve used. D700 is a bit easier only because it uses Antidust shake.

    Reply
  17. And get a sensor scope, it makes the job oh so much easier when you can see what/ where needs to be cleaned.

    Once the cleaning is done you know its done too, instead of waiting to go shooting again before realising you missed something.

    Reply
  18. And get a sensor scope, it makes the job oh so much easier when you can see what/ where needs to be cleaned.

    Once the cleaning is done you know its done too, instead of waiting to go shooting again before realising you missed something.

    Reply
  19. These sensor swabs are a little on the pricey side.

    Reply
  20. These sensor swabs are a little on the pricey side.

    Reply
  21. I’m still not clear on push-pull zoom, isn’t an old way of building a zoom that isn’t used much anymore?

    Reply
  22. I’m still not clear on push-pull zoom, isn’t an old way of building a zoom that isn’t used much anymore?

    Reply
  23. Don’t forget to blow out the lenses too! I blow those out before each time a I change a lens and have been careful. I’m going on 15 months since a cleaning and it’s looking good.

    Also, I’ve had good luck with canon in Irvine CA. Some haven’t had luck, so I guess it varies on location / time.

    Reply
  24. Oh and one other thing: If your camera does have a sensor (not software) based dust reduction system make sure to do it once or twice before cleaning. You’ll get off most of the big things and there will be less to worry about when cleaning the actual sensor.

    The reason push-pull design brings in dust is because it can’t create a vacuum when extending it and so it brings in air and all the gunk. Most lenses are twist lenses. However, with the longer range / longer variable zooms there are still some push-pulls around. The most prominent is probably the Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L There’s a few companies that make 200-500 that’s push pull and I am honestly surprised to see the Sigma 300-800 is a twist zoom.

    Reply
  25. Oh and one other thing: If your camera does have a sensor (not software) based dust reduction system make sure to do it once or twice before cleaning. You’ll get off most of the big things and there will be less to worry about when cleaning the actual sensor.

    The reason push-pull design brings in dust is because it can’t create a vacuum when extending it and so it brings in air and all the gunk. Most lenses are twist lenses. However, with the longer range / longer variable zooms there are still some push-pulls around. The most prominent is probably the Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L There’s a few companies that make 200-500 that’s push pull and I am honestly surprised to see the Sigma 300-800 is a twist zoom.

    Reply
  26. @Kent – yeah they are. I came across a website that tells you how to make your own…

    http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com/howto.html

    I found it quite helpful in deciding which method to go with. There are so many, between Eclipse, Visible Dust, Sensorscope, Lenspen, the rocket blowers, etc. I ended up going with Eclipse because it seemed easiest to DIY and they guarantee it won’t damage your sensor.

    Reply
  27. @Kent – yeah they are. I came across a website that tells you how to make your own…

    http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com/howto.html

    I found it quite helpful in deciding which method to go with. There are so many, between Eclipse, Visible Dust, Sensorscope, Lenspen, the rocket blowers, etc. I ended up going with Eclipse because it seemed easiest to DIY and they guarantee it won’t damage your sensor.

    Reply
  28. Using Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly kit – awesome – haven’t even needed the swabs yet!
    The brushes are useful for the mirror (very, very rarely) and focus screen too.

    Reply
  29. I wasn’t sure if one could use those large blowers for inside one’s DSLR. Good to know it’s ok! (I live in Tokyo and the language barrier at camera stores leads to confusion sometimes)

    Thanks for this post!

    My D80 just got some spots two weeks ago and I was wondering how I could clean it. I find it’s uncanny how often your posts, Scott, come up just when I need them! Thanks again!

    Reply
  30. I wasn’t sure if one could use those large blowers for inside one’s DSLR. Good to know it’s ok! (I live in Tokyo and the language barrier at camera stores leads to confusion sometimes)

    Thanks for this post!

    My D80 just got some spots two weeks ago and I was wondering how I could clean it. I find it’s uncanny how often your posts, Scott, come up just when I need them! Thanks again!

    Reply
  31. I find that stopping down the lens and taking a picture of a bald cloudy sky shows off every speck of dust. It’s a trick I showed the guy how showed up to buy my Nikon D50. I ended up knocking the cost of a cleaning off the asking price.

    Reply
  32. I find that stopping down the lens and taking a picture of a bald cloudy sky shows off every speck of dust. It’s a trick I showed the guy how showed up to buy my Nikon D50. I ended up knocking the cost of a cleaning off the asking price.

    Reply
  33. Dust and the risk cleaning process were decisive for me to buy a Lumix DMC-FZ28.

    Reply
  34. Dust and the risk cleaning process were decisive for me to buy a Lumix DMC-FZ28.

    Reply
  35. Come to think of it, I haven’t had to deal with sensor dust yet.

    Reply
  36. Come to think of it, I haven’t had to deal with sensor dust yet.

    Reply
  37. [...] a short post over at TWIP on some tips to prevent dust gathering on the DSLR sensor. Good pointers on keeping those pesky [...]

    Reply
  38. [...] a short post over at TWIP on some tips to prevent dust gathering on the DSLR sensor. Good pointers on keeping those pesky [...]

    Reply

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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