Why you need to clean your camera sensor

I’ve given my Nikon D7000 a pretty hefty beating over the last year and a half. I’ve been through deserts, canyons, rivers, beaches and in -20C weather. And of course I changed lenses in these locations. There was bound to be some dust that got into the camera. But having been on the road it was difficult to stop and take the time to find a place that would clean my sensor, so I kept going and put it at the back of my mind.

That is until I recently did a photo shoot of the Ulsan factories. I’d only just got a quality tripod, so I’d mostly been taking hand-held photographs. The difference: hand-held I’m often shooting between f/2.8-f/8, night landscapes are usually f/16-f/22. And it’s at those apertures that dust on your sensor shows up. This is why you need to clean your camera sensor…

Take a look at this shot of the factories. Don’t think about the composition, just look for the little black spots. How many are there?

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Now check out the photo with the exposure lowered and contrast up. It looks like I’ve been enveloped by a swarm of flies. It makes me want to scream “Oh the humanity!” and hide under my photography bag.

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Now you might think that you can fix this in post production, but it’s a pain in the butt to sit there for an hour and correct every single spot. One or two would be okay, but this many is awful. Even with the copy and paste function you still need to check your spot correction on detailed parts of the image. This is a waste of your time, when you could easily fix it by having a clean sensor.

How to clean your camera sensor

There are two ways I recommend. For a quick spot check, use the in-camera sensor cleaning mode. It will vibrate dust off the sensor. However this isn’t going to get the dust out of your camera, so it can easily fall back onto your camera sensor.

The second is simple. Take it to a professional for cleaning. I took mine to the Ulsan Nikon service centre, which did it in five minutes and cost nothing. Yep, free! Back in Australia a camera sensor clean costs between $50 and $70. Even if it is that costly, it’s worth getting it cleaned. There are plenty of DIY videos and camera cleaning kits on the internet, but frankly I just feel more comfortable giving it to a professional to clean.

I was also asked how often should you get your sensor cleaned. I don’t have a definite answer. If you never change your lens, it’s likely you won’t ever need to clean your sensor. If you’re traipsing through deserts and swapping lenses on a regular basis, then you will need it cleaned more often. It sounds stupid, but I would say clean it when it’s dirty.

To see if your camera needs cleaning, take a photo of a white sheet of paper or clear sky at f22. If there are any spots on the image, it might be time to get your camera cleaned. Cleaning your sensor is a vital part of being a photographer. It visibly improves the quality of your images. So what are you waiting for?


[…] ago about this issue, which brought a smile to my face as I have also experienced this in the past: I was a little surprised by this finding though, as my camera is quiet new, and I did not expect […]

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