Clean your sensor
Seeing spots on your shots? Rod Lawton shows you to keep your camera’s imaging sensor squeaky clean using a Lenspen SensorKlear kit
It’s a delicate job in a sensitive area – don’t try it without taking our advice!
The great thing about digital SLRs is that you can swap lenses. But this has a downside: removing a lens inevitably leaves the sensor exposed to dust and other debris in the atmosphere.
‘Sensor dust’ is most noticeable when you’re shooting at smaller apertures, such as f/16 or f/22, and when there are large, detail-free expanses in the frame, such as the sky. They usually take the form of dark, diffuse dots, and they’re in the same place in every image – that’s when you know your sensor needs cleaning.
Usefully, all modern Nikon D-SLRs have an automatic sensor-cleaning function built in. By default, this is carried out when you switch the camera on or off, although pressing one of the buttons on the camera will immediately stop it. Using the camera’s ‘Clean image sensor’ menu option enables you to trigger the sensor-cleaning routine at any time.
The process works by vibrating a filter in front of the sensor at a very high frequency in order to shake any dust loose. This is fine for what you might call ‘loose’ or ‘dry’ dust, but it’s not the only type of debris that can be deposited on the sensor. You can also get ‘sticky dust’ and minute drops of oil that are not so easy to shift, and this is where you’ll need sensor cleaning accessories.
There are many options available, ranging from a simple blower brush for dislodging loose particles to a complete ‘wet cleaning’ kit for removing stubborn smears and welded-on detritus. Wet cleaning should always be used as a last resort, as there’s quite a knack to it and you can often leave the sensor in a worse state than when you started! It may also invalidate your camera warranty.
Here, though, we’ll show you a more precise method of cleaning your camera’s sensor. You may have seen Lenspen lens cleaners, but we’re going to use one of the company’s SensorKlear kits (£74/$90). In addition to a carbon-tipped pen for removing dirt, the kit also contains a sensor loupe. This handy device makes it much easier to see dust on the sensor than with the naked eye alone, and once you’ve used one you’ll find it hard to clean the sensor any other way.