Tuesday, January 23, 2007
January/February 2007 HelpLine
• When you make the change, keep the camera-body opening pointed down. Use gravity to keep dust from entering your camera.
A number of camera manufacturers now include self-cleaning features in their digital SLRs. Olympus was the first to do this (and the technology is included in all of its D-SLRs), but other manufacturers are adding this feature. This technology generally works by vibrating either the sensor optics or a special device nearby in order to "shake" the dust off. While this technology isn't available in all digital SLRs, I wouldn't be surprised if it will be a standard feature in a few years.
But what should you do if you don't have this new technology and your sensor is dirty? You're correct in that you shouldn't use compressed air inside your camera. First, though, check your camera manual. It will have instructions that should help and often will outline the common cleaning method as follows:
• All present D-SLR models have a sensor cleaning mode. While some people have thought this setting would clean the sensor, in reality, all it does is lock up the mirror and expose the sensor for cleaning. Before cleaning, be sure the camera's battery has enough charge to last through the cleaning process so the mirror doesn't close when you're in the process of cleaning.
• Just as with changing lenses, make sure you point the camera lens opening down. Then, use a hand-operated blower bulb to gently blow dust off the sensor. Most camera stores have them; the Giottos Rocket Blower is a good example (an ear syringe can work, too). Make sure that the tip of the blower bulb doesn't get too close to the sensor-there's too much that can go wrong if the tip ends up striking the delicate inner workings of the camera.
• Turn off the camera to bring the mirror back into position. This often is enough. If it doesn't work, there are two options: send your camera in to have it professionally cleaned or try more drastic methods using cleaning tools on the sensor optics. The former is recommended by all manufacturers, the latter is not.
I've successfully cleaned a sensor using various commercial cleaning kits. It's not an easy process, as the area you're working in is very tight. I've found that it takes a bit of a skilled hand and a bit of patience to get results that you'd be happy with.
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