March 19, 2007 HelpLine

Dust In The Wind

Q) Now that I’ve switched over from film to digital, I’m fighting one problem that nobody told me about-namely, dust. Why didn’t I have this problem with film?

Larry K.
Via the Internet

A) You did have problems with dust before. If you shot transparencies, anytime you projected them, you fought dust. If you shot negatives, you fought dust when printing. But you’re probably referring to image capture rather than projection.

SLRs have problems with dust simply because the camera isn’t permanently sealed. Anytime you take the lens off the camera, you’re exposing the camera’s interior to dust. With film cameras, any dust entering the camera may have landed on film, but the film was soon replaced when it was advanced to the next frame. On some occasions, large pieces of dust would get caught in the film path and you’d end up with long scratches all along the entire roll of film.

With digital SLRs, the imaging sensor is fixed in place, so dust that lands on the sensor remains until it’s cleaned off. It’s important to follow a few steps to minimize dust:

  • Avoid changing your lens in dusty environments, such as windy locations or other places where there might be particles in the air.
  • When changing lenses, try to keep the camera’s lens opening pointed down.
  • Always use lens caps (both ends) when storing lenses.
  • Always use body caps when a lens isn’t mounted on your camera.
  • Regularly clean your lenses, including the mounting ring.
  • Regularly clean/vacuum out your camera bag.

These steps will help minimize dust, but it’s bound to collect eventually. Some D-SLRs have technologies built in to help clean the sensor. When a manual cleaning is necessary, absolutely use a sensor-cleaning kit designed for this purpose, and be very careful or you may damage the sensor. If you’re apprehensive at all about this, consider having a professional camera tech do the job.

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