Again, incomprehensible dark spots and blurry areas on the captured frames, again it will take longer to process than usual … Where did they come from? These are gifts from a dirty matrix or lens. In a colorful image, you may not notice pollution, but on a homogeneous background, they will definitely stand out and spoil the photo. There is only one way out — to urgently clean the matrix and the lens of the objective.
Why is camera sensor cleaning important?
The sensor of every SLR and mirrorless camera gets dirty, and this happens mainly when changing lenses. If the matrix is slightly dusty, you won’t even notice it. But as soon as relatively large foreign particles appear on its surface, you will not be able to take your eyes off them in the pictures.
This state of affairs does not bother all photographers. Some prefer to do nothing, at least until a certain point. Gradually, the number of cloudy spots and black dots grows so much that the photographer faces the question of urgently cleaning the matrix on his own or in a specialized service.
You can also remove all defects programmatically — using graphic editors (Photoshop, Lightroom). This is a working option if you had a photo session and only then, looking through the resulting frames, realized that the sensor was dirty. But even in this case, it is necessary to correct the situation: it will only get worse.
Matrix cleaning is the most correct solution to the problem. Using special tools, you can do this in a few minutes. Or you can take the camera to the service, but you have to pay for the service and spend time on the road.
Automatic sensor cleaning
Many modern cameras have an automatic sensor cleaning function. You can run it as needed or set it to fire every time the camera is turned on or off. If you actively use the camera, it is better to choose the second option.
Automatic cleaning works very simply: dust is shaken off the sensor by vibration. The function is really effective, it prevents the matrix from getting dirty too quickly. Although, if you often shoot and change lenses, manual cleaning is still indispensable.
Manual cleaning of the camera matrix: what to buy
Blowing the sensor with a blower helps to quickly blow off foreign particles of a sufficiently large fraction. On sale there are special air pears designed for cleaning matrices, but sometimes photographers buy ordinary pharmacy enemas in order to save money. This is perfectly acceptable, but you need to prepare the fixture before using it. The fact is that the inner walls of pharmacy enemas are usually covered with talcum powder. If you blow it on the camera sensor, it will be difficult to clean it. To prevent this from happening, pre-rinse the enema inside and dry thoroughly. (it seems easier to buy an air pear).
Cleaning the camera matrix with air is very simple and takes only a couple of minutes:
- Detach the lens from the camera.
- We put the camera in the sensor cleaning mode. In it, the mirror rises and is fixed. There is no need to turn off the camera.
- We turn the camera upside down so that the dust blown off does not settle back onto the sensor.
- We bring the pear to a distance of 1–2 cm and blow out the air with a sharp squeeze of the hand. The main thing is to clearly control the movements so that the spout does not lean forward at the moment the pear is compressed and does not damage the matrix. Better to practice a little first.
This procedure helps to remove only large particles. If after three or four purges it was not possible to achieve the desired result, a more thorough cleaning is indispensable.
This is a special device for wiping the sensor. It got this name because of its appearance: well, it really looks like an ordinary mop, only very small. Mops are sold individually or in sets. One cleaning — one mop. In advanced situations, two may be required. After cleaning, the mop is not recommended to be reused.
Mops come in different sizes, but the most common are:
- 16 mm wide — for cleaning APS‑C sensors,
- 24 mm wide — for full-format matrices.
Cleaning the camera sensor with a mop is carried out as follows:
- We drip a special liquid onto the brush (often sold in a set with mops).
- We bring the mop to the edge of the matrix and press it, but not too hard.
- With a smooth movement, controlling and maintaining pressure, we draw to the opposite edge of the sensor.
- Without tearing off the mop, we walk in the opposite direction, also with little effort.
This is an alternative to a mop, unlike it, you do not need to buy a special liquid separately for a pencil. It is easy to use and also quite effective. The cleaning process is elementary: we apply a pencil to the center of the matrix and make rotational movements, gradually expanding the treated area and moving from the middle to the edges. At the very end, the corners are cleaned. On the body of the pencil, closer to the tip, there is a bend of about 30–35 ° — it is needed for convenience.
After cleaning, you need to put on the cap and rotate it around the axis by 180 ° to remove collected dust from the tip. For beginners, it is easier to use a pencil, although the mop is unrivaled in terms of efficiency and speed of cleaning.
How to keep the matrix clean
To clean the camera sensor as little as possible:
- turn off the camera when changing lenses;
- do not leave the camera for a long time without a lens;
- keep the plug on the back of the lens and the bayonet cap clean;
- Do not change the lens in dusty areas or outdoors in windy conditions.
Proper and safe camera lens cleaning
The camera lens gets dirty much faster and easier than the sensor. There are different devices for cleaning optics: napkins, pencils, brushes, special liquids. We will not analyze them separately, but rather consider ways to remove the most common contaminants.
Dust is an insidious form of lens contamination. To many, it will seem insignificant and easily eliminated, but it is not. The lens may be covered with dust from microscopic glass fragments and other hard particles, which, if not properly removed, will inevitably scratch the surface.
First of all, blow the lens with an air bulb. A directed air jet will remove the largest particles. With the remnants (especially around the edges), a soft brush will cope. Just don’t try to blow on the lens, as droplets of saliva are much more difficult to remove than almost harmless dry dust.
When shooting outdoors, it is good to use UV filters. They additionally protect the lens of the lens from splashes from fountains, raindrops and more. Cleaning, and even more so replacing the nozzle is much easier than optics. The main thing is to be careful when cleaning.
You will need a microfiber cloth, with which you need to wipe the surface in a circular motion. The soft fabric will absorb the liquid and leave no streaks. Finally, lightly polish the lens with the dry side of the tissue.
When condensation has formed on the lens, do not rush to wipe it off if you can wait a bit. He himself will disappear, and completely without a trace. No time — wipe the optics with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
If drops of water or other liquid have dried up, use an optics cleaning solution and a tissue.
Oil stains and fingerprints
These are the most complex contaminants, the removal of which requires a special approach. Before erasing such stains, prepare the surface by cleaning it from dust. Blow off microscopic particles with an air bulb, and then work with a soft brush. Only after that, apply a special alcohol-containing agent to the napkin and clean the lens in a circular motion. At the end, lightly polish the glass with microfiber, but without fanaticism.
The lens and the matrix are those elements of the camera for which crystal clearness is important. If you do not follow this, the quality and expressiveness of the pictures will inevitably decrease. The main thing is to be very careful when cleaning the sensor and lens so as not to scratch or otherwise damage them.