For digital SLR users, dust on the cameras sensor is a fact of life. The web is filled with tips on how to minimize the build up, and some of them will actually help. We suggest making sure the back of your lenses and body caps are clean, and to vacuum out your camera bag every so often to minimize the amount of dust in your cameras storage environment. The truth of the matter is that no matter how careful you are, eventually you will see some spots on your photos.

Dust will show up as small gray or black spots in your photos, like in the example above. More often than not, the spots will show up the most in portions of your image which contain sky or solid white areas. Many people think this is a problem with their lens, but more times than not this is not the case. However, lenses can collect small amounts of dust which are visible to the eye, but due to the distance between the rear element and the camera sensor the dust does not show up in the image.

There is an easy way to check for dust on your sensor, and chances are when you look for it, you’ll find it! All you have to do is put the camera in “aperture priority” mode, and stop it down to F22 or so. Set the lens to manual focus and adjust the focus to infinity. Now your ready to take a picture. Try to shoot something with plenty of light which is a solid color like a wall or the sky (if possible, keep the image free of objects). Open the image in your image editing software (Adobe Photoshop) and perform an auto levels adjustment. At this point, if there’s dust, you’ll see it. Whichever cleaning method you choose, use this procedure to check your work after each attempt at cleaning your sensor to monitor progress.

I’ve been cleaning my own camera sensors for a while now. As the proud owner of a Canon 5D and 30D, I’ve noticed quite a difference in the amount of time spent on cleaning their respective sensors. The full size sensor on the 5D takes me much longer to accurately clean than the smaller sensor of the 30D. The larger sensor has much more surface area, less area around the periphery of the sensor, and is much higher resolution. All of these factors play a role in how much dust will show up in the photos, and ultimately how tough the job is.

Our skilled technicians used non-abrasive wipes and an instant dry cleaning fluid to swab the sensor. This method involves physical contact with the camera’s sensor and it is not recommended that you attempt it without proper training. It does, however, seem to be the most effective method of sensor cleaning out there.

If you have a dirty DSLR censor and want it cleaned by professionals, feel free to bring it by the store or ship it in. We can usually get the cleaning done within 1 business day and if you need it sooner, call in advance to set up an appointment. Our sensor cleaning service includes a full external clean, external lens cleaning, cleaning of the mirror box, mirror, screen and sensor, firmware update (if available), and a print of your sensor (before/after).  Standard sensor cleaning is $60, for full frame cameras the fee is $80.