How to Clean Your Camera's Sensor

One of the critical things for your camera is to keep the sensor clean. Dust floats around almost everywhere; Once it gets inside your camera it can cause major problems and will cause more work for you in postproduction trying to remove the spots in your photos.

Depending on where you shoot, your camera will be subjected to more of the elements. One of the biggest risks is changing your lens out in the open on a windy day with dust and other particles flying around. Maybe you are out in the desert for a shoot and the wind comes in moving around lots of sand. I have been there, shooting in White Sands, New Mexico with a sand storm coming in from nowhere during a shoot. Even if the camera is weather-sealed doesn't mean it was completely safe, just better able to stand up to it. So what do you do once your sensor gets dirty?

You could take or ship your camera to a reputable cleaner or even your camera manufacturer to have them clean the camera in a clean room, which is obviously the best choice. The problem is the downtime waiting for your camera to return, and if it’s your only one, you are out of commission for a while. The other choice is to clean it yourself if you feel capable. Do this at your own risk, so if you do not feel comfortable, do not do it. If you are up for the challenge, Peter McKinnon shows the steps to clean the sensor, as well as how to set up a "clean room" and bonus clean your lens.

Tools used:

Every time McKinnon changes lenses on the camera, he uses a rocket blower to blow the dust out of the camera with it faced off. Keep the time to which the camera is open and exposed to a minimum. Used body caps or keep the lens on to reduce the chance of your sensor getting dirty.

This isn’t the sensor, but I personally carry one of the lens brush pens with me and between every few shoots I brush of any dirt or dust that may be on the lens along with the other steps McKinnon uses. For the viewfinder, you can use Q-tips to get in there and clean it out. Now the next time your sensor needs to be cleaned, you have the know how to do it yourself. Proceed with caution!

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7 Comments

Deleted Account's picture

Be careful with Sony cameras; their sensor cover glass is quite different from that of other manufacturers. Only use materials specifically approved for Sony sensors.

Had to learn the hard way when applying a cleaning method to my A7R that had worked flawlessly on my Nikons and a friend's Canon before. Cost me about 200 $ to have the cover glass replaced.

Chris Maes's picture

Thanks for the info; though I have never cleaned mine myself yet...

Alex Ventura's picture

Ouch, thanks for the heads up!

John Smith's picture

Thanks for the heads up. I clean my A7Rii using instructions found here https://esupport.sony.com/info/732/US/EN/. Had it professionally cleaned once and loved it, but it wasn't cost effective.

YL Photographie's picture

Thanks for this article but be careful for the Canon 1DXII and the 5D MKIV You can no longer clean the sensor yourself, you absolutely have to go through the customer service of Canon, they have a special machine for cleaning the sensor

Hanudiyan Salindratmo's picture

Should we open another swab if we need to repeat the swabbing, or we can use the same swab (as long its not too dirty)?

Michael Scott's picture

Cleaning a sensor can certainly be a bit scary! Honestly, I find it's not that difficult after getting over the initial fear of destroying your sensor. It's really not that difficult. Check out my article on it for more details: https://www.scottymanphoto.com/dslr-sensor-cleaning-photography-tips/