How Not to Photograph the Solar Eclipse and Melt Your Camera's Sensor

With the solar eclipse almost upon us, it is important to remember that there is a real reason why it can be dangerous to photograph. If somehow you missed all the articles and news stories talking about how to watch and photograph the eclipse safely and you are planning to go out and shoot it last minute unprepared, here is one last example of what not to do.

Earlier this month I wrote an article on tips and tools to get the most out of this once maybe twice in a lifetime experience. Most importantly in the article, I discussed the different types of filters you need to make photographing the eclipse safe for your camera sensor.

The staff at a local camera store in Dubuque, Iowa called Everything Photography posted up a new video where they demonstrate just what can happen if you don't take proper precautions. With an old Canon T2i attached to what looks like a 400mm lens, you can clearly see just how the lens magnifies the suns rays into the camera's sensor melting it in under a minute. Even within seconds of placing the camera on the lens, you can start to see smoke coming from the camera. Another great point made in the video is to not look through your viewfinder if you are using an SLR camera. In the video, they point out how on the sidewalk you can see just how much even the viewfinder is magnifying the light. It's very reminiscent of little kids playing with a magnifying glass and unsuspecting ants. 

There still may be time to get some proper sun filters from your local camera store, but supplies do sell out and a lot are already sold out. 

If you live in Iowa check out Everything Photography or find them out on Facebook.

[via Everything Photography]

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Loic Romer's picture

If i can stack a lee big stopper with my screw on filter, would that work??? Are solar filters just very powerful nd filters?? Also I dont think anybody will be shooting 6 second exposures.....

Patrick Hall's picture

I've been photographing the sun the last few days with a 16ND filter with no problems. I think the reason this occurs at all is because this guy is using a 400+mm lens with a wide aperture. If you stop down to f22 and filter your lens a bit I don't think this would happen. People are saying it could happen to your cell phone but I bet that would be pretty difficult to do with the standard lens.

Loic Romer's picture

Yeah thats what I though...

I was also wondering also if using live view is dangerous to your sensor since your mirror is up??? Every one says not to use view finder but im wondering if using the live view is the same as doing a long exposure...

Jake Chapple's picture

Hi Patrick- I didn't get a ND16 in time, but I found a ND10. If I understand correctly, the ND16 will allow for continuous exposure to the sun. A ND10 will allow for limited exposure, correct? There is a time component. Any idea what that time would be?


SK Balachandder:
This article is excellent...
But the author Michael DeStefano has not explained what would happen to the sensor starting from one diamond ring effect to the entire phase of totality culminating in capturing corona and avoiding direct Photography after that since the second time appearence of shadow bands, Bailey's Beads and diamond ring effect would occur within a few seconds and increase in light and radiation might damage the sensor. The extensive usage of ND filters or arc welder's thick dark glass or two sandwiched over exposed 120 negatives in front of the lens could safe guard the sensor. These are all if and buts only.
A plead to all the fellow Photographers who are adamant to capture this once in a life time event:
Please take needed precaution measure including clothing and protection to your eyes and sensor.
I am from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India.
I have been very fortunate to have witnessed the Total Solar Eclipse occurred in February 1980 and I watched and Photographed (with my Airesflex TLR in 120 format) this rare phenomenon from Hubli, Karnataka, where weather was excellent.
That time I was in the final year of my Masters degree in Mathematics.
We have to raise the enlarger to the roof with great difficulty to make images out of my 120 negative as the Sun occupied only 5% of the entire negative.
Luckily modern day DSLR Photography eased out all those difficulties.
Happy shooting.