Cleaning a DSLR: My Camera Has Spots!

Just before our big bucket list adventure, my camera has SPOTS!  Oh NO!!!   I’m sure there are much worse calamities, but I’ve been looking forward to getting a great (for me) photo of a bald eagle swooping down and catching a salmon in his claws for years.   Aaarrggg!

Look closely in the clouds top left ... there's a spot that should not be in the photo.

Look closely in the clouds top to mid left … there are spots that should not be in the photo.

1.  First I tried the obvious, cleaning the UV filter/protector, and the lens with a lens cleaning cloth, then took the same photo.  No luck, the spots are still there.

Bulb style blower similar to mine.  Do NOT use compressed air in a can!

Bulb style blower similar to mine. Do NOT use compressed air in a can!

2.  Then I removed the lens and used the “blower thingy” in my highly technical photographer-speak.  I’ve been instructed to hold the camera with the lens facing down when removing it so that no dust settles in while I’m trying to clean it out.  Also, don’t stick the tip past the lens opening.  Replacing the lens, I retook the same photo and still saw spots.

An important note about that “blower thingy” — do NOT blow into the camera yourself and do NOT use one of those compressed air cans usually meant for cleaning out computer keyboards – both have condensation built in.  The last thing you want is to introduce condensation … i.e. tiny water droplets … into the innards of your camera!

3.  Now I need to get serious about getting rid of spots.  I made the camera do the automatic sensor cleaning (Canon Rebel EOS XSi).  No dice, still had spots.

4. It was time to get out the manual.  All cameras are different and mine is a Canon EOS Rebel XSi for reference, the entry level DSLR at the time.  The newer version of my camera is the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, see it here for reference.

The XSi has an “automatic sensor cleaning” mode that does something magical inside the camera and supposedly cleans the lens.  By pressing Menu and then the 2nd Tools menu bar, I found “Sensor Cleaning Options”.  I scrolled to the automatic cleaning option and tried it.  Took another photo, same spots.

Now I’m getting frustrated.  One week to go until our Alaska adventure and my camera has spots.  There’s no time to send it off to Canon to get it professionally cleaned, which I will probably do when I get back from this trip.  So now what.

Spots show up more clearly against a plain blue background, so I focused on a cloud, then moved the camera so all I saw was blue sky ... and spots...   :(

Spots show up more clearly against a plain blue background, so I focused on a cloud, then moved the camera so all I saw was blue sky … and spots… 🙁

Read more of your manual.  In mine, there is a “manual sensor cleaning” setting on the camera menu.  Hmmmm, what is this and how do I do it?

Here's the Sensor Cleaning menu item on my XSi

Here’s the Sensor Cleaning menu item on my XSi

Here’s what the manual says:

1.  Turn the camera on with a full battery.

2.  Hold the camera face-down in a dust-free spot – I did it inside over my desk, I have no idea where in my house is more dust free than anywhere else.

3.  Take the lens off the camera — don’t forget, it should be turned ON and held face down so the lens opening is pointed downward – no dust can settle in from above while you’re cleaning!

XSi Manual Cleaning Mode

XSi Manual Cleaning Mode

4.  Set the camera menu to the manual sensor cleaning mode – the mirror will flip up and expose the sensor, there won’t be current running through it creating static electricity attracting dust  particles.

5.  Continue to hold the camera face down and puff the bulb to blast several puffs of air into the sensor area.  Give the dust time to float down and then do it again.  I did it probably 3 or 4 times, waiting 30 seconds between each set of puffs.

6.  Turn the camera off and replace the lens.

Now turn it back on and go take the same photos, keeping your fingers crossed that all the SPOTS have vanished!  Mine is not perfect, but the big spots are not visible anymore.  I guess this will have to do for this trip until I can get back and send it off to Canon to be professionally cleaned!

The major spots are gone and this is as good as I can get it myself.

The major spots are gone and this is as good as I can get it myself.

NOTE:   I know there are “sensor cleaning kits” available at camera stores, both online and otherwise, but I am extremely wary of using any of this stuff except the bulb and forced air to try and do this myself.  I’m afraid I’d break the sensor.

Anyone have more advice on cleaning dust off the sensor of a DSLR camera?  Please leave a comment and share!  THANKS!  Jan

 

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