Dust has always been the enemy of the photographer. At its least intrusive it can be found on camera lenses, causing a slight softening of images. However, at its most irritating it can force a photographer to spend hours and hours retouching images. And that is just the result of dust – pollen and greasy fingers haven’t even been introduced into the equation.
Of course, the best way to keep your equipment clean is not to get it dirty in the first place. With this in mind, it is best to keep your camera equipment stored in a clean, dust-free environment such as a cupboard, draw, or, of course, a camera case. It is also a good idea to keep some silica gel with your equipment to help keep it free from moisture.
While it might be easy to keep a camera and lens clean and dust free when being stored, as soon as you step outside taking photographs the camera is exposed to dust and other airborne particles. And it is all too easy to accidentally leave fingerprints on the front of a lens.
Along with some advice on how to clean your lenses and DSLR sensor, we have gathered together a selection of cleaning products that will help keep your equipment looking and functioning like new.
1. £24.95, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
Ideal for removing dust and fibres from a camera sensor, the Dust-Aid Platinum features a cleaning wand and six cleaning pads. The pads are made from silicon and can be stuck to the end of the wand. Once the protective seal has been removed, the wand is used to press the pad onto the camera sensor, where it lifts any dust or fibres. As the process is performed without any liquids or adhesives, there is no smearing or residue left on the sensor.
Camera and lens wipes
Camera and lens wipes are absolutely essential inclusions in any photographer’s camera bag. Cleaning wipes vary in quality and application, but always ensure you use lint-free wipes, as these won’t break up and leave tiny fibres on your equipment. Generally, wipes are designed to clean lenses, but some versions are safe to use on camera sensors and can be wrapped around swabs for easier access to the sensor.
2. Photographic Solutions Pec Pads (£10.95 for a pack of 100, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
3. Dust-Aid microfibre dust cloths (£23.95 for a pack of 50, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
4. Dr Optic optical lens wipes (£1.99 for a pack of 24, available from Tesco, John Lewis and Wilkinsons)
5. Green Clean Wet & Dry lens cleaner (£4.11 for a pack of 10, www.flaghead.co.uk)
It is always a good idea to take a closer look at your camera sensor to help spot and remove dust. However, the human eye can often do with a helping hand, particularly when it comes to finding small dust particles. There are a number of devices on the market to help in this task. These range from simple clip-on glasses with magnified lenses to specialist loupes with built-in LED lights that illuminate the sensor.
6. Green Clean Clip & Flip magnifying glasses (£6.99, www.flaghead.co.uk)
7. Visible Dust Britevue 7x sensor loupe (£64.95, www.visible-dust.co.uk)
8. GGS adjustable sensor loupe (£44.95, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
One of the vital items for cleaning a camera sensor is the simple swab. Swabs are dragged across the camera sensor to apply, and then remove, sensor-cleaning fluid, along with any dust and debris. When buying sensor-cleaning swabs, make sure you choose the correct size for your camera sensor: the width of the swab should be the same size as the width of the sensor, so that the fluid can be applied in a single pass. For more on how to clean your camera’s sensor using swabs see page 46.
9. Photographic Solutions sensor swabs (£37.95 for a pack of 12, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
10. Just ultra-soft DSLR swabs (£24.95 for a pack of 12, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
11. Visible Dust swabs (£29.95, www.visible-dust.co.uk)
12. Green Clean Wet & Dry Sweepers, part of the After Shake Sensor Cleaning kit (£27.61 for the kit, www.flaghead.co.uk)
Optical cleaning fluids
There are many optical cleaning fluids available, with nearly all of them being alcohol-based, which helps remove any oil left in the form of fingerprints.
Be sure to use a proper optical cleaning fluid, however, as many domestic fluids contain additives such as ammonia, which can damage lens coatings.
Also be sure to check that a cleaning fluid is suitable for use on camera sensors, and always apply fluid to a swab or cloth and never directly to the surface you are cleaning.
13. Dr Optic optical cleaner and microfibre cloth (£4.99, available from Robert Dyas)
14. Photographic Solutions Eclipse lens & CCD cleaner (£11.50 for a 59ml bottle, www.cameraclean.co.uk)
15. Visible Dust Sensor Clean fluid (£27.95, www.visible-dust.co.uk)
A good soft-bristled brush is great for getting rid of dust and grit that gathers in small crevices in your camera and lenses. Most brushes are designed for external use, but the Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly can be used internally to remove dust from a camera’s sensor.
Once the brush has been used, the high-speed spinning mechanism can be activated, causing any dust collected to go flying off. It is important when using a brush not to touch the bristles with your fingers, as you could transfer oils and grease that could then end up on your camera’s lenses or sensor.
Even the humble dust blower has advanced with the latest generation featuring filters and anti-static properties. While some conventional blowers are made from rubber, which degrades over time causing particles to be blown onto your camera equipment, newer blowers are made from silicon, which doesn’t degrade and also helps reduce static charge. This means that not only is dust blown off of the sensor, but the anti-static charge created repels dust from the surface.
Look out for a blower with a filter that will prevent any dust and grit from being sucked in and blown back out onto the sensor.
For quickly removing dust from even the tightest places, canned air is an excellent option. It must be used carefully as it can expel liquid propellant and cause a surface to become very cold. If using canned air, always follow the instructions on the side of the can.
Generally, you must keep the can in an upright position to avoid spraying the cold liquid propellant from the container. For this reason do not use canned air to clean camera sensors, and at first spray a burst of air away from any lenses. This should help expel any liquid that may have built up in the tube while it was not in use.
There is a way that canned air can be used to clean a sensor. Green Clean produces a small vacuum cleaner for sensors, which utilises the canned air to create a vacuum that sucks particles from a camera’s sensor and mirror box, as well as lenses.