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If you begin to notice dark specks in your photos when you\’re using a digital SLR don\’t become alarmed and wonder if you will need to shell out more money for a new camera. The problem is simply dust on your sensor. When you switch lenses on an SLR it is easy for dust to get inside the camera and settle on the sensor, which will, in turn, create small dark spots in the pictures you take.
Some cameras have a built-in sensor-dusting function, but most will require a careful manual cleaning.
1. Purchase a self-cleaning SLR.
Dust specks on the camera sensor can cause dark spots on your photographs. A hint: when looking at the photographs you might need to have them enlarged in order to see the dust specks.
There are currently two cameras which have a built in feature to clean the sensor, the E1 and Evolt E-300, manufactured by Olympus. Every time you turn the camera on or activate the filter, a Supersonic Wave Filter vibrates the sensor which shakes the dust off. Included are adhesive strips which run along the sides of the sensor to collect the dust. From my experience the system works pretty well. It\’s unfortunate that other manufacturers don\’t offer something similar.
2. Clean your camera with care. If you don\’t have an Olympus SLR (or even if you do but are in a very dusty environment), sooner or later you\’ll have to clean the sensor. If you\’re nervous about doing it yourself, you can send it to the manufacturer for a professional cleaning. However, that\’s not a very practical or affordable way to handle the situation every time a new little spot shows up. Although you should take the utmost care, the best solution is probably to clean the dust out yourself.
Most sensors have a protective glass covering and you want to be careful not to scratch or damage it as there\’s a good chance the manufacturer\’s warranty will not cover repairs. Be careful about what you put inside your camera. Also, never blow compressed air inside the camera. Compressed air uses propellants that can leave a residue and create a film over your sensor.
Use products that are made specifically for sensor cleaning. A number of companies make them, including Photographic Solutions and Visible Dust. Kinetronics Speck Grabber is useful for getting at particular bits of debris, since it has a little light built in. And Kodak sells its own sensor-cleaning kit and provides detailed instructions on how to clean its cameras\’ sensors.
When you have purchased your product and are ready to clean the sensor you need to put the camera into sensor-cleaning mode so that the sensor is exposed (check the manual about how to do this with your particular model) and remove the lens. Use should use a bulb blower to blow dust off the sensor (you will want to make sure you hold the camera up so that the dust falls out instead of settling inside again). Carefully follow the instructions of the cleaning product you\’ve chosen. This typically involves carefully swabbing the surface of the protective glass over the sensor.
To make sure that you have gotten rid of all the dust you can take a picture of a blank wall or piece of paper. Look at it at full size on a computer monitor and see if you can detect any remaining specks.
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