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How do You Know You Need a Sensor Cleaning?

New to photography? There are plenty of things that aren't mentioned upfront about camera hygiene that you should know about. Sensor cleanings are one of them!

What is A Sensor & How Do I Know it Needs to Be Cleaned?

A sensor is a solid-state device which captures the light required to form a digital image. Since the sensor is the device that captures light for your image, it would make sense that if there's something on your sensor (sand, dust, dirt), your image will be affected in some way. The effect usually seen in photos is a dark spot.

Dark spots in your photos are a good indicator of debris on your sensor
Dark spots in your photos are a good indicator of debris on your sensor

For an image like the shot above, this 'spot' (a fleck of dirt), is not immediately visible until you're in the editing process.

To triple check if your sensor really has a spot on it, do the following: Take a photo of a white (or off white) wall with even lighting. Zoom in on your photo and look for spots that may be dark or slightly blurred. If you see an indication that you have debris in your image, you may need a sensor cleaning.

If you are in a pinch, you could use a rocket blower, however this is not recommended as you could blow more dust into your sensor unless if you are using a blower like the Promaster Clean Air Filtered Blower. The majority of the time, these blowers will move debris to a different portion of your sensor.

Trying to remove a fleck of dirt with a blower may just shift where the debris is on your sensor

4 Tips on How to Avoid Getting Debris on Your Sensor

1. Hold you camera upside-down, not face-up, when removing/changing your lenses.

2. When there isn't a lens on the camera, put a body cap on. Do not leave your camera sitting out without a cap over the mirror/sensor.

3. Shield your camera from wind and inclement weather when changing lenses. Use your body as a shield.

4. Clean off your camera if it is dirty before switching lenses. EX: If you just shot at the beach and you have sand on your camera body, try to clean off debris before you attempt to switch lenses.

Mirrorless cameras don't have a mirror shielding the sensor, so they are more likely to need sensor cleanings
Mirrorless cameras don't have a mirror shielding the sensor, so they are more likely to need sensor cleanings

Why Should I Get My Sensor Cleaned?

At the end of the day, the main reason why you want to get your sensor cleaned is because you do not want to edit spots out of your images. Worst, worst, worst case scenario (which is extremely rare), you could have a situation where your sensor could be permanently etched due to build-up.

If you own a DSLR, you have a mirror that acts as a natural buffer that shields your sensor. You will find that you won't need sensor cleanings as often. Mirrorless camera owners should be aware that since there isn't a mirror shielding your sensor when you are changing your lenses, you will find that you may need 1-3 sensor cleanings each year.

Where Can I Get My Sensor Cleaned

Sensor cleanings are completed in-house at our Shutterbug locations in Beaverton, Portland and Eugene. Same Day sensor cleanings are offered if the technician is available, and your camera is dropped off by 3pm.

Full Frame Sensor Cleaning $89.99

Crop Sensor Cleaning $49.99

Detailing (with cleaning) + $15

Detailing (without cleaning) $25

If you have a Mack Diamond Warranty, the sensor cleanings are FREE for the duration that your camera is covered under the warranty (3-5 years).

Make sure to bring in your camera body only if possible. A fully charged battery is highly recommended.

No appointments are needed! You can drop your camera off early as well.


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The Shutterbug is a Oregon Family Owned & Operated Camera Store, with four locations in Oregon. We have been in the industry of helping photographers like you since 1971.

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