Camera Cleaning

In Master Photography Roundtable by Brent BerghermLeave a Comment

Links for the show survey:

Camera Cleaning PDF:

Camera Cleaning Products

There’s a host of items I like to use for camera cleaning and I’d like to start with those and then we’ll get into technique.

Also, I’m going to make a PDF available that has all these items in there. It’ll just be free and open for you to download. No need to sign up on an email list or anything like that. The link will be in the show notes.

We’ll look at external cleaning first. 

  1. Basic Cloths
    These are the type of cloths that you can get anywhere. I like to go to the Walmart automotive area and find the cheap microfiber cloths they have there. It’s usually something like a pack of three for $2 or something like that.
    These are for cleaning exterior surfaces only.
  2. Camel Hair or other soft bristle brush.
    This is great for cleaning particulate debris from lens and filter surfaces. It’s also great for getting dirt from around the lens mount, it can reach where a cloth can’t.
    Usually these are available at camera shops or other art supply shops.
  3. Regular Microfiber Cloths
    These are the items specific to lens surfaces and for the screen on your camera. I wouldn’t use the basic cloths I started out with on lens surfaces.
  4. Zeiss pre-moistened wipes
  5. LensPen
    This device is great for removing smudges on lenses and the camera screen. It’s a brilliant device for sure.
  6. Cleaning Solution
    I’ll use any cleaning solution you can find at a shop for glasses. This is good for lens surfaces and the body too. I also will buy my microfiber cloths at the eyeglasses area at Walmart, or any place really. They’re available everywhere.

Interior cleaning tools.

Now it’s time to look at the interior of the camera. Anything that is below the lens mount is considered the inside of the camera for me.

  1. Bulb or Rocket blower.
    These come in many shapes and sizes. Some also have an “anti-static” feature. I’m not convinced that’s hugely valuable.
    Generally, these are available at camera shops and maybe at the electronics counter in Walmart or Target.
  2. Focus Screen Swabs
    All to frequently, I’ll just use my finger with a microfiber cloth wrapped around it, at least for a full frame DSLR, I can usually get it done. If not then I’ll wrap it around something else that’s smaller. Not necessary for a mirrorless camera.
    These are available at camera shops.
  3. Sensor Scope
    This device is invaluable at helping you see where the dust is on your sensor. Get one that’s set for your camera, either a DSLR or mirrorless. They are designed to sit on the lens mount and with the decreased flange distance with mirrorless cameras the DSLR scopes won’t work so well.

  4. Sensor Klear by LensPen
    This is a brilliant device that I only use sparingly, or when I have to.
    Pretty much only available in a camera shop.
  5. Sensor Brush
    Either an electronic brush or a manual brush.
    Manual Brush:
    Arctic Butterfly:
  6. Sensor Swab
    As a last resort, I’ll use a sensor swab. I’ve used many types and manufacturers. The ones I don’t like look like a sponge. The ones I do like are the green handled items from Visible Dust. But the individually packaged items also work well.
    Full Frame:
    Crop Sensor:
    Micro 4/3:
  7. Sensor Cleaning Fluid
    I like the green lid fluid from Visible Dust. I’ve also used others and they are good too. Depends on the nature of your trouble. If the green lid item doesn’t work on your problem spot then the blue cap fluid will work. It’s just that you’re not supposed to fly with the blue cap fluid as it’s flammable.

The Cleaning Process

Jeff asks Brent questions regarding the cleaning process.

  1. What’s the first step?
    Wiping the exterior and getting it all cleaned up
  2. After the exterior, what’s next?
    I remove the lens and I’ll check the mount area for any dust or debris that may have been left behind.
  3. And after that you go inside the camera?
    Yes, for a DSLR I’ll clean the mirror box and the focusing screen. Some cameras have a removable focusing screen. I usually leave that in place unless I need to remove it because something’s really cantankerous.
    I want to clean all the stuff on the way in so as to not introduce new dirt into the sensor area.
  4. And then the sensor is next?
    Generally yes. One thing to note, you need to make sure your battery is charged because when you activate the manual cleaning process the camera has to hold the mirror in place and the shutter open. That takes power. If you have a fully charged battery then go for it.

Inside the sensor chamber, what happens?

  1. I’ll inspect it first with the sensor scope.
  2. I’ll use the rocket blower to remove any dust or debris that is loose. Hold the camera facing down, blow up into it. Be vigorous with the blowing of the air.
  3. Inspect the sensor again with the scope. Any changes?
  4. Use the sensor brush to clear out the dust. Constantly clearing the bristles of dust. I really love the Arctic Butterfly for this, but a manual brush is fine too with the rocket blower to clear it out after each swipe in the chamber.
  5. Inspect again with the scope.
  6. Go back and forth as many times as it takes to clear out the dust. For those spots that won’t remove…
  7. Use the Sensor Klear by LensPen. Though it leaves it’s own dust behind, so you have to use the brush again.
  8. If all else fails, use the sensor swabs.

Other links mentioned in the show

Jim’s egg on the sensor cleaning video

Note: Brent advises against the cleaning techniques demonstrated in this video. He advises you use the tools mentioned and that you continue to be very careful about these things.


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