I did  a review yesterday of my two latest photography gadgets, a Giottos Rocket Air Blaster and a LensPEN Lens Cleaning System.  But as they say (they being Benjamin Franklin for the curious), an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So I figured as great as these little cleaning gadgets are, it is better to keep your camera free of dust and dirt in the first place.  Here are a few tips to keep your DSLR clean and your sensor dust free.

  1. Changing lenses – one of the easiest ways to get dust on to your sensor is by being careless when changing lenses.  You are exposing the inner workings of your camera to the elements every time you change a lens.  Short of never changing a lens, which defeats the purpose of having a DSLR, you can take some steps to minimize the dust that creeps in during the lens changing process.  Eliminating it altogether is probably not a realistic option.
    1. First, be conscious of the environment where you are changing the lens.  It is not possible to get to the nearest sterile clean room every time you need to change a lens but you can make sure you aren’t in a dust storm.  Shield the camera as best you can from whatever may be blowing about.
    2. Do a little prep work before switching out lenses.  Make sure the lens you are going to put on is lined up and ready to go before you press that release button to take the lens off the camera.  Do not remove the lens or the cap off the replacement lens until you are ready to quickly make the switch.  The move as fast as you safely can, dust is better than a dropped $1000 lens, and switch out the lenses.
    3. Always keep your lenses clean, especially at the lens mount end.  Clean it after taking it off the camera with a soft brush and air blaster if you have one (which you should after reading yesterday’s post).  And even more importantly, clean it BEFORE you mount it on the camera.
  2. Keep your camera bag clean – The camera bag is designed to help you organize your camera and accessories, carry them easily and keep them clean.  But the bag itself can get dirty too.  So you need to do a little camera bag maintenance every now and then.  The easiest thing to do is to assign one day a month (or really 15 minutes of one day a month) as camera bag cleaning time.  Put it on the calendar and then clean out your bag.  Empty everything out, vacuum out the bag (gets the fine stuff and animal hair), then make sure everything is dust free as can be before putting it all back.
  3. Cleaning mode – Become familiar with your camera’s built in cleaning mechanisms.  My Sony Alpha 850 has two built in defenses against dust; static-resistant anti-dust coating and CCD-shift dust reduction mechanism.  Most DSLRs today have something in place to help keep the dust off the sensor.  Read up on what your camera has and understand how it works and what you can do to keep it working.
  4. Call in the Pros – Like a car or any complicated piece of machinery sometimes you need a professional for both routine maintenance and repairs.  A sensor cleaning costs about $30 at my local camera shop and is sometimes  just necessary.  You can also get routine maintenance cleaning and tune-ups to keep things going at their peak.



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