WHEN AND HOW TO HAVE YOUR CAMERA SENSOR CLEANED
A common question that comes up in regards to gear maintenance is when to have your camera cleaned. Keeping your camera's sensor clean and free of dust will help you have sharper images, and avoid the dreaded black spots that appear (usually near the edge of the frame) on your image and require lots of time to clone out, or they'll end up in a spot that can completely ruin your image!
While there are at-home sensor cleaning kits available, and many people have had success with these kits, if you are a beginner (or if you're just nervous, like me) you may want to play it safe and send your camera off to have the sensor professionally cleaned. One tiny wrong move while cleaning your sensor can cost you hundreds of dollar, if not your entire camera. So, for this post, we will look at where and how to send your camera for cleaning.
WHEN TO CLEAN THE SENSOR
There's no set amount of time on when you should have the sensor cleaned. My general rule of thumb is that, once I start to see sensor spots, I have the camera cleaned. Here is an example of what the spots look like:
They can come in all sizes depending on what kind of dust you have on the sensor, and they can either be fairly faint, like the one above, or they can appear solid black and it will look like you have a bug in your photo!
WHERE TO HAVE YOUR SENSOR CLEANED
If you live in an area with a local camera store (lucky you!) chances are they may be able to clean the sensor for you, so check locally to see if someone in your area an do the work for you.
If not, you can send your camera to the manufacturer and they will clean it for you. I've personally had great experiences with this method.
Here is the link to where you can schedule a cleaning with Nikon. When I have had my sensor(s) cleaned through Nikon, the charge has been $40 + shipping and handling: Nikon Support
Here is the link for Canon users: Canon Support
When you fill out the maintenance ticket with the manufacturer, they will provide you with shipping instructions. You will be responsible for packaging your camera safely. Here are a few tips on how to properly pack your camera:
- Place the camera in a small, tightly fitting box with bubble wrap. Next insert the small box into a larger box that is filled with bubble wrap. This way, your camera is double boxed.
- For extra protection, place the camera in a plastic bag
- If you are not shipping a lens along with the camera, be sure to attach the body cap to the camera to prevent dust from entering the camera after it has been cleaned.
- Remove batteries, memory cards, custom straps, etc.
- If you are shipping the camera in its original box, keep in mind that, in some cases, the manufacturer may not return the original box to you.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE
This is something that will probably depend on the situation, how far you are shipping the camera, and the manufacturer, but expect anywhere from 1-3 weeks on a sensor cleaning. The last time I sent a camera to Nikon, it took exactly two weeks from leaving my home town, to go to New York and back for a cleaning - not bad!
TIPS TO AVOID SENSOR DUSTAs we wrap up, here are some tips on how to help you keep your camera (and lenses) dust free for longer:
- Always store your camera in your camera bag or a storage cabinet (don't leave it out on your desk or table!)
- When changing lenses, keep the camera face down as you attach it to the lens
- If you are outdoors, either change your lens as quickly as possible, or, if you can, get in your car (or any enclosed area) to prevent the wind for blowing any type of debris into your camera