Dust Anyone?

Today was going to be a good day, no it was going to be a great day. Did all my jobs early, sorted out the mess I called a photo filing system and as a reward I was going to make an accessory for my camera. It wasn’t much, I just wanted to make a pin hole lens for my Canon EOS. In under 5 minutes the lens was made and I went outside to shoot a statue to see how it worked. Happy with the result I had I went inside, loaded up the image into Photoshop and saw on the image not just a few dust spots but what amounted to a dust storm.

Never having had a major dust problem before I grabbed my sensor cleaning kit, still mostly unused except for a practice run or two. Before I attacked the sensor I took a photo of a blank wall, using a wide lens set to f22. I overexposed the image slightly. This is to make the background lighter. The exposure was around 8 seconds. But wait wouldn’t I need a tripod? No. Here’s why.

The dust and sensor move as one, so the time the shutter is open for is not relevant other than to give you an exposure to render a light grey background. Doing this makes the dust appear as a shadow against a light greyish background. With the exposure done as a reference frame, I set about cleaning the sensor as per the instruction included in the kit.

After round 1 of cleaning I redid the same shot and examined the result. I saw a few stray spots and re cleaned the sensor but this time using the supplied blower to move the dust off the sensor. I also saw a couple of stray hairs in the chamber and using tweezers carefully removed them. Re-shot the wall and you see the result in the image under the “Dust Storm” image. There are a couple of small dust spots still there but I’m not too worried about them. To be honest I had to run the image through Photoshop Shadow/Highlight adjustment to enhance the spots they were that faint.

The camera in question from today was my Canon EOS 50D, which hasn’t seen much use. Goes to show that you must still check the “Backups” on a regular basis. Let’s take a worst case scenario, I’m on a shoot and my main camera fails. I pick up the “Backup” and resume shooting, only to find when I get back to the computer that the sensor is swimming with dust and I now have to spot EVERY photo over and over and over…

The sensor cleaning kit I use is by Lens Pen. It’s called the SensorKlear Loupe Kit. Sells for approx $90-$100 and is the easiest way to clean your own sensor. Paid for itself on the first clean.  The Kit itself comprises of a Loupe with 4 LEDs that illuminates and magnifies the sensor area. A small puffer or blower is supplied to whoosh away any loose dust and a Sensor Pen for removing those stubborn little buggers that want to stay and party on the sensor.   I’m glad I bought mine, I’ve been sitting on it for close to 2 years now and this was the first time I’ve needed it. A simple clean took me less than 10 minutes to perform and I was back taking pictures in no time but if I hadn’t had it handy I could have been without the camera for a couple of days, maybe longer and been further out of pocket, money wise. 
Now you’re asking yourself what happened to the 5 minute DIY Pin Hole lens. To put it in a one word answer, Crap. That, my friends, is for another time and another blog post. I still have to refine the design and I will try it again. But for now, I suggest shoot the wall and check your sensor for dust, especially if you haven’t used the camera for a while. Get yourself a sensor cleaning kit of some kind and give it a go. Until next time…
Happy Shooting.
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