Dirty DSLR Sensor–Dirt On Digital Camera

Dirty DSLR Sensor–Dirt On Digital Camera


Dirt on the sensor are very common on DSLR cameras-believe, are more common than most people think!Several vendors had to review the engineering projects of its cameras to avoid or at least reduce this problem.

Dirty DSLR Sensor–Dirt On Digital Camera

Important note: Throughout this article we refer to the term “dirty sensor” several times, but there are certain camera models whose sensor is covered by a low-pass filter (low-pass filter). On these cameras, it’s not the sensor that is dirty, but this filter. This article serves to all cameras in the same way, because no matter if the dirt is on the sensor or filter – the effect in the pictures is the same.

The nasties that get hooked on the sensor can be classified as dry or wet. Dry dirt common are dust, fur and hair. But the most common problem is with the wet dirt: are oil droplets that come from own camera shutter.

Some cameras (primarily in models and Nikon D800 D600 and EOS-1 d Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III from Canon, among many others) have a chronic problem of lubricating oil (or dust, as reported officially by Nikon) soiling the sensor with certain frequency, and require specialized cleaning from time to time. The problem of oil fouling the sensor is more common at the beginning of the operation of the digital camera and will reduce as the camera is used (but is not guaranteed to go stop).

Our testing and experience are with Nikon D800 and all the pictures in this article were taken by this DSLR camera model.

The example below is from a photo with Aperture f/11:00 pm that oil droplets are very apparent against the blue sky. See several black dots/ashes in the sky and some at sea, in addition to a spot left in the sky, high up, near the clouds. Compare the base photo, published without the dirt points were removed, and the following, which increased the contrast and brightness in Lightroom so that the dots/spots to be greater evidence. Note that after you see the second picture, when you go back to the first, you will be able to realize more dirt.

Step-By-Step Tutorial-How To Know If The Digital Camera Sensor Is Dirty

  1. Select themanual mode of the camera.
  2. Configure the diaphragm of the lens to stay in closed position (higherf/stop).

For some lenses, will be f/22, for other f/32.

  1. Find a white wall or white paper size a4/legal minimum-they must be clean and smooth, without stains, textures, or shadows.
  2. frame your picture in the wall/paper and adjust the exposure time of the camera so thephotometer stay in point 0 (centered).

It is important that the photo not be overexposed, because if this happens, some dirt may be masked by excessive lighting.

  1. take a picture of the wall (or paper) – can be in JPEG or RAW.Be careful you do not create shadows in the picture.
  2. open the photo on your computer-use Lightroom, Photoshop or Gimp.
  3. Increase the clarity/sharpness/focus and contrast of the photo to the Max – click for instructions on each program:


Revelation (Develop) mode, slide the Clarity (Clarity) and Contrast right.

Also try increasing the whites (Whites) to the maximum and decreasing the black (Blacks) to see if it helps you see more dirt marks.

  1. zoom in until the picture stay on 100% and look carefully for black spots or stains.If you see any (and you are sure it is not a dirt/wall paper), your sensor is probably dirty.
  2. if you want to make sure the stain/dirt is not the wall, take one more picture from another part of the same (or paper).
  3. we recommend that you redo this test with another lens on camera, to make sure the dirt is not the lens.

If you only have one lens, make sure that you are using is clean. If it is dirty on the inside (which is closer to the sensor), there is a possibility of this dirt appear in your test.

If the test with two different lenses show the same stains/spots, in the same place, you can be sure that your camera’s sensor is dirty.

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As The Sensor Gets Dirty?

The biggest cause for the sensor becomes dirty are the internal moving parts inside the camera (shutter, mirror and its sub-components) moving at high speed and oil splashing or throwing dust in direction of the sensor in the moment we hit the photo.

Another cause is the entry of dirt into the camera body when we exchange or desacoplamos the lens of the camera.

The important thing to understand here is that even if you only use a lens and never remove the camera, there’s still a big possibility that the sensor dirty due to the internal mechanisms of the mobile camera. The logic is simple: If the camera doesn’t have moving parts internally, she wouldn’t need lubricating oil to operate; and so the sensor wouldn’t get dirty so easily.

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As The Dirt On The Sensor Influences In Your Photos-Hiding The Points

The dirty sensor degrades the quality and resolution of a digital photograph at specific points. In extreme cases, the dirt on the sensor can ruin your photo completely.

As shown in examples throughout this article, the picture gets dark spots. These spots appear because dirt blocks the passage of light and, with it, the pixels covered are not exposed to light when the camera shutter is open.

If you are lucky, some patches of dirt on the sensor can be camouflaged by elements in the composition of the photograph. If you know the location of these spots, you can take action instead of relying on luck: simply plan to compose the elements of photography so that these patches are deliberately disguised.

See the photo below and notice how stains are disguised by being in front of the sea. The photo on the right shows the marked spots.

In some cases, it is impossible to hide the dirt unless she removed in post processing of the image.

See the following example showing two versions of the same photo. The photo on the left was the oil points removed one by one in Lightroom (using the spot removal tool/Spot removal). The photo on the right didn’t have the stains removed, and clarity, contrast and blacks increased excessively, just to make the stains stay in evidence. Compare the photo with and without stains.

Relationship Between F/Stop And Appearance Of Dirty Spots In Photos

With f/stops lower (larger apertures the lens diaphragm), sometimes the dirt on the sensor is imperceptible to the naked eye. The dirt on the sensor is easier to notice when a f/stop (diaphragm more closed) is used for shooting.

See the photos below. The one on the left was taken with f/11, and it is possible to see some smudges in the sky (where there’s no clouds). Have the right, because of the f/4, had the hidden spots.

Usually oil droplets and particles of dust are visible to the naked eye from f/8. However this is not a rule – they can be visible with f/stops minors when the spots are larger or are there aplenty.

Dirty Sensor And Time-Lapse

One of the worst experiences that anybody could have because of dirty sensor is to make a film of time-lapse or hiperlapse. As dirt appears in a fixed point of the screen, she ends up calling a lot of attention when the rest of the images are moving. Can give to the impression that there’s a bug landed on the screen. Fix a picture to eliminate the dirt can be a time consuming job–now imagine having to fix thousands of photos before making a movie?

Sensor Cleaning

In this article we do not cover sensor cleaning.

Our main advice is to not let it go too long without cleaning your sensor camera after realizing that he is dirty. This is because if the grime is oil, over time the droplets are getting more attached to the surface of the sensor (or low-pass filter) and makes it harder to clean.

In the worst cases, depending on the use and storage of the camera, the dust and the oil can encourage the growth of fungi/mold inside your camera.

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