One thing I’ve noticed about my mirrorless Sony A7rII is how quickly the sensor gets dirty. Same thing probably happens with the Sony A7 and A7s I’m sure.
Typically on my old Canon 5Dmkii I would take my camera into a camera shop and getting cleaned every so often for around $40 bucks.
On a mirrorless camera there is no mirror to offer that first line of defense against dust and debris, so cleaning the sensor becomes a much more frequent activity, and constantly sending it into camera shops is unreasonable.
Also, if you’re shooting video with the Sony A7sII, Panasonic GH5 or Canon 5DmkIV or even the Red, keeping a clean sensor is a lot more important than when shooting still photography since it’s a lot harder to paint out sensor dust on video. This is especially important if you plan on shooting high aperture.
Here is are some of the best accessories for cleaning your camera sensor as well as information on how to use each of them.
Guide To Cleaning Your Camera Sensor
Clean your sensor at your own risk. I’m not responsible for any damages just merely instructing you in the methods I use.
Before You Begin – Create A Dust Free Environment
First thing you need to do before you can ever even consider cleaning your camera sensor is to prepare a dust free environment.
I have a few Air filters I turn on full blast in a small area like a bathroom which can work but you definitely don’t need one to clean your sensor.
One trick I like to use is to turn your shower on and steam out your bathroom for a bit. This will cause the dust particles to stick together and fall. Just make sure all the steam is out of the air before you start cleaning your sensor as you don’t want excess moisture inside your camera.
The Dry Method
1. The Blower
This is what I use most. Great to use between lens changes, or for general maintenance.
Sometimes you’ll notice large particles of dust or lint on your sensor and this usually instantly clears those out. Just make sure to get them out of mirrorbox or sensor area so they don’t come back.
I’ve found the Large Black Rocket Air to be the best as you can get the most PSI out of it, but I also have smaller ones and they do get the job done.
Rocket Air Small – Amazon
Rocket Air Medium – Amazon
2. The Sensor Cleaning Brush
Every so often you’ll get little particles stuck to the sensor that just don’t want to come off. This is when the sensor brush comes in.
Here are a few steps and tricks to get the best results out of your sensor cleaning brush.
First – never touch the bristles with your fingers since your body oil will ruin the brush causing it to leave behind the oil on your sensor.
Second – use your Rocket Air Blower and blow some air on the bristles of your brush. This does two things; removes old debris, and creates a static charge on the bristles which will help it collect dust off your sensor.
Third – brush across the sensor, very gently a few times. When doing this, think about how you would brush your eyeball with the brush while causing as little pain as possible. Now brush your sensor like that. Make sense? Good.
I love my brush. It’s a must have and I always keep one in my travel bag.
Sensor Cleaning Brush Full Frame – Amazon
Sensor Cleaning Brush APS-C / All Sizes – Amazon
The Wet Method
When the dry method doesn’t work you’re left with the only option, that’s the wet method.
This is for when you get oil, water particles, or spit on your sensor. Something more than dust that’s just nasty. Maybe you sneezed while changing the lens. These things happen and you need the wet method to clean up the mess.
Before using the Wet Method always make sure you’ve used the dry method to get any large particles off your sensor or you’ll risk rubbing those into your sensor and scratching it.
3. Sensor Cleaning ewipes
These are great. Especially for larger sensor like full frame and especially medium format. Take out an E Wipe and brush it once across your sensor as even as possible. Done.
I actually like using the E Wipes on my Sony A7rII because it’s so easy but I rarely have to use them.
These will also work great for medium format cameras from Fujifilm, Hasselblad or PhaseOne.
4. Sensor Swabs With Eclipse
Using sensor swabs is a bit more difficult but sometimes necessary.
How to use the Sensor Swab – You take your microfiber that comes in the kit, secure it to the spatula with the band, put two drops of eclipse or (methanol) on the spatula, wait a few seconds for it to spread, then wipe it once across the sensor. Or flip it over and do it a second time if you think it needs it, but don’t wipe twice on the same side. You need to buy Eclipse cleaning solution to go with this.
Sensor Swab – Full Frame – Amazon
Sensor Swab – APS-C –Amazon
Eclipse Cleaning Solution (You need this) – Amazon
5. Photographic Solution Swab Kits
The Photographic Solution Swab Kit has a little bit of everything you need. If you have nothing, I actually recommend starting with this and you can see what you like and don’t like, then you can buy replacement parts from there.
This includes the sensor cleaning ewipes, the sensor swabs and eclipses. I’ll go into each of those individually and how they work below.
Full Frame Kit – Amazon
APS-C Kit – Amazon
Pec-Pad Lint Free Wipes – Amazon
5. Sensor Loupe
The sensor loupe isn’t required but it’s helpful to see and make sure you got everything especially on DSLRs where there is a longer mirrorbox.
It comes with 6 super bright LED lights built into the unit, has magnification and comes with a case.
You can also get this bundle this with a grenade blower.
Camera Sensor Magnifying Cleaning Loupe – Amazon
How Not To Clean Your Sensor
First – as far as I know, on Sony cameras you shouldn’t use cleaner with Alcohol in as it can mess with the coatings on the sensor. That’s what I’ve heard at least. I’ve also heard Sony say they use Alcohol products. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I stick with eclipse and it’s been fine.
Second – don’t ever use a micro fiber cloth or anything other than what’s listed above to clean your sensor.
For example, there are these gel sticks that have this sticky material. Never use those. It’s just about equivalent to using one of those sticky hand we grew up with that you can get from a quarter machine.
Third – never use canned air. It’s just to risky. You don’t want the little tube to fly out hitting your sensor, and you don’t want it to spray that nasty cold mist onto it either.
Good luck. These are the methods I use to clean my DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras. They’ve been effective for me both on my Canon 5Dmkii and my Sony A7r. Although they should work on most DSLR and Mirrorless camera sensors, but are by no means the only methods, just one of the methods out there that I like.
Please leave a comment if you’ve found other methods or techniques that you like to use for cleaning your mirrorless sensor.
What To Do If You Scratched Your Sensor
If you’ve scratched your sensor it’s not the end of the world, don’t panic, don’t get depressed. A lot of times scratches won’t show up or affect your image quality. If it’s scratched bad and is effecting your image quality then there is a fix. But it is expensive. Often times around $300.00 USD.
What you’ve done is actually only scratched the High Pass filter or UV filter or glass that sits in front of the sensor. You haven’t scratched the actual sensor. So you can take your camera in to be serviced and you can often get that piece of glass replaced. No big deal, just call your local service department.