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How often should you get the camera sensor cleaned


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Posted (edited)

I have a 2 month old a6100. I noticed that at F stop values of 8 and beyond, I see faint black ( almost pale gray ) spots , counted 10 in total , appearing on the top left side of the pics. I know this is sensor dust [ maybe manufacturing debris ? I hadn't changed the lens even once when I took these pics] and since they are not that much of a problem. Recently  I swiped the lens 3 times with a telephoto and the pancake lens. I had taken all the necessary precautions while swapping the lens. Today when I casually increased the F stop to 16 and beyond,  I noticed a prominent black string type thing on the top the screen. It's faint at 16 and becomes more prominent after F 18. 

My questions are , since I'm not aware of potential hardware issues and this is my first camera,  :

1) is it time to get the sensor cleaned? Will leaving the sensor like this cause damage to it in the long run ?

2) there's one auto cleaning mode in a6100, since it doesn't have IBS, sensor is more or less fixed at it's place. Will using this mode too often throw the sensor out of alignment?

3) how often should I get the sensor cleaned ? Will getting it cleaned every  now and then cause wearing of the sensor faster ? 

 

I personally  have never went beyond F 11 but just in case I go beyond 16, the string like thing becomes quite visible. I'm thinking it's also a kind of dirt particle, hair or fiber from cleaning cloth, which I use to clean the rear of a lens,  maybe. 

Edited by Kumar Nishit
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There seems to be remarkably little information on camera maintenance in manuals or even books on photography.

I discovered by chance that using the sensor cleaning mode, should be done with the lens off and the camera pointing downwards so dust and debris falls out of the camera. If more cleaning is needed a bulb puffer seems a good bet.

Check the lens before mounting it and hopefully this routine will reduce the need to take it to a specialist.

2 months does seem a very short time before needing it cleaned professionally.

Unfortunately mirrorless cameras are more susceptible to sensor dirt than DSLRs or DSLTs, which have the mirror to protect the sensor when changing lenses.

I've not heard of issues regarding sensor cleaning mode or getting the sensor cleaned professionally. I know some photographers get their cameras "serviced" every year but as yet I have not needed to do this.

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I've had little success with the in-camera cleaning mode. I suspect in inverses polarity of the sensor or something to repell statically charged dust. Cameras with IBIS do a little shake at the same time which might help a little.

Get a blower like this or similar, solves 95% of your dust problems.

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You are more likely to see dust when a small f-stop is used -- ex. f22 -- due to increased DOF.  An easy way to test for dust is to put the camera on a tripod and take a picture of a white sheet of paper.  It doesn't matter what lens or ISO you use.  Just use A mode and stop the lens all the way down.  Increase the contrast as much as you can.  If you have dust, it should show up on your computer screen. 

There are various ways you can try to clean the sensor, but actually you are cleaning the filter/cover of the sensor, not the sensor itself.

Dust should not be a problem if you use the camera and lenses carefully.  Most of the time, a lens is on the camera, and the shutter is closed (and the mirror is down -- if you have a mirror).  Pretty hard for dust to get in there!  Change lenses quickly in non-dusty settings with the camera face pointing down.

If you think you have dust, assume it's something else, and run the test above.

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12 hours ago, XKAES said:

You are more likely to see dust when a small f-stop is used -- ex. f22 -- due to increased DOF.

It's not neccesarily increased DOF but the fact that with a very small aperture light rays all hit the dust particle under the same angle and thus cast a very well defined shadow on the sensor. With a large aperture, light rays hit the dust particle under various angles and the shadow becomes diffuse.

This procedure only works to identify dust on the sensor. For dust on/in the lens the procedure is almost opposite. Set the aperture as wide as possible, focus as close as possible and take a shot of a distant specular highlight to create a very large 'bokeh ball'. Dust on/in the lens shows up as irregularities in the bokeh balls.

12 hours ago, XKAES said:

Dust should not be a problem if you use the camera and lenses carefully.  Most of the time, a lens is on the camera, and the shutter is closed

Unfortunately this is not the case with mirrorless cameras: the shutter is always open except for a brief moment when you take a shot. With mirrorless cameras, dust is something you'll have to work with. Careful lens swapping, regular use of a blower or some dry cleaning method like an Arctic Butterfly and if nothing helps a wet clean. Wet cleaning is best done by a decent service center or by someone who knows what he's doing, to prevent cases like this:

11 hours ago, alucca said:

I found that after cleaning it for a few months it's blurry and looks like it's blurred from moisture.

 

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Surprisingly,  I noticed that the thread like particle is no more visible even after going to F36. Is it possible that the camera performs auto sensor cleaning once in a while on it's own ? The dust specks are very small. In F26 + , they appear as very small black dots , like the one you can get from the tip of a well sharpened pencil. They are barely noticeable in the shots taken at F20 and bigger apertures. The thread like thing looked very ugly.  Looked like a tiny piece of yarn on the screen. I'm happy it's gone now. I'm sure the camera must have performed auto cleaning of the sensor. It must have settled somewhere at the bottom of the sensor area. Not sure how to get that out . 

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I don't know about your camera, but mine basically shakes the sensor every time I shut it off.  Getting pesky small dust off the sensor cover is usually accomplished with a simple, small, hand-operated blower.  Do not used compressed air, aerosols, etc.

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On 5/31/2021 at 8:59 PM, XKAES said:

I don't know about your camera, but mine basically shakes the sensor every time I shut it off.  Getting pesky small dust off the sensor cover is usually accomplished with a simple, small, hand-operated blower.  Do not used compressed air, aerosols, etc.

Which model do you have ? My camera shutter makes a click sound twice, with 2 seconds gap between the sounds,  before shutting down. This happens 3-4 times In a month, but not every time. I think this is when it does auto cleaning. Yes, I've read about about the cleaning precautions you have mentioned in your comment. 

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Posted (edited)

I was referring to my a850.  It has an anti-static covering over the sensor and a vertical, metal, mechanical shutter -- which is closed all the time except during the exposure -- so it's hard for dust to get in there, but when I turn it off it briefly vibrates the sensor to remove any dust.  In addition, it has a cleaning mode in the menu -- if the routine features are not enough.  No problems so far!

Edited by XKAES
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21 hours ago, XKAES said:

I was referring to my a850.  It has an anti-static covering over the sensor and a vertical, metal, mechanical shutter -- which is closed all the time except during the exposure -- so it's hard for dust to get in there, but when I turn it off it briefly vibrates the sensor to remove any dust.  In addition, it has a cleaning mode in the menu -- if the routine features are not enough.  No problems so far!

This camera model is pretty old. And Sony has stopped it's production in 2011. It's a wonder it's still serving you.  Did you buy a less used second hand one or the one you purchased is still holding up ? Camera design is nice. How's the auto focus ? 

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