Dust, sand, and dirt damaging your camera gear

Dust is everywhere, and at some point you’re bound to get some of it in your dSLR no matter how perfectly you keep it. Somehow, this pesky stuff just has a way of creeping into your camera and making a beeline for your CMOS sensor, and then appearing where you want it least in your favorite new images. Dust, however, isn’t particularly damaging other than it mars an image to the point that you’ll need to clean the sensor and then use your image-editing software to get spots out of your photo.

Sand and dirt, conversely, have a harder time getting into your gear because the particles are physically larger than a piece of dust. But if a particle (or more!) does get into your camera, it can wreak havoc on moving parts as well as on your sensor, stopping mechanical movements and scratching a sensor or lens surface. Even just getting it into a shutter release button or CompactFlash or SD slot can be a problem and might literally grind your photography to a halt.

It just makes good sense to keep your equipment protected from dust, sand, and dirt and to limit its exposure to them by using a good-quality camera bag and, in extreme cases, individually protecting the body and lenses with sealed bags or cases. Even zipper-style bags make for good protection in a camera bag that you take into places where sand and dust are blowing, such as were the conditions in 10-1. Using a lens cap and a haze filter will help protect your lenses, as well.

Photographing in conditions and locations where sand and wind are impossible to avoid, such as at the Ancient Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, you need to protect your camera as much as possible. Taken with a 1D Mark IIn using a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 100, f/9, and 1/800 second.

When changing lenses, if you can, do it in a place that’s not windy or even breezy, such as inside a building or a vehicle. You can also add additional protection by covering your lenses and camera body with a jacket or other article of clothing. Make sure you always turn your camera off before dismounting a lens. If you know your camera well enough, you should be able to easily change lenses without looking at them or the camera.

You should also be careful when you open your camera to change flash cards and batteries. CompactFlash cards, especially, can be sensitive because they contain tiny ports into which an array of minute pins is inserted when you put it into your camera.

A particle of sand that is inside the port can clog it, and if it’s in-between pins, it can push one to the side — preventing any card from working in your camera.

If you get sand, dust, or dirt in your camera, use a bulb-type blower and a soft brush to remove particles from the outside of your camera, such as those in buttons or the other nooks and crannies of its surface. Use the blower first, and then brush the remaining particles away to avoid scratching anything. Inside the camera, such as on the mirror, be extra careful when you blow and brush; you can also use gravity to your advantage by holding the camera with the open side facing downward so that particles simply fall out when they are loosened by the blower and brush — otherwise, you might simply just move them around in the same space. I discuss how to work with a dirty CMOS later in this chapter in the section on sensor cleaning.

Category: Camera care

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