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Quick Tip: Avoiding Dust while Changing Lenses


Dust on the camera's sensor is a major issue in the digital era. If you aren't careful, you will find yourself spending tons of time cleaning up dust spots in the post production stage. With this tip, I'm going to show you how to prevent the majority of dust before it becomes a problem.

The Theory

The majority of dust that will be introduced into a digital SLR's camera's sensor area will occur while changing lenses. When the lens is removed, the camera is at its most vulnerable. Unfortunately, many photographers are using a lens changing technique that is introducing dust into their camera's inner workings.

There is a better way to change the lens. The key is to leverage gravity to our advantage to keep dust out of the camera.

The first step is to get really familiar with how to change a lens "normally". On almost every lens and every camera, there are points to line up that will help in the lens changing process. The more comfortable you are with lining up these points and changing the lens, the easier it will be to transition to my recommended method.

Practicing lens changes using the classic method is important to make sure you're familiar with the mechanics.

The Technique

Now that you have a good idea of how to change a lens, let's take a look at the slight change we need to make. The key here is to hold the camera so that the lens mount faces the ground, avoiding dust from falling through the air and entering the camera.

Another key in this situation is to have caps at the ready. Keep in mind that we are not only protecting the camera, but the lenses as well. A bad scratch or prolonged exposure to dust can impact the rear glass element reduce image quality. Keeping these caps ready and nearby is essential to avoiding exposing the lens elements, and protecting both the camera and lens.

All that we need to do is follow the standard procedure for changing the lens, except with the lens mount facing downward. Doing so is going to prevent the particles in the air and dust from flowing into the camera, since the camera is facing downward.

It's harder to determine the exact points to line up using this method, so be sure to practice.

Keeping the camera facing downward adds a degree of difficulty to changing the lens. That's why it is so important to remember how your lens attaches, and really practice it using the normal method before trying it this way.

One key note that I'll add is that camera brands differ in how lenses attach. My example uses a Canon camera, in which the lens is turned in an opposite direction compared to Nikon lenses.

Wrapping Up

Dust can be cleaned and removed from the camera or eliminated in post production, but it's better to avoid it before it begins. Holding the camera facing downward can be a bit of an adjustment, but will save you the issue of cleaning dust later on. We can use gravity to our advantage so that dust has a much harder time reaching the sensor to begin with.

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