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How to clean and maintain your camera and lenses

I see spots/dust on the image taken with my camera
The most common problem encountered by digital photographers is the presence of dust on the camera's sensor. This could have negative consequences for your photos, because those diffuse, dark spots can be visible on light-toned parts of the image. In most cases it is visible in blue sky like shown in the example below. It is sometimes wrongly thought that the spots that appear on photos come from dust on the Translucent Mirror, the electronicviewfinder or the lens. Dust on the Translucent Mirror or in the electronicviewfinder does not have any effect on the final rendering of the photo. Normal dust particlesin the lens will be too small and too far away from the focal point so that they will not be visible on your photos.
Which precautions can I take to avoid dust on the sensor or the Translucent Mirror?

It is not completely possible to avoid dust entering the camera, but there are many little tips that will reduce the risk dramatically.

  1. Turn the camera off before changing the lens. That will reduce static charge on the sensor and lower the risk of attracting dust.
  2. Make sure that outside of the rear lens element is clean and free of dust, before attaching it to the camera. Use a rocket blower to blow away dust and especially other particles that can cause scratches on the glass. Afterwards you can use a dry micro fibre cloth, if still necessary.
  3. Do not leave the camera with the lens mount open for an extended period of time. When removing a lens, place the body cap on the camera or replace the lens immediately.
  4. If possible, only change lenses in an environment which is dry and not very dusty or sandy
  5. When changing the lens, point the lensmount downwards to avoid dust falling into the camera.
  6. Keep the rear lens cap and the camera body cap clean and free of dust. When a lens is attached to the camera, you can attach the rear lens cap to the camera body cap. This will stop the caps from gathering dust or dirt, especially when keeping the cap in a camera bag.
  7. Keep your camera bag clean. You will be surprised who much dirt and dust will gather in your bag after using it for a while. Empty your bag completely and use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust and dirt. Make sure you take all small parts like memory cards, accessory shoe cover, etc. out of your bag before using the vacuum cleaner.
What can I do when I spot dust on my images?

SLT cameras feature a two stage Anti Dust function.

  1. Anti Static Coating of the Optical Low Pass Filter
  2. Sensor Vibration to shake light dust off that loosely settled on the low pass filter. (SLT models introduced since Summer 2011 (SLT-A77and later models) feature a more effective ultrasound vibration to shake dust off compared to previous models

This sensor vibration is automatically performed every time the camera is turned off and can also be activated in the menu when needed. As the camera-internal Anti Dust function is automatically performed every time the camera is turned off, dust that was visible on previously taken images may have disappeared already. In addition, normal dust particles are very tiny and hard to spot with the bare eye when looking at the sensor.

How to clean the camera sensor (resp. the optical low pass filter in front if it)

Sony can only approve one method of cleaning performed by customers, which is using a manual, rubber air blower (rocket blower)*. Applying other methods can carry a risk of damaging the sensor, respectively the optical low pass filter in front of the sensor, and invalidate the warranty of the camera.

To clean the optical low pass filter in front of the sensor, please perform the following:

  1. Turn the camera off so that it will automatically perform the sensor vibration to shake loose dust off.
  2. Remove the lens. Now you can see the "Translucent Mirror", which is blocking the image sensor. Use the rubber air blower to gently blow away dust that may have settled on the Translucent Mirror, but make sure that you never touch it.
  3. In order to reach the sensor, the mirror needs to be flipped up. Use your fingertip to gently press the mirror lock lever to make the mirror flip up.

    Make sure not to touch the surface of the translucent mirror! The mirror of this camera is made of translucent film. Touching the mirror may cause dirt or deformation, which affects the image quality or camera performance.


  4. Point the camera mount downwards and place the tip of the blower just inside the camera lens mount and give it a few bursts. This will usually dislodge the typical dust particles on your sensor and blow them out of the camera.
  5. After you are finished, use your fingertip again to gently push the mirror back into its normal position, until you hear a "click sound". Again, make sure you are only touching the frame of the mirror, but not the surface of the mirror itself.

*Manual rubber air blower/rocket blower: There are many manufacturers offering manual blowers, which can strongly differ in price and quality. Good rubber blowers feature replaceable air filters that will avoid blowing more dust into the camera chamber. A rubber air blower is an essential part of the photographic equipment and will most of the time give pleasing results quickly.

Note: Never use canned air to clean the sensor! The pressure can be too high and cause damage as well as small droplets of aggressive liquids can accidentally reach the low pass filter or the Translucent Mirror and cause serious damage.

Dust on the Translucent Mirror

The Translucent Mirror is a very sensitive part of the camera.

The mirror of this camera is made of translucent film. Touching the mirror may cause dirt or deformation, which affects the image quality or camera performance. Also, the translucent film can get scratched easily.

Never try to rub dirt, dust or grease off the SLT mirror and never use any cleaning liquids. This will damage the Translucent Mirror. Damage caused by direct contact with the translucent film will not be covered by warranty.

In order to keep the SLT mirror clean and to ensure optimum performance of the camera, use a rubber air blower* regularly to avoid the build up of dust.Also clean the outside of the rear lens element before changing the lens. This is especially useful before using the camera in environments with high humidity or danger of condensation. The combination of dust on the SLT mirror and humidity/condensation can cause the dust to be stuck to the mirror

*Manual rubber air blower/rocket blower: There are many manufacturers offering manual blowers, which can strongly differ in price and quality. Good rubber blowers feature replaceable air filters that will avoid blowing more dust into the camera chamber. A rubber air blower is an essential part of the photographic equipment and will most of the time give pleasing results quickly.

Note: Never use canned air! The pressure can be too high and cause damage as well as small droplets of aggressive liquids can accidentally reach the Translucent Mirror and cause serious damage.

Dust inside the lens

Dust inside the lens is a normal phenomenon and there is nothing to worry about. In comparison to dust on the sensor, dust inside the lens will not show up on your images. So if you spot dust inside your lens (easier to spot with the bare eye than dust on the sensor) you can keep on enjoying shooting!

Lenses have to allow a certain amount of airflow due to the lens elements constantly moving inside when focusing and/or zooming.If lenses would be fully sealed, the lens elements would only be able to move a little bit and then be pushed back by the air pressure.

Even when a lens is completely new, there can be a small amount of dust inside the lens already.This is not a defect. Lenses are manufactured with high care in a very clean environment, but it is not possible to be 100% dust free.

How to clean and maintain your camera body and lenses

Cleaning your camera body and lenses is essential to keep your equipment in good condition, but it is also a delicate procedure. That is why the best way to keep them in good condition is to look after them carefully:

Always replace the lens caps.
Keep your lenses in a protective case.
Carry your camera equipment in an appropriate bag.

You can find accessories here.

Some condensation may also appear if you are in a very humid location or if you move from a cold to a warm place. This condensation may lead to the oxidation of some of the metal parts inside the body, resulting in malfunctions. In addition, fungal and mould growth may develop and damage your equipment. To reduce this risk, it may be wise to keep sachets of silica gel in your carrying case. The silica gel will help absorb some of the moisture.

When handling your equipment, dust or other solid particles can lodge themselves in your camera body and on your lenses; fingerprints may also appear. Here is how to remove these without damaging your equipment.

  1. Camera body

    After a day at the beach, for example, grains of sand may lodge themselves in the crevices of the camera body. If they are not removed straight away, they may work their way into the adjustment dials, resulting in premature wear that will make your camera unusable. They can also harm the focus rings of your lens, seriously damaging it.

    The simplest solution for removing the particles is to brush the outside of the body using a soft-haired brush. Do not press hard as this will scratch the body or the LCD screen.
    A cotton swab may also be used if adhesive dust cannot be removed with a brush. A blowing ball is often effective for hard-to-reach places.
    Finally, if the camera body is soiled with harder-to-remove substances (mud, etc.), a microfibre cloth (easily obtainable from an optician), slightly dampened with water, will be perfectly adequate. Microfibre is recommended as this will not scratch the LCD screen.
    Do not use any chemical products such as thinners, benzine, alcohol, disposable cleaning wipes etc.
  2. Lenses

    Lenses need to be treated with particular care. The glass that makes up the lenses is very fragile and can scratch very easily. A lens should only be cleaned as a last resort. The optical surface is affected each time it is cleaned. Marks are always left, even if they are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. It is better to have a lens that is slightly dusty than a lens that is scratched.

    In our view, cleaning is essential if you notice fingerprints; by their nature these are oily and acidic, and can damage the anti-reflection coating of the lens. Dried water droplets and sea spray contain salt crystals that may also damage the glass and must be removed.
Removing dust and micro particles

First, use a rubber air blower to remove most of the dust. Never blow with your mouth. Doing this results in particles of saliva on the lens which leave marks that are hard to remove.

Next, use a very soft-haired brush to remove the dust on the lens. Do not touch the hairs of the brush with your fingers as this will make the hairs oily and will result in smears. Do not press too hard. After a day at the beach, for example, micro particles of quartz or silica may be resting on the glass of your lens and improper cleaning may scratch the optical surface.

Removing oily smears and fingerprints

As a general rule, avoid touching the glass with your fingers. If fingerprints are present on the glass, never remove them using your clothes or tissue. Their fibres are too coarse and may scratch the glass.

Use a microfibre cloth and keep it in a bag or your carrying case to prevent it from getting dusty.
If you need to use a liquid to remove oily smears, do not use tap water as the salts in this may scratch the glass.
Instead, wet your microfibre cloth in deionised water and, without rubbing, dab the surface of the glass.