Dust in my digital eye
June 18, 2007 5:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I get dust out of the inside of my lenses?

I've been noticing some black spots on my photos lately, and I've tracked it down to dust inside my lenses (my dSLR seems much more sensitive to this than my old film cameras). Is it possible for me to clean the inside of my lenses out by myself? How do I do it? If it's really a professional job, how much should I expect to pay for it and where should I take them?
posted by backseatpilot to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
I got sand in one of my lenses, and took it in to a local shop - they were going to send it somewhere to get cleaned, but would not guarantee that the lens would come back functioning or clean, and the charge was going to be just about what the lens cost new ($300), so I just bought a new lens. Just an anecdotal story, of course, and I didn't shop around for a better rate. Now I know a bit more and would have called up the maker of the lens and inquired about factory service.

If it's a zoom lens the chance of putting it back together yourself is pretty slim.
posted by voidcontext at 5:37 PM on June 18, 2007

Do you mean between the elements? If so, I think it is toast.
posted by caddis at 5:51 PM on June 18, 2007

Much more likely, it's dust on the sensor. Google around about that. There's plenty of info about cleaning.
posted by rbs at 6:02 PM on June 18, 2007

yeah, check dust on the sensor before anything else.

dust on the lens shouldn't ever show up on the picture(at least as black spots) unless the dust particles are HUGE or there is a lot of it.
posted by PugAchev at 6:12 PM on June 18, 2007

Well, I'm inclined to think it's in the lens because I've already cleaned off the sensor. Plus, if I open the aperture and look through the lens I can see some black specks stuck in there. They're just older manual fixed length lenses - how difficult is it to take them apart?
posted by backseatpilot at 6:23 PM on June 18, 2007

Letting us know make and model of the lens would help us judge feasibility.

But it's probably toast. No user serviceable parts inside. You might try blowing some air around it (shop vac/air compressor) but you have just as good a change of sucking/blowing more crap into the lens.

Unless they are very old I wouldn't hold out much hope of being able to take them apart and put them back together again yourself. They are usually factory closed sealed systems.

Call around to your local camera shops for estimates. You'll be able to tell by their attitude of how possible this is.
posted by Ookseer at 6:47 PM on June 18, 2007

Post some affected pictures so we can see. I'm inclined to think dust on the sensor too. Dust in the lens will affect sharpness, but wouldn't produce sharp spots.
posted by DarkForest at 7:09 PM on June 18, 2007

Alright, I've cleaned everything out with compressed air, including the sensor. If they still show up I'll have to go to the camera shop, I suppose. Thanks!
posted by backseatpilot at 7:38 PM on June 18, 2007

It might be mildew/mold in the lens, especially if you can see it and the location corresponds to the spots on your photos. This is a bad thing and depending on the cost of the lens may not be worth fixing. $300 seems like a lot to fix a lens tho, I've never paid more than $50-$100 to get one cleaned.
posted by fshgrl at 11:26 PM on June 18, 2007

Black spots? How defined are they? Sounds like the problem lies behind the lens.

If they're older primes, you might -- with care -- be able to take them apart yourself. Go through the front if possible. It's precision stuff, one slight adjustment can put the focus scale way out of whack.

But there ain't no harm in tinkering.
posted by popcassady at 5:03 AM on June 19, 2007

Dust inside a lens will not show up as "black spots" in pictures. In a severe case, if it's really dusty in there, contrast will be reduced and there will be some loss of sharpness, but the dust itself is so far out of focus for it to be impossible to distinguish it by any shape. The only way to get abnormalities of recognizable shape in pictures is for the culprit to be in contact with or very close to the sensor or film. Just because you can't see dust on a sensor doesn't mean it's not there. Very small particles can make themselves known in images.

First try getting a good blower, like a rocket blower to clean it. Failing that, consider a professional cleaning.
posted by normy at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2007

Yes, you can clean the sensor yourself, but screw up and the sensor is toast. I know someone who toasted the sensor on a $6,000 Canon. Ouch. A sensor cleaning primer.
posted by caddis at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2007

Just to add to what caddis said, cleaning a sensor with anything that actually touches it is not a job for the faint of heart. You need to be confident you know what you're doing and proceed with great care in a clean environment. There are cleaning kits you can buy, but they don't guarantee results and aren't cheap. Alternatively, this is a routine and relatively inexpensive job for the service dept. of camera manufacturers and you're most likely better off sending it to them and paying for it to be done properly.
posted by normy at 8:14 AM on June 19, 2007

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