Cleaning Your Camera Sensor

copper hill basic kit
Copper Hill basic sensor cleaning kit

It will happen to you some day.  You’ll be shooting pictures or video and notice a smudge, spot or smear on your pictures, particularly after running color correction.  Don’t panic, it happens to everyone at some point in their photography career.

There are two basic ways of dealing with a dirty sensor: Shipping it off to a service center to have it done professionally, or doing it yourself.

If your camera is still under warranty, then sending it off would be the default option.  If not, then you might consider doing it yourself.  I’ve had cameras come back from the service center just as dirty as when I sent them in.  Once the spec on the sensor was still there, I don’t think they even looked at it.  If you’re careful and patient, you can do it safely on your own.

The Copper Hill Method  Carries cleaning kits sized specifically for different camera models.  There are a couple things you will want to get besides the basic kit.

Your best bet is to get the Mega-Kit which wasn’t offered when I ordered mine.  For sure get the Sensor View magnifier or pick up a lighted magnifier somewhere else.  That makes working in the dark insides of your SLR a lot easier.

The other component you’ll definitely need is the SensorSweep brush or similar static brush.  I’ve never seen fibers cling for desperate life like they do inside the sensor chamber.  It’s like they’re glued on sometimes.

Don’t use any kind of metal tools inside your sensor chamber unless you really know what you’re doing.

Copper Hill has detailed, step-by-step instructions for sensor cleaning.  I would advise going through the tutorials carefully and lay your cleaning supplies out in advance.

A dirty sensor isn’t the end of the world, but if you scratch the sensor, it’ll be the end of your camera.  Be patient, careful, and gentle and you’ll be fine.

Canon Adds Three New Point-and-Shoot Models

SX 150
The Canon SX 150 IS
Canon announced three new additions to their point-and-shoot line of digital cameras.  One difference between Canon and Nikon, when Canon makes an announcement, the cameras are usually already in stores.

The SX150 is an incremental update to the SX130.  Canon bumped up the image resolution to 14 megapixels with a 1/2.3 in sensor.  Backing that up is the newer DIGIC 4 image processor, which brings several improvements to image processing and fixes to the continuous auto-focus.

Video mode is limited to 720 at 30 fps as it looks like Canon put most of the effort into the Smart Auto features on this model.

The SX150 offers RAW image storage and full manual control, not bad for a camera in the $250 range.

PowerShot ELPH 510 HS

510 HS
Canon 510 HS

A smaller frame camera still packing a 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3 in sensor coupled with the DIGIC 4 processor.  The 510HS supports 1080 HD at 24 fps or 720 at 30 fps and runs it all from a 3.2 touch panel LCD on the back.

There some interesting features, such as an option to take a picture by tapping the LCD screen, although I’m not entirely certain why you’d want to do that.

PowerShot ELPH 310 HS

The 310 HS is a slightly scaled back version of the 510.  It’s fitted with the same 12.1 megapixel sensor and the same DIGIC 4 image processor.

With the 310 HS you’re limited to an 8x zoom, a slightly smaller LCD screen and without the touch panel controls.

canon 310 HS
Canon 310 HS

Interestingly the 310 HS also shoots 1080 HD at 24 fps, making the 310 and 510 the pocket cam choice for people using their full-size DSLRs primarily for video.

If you’re like most photographers and don’t understand why 24 fps is better than 30 fps for video, stayed tuned to this site for an extended post on DSLRs for video in the near future.

Nikon Pops New P7100

Nikon has always impressed with me with their competitive nature and the Coolpix P7100 shows that commitment to continuous improvement.  The P7100 fixes a lot of the pain points present in the P7000 and adds some interesting new features.

nikon p7100
The Nikon P7100 fixes a lot of the niggling issues in the P7000

The P7100 is primarily aimed at consumers who don’t want to haul a full size SLR but still want the manual controls.  The camera sports an external hot shoe, a flip-out LCD screen, and retains the ability to store RAW images.

Inside the P7100 sports a 9.98 MP, 1/1.7” CCD sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 6400.  Behind the sensor is the refined EXPEED C2 image processing, meant to deliver better resolution across ISO settings.  The noise reduction as been tweaked to protect fine detail in the pictures and the purple fringing reported by some P7000 users has been reduced.

Everything is faster in the P7100.  The RAW and RAW+JPG is much improved in the newer model, along with faster start up times.  The shutter lag has been trimmed from 300ms to 200ms, and the AF system is faster, as is the transition between playback and shooting.

Another nice feature is the ability to lock exposure in video mode, something video editors trying to set color correction will appreciate.  The only unfortunate development is the switch to 30 fps instead of 24 fps in the P7000.  Anyone who thinks 24fps to 30fps is an improvement probably doesn’t do a lot of video work.

Price point for the P7100 is expected to be around $499, shipping in September.

Sony Launches NEX-7 and NEX-5N

Sony Nex-7
Sony NEX-7 - More proof good things come in small packages

Sony announced two new models to their growing mirrorless, small-frame camera line.

The NEX-7 and NEX-5N both sport APS-C sensors, support interchangeable lenses, and video with the new AVCHD Progressive codec.

The NEX-7 carries the new 23.4 MP APS-C sensor backed up by the Boinz image processor, capable of writing 10 full-resolution images per second in burst mode.

Most of the external controls in the NEX-7 have been migrated to menus in their Tri-Navi menu system, which uses a combination of two unmarked physical dials and scroll wheel on the back to access camera functions.

The ISO rating is an eye-popping 100-16000, making that a significant leap over the NEX-5.

Video mode offers 1080p HD at 60 fps and 24 fps along with full manual control over exposure along with a selection of creative effects.

Also new to the NEX-7 is the built-in viewfinder, which is an add-on for the NEX-5N that also happens to block the port used by the flash, an unfortunate design choice.

The NEX-7 is almost the same size as the NEX-5, maybe a bit taller, and sports a redesigned grip which adds quite a bit to the stability.

Price for the NEX-7 is expected to be around $1,350 with an 18-55 f/3.5 kit lens, delivery in November.

Nex 5N
NEX-5N - Small frame, big features

The NEX-5N is fitted with the new 16.1 MP APS-C CMOS sensor that features the ability to select electronic first curtain to speed up capture times.

The 5N offers the same AVCHD 1080p video modes in 60 fps and 24 fps.

Menu options are similar to the NEX-7, except the 5N adds touch screen capability to the LCD back screen.

The ISO range is rated from 100 to 25,600, which means we should be able to expect some mind-blowing low light performance.

The NEX-5N offers a lot of features for $600.  Add the 18-55mm zoom for another $100.  Not exactly a pocket camera with the interchangeable lenses, but a sweet camera loaded with a lot of attractive features in a small frame.

Sony Announces SLT-A77 and SLT-A65

Sony A77
The Sony SLT-A77 takes aim at Nikon and Canon

Sony announced new entries to compete with Nikon and Canon, demonstrating they’re serious about trying to carve out a foothold in the digital camera space.

Sony SLT-A77

The A77 comes packed with features aimed at the Canon 7D and Nikon D5100 and could be compelling enough to wrestle some business away from the market leaders.

Built with a magnesium-alloy shell, the A77 provides clear testimony to the success of Sony’s push to improve the fit and finish of their cameras.

Inside Sony has fitted the A77 with an APS-C chip behind a translucent mirror.  Instead of a flip-up mirror, the A77’s translucent mirror remains fixed and allows continuous auto-focus both in burst mode and movie mode.  This feature was first introduced in the A55 and improved for this generation.

Several features are aimed at sports photography, including the ability to shoot 12 full-resolution images in burst mode with a shutter delay as low as 0.05 seconds.

The video capabilities have been enhanced, with the introduction of the AVCHD Progressive codec.  The A77 can deliver 1080p in either 60 fps or 24 fps and boasts a continuous shooting time of 29 minutes.

The LCD screen has dual-hinge, three-way tilt shift capability, something Canon users will envy when shooting outside on sunny days.

For audio the A77 has stereo mics, but strangely didn’t include any manual audio controls.

The Sony A65 has very similar capabilities in a plastic shell and the burst mode only handles 10 pictures instead of 12.

The A77 will have a $2,000 kit price and the A65 will weigh in at $999 with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Instead of a lower price point, Sony opted for the “more for your money” approach.  It will be interesting to see if it works.