Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Akin to Should I be worried about getting dust inside my SLR? and What should I do to avoid switching lenses?, I have a certain paranoia of dust/debris entering my camera when changing lenses.

Are there any tips to avoid such occurrences? Which environments are better than others? Is there a technique to make it quick?

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On turning the camera off, see What are the dangers of removing a lens while the camera is on? –  mattdm Nov 28 '12 at 17:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Other than the obvious advice of avoiding switching lenses when you're in a an old barn or a flour mill or other particularly dusty environment, the main thing is be fast.

And the way to do that is to practice. With modern automatic sensor cleaning, dust isn't the plague it was in the earlier days of digital SLRs. So, don't be afraid to just start changing your lens more often. As with anything, as you repeat the task, you'll be able to do it more certainly and more quickly each time.

Many people carefully turn their camera so the lens mount is facing down when changing lenses. I don't think this really helps — dust is so light that it only settles downward in still air over a period of time, which isn't going to be the case when you're changing lenses. Since flipping the camera slows you down (by making it harder to see what you're doing and by simply making the process more awkward), I think it probably actually makes the situation worse.

If you are in a dusty environment, can't avoid a lens change, and are practiced at changing the lens without looking, you could change the lens inside a bag (one designed for this, a simple plastic trashcan bag, or your camera bag in a pinch if it's big enough). Under most circumstances (again, particularly because of the automatic cleaning) I don't think it's worth bothering.

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How do you feel about flipping the camera upside down if I am not slowed down by doing so? –  dpollitt Nov 28 '12 at 2:37
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I generally point my camera down to change lenses and statistically get much less dust. Even though dust goes down slowly, it seems to go up even slower. It also helps sometimes to shake the camera while it points down which I did a few desperate times :) –  Itai Nov 28 '12 at 2:49
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Doesn't dust on the back of the lens (which will be pointing up if your camera body opening is pointing down) also enter the camera? The direction doesn't matter, really, folks (although there is a slight chance that you'd be better off with a horizontal arrangement if the air is perfectly still -- like if you wear a snorkel or hold your breath while changing lenses). Get over the fear. If conditions are bad enough that you shouldn't be changing lenses, it'll be pretty obvious. –  user2719 Nov 28 '12 at 3:11
    
Thanks for the detail. –  tlvince Nov 28 '12 at 13:12
    
@dpollitt I don't think it would really matter. If you're used to doing it that way and can do it quickly, carry on. :) –  mattdm Nov 28 '12 at 16:50

Face the camera down when switching the lens. Rotate the lens to face down as well when you remove the lens.

Make lens switching a "critical" move that takes precision and efficiency.

Do it fast.

Clean lenses before and after shooting, use microfiber cloths or hand squeeze blowers.

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I have three main tips to keep dust out of your camera body.

  1. Change lenses in the cleanest, most calm environment possible.
  2. Change lenses as infrequently as possible, and consider using a super-zoom or all-in-one solution if the conditions are very adverse.
  3. Know your equipment, how to change it correctly, what lines up with what, and be able to do it in the fastest possible time, without looking if necessary.

Here is an example of tip 3, knowing your equipment. If you have a Canon EF-S lens, the white square on the camera body lines up with the white square on the lens when inserting the lens into the body. If you have a Canon EF lens, the red circle lines up.

dslr body ef-s lens ef lens

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As you can all see, my macro capabilities with a 50mm f/1.4 on my computer desk are simply astonishing. –  dpollitt Nov 28 '12 at 2:32
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+1 for the practical photos and advice! –  mattdm Nov 28 '12 at 2:33
    
This is also a great, to the point answer. Thanks! –  tlvince Nov 28 '12 at 13:12

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