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Can the sun damage the camera sensor? Under what conditions?

Title says it all...can taking a picture of the sun damage any of the components? And along the same lines, is it even possible to take a picture of the sun with a standard DSLR, or is the shutter speed too low?

I should clarify that I mean taking a direct picture of the sun during the day, when it's brightest outside.

My camera is a Nikon D90 DSLR.

marked as duplicate by mattdm, rfusca, ahockley, user2719, jrista Mar 16 '11 at 18:25

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First and foremost, never, EVER look directly at the Sun through your viewfinder. EVER.

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to point your camera directly at the sun, whether you're looking through the viewfinder or not. This becomes more critical as your lens gets longer - a telephoto lens is essentially a telescope, so you'd be focussing all the light, heat, and UV radiation from the sun directly into your camera, which, to answer your question, will very likely damage it, especially if you actually make an exposure (thus letting the light/radiation hit the sensor).

You can apparently achieve a quick and dirty protection system by stacking a couple of UV and skylight filters together. You can also buy special solar filters as well. However, all the advice I've ever read has always said that you shouldn't even risk that.

The only 'guaranteed' safe way to take a photo of the Sun is in fact to project an image through a telescope onto a piece of card, and take a photo of that. To be honest, without special equipment (e.g. a satellite), photos of the sun tend to be pretty dull anyway. The most you will see are a couple of dark patches (sun spots). The Moon is a much more interesting subject for beginning astrophotography, and it's also much safer.

  • proper purpose built solar filters are safe when used as designed. Stacking UV/Skylight filters sounds like a good recipe for damaging your eyesight, since they'd still pass dangerous levels of IR and visible light. – JerryTheC Apr 1 '18 at 17:18

Yes you can certainly damage the camera internals. Light is radiation, it transfers energy. Lenses can concentrate light and thus energy. This energy gets absorbed and converted to heat which in turn can melt plastics and glue, warp metals etc.

You can safely take photos of the sun (astronomers do thus all the time) by limiting the light coming in, the best way of doing this is before light even enters the lens by using a powerful ND filter.

  • You need to use a dedicated solar filter, designed for solar viewing/imaging. Normal ND filters may not be effective against dangerous and invisible IR and UV wavelengths. – JerryTheC Apr 1 '18 at 17:15

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