Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


As typical of manufacturers it’s all about selling the product with little to no help when it comes to looking after and maintaining your new large sensor camcorder.

I received an email from a chap in Australia telling me that he had just purchased a PMW-F3 plus lens kit but the only problems seemed to be dust getting onto the sensor and asked me for any advice.

I am not a fan of sending anything back to any manufacturer at the best of times and searching the internet this evening was horrified to discover that most video retailers are telling us to send your camera to a recognised dealer in order to remove dust from the sensor.

Totally impracticable, no one in their right mind is going to be in a position to send back their camcorder to an approved source in order for them to clean the sensor, if you are on the second last day of an important shoot in the middle of a rain forrest for example.

My strong advice is to minimise contamination by using a lint free changing bag the same bag you would use for a DSLR. B&H have a bag with dimensions 64 x 56 x 38cm which would be big enough to allow you to stick an F3, AF101 or an FS100 into the front end keeping dust and contaminates away from your sensor.

It seems to me that there is a market for a clear changing bag, one that lets you see the camera while you are changing the lens.

If all else fails you need to kit yourself out with a sensor brush and a foot operated foot pump…

1. Blow the dust off the filter.
It’s never a good idea to come in physical contact with the low pass filter and sensor as these components are very fragile and can be easily scratched. A scratch will refract the light coming through and any picture you take will be ruined. Thus the first cleaning step is to blow off the dust from the filter. If the sensor isn’t too dirty, this will be the only step you need to take. Some veteran photographers and manufacturers recommend using a foot operated air pump (the kind used to fill inflatable kiddy pools) as this will leave both your hands free. It’s important that you blow only small amounts of air into the filter’s surface. This will usually be enough to blow away large loose dust particles. If you’re using a blower with a nozzle, make sure the nozzle doesn’t come in contact with the filter. The weakness of this method is that dust that’s been stuck on the filter through moisture won’t be removed.

2. Brush the dust off the filter.
If after blowing, dust still remains on the low pass filter, you will need to escalate your cleaning to utilization of a brush. The brush referred to isn’t just any generic one that can be bought from an art or hardware supply store. Camera cleaning kits come with sensor cleaning brushes whose bristles are specially designed to become electrostatic and attract stuck dust particles. They are also non-abrasive enough to touch the filter’s surface. To charge the brush, you will need to blow at it (use the air pump). Afterwards run the brush lightly on the filter in one stroke and in one direction. Blow on the brush again after a swipe to remove any collected dust.

The above advice is from One Slide Photography

Lastly the new Sony FS100 seen above will be far more prone to dust as the sensor apart from being Super 35mm is fairly close to the front of the camera itself. There is no easy way to keep all dust out of your camera but some good house rules are as follows…

1. Do not change your lens outside in the open air if possible.

2. Keep the lens change to a minimum, have the second lens in your other hand ready to pop on.

3. Keep a lint free changing bag at the ready on the occasion that a change is needed in a dusty environment, plastic bags are full of static charge and may attract dust.

4. Never use chemicals or use compressed air in a can as this will leave a residue on your sensor.

5. Do not try to clean your sensor outdoors, inside a car is better but remember it won’t be dust free.

I am sailing against the wind with this article but manufacturers have no one to blame but themselves, it is totally impractical for anyone to expect to send their camera back to an approved reseller every-time your camera gets a bit of dust on the sensor.

If you are in the position of having to get rid of dust from your sensor the top tip is to be extremely careful and never let anything touch the sensor itself as a scratch could be more harmful than the dust you were planning to get rid of.



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

One thought on “Cleaning the sensor of an interchangeable lens camcorder

  1. Nice article. My FS100 had a spot showing up on footage that was driving me crazy. Change lens, spot is still there. Sometimes clear, sometimes softer, but there. Must be the sensor.
    I will also be using better habits when it comes to
    changing lenses.

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