Sunday, February 5, 2023

Preparing For A Serious Photographic Assignment

This article is intended for readers who are amateurs, semi-pro or professional photographers.

From what I know, a large number of photographers in Bhutan are constrained by the lack of in-country professional service - to clean and service cameras, in particular dirty/stained sensors inside their Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras.

I have an ongoing project where I am required to photograph intricate designs and motiffs. In preparation, my camera gear underwent a thorough spring clean operation. The camera bodies in use are Canon EOS camera system, equipped with two different sizes of sensors: 1.3X and 1X. I am using Carl Zeiss Macro-Planer 2/50 ZE f/1.2, 50mm macro lens, and Canon EF f/1.4, 24mm wide angle lens for the job.

The angst is further aggravated by the misconception that camera sensors are prone to scratching - if you attempt to clean it yourself. Nothing can be further from the truth. With proper care, the camera sensors can be cleaned by any one equipped with the right tools, and nimble fingers.

It is the same with the camera lenses – irrespective of how expensive they are - they can be cleaned by anyone with the right tools and attitude.

I migrated to the use of digital cameras in 2003. I have never once had the need to send my camera for servicing to a professional service center - I have always done it myself, and quite competently I can assure you.

Photographers go into a nervous fit when someone touches their camera lens because they think that the lens will get scratched. Not true - the lens can withstand a fair amount of bare-hands handling - as long as they are not abusive. The only two problems that I know of with camera lenses are that because of continuous exposure to the elements, dust particles settle on the front and back glasses of the lens. But they are not a problem - just wipe them off gently with a soft nonabrasive cloth. Even better, always have a UV filter mounted on the lens - it will prevent scratching and collection of dust on the front glass of the lens. The other problem is the fungal growth inside the lens’ elements. Well, if you have this problem, there is not much you can do - except that next time you are shopping for a lens, buy a better quality lens from a respectable manufactures - as they say - if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. In plain language, ensure that the weather sealing of the lens’ construction is top notch - so that there will be no mildew formation.

Caring for the camera’s CMOS/Sensor is a little more complicated - but nothing to be nervous about. You need three basic consumer level items that can be bought over-the-counter in camera shops or can be ordered on-line. The items are:

1.  Strong handheld air blower;
2.  Good quality sensor cleaning formula; and
3.  Sensor Swabs - swab size will depend on the size of the sensor inside your camera. They come in various sizes, mainly: 1X, 1.3X etc.

Various digital camera sensor sizes

The cleaning process and the method of use of the cleaning systems will be elaborately described in the accompanying literature of the products.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT is that your lens, and the sensor, should be clean at all times. Particularly if you have an important photographic assignment coming up, you need to check and ensure that your camera gear is in top form. This can be established by taking a few sample test shots. Particularly if your assignment involves macro or close-up photography, you will need to make sure that there are no grimes on your sensor or the lenses.

Close-up and macro-photography will entail cranking up the lens’ aperture to the region of the stratospheric: f/22 & f/32. This means that the lens will pick up even the invisible spots on the sensor. It will show up on the final image – something you DO NOT WANT.

For bird photography, it is not so important because we shoot between aperture settings of f/4 & f/5.6 at the most. At this aperture range, the lens will not pick up any dust on the lens’ front/back, or grime/dust on the camera’s sensor.

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