Monday, February 28, 2011

Upgrading Considerations

--> Sometimes knowing when to upgrade your equipment can be a no-brainer. Other times, it can be a little more tricky to decide if it's really the right time, and if it's really worth it to upgrade. Today, our purchasing department weighs in on some things to consider if you are in the "to upgrade or not to upgrade" situation.

  • How much resolution do you need? Do you really need the 18mp new camera? Yes, it may be cool to brag about, but stop and think about where and how you use your images. Do you print? Are you printing images above 8x10 or 11x14? Do you crop images or have to fix perspective a lot? Do you have a computer powerful enough and with enough space to handle the file sizes? All of these are questions you should ask yourself.
  • A new camera body maybe all you need. The added mega pixels and new features are sometimes enough.
  • On the other hand, maybe you should upgrade your lenses instead of your camera body. Are your lenses too slow? Not sharp enough? Think about how you shoot and what your limitations are with your current lenses. If you want your images to look sharper or want a shallower depth of field, you may want to upgrade to a faster 9aperture speed) lens, or to a lens with better glass (example: Nikon's ED glass or Canon's L glass).
  • Staying within the same brand can save you money. Hopefully you will not have to make a major switch to a completely different system. If you can simply change out one or two pieces it can save you money and give you new gear at the same time.
  • Consider buying used. Just because you are ready to upgrade does not mean you have to buy brand new. If you have had your camera for two or more years you might be able to upgrade to a newer model and still get it used. Also consider trading in your equipment to upgrade, instead of keeping all of the unnecessary equipment that you will probably not use again.
  • If you are going to upgrade your equipment, you should sell (or trade in) your current gear as soon as possible. Once new equipment models are introduced and get into the market, then the prices on the older models are going to start dropping.
  • Don’t upgrade too often. Take the time to do a little research on the camera, lens or accessory compared to what you currently have to see the improvements. Is the improvement in picture quality or the one or two new features worth the money?
Sometimes it's just not worth upgrading. If you feel comfortable with the camera you have and you are happy with the picture quality, keep it and use it. If you are just bored with what is in your camera bag, then consider adding some new items to your equipment collection such as a flash, filters, or other accessory.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photos of the Week

To get things started with our first "photo of the week" post (although the title may be a little misleading since we won't be posting every week), I've chosen multiple images to post, and decided to throw in a black and white portrait theme. (If you missed our "photo of the week"/Flickr group announcement, read it here.)

The Bargain Hunter
(and obvious choice) The Bargain Hunter, by: HamWithCam

day 144: shadows, tone, and curves.
Day 144, by: Cara Rose Photos

Old 620 film girl 1
Old 620 film girl 1, by: Cha Cha

A little windy (week 7 roll)
A little windy, by: LostNClueless

Voyeur
Voyeur, by: Jason/ shotgun1a


Thanks to everyone who has been uploading photos to the group pool- Keep it up and invite your friends to the group! If you haven't yet joined, you can do so here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Focusing on Focus

There are several components needed to create a great photograph including subject matter, composition, exposure, presentation, and focus.

Pardon the pun, but today, I'm going to focus on the focus. In doing so, I'll also have to incorporate some rules of composition, and touch on depth of field and selective focus. It's hard to talk about these issues without getting into shutter speeds, lens focal lengths, and special effects (both by camera settings, and through the use of filters), but we'll save that for another day.

In the days of film cameras with manual focus, things were a bit easier to deal with. You turned the lens focusing ring until the image was sharp, and you took the picture. With the advent of auto focus, things changed a bit. Most cameras had a small box in the middle of the viewfinder, and whatever was in the box, is what the lens focused on. This worked out fine if you had one subject, and you put it in the middle of the picture. Unfortunately, many pictures contain more than one person, and none of them were dead center in the picture. Then along came the focus lock setting on cameras. Now you can aim at one person, press the focus lock button, then re center your photo while the focus is locked. Even more amazing was what Canon called "eye control". This was a sensor located just below the eyepiece on the back of the camera, that would watch your pupil to see where it looked in the viewfinder, and would then focus on that part of
the picture.

Technology advanced further, and along came multiple focus spots (or zones). This meant that your camera would automatically set the focus based on more than one point in your viewfinder. Some cameras even allowed you to select the points in the viewfinder that you wanted to focus on. One of the latest innovations is called "face detection". This allows the camera to locate a face, or multiple faces in the photo, and then focus on them. This technology has advanced to become known as "facial recognition", and for most of you on social websites, "facial tagging".

With all that being said, here are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind:
  • If you're photographing a large group of people (3 or more rows), focus about 1/3 of the way in from the front of the group.
  • Use a smaller aperture when possible to get greater depth of field, and thus get more in focus.
  • Set your focus point on something with contrast (most auto-focus sensors won't lock in on a solid color).
  • Make sure that there is enough light for the camera to see so that it can focus properly. Some cameras and flash units have an infrared sensor to assist you.
  • Use a tripod when possible, as you will get sharper photos.
  • Consider turning on the IS or VR function on your lens. (This is best when not using a tripod, and shooting on slower speeds. Read more about IS and VR here.)
  • Don't forget that for a moving subject you'll need a faster shutter speed.

- Arthur Z.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shooting Through a Microscope

We previously covered different macro options including using macro lenses, extension tubes, lens converters, close-up filters, and free lensing techniques. There's another option to get really close, which involves shooting through a microscope.

Why would you want to shoot with a microscope? It can get you much closer, much more macro, than the typical macro options. It can give you a new perspective on the same old stuff, and add abstract and scientific elements to your images. Plus, it's fun and something new to experiment with!

My first attempt was with an entry level microscope trying to shoot through the lens with no lens adapter. This did not work so well. The images were out of focus and blurry. On my second attempt, I used a Hassleblad to Canon EOS microscope adapter, which uses bellows as an extension. This also did not allow the camera to get close enough to focus.

You know the saying "third time is a charm"? Well, it was true for me in this series of experiments with microscope shooting. On the third try, I used a Nikon Naturescope, which magnifies at 20X and it a front lit microscope (side note: most entry level scopes use back-light for the subject illumination). It uses 1- AA battery to power two LED lights beside the lens.

The Naturescope allowed me to use anything I could fit into the approx 4x6 platform. Items photographed were: A US Penny, a digital camera circuit board, a stiff bristle brush, and a leaf. They were shot with a Nikon D90 and the attachment from the Naturescope. Most shots were taken at F11.

a normal shot to show the items used

a penny, magnified 20x

circuit board at 20x

brush bristles at 20x

a leaf at 20x


It may take a little practice, but here's a few tips that I found useful:

- You may need to use a higher ISO setting to be able to keep your shutter speed and apertures high enough due to the light.

- Shoot with a remote or use the self-timer function (the slightest movement
translates into blur)

- Be patient

- Brace the camera (put it on a tripod or similar device)

- Use the live view function if your camera has it


* Click here for any in-stock scopes at KEH.com
* Enter the Nikon Microscopy Small World Competition (entries due 4/30)


© Patrick Douglas

Monday, February 21, 2011

Camera Cars

Some of you may have seen these before, but some of you probably have not. These cars were both made years ago, but are too good not to post about!

The Camera Van
Made by Harrod Blank, the van is covered with working cameras on the outside, and all sorts of other photography items inside. The van is also set up to actually take photos of onlookers.
The details about the van are pretty amazing, so I suggest reading more about the van here.
(PS- Blank also created a working "flash suit")
Camera Van
photo by: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, used under the creative commons license
maker faire 21
photo by: Dan Machold, used under the creative commons license

Camera Van
photo by: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, used under the creative commons license
Canon Camera Car
(we linked to this one before, but thought it deserved to be included here)

the original, custom built by Jay Ohrberg

Super Dave modified

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Portrait Session Tips

Yesterday we heard from model Miss Voodoo Valentine on the best ways to make a partnership between a model and a photographer work. Today, I wanted to share some tips for when you're not working with (pro or amateur) models, but when you're trying to get the best out of your subject who hasn't had any modeling experience (although some of these tips may still apply to model shoots as well). These tips are primarily focused for scheduled portrait sessions, whether you're in a studio space or on location.
Prior to shoot day:
  • Meet with your client or subject in person. The better they know you, the more comfortable they will be. The more comfortable they are, the better the photos will come out. If you can not meet in person, be sure to talk to them over the telephone instead of just sending an email.
  • Discuss ideas and concepts for the shoot. Give your subjects a preview of your work, and explain what they can expect during a shoot with you.
  • Make sure you know a little about the subject: their posing/modeling history, their interests (if it pertains to the photos), and their comfort levels and boundaries. Knowing their comfort level is especially important for boudoir and maternity shoots.
  • Talk about the “paperwork” ahead of time. Be sure to explain any rules you may have as far as payment, late fees, copyright, etc. goes. This way you get most of the intimidating and sometimes confusing and uncomfortable talk out of the way. Some of this of course may need to be discussed on shoot day, but doing what you can ahead of time is best.
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(getting subjects to loosen up... it's hard not to smile when you're jumping)
On shoot day:
  • Make sure your location is as comfortable as possible for your subjects. This mainly pertains to studio type locations, and may include things such as temperature, cleanliness, and spaces to get ready and sit down.
  • Always be kind and welcoming. Tell them at the start where they can get ready, use the restroom, and sit down. Offering something to drink, even if it's just water is always polite and welcoming behavior.
  • Set the mood of the shoot. If you need your subject to have high energy and are expecting them to jump around, putting on appropriate music may help to get them in the zone.
  • Keep spectators at bay. If you have a bunch of people running around, it's distracting and can make subjects feel uncomfortable if a bunch of people are watching them.
  • If you have someone that is having a hard time loosening up, do a fun exercise. I will sometimes do little warm ups such as having them jump up and down while taking their picture, or doing something that is silly and fun for the subject to participate in. Once they get warmed up to you and the camera this way, they are typically much better at posing for other types of photos.
  • If you're asking for a specific facial expression or pose, don't assume the subject understands what you want. Explain it to them with descriptive or feeling words, and if you can, show them.
  • Tell the subject if they're doing a good job and point out specific things that are especially working. This helps to build their confidence.
  • Once in a while, show the subject an image on the back of your camera (if shooting digital). This reassures them that both parties are doing a good job.
  • When the shoot is over and your subject is getting ready to leave, be sure to tell them “thank you”, and give them an expected time frame when they will be receiving proofs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From a Model's Perspective

Sometimes it's a good idea to take a look from the opposite perspective to yours. So today we have a guest contributor, model Miss Voodoo Valentine, sharing her thoughts on collaboration photo shoots between a photographer and a model. (The types of shoots she's mainly referring to today are fine art, pin-up, portfolio builders, TFP, and small scale commercial and/or fashion. The following tips and information may not necessarily apply to large production shoots for editorial, commercial, or fashion where both the photographer and model are hired by another person, agency, or company.)

My first impression of a photographer comes from their portfolio. The things I notice the most are versatility, lighting, and polish or clarity. They matter because they are the seed of inspiration. I am a firm believer that to get the best product from a shoot, both parties need to be inspired. I really enjoy when a concept is given to me to be played with and tweaked into a personal best. When a model feels that the photographers skill is higher or equal to theirs, they will put forth more effort to go the extra mile.
A collaboration is always an exciting opportunity, but again, inspiration is the key. To ensure we all give our best, we each need to bring something extra to the table. These things may include having a designer, make up artist, hair stylist, or props on hand. Another incentive (in addition to either pay or trade) is also nice, and may include things such as promotion, images for submission, or something new and special to add to a portfolio. Keep in mind that extra intellectual or financial investment cements a bond of purpose between photographer and model.

© Katelynn Rae Ralston
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A few tips to keep in mind...
Do:
  • Listen to comfort zones, and pay attention to what the model is interested in, so that the shots do not turn out flat.
  • Communicate on shooting.
  • Offer basic amenities, to show some sort of genuine care at working with us.
Don't:
  • Talk yourself up. We know your abilities are amazing and world renowned, please stop telling us. A photographer’s work does speak for itself, and where there is no harm in talking about method and inspiration, it is a huge turn-off to listen to you sing your own accolades.
  • Make it so rigid that when the time to shoot comes, the project is stifled by guidelines.

© Andy Silvers Foto
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Models should also meet or exceed the photographers standards as well. There is no harm in inexperience, but you may need to spend some time to help them in their weak areas. Good models should know their angles, and how to best optimize their features. The photographer should also search the models book to learn their best angles. When the photographers job is composition, the models is position. Key things for you both to keep in mind are: marks, angles, body position, eye and facial expression, and hand posing. If you find that your model isn’t quite acing the shoot, don’t just let it ride, communicate ways to make it better.

Do:
  • Suggest channeling a favorite model, not to recreate, but to inspire them to reach the next level.
  • Let them peek at the camera, so as to self-critique.
  • Keep a mirror handy, so they can be assured that they look their best.
Don't:
  • Ignore your intuition if they are falling flat (they want a good image as much as you do).

© Keepsake Photography

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When seeking a model for your collaborative shoot, choose potential. Even if a candidate doesn’t have the greatest work in her portfolio, how does she interact in her shots? Is she interested in your subject matter, size appropriate, and willing to put forth effort?

I admire skill, creativity, and investment equally. To me, the thing that discerns a great photographer from a good one is not only the visual clarity of their work, but also their dedication to it.

Model bio: Miss Voodoo Valentine is a pinup and alternative model out of Nashville, Tennessee. She frequently works with national photographers and has represented such designers as Liberator Latex. She can be seen most recently in the pages of Retro Lovely 4 and Pin Up Magazine. (Above photos are from the modeling portfolio of Miss Voodoo Valentine, used with permission. Photographers noted under each image.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ensign Cupid

The Ensign Cupid Camera, just in time for Valentines Day!





The Ensign Cupid Camera was introduced in 1922 and was designed based on a 1921 stereo camera prototype which was never produced. It's a simple metal bodied camera for 4x6cm exposures on 120 film. Available black model with instruction book, EX, $109. Find it here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo Ideas for Valentine's Day

Because V-day is just a few days away and we wanted to make sure you saw these great ideas, we're bringing you a bonus weekly post of fun photo ideas, Valentines edition.

* Create a Valentine's paper chain from photo booth pictures and paint sample strips

Redesigning Plastic Cameras

Getting crafty with plastic cameras can be fun, and the possibilities for customization are endless. The Diana World Tour is a traveling exhibition running 2010-2011 with stops in many countries around the world. Each tour includes an exhibition of customized Diana cameras by different artists and designers. Of course, people have been redesigning their Holgas and other cameras for awhile, but the Diana tour has really brought a whole new level of inspiration and fun to the practice.

diana world tour

Custom Diana (for the Diana World Tour), designed by: Cat Rabbit

Pimp my camera
DIY wood pattern Holga, designed by: Hildegunn

timrobot X LOMO - Custom Diana F+
timrobot X LOMO- Custom Diana F+
(for the Diana World Tour), Designed by: timrobot


There are many different types and brands of plastic cameras (both new and vintage), in addition to Dianas and Holgas. Why plastic cameras? Because they are inexpensive, toy like, low-tech, and fun.

Find a plastic camera at KEH to design and customize as your own...
I definitely want to go get crafty now, how about you?


* Customized Holga pics
* Holga Mods (other Holga modifications)
* Books: Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity, Fantastic Plastic Cameras: Tips and Tricks for 40 Toy Cameras
* Flickr groups: Fun with plastic, Toy cameras, + more
* Even Elsie Flannigan (artist and boutique owner) is getting on the plastic camera customization train by introducing limited edition hand painted Holgas in her shop.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Personalize Journals With Your Images

If you're looking for a personalized gift idea, look no further. A journal is a great gift idea any time of year because it's a simple gift that anyone can use. Personalize it with one of your photographs, and it can really add something special. Following is a simple project to create a unique journal that you can grace with your own photography.
Tools You’ll Need
  • Journal
  • Exacto Knife
  • Ruler or Straight Edge
  • Gel Medium
  • Artist Tape
  • Applicator (foam brush)

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Find a journal of your liking and make sure that the surface will respond well to the Gel Medium. The Gel Medium acts as an adhesive and sealant. Measure the cover of the journal and use a photograph that fits well into the dimensions of your cover.
First, place your photograph on the surface of the cover and use your artist tape to create a border/frame around the image. Remove the photograph and apply Gel Medium (with your foam brush or other applicator) to the surface of the journal and the back of the image. Mount the image onto the journal immediately, making sure your corners of the images are flat and there is no curl to them.
Let the Gel Medium dry for about 5 minutes, and then apply the Medium directly onto to the front of the photograph. You want to apply one coat at a time and wait 5 minutes before each coat, which will insure that the sealant dries clear. I find that 3 coats of Gel Medium provides substantial protection for the image. Carefully remove your artist tape after an hour or so, and let the Gel dry over night. This will allow the Gel to harden and fully seal the image to the journal.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Being a Wedding Photographer

Today we have a special guest contributor, Melissa Prosser, sharing some tips for those of you who may be thinking about getting into wedding photography.

Wedding photographers, it seems that there are a million out there. Each claiming to be a photojournalist, artist, capture real moments, etc, etc.... In this age of the digital revolution it takes much more than a decent camera and catch phrases to set yourself apart in the industry. It takes a lot of training, practice, patience, time, and EFFORT to stand out.
How I got here: I started out as an intern with other photographers in the Atlanta area. While interning, I formed my own website, and started charging what my peers were charging. This was a mistake. Charging too much for my experience level granted me only four weddings that first year that I had my website up. I continued working with other photographers while trying to get my own clients for the first 3 years. I’m glad I worked with others for a while, because I learned SO much from watching and observing these talented professionals that would help mold me into who I am today. When it was really time to fly solo, I chopped my prices in half, shot 14 weddings in one year, and gained a client and vendor base. The following year, I was able to raise my prices and shoot thirty-one weddings! I feel that I have seen a lot going into my sixth year in this industry, and with that being said, I’d like to give a little advice to those wanting to photograph the most important event in a couple’s lives.

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Be an intern. It is the best advice I can give anyone wanting to get into this industry. This is what taught me what I needed to know. Sure, having my art marketing degree is great, but the real world experience, and real WEDDING experience, under other professionals is fantastic. You get to shoot, and shoot a lot without the pressure of being the primary shooter. Learning the ‘ropes’ on someone’s wedding day as a primary photographer is just not a good idea. Being a second shooter or an intern allows you to hang out in the background a little bit more, be creative, observe, and shoot until your hearts content.

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Save on equipment. You can go completely broke trying to get all of your equipment at once. If you have the money, by all means, go for brand new, top of the line camera gear. But in reality, most of us don’t have that luxury. It took me many years to outright own all of my professional equipment, but I did it with no business loans and I’m proud of that fact! If you buy a decent camera body, then you can buy used lenses to test out the waters. It’s more affordable, and later on you can always purchase the more expensive ones. Another idea is to rent equipment and figure out which lenses and accessories you really want to have in your collection and spend the money on.

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Don't be afraid to drag your shutter speed. This is a classic amateur mistake. So what if your photo is a bit shaky at times? It can be a cool intended effect, or it can bring in ambient lighting into your photo and make it way more dramatic and effectual. I have held my breath many more times than I can count to drag that shutter and make the world look dreamy and romantic. (The image above was taken at night, with a barely lit venue. I dragged my shutter to a 15th of a second, put a little off-camera flash on the couple, and voila! Magic dance shot!)

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Use off-camera flash. Sure, bouncing a flash on a white wall is great… if you have one. In a lot of venues, this is not the case. Sometimes you may even be outside, with no light at all. This is why learning off-camera flash is so important. At all of my weddings, I have an assistant shadow me and give me some supplemental lighting when I need it. I dial in for the ambient, then give a little kiss of flash when needed. Using Canon’s awesome glass, this makes for wow images! (The image above was exposed completely for the sky, and the little peak of sun at twilight. My assistant was hiding in the corner with a flash aimed on the subject. Pretty dramatic!)

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Shallow depth of filed, use it! Shallow depth of field is your friend. I am constantly shooting below F2, and the results speak for themselves. Using a shallow depth of field really allows the subject to be the primary focus of the photo, and just lets everything else go into never never land. (The above image was shot at F2 outside as the sun was setting and we were losing light. The fast lens allowed all available light to come in, feature the couple, and just barely let us see the fabulous old car on the street.)

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My (secret) lighting tip: I adore shooting with a hot light/video light. Essentially, this is just a battery-operated light that videographers use with their own cameras. This lighting technique is great to use at twilight to expose for the sky, yet not overpower the subject. The light I use has a warm glow to it, which is so beautiful. It's also easy to use because you turn it on just like a flash light, and can then dial in for the ambient around you. Magic! (Shown above)

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The wedding photography industry really is an awesome one to be in. It’s not for everyone, and every wedding photographer does things a little different. In order to make it in this industry though, it's really important to have passion, patience, skills, and a clear vision and style. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade my job for the world!


-->About Melissa: Melissa Prosser is an award winning member of www.wpja.com and www.agwpja.com . She is based out of Atlanta, GA, and has been in the wedding industry for about six years. Prosser approaches each wedding with an artistic eye, unobtrusive approach, and sense of fun while documenting some of the most meaningful moments in a family’s life. She shoots with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon lenses. Her favorite lens is the Canon 85 F1.2 L lens.

all photos © Melissa Prosser

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sensor Cleaning Tips From A Pro Repair Tech

-->We've talked about dirty sensors before- how to identify, preventative measures, and a few tips for cleaning. Since it's so important and such a big concern, we thought it was worth mentioning again and adding to what we've already shared. This time, we have Bill Tomlinson, Manager at KEH's Camera Repair Center, offering up his advice on the matter...

Dust and dirt are one of photographic equipments worst enemies. It has a tendency to get into places you would think impossible. When it settles on your lenses or sensor, it may show up as a dark spot or smudge on your images.

I have found many articles on the internet, that in my opinion, are detrimental to your equipment and I would not suggest following along with those tips. I have found articles that range from using a dry tissue, to believe it or not, using a pencil eraser. One of my biggest concerns with some of these suggestions is that not only can they damage your equipment and lead to costly repairs, but they could also cause your manufacture warranty on your equipment to be voided because of improper cleaning. I highly suggest you read your owners manual and follow the manufacturers suggestion on cleaning sensors over and above any hints you get from the internet. When in doubt, always defer to the manufacturer of your equipment!

If you do need to do a sensor clean yourself, first try the cameras sensor cleaning function (if it has it, which almost all newer digital cameras do). Do not use the bulb setting because the sensor is electrically charged in this setting and can attract more dust. I have seen many repairs come in our repair center where the shutter closed on the swab requiring a new shutter to be installed. First step in trying to solve this problem is to blow the equipment off by using a hand blower bulb, compressed air, or specialized compressed CO2 products. Many canned air products are liquid based and should not be used for the cleaning of dust and dirt from your equipment, so be sure to check your air first. The keyword in trying this done correctly is GENTLE, so gently try to blow the dirt and dust off of your equipment. If stubborn specks or spots will not blow off, there are several statically charged brushes available for purchase. This requires touching the sensor and using gentle swipes to dislodge the specks. If specks or smudges are still present, the use of a liquid cleaner with a sensor swab can be used. This requires a swab the size of your sensor. Move/sweep the swab gently from one side to the other of the sensor without lifting the swab off of the sensor.

If these hints for cleaning dust and dirt from your equipment do not work for you, or if doing it yourself is out of your comfort zone, then visit us here at KEH’s Camera Repair Center, and we will be glad to professionally clean it for a nominal charge. 

Contact our repair center at: repair@keh.com, phone: 770-333-4210

DISCLAIMER: Perform these camera care tips at your own risk. We take no responsibility for any physical damage you may cause your equipment.