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Changing Lenses on DSLR Cameras to Minimize Dust Contamination

by Roger N. Clark

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Are you concerned about getting dust on your DSLR sensor when you change lenses? Below is the method I use to change lenses. I minimize the time a lens is off the camera, thus minimizing both the pathway and time for dust to enter the camera body. Using this method for several years with multiple DSLR bodies, I have found very little dust problems, despite changing lenses often in dusty environments, from the Serengeti of Africa to deserts of the American west, to dusty construction environments. Typically, I find that I have to only clean my DSLR sensors every few months, for a hand full of times per year. A simple blower almost always does the cleaning job.

The series of pictures below illustrates a lens change, with the camera hanging around my neck. Similar lens changes can be done with the camera on a tripod.

Figure 1. Prepare for the lens change. The camera is safely hanging around my neck. The second lens is firmly grasped in one hand.

Figure 2. Remove the rear lens cap of the lens to be installed on the camera.

Figure 3. With one finger on the hand holding the lens, push the button that releases the lens on the camera (in this figure, the hand on the right side of the picture is pushing the button). Your second hand grabs the lens to be removed. Note the rear lens cap held in one hand. I usually put the lens cap in the hand that is handling the smaller lens.

Figure 4. Twist the lens on the camera to rotate it into position where it can be removed from the camera (the red dot above the lens center indicates that position).

Figure 5. Now release the button that you were pushing and move the new lens into position beside the lens on the camera. Have the red dot up so the lens is ready to fit into the bayonet.

Figure 6. Now move the old lens out of the bayonet and slide to one side, while moving the new lens into position.

Figure 7. Next push the lens into the bayonet. The total time the interior of the camera is exposed is on the order of only a second or two, once you have some practice.

Figure 8. Twist the new lens to lock the lens into the bayonet.

Figure 9. Now put the rear lens cap on the lens that was just removed from the camera.

Figure 10. Switch hands if more comfortable.

Figure 11. Next, remove the front lens cap.

Figure 12. Then put the lens cap on the old lens. I standardize my lens caps were practical by using step-up rings. In the lenses shown, step up rings bring the filter thread size to 72mm. This speeds operation in the field and also reduces the need for additional filters. With fewer filter sizes, it also makes it faster and easier to find the correct filter size in the field.

Figure 13. Operation complete.

Figure 14. If action is happening, you can immediately grab the camera and start shooting. If you have time, you can put the old lens away.

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First Published September 2, 2007
Last updated September 2, 2007.