Liam Photography Podcast: Episode 13 – The Diopter, Focus Screens & Cleaning Your Sensor

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In this episode I discuss The Diopter, Focus Screens and Cleaning Your Sensor Yourself.

Using the Diopter to adjust your camera to your non perfect vision so that your images are in focus all the time.

Replace that nasty Focus Screen unless you like looking at dirt specs and micro-threads.

Clean your sensor yourself and save time and money and being without your camera.

Links from this episode:

The Diopter –

Focus Screens –

Sensor Gel Stick –

Transcription by

Liam Douglas: 00:00 Welcome to the Liam photography podcast. I’m your host Liam Douglas, and this is episode 13 I want to thank all my listeners for subscribing, rating and reviewing and iTunes and any other pod catchers they might be using. In this episode I’ll be discussing the diopter focus screens and how to properly clean your DSLR censor yourself. All of this coming up on episode 13 of the Liam photography podcast.

Liam Douglas: 00:53 Hey everybody, this is Liam Douglas with the Leon photography podcast. You’re listening to episode 13 so the first thing I want to talk about in this episode is the Guy After. Now I know you guys out there. Some of you might know what the diopter is and others might not be familiar with the diopter. So as I’m sure most everybody’s aware, not all of us are blessed with 2020 vision and some people have to wear glasses or contacts. I personally work glasses, but only because my right eye, the vision is off just by a tiny amount. It’s like 2021 or something like that. It’s only off by very little bit. And I shoot with my left eye so it doesn’t really matter. But if you’re somebody that wears glasses, not everybody that wears glasses likes to have their glasses on when they’re doing their photography. And one of the reasons is the glasses tend to get in the way when you’re trying to look through the finder or whether it’s the optical or electronic view finder doesn’t really matter.

Liam Douglas: 01:58 Some people can get around this by using contact lenses instead. But even though it was contact technology has gotten better over the last couple of decades. A, they have contacts now for people, the stigmatism and stuff like that. Some people just can’t comfortably where Tom, uh, contacts, they could be allergic to the material they’re made from or it’s just not a comfortable situation for them. I know myself personally, I was born but lazy eye and my right eye. So I had to have surgery when I was two and again at four to correct that. And as a result, I never liked anything touching my eyes. So I could never wear contacts. So when I was younger and my eyesight was considerably worse than it is now, uh, contacts, we’re definitely not a route, but I could go. So I stuck with glasses. Now let me get back on track cause I kind of sidetracked a little bit.

Liam Douglas: 02:51 They’re talking about corrective lenses and stuff, but my point is on every camera where it’s a mirrorless camera, a Dslr, or even a film camera for that matter, all cameras, if you’ll look at the back of your camera where the Ip says, and on different manufacturers and different model cameras, it might be on the left side or the right side. You’ll notice that there’s a little gear, what looks like a tiny gear on either the left or right side of your view finder. And it’ll have little hash marks in it. Kind of like a, you know, the Hash marks for a grip that quarters have around their ages and dimes and stuff like that. Now what that dial is, is it’s called the diopter. And what that allows you to do is look through your viewfinder and on a a DSLR or mirrorless camera. You know already, probably that when you look through the view finder and you press your shutter button halfway down, you can see your exposure information in your viewfinder.

Liam Douglas: 03:57 You’ll see, or light meter, you know as far as whether you’re underexposed, overexposed, right in the middle, you’ll see your shutter speed, your aperture and your ISO battery life possibly, and some other things. It depends on how many of the options you have turned on as you look through your viewfinder and press your shutter button halfway down to activate that digital readout. It may look, especially if you just bought a camera brand news is their first time using this new camera or first time using a camera. In general, you may notice when you look through the viewfinder with your dominant eye that the text inside the viewfinder is boring and I might be only off by a little bit or it might be off by a lot. The diopter allows you to compensate for not having perfect 2020 vision. So what you do as is as you look through the view finder and get the, the, the digital readout that come up by pressing the shutter button halfway down.

Liam Douglas: 05:02 Now it’ll all, if you release the shutter button, will only stay on for somebody seconds. And that when I go back out for power saving mode or something like that. But anyways, as you’re looking through the viewfinder, slowly termed the diopter wheel with one finger, try it each direction and see which way you turn it. Um, as you turn it one direction first and then the other, see if the readout text is getting clearer and sharper to your eye. Once you get that adjusted perfectly for your eyesight, then you’re good to go. In general, you’re never going to need to mess with your diopter again. The only time you might next have to tinker with the diopter is the next time you buy a new camera. Generally every camera, you know, especially if you wear corrective lenses, you’re always going to have to sit and die after when you first get a new camera.

Liam Douglas: 06:00 So with that, keeping that in mind, again, you can use the diopter to compensate for not having perfect 2020 vision. And if you go over to the Liam photography podcast page, Liam photography, in the show notes, I will have a link to a blog article I did on this subject a couple of years ago on my regularly in photography website and it has screenshots, it has images and the first one is actually of the diopter on the camera and you can see for yourself what it looks like. It’s actually circled with a little red circle, that little gear that I was talking about with the notches and now it’s an extremely small wheel and the whole reason for that is just so you don’t accidentally bump it, you know when you’re carrying your camera or whatever the case may be, you don’t want to accidentally knocked that a diopter out of adjustment.

Liam Douglas: 06:52 And the reason why you want to make sure your diopter is perfectly calibrated for your eyesight is because if the diopters off, then your focus and your images will be off. And a lot of people don’t realize this. So a person will be taking photographs and they get the beep saying that the camera’s got focused lock, and then they snap a picture. And then when they look at it on the back of their screen, or later when they get home and they load the photos up in their computer, all of a sudden all their images are a little bit out of focus. The focus is what we would call soft. And the reason for that is they didn’t bother to configure their diopter. They didn’t bother do adjust the diopter to their eyesight. And as a result, your focus and your images can definitely be off a little bit softer or they can be way off.

Liam Douglas: 07:41 It just depends on how far out of whack the diopter is too for your eyesight. That’s gonna make a huge difference and huge impact on whether or not you get a tack sharp focus in your images. Or if you end up with slightly worry, focus slightly out of focus or way out of whack focus. So keep that in mind. If you’ve been trying to figure out why you’re not getting the perfect tech sharp focus with a decent lens on your camera, it’s probably that you’re diopters out of whack. Now it could also be that the lens you’re using my need to be recalibrated. That’s a possibility as well. And if that’s the case, you’re probably better off sending the Lens. Do the manufacturer and having them calibrate it and send it back to you. Not all lenses are easy to calibrate yourself. Some of them you can.

Liam Douglas: 08:32 I’m actually using a, the menu in the camera itself, you can have it do micro adjustments for the auto focus and some lenses like the sigma and the Tamar ons. You can actually get a USB doc for their lenses. They’re higher quality lenses and you would actually put the lens in that doc, it’s Usb powered and then that doc will calibrate lens for you. And it can also do firmware updates for the lens. As the manufacturer releases new versions of firmware to make improvements to the Lens, you’ll be able to also do updates for the lens firmware. Okay. So in segment two of this episode, I want to talk about the second item and that’s your DSLRs focus degree. Now I said Dslr. And the reason why I did is because this evict doesn’t apply if you’re somebody that only owns mirrorless cameras because you have an electronic viewfinder.

Liam Douglas: 09:34 So the focus screen is a piece of edge of glass inside DSLR cameras. And the only way you’re going to see, um, the focus screen is as you’re looking through the optical view finder, that’s what is part of the optical viewfinder. In other words, the light comes in and the image comes in through the Lens. It gets bounced up through the pen of prism up the all that good stuff through the focus screen up to your eye. Now you may have noticed over time with your Dslr, you look through your viewfinder and you’re seeing dirt or little micro fiber strings or something else for that matter, and you know that the dirt that you’re seeing is not on your sensor because it doesn’t show up in your images. When that happens, you’re focused. Screen has gotten dirty and the focus green can get dirty just like the sensor can get dirty.

Liam Douglas: 10:34 Unfortunately being that the focus screen is a piece of edge to glass, it’s not possible to clean it, so you either have to live with looking at those dirt specs every time you’ll look through your viewfinder or you can go on Amazon or you can go to your camera manufacturers website where there’s Canon, Nikon, Sony or whoever, and you can order replacement focus screens for your DSLR and you can change about yourself fairly easily. And if you are the show notes for this episode, I will also have a link to an article I did on the focus screens where you find them in your DSLR and how you can change them. It’s not really hard. If you’re somebody that you’re not comfortable doing your own repairs, an electronic items, especially an expensive camera, then by all means, take it through a local camera shop or send it into the manufacturer’s repair center that’s closest to where you live and they will do it for you.

Liam Douglas: 11:38 Now, if you’re a professional services customer like I am, I have a canon CPS gold membership, um, in January cannon and a lot of the other manufacturers, uh, we’re actually here in Atlanta for Pvas imaging USA 2019 imaging USA is an annual photography convention that’s put on by professional photographers of America and there had to go headquartered here in Atlanta as well. But when you go to something like the imaging USA, or though I can’t remember the name of it, but I know there’s a convention for professional wedding photographers and there’s different photography conventions that happen throughout the course of each year in different cities, states, countries and so on. And I’m, most all of these conventions, you’re major camera manufacturers are going to be on hand and they will generally always have a separate area at the convention for their professional services customers can CPS, Nikon professional services, so, and whatever, you know, whichever one you have, whichever one you’re a member of.

Liam Douglas: 12:47 And if you go to the CPS lounge, like I did imaging USA, you can go there as a CPS member and you can drop off your camera and have it professionally cleaned by cans, professional technicians, they will clean and service your camera free of charge. You’re generally allowed to send in your camera body for a free sensor cleaning, I think it’s once or twice a year. However, one of the nice things if you happen to go to any of the photography conventions is if you get it cleaned there by the professional services folks, that doesn’t count toward your annual cleanings. So in other words, as a CPS gold member or if I’m allowed to get uh, to sensor cleanings each calendar year and I haven’t used any yet for this year, which I haven’t. Um, but I did go to imaging in January of this year and I had my camera cleaned and service while I was at damaging that sense or cleaning as well as getting my focus screen replaced.

Liam Douglas: 13:54 Cause mine was a bit dirty and I’m OCD so I can’t stand and having anything in my line of sight. When I looked through the viewfinder, I want clear glass on my DSLR is when I looked through the viewfinder. So I took my 60 mark to do the CPS lounge while I was at imaging USA. Dropped it off. They not only clean the sensor for me and the routine thing, it’s on the camera, but then they also replaced the focus screen for me. Free of charge. Now if you had to go on even Amazon and buy your focus green or replacement one, they’ll usually run somewhere between 20 and 40 or $50 depending on the camera model. You know, a manufacturer and a few other things. So they can vary a little bit in price, but they’re generally not too bad. And like I said, you can change them yourself.

Liam Douglas: 14:45 It’s not super hard. The new, uh, focus screening actually comes with a special tool that you can use to carefully lift the old one out of your camera and set the, the new one back in place. Generally what it is is if you look through the front of your camera, where your lens normally attaches up inside towards the top of the camera, when you look through that opening, there’ll be a little metal flip latch. She usually spring loaded, I um, like so usually it kind of press release and a little thin metal frame will drop down and the focus screen will be inside that frame.

Liam Douglas: 15:25 And all you do is you lift out the dirty focus screen, set it aside and throw it away whenever you want to. Do you use the special tool to carefully pick up the new focus green. You don’t want to touch it with your fingers because the oil on your skin will mess up the ethical ass. And then you just destroyed a brand new, forgot focus green before you even get a chance to put in your camera. So instead you pick it up by the little tab on the bottom of the focus screen. It has a tab that’s part of the glass in the center. You pick it up with a special specially made tweezer plastic toys or you said it in the frame and then you just push the frame back up into place until it clicks. That’s all there is to it. And once you put in a new focus screen and then put your lens back on and bring the camera up to your, I looked through the viewfinder, you’ll see that now all of a sudden you don’t have any dirt micro strings or whatever you want to call them, are no longer showing up in your field of view.

Liam Douglas: 16:25 When you look through your vote, do you find her, so that’s definitely another maintenance item you can do yourself on your DSLR, fairly inexpensive to replace and fairly easy to do yourself. It only takes a couple of minutes. You just want to make sure that anytime you’re working on your DSLR and you’ve got your lens off it, there’s no protection for the sensor and the sensor is going to be potentially exposed to dust and dirt. And generally, I always tell everybody, because it’s a rule of thumb when you don’t have a camera lens, are when you don’t have the lens mount it on your camera. You never want to have that opening pointed upwards because it’s going to be easy for dirt and dust to fall down inside there and get out your sense or your focus screen. Get everything old, very in grungy. Yes. If it’s um, loose dirt and dust pollen, whatever the case may be, you can most of the time get it out when the rocket blower by flipping the camera so that the hole is facing down and then holding the rocket blower and blow the opening and gently blowing up and do it with the rocket blower.

Liam Douglas: 17:33 Don’t blow in with your breath. You’re going to cause more problems. You’ll get moisture from your breath in there, muck up your center, muck up your focus screen, whatever else you’re going to cause, all kinds of problems. So make sure you always use a walkup lower. You can get those on Amazon and a of other places. They’re fairly inexpensive if you get the small one. I think there are only like four or five bucks and the larger size one, which is what I have, I think it’s eight or 10 bucks, something like that. So they’re not super, super expensive, but that allows you to clean out your camera anytime you get dirt, dust, pollen, anything like that inside. Hopefully it doesn’t stick to your sensor, but a lot of times it will. And you’ll know if you have dirt on your sensor because you’ll start seeing spots in your images like a little, it’ll be like a little shadow, a circular shape, shadow light, light colored, dark spot.

Liam Douglas: 18:32 In different areas of your images, you might only have one spot and it might have multiple spots. It’s all gonna depend on how much dirt got under your sensor and that leads to segment three. Okay, so now I’m going to talk about how you can clean your DSLR censor yourself. You can also do this with mirrorless cameras, but you want to be careful because some mirrorless cameras are the sensors a little more sensitive than others and you could possibly damage your sensor. So this isn’t for the faint of heart. If it’s not something you want to tempt yourself, that’s perfectly fine. Take your camera to a local camera shop, send it into your manufacturers nearest repair center and have them do the cleaning for you. But it is fairly early or easy to clean your camera’s sensor yourself and there’s a great newer way to do it.

Liam Douglas: 19:29 The old way to do it was you go on someplace like Amazon or some photography equipment or assessory sites and you would buy these little cleaning tools that kind of looked like a microscopic squeegee. I know that’s not accurate, but this, it’s kind of what they kind of looked like. And what you would do is you would use that to gently brush across to your sensor that you’d get the brush it. You would order these components for your actual camera, whether it’s a full frame or a crop body or micro, four thirds or whatever. You know, because these tools came in different widths and you wanted to make sure you got one that was the right width for your sensor. So that way you could do a cleaning in a single pass. You know from starting from left or right going across your sensor and you wouldn’t have to make multiple passes.

Liam Douglas: 20:19 You could do it all nice and neat and one pass. Well that’s the old way of cleaning your sensor. The new more modern way to clean your sensor is a product called Sensor Gel stick sensor. Gel stick is a fantastic item for cleaning your center on your DSLR or a mirrorless camera yourself in the comfort of your own home or your little studio at your house or whatever you may have. And it saves you the hassle of taking your camera to a local camera shop or shipping it to your manufacturers nearest repair center and waiting a few days or a week or whatever the case may be to get a sense are cleaned and then sent back to you. And then of course you got to pay for it. And that costs can vary. Some, uh, camera shops as little as $25 to clean the sensor of some charges as much as 45 or $50.

Liam Douglas: 21:13 Now the sensor gel stick is a item that is a onetime cost of right about a $55 it’s 54 99 and the nice thing about it is you’re just thinking, well you know 55 bucks. That sounds like quite a bit. Well not really because the sense of Gel stick is an item that you’re going to buy one time and you won’t need to buy one again for several years, possibly longer. The Nice thing about the sensor gel steak is it’s this cool little tool that you can buy their maiden Germany. Now you want to make sure you go to the show notes for this episode. I will have the link to where you can buy the sensor gel steak off a website called photography life and you want to buy it there and there is a warning towards the top of the webpage from the show note links that’ll let you know, do not buy Sensor Gel, stick from any other place besides this website.

Liam Douglas: 22:14 And there was a reason for that. And I’m not saying this because I get a kickback. I’m not an affiliate or anything like that. And like I said, there’s, there’s a warning at the top of the webpage where you could buy the item. And the reason why there’s a warning, and the reason why I recommend that you go directly to this ID, your centric leading Gel stick is there are imitation items on Amazon e bay and they’re cheap Chinese knockoffs and some of these cheap Chinese knockoffs you can buy for as cheap as $5 but do so at your own peril. And what I mean by that is those cheap Chinese imitations aren’t built to the same standards, the same quality standards as the original legitimate sensor gel stick, which as I mentioned earlier, is made in Germany. And the folks that make sense there, Jill stick, I’ve actually gotten horror stories from customers that were duped into buying these Chinese knockoffs on Amazon.

Liam Douglas: 23:19 They figured they’re saving themselves a few bucks or whatever the case may be. They go to use these cheap Chinese sense cleaning gel sticks and they end up accidentally ripping the antialiasing aliasing filter right off their sensor, which is not good because then your camera needs a whole new sensor and that can be expensive. So you want to make sure that you get your sensor cleaning gel only from photography life website photography and as I mentioned, I’ll have the link in the show notes for this episode and this tool is a marble. So when you buy one of these and you’ll see the pictures of the product on the website, it comes in a nice little aluminum case. They flips open. Inside is the sensor cleaning gel stake, the instruction manual and some sticky papers. The Gel stick itself is a plastic handle and it has a small square on one end of it.

Liam Douglas: 24:19 It looks blue when you can’t learn, but that’s the plastic tent. It’s the plastic cover over the jealous type pad itself as well as the Gel stick is a little bit, it’s not a clear gel stick. So, but anyways, what we’ll do is you’ll take the are genuine sensor cleaning gel stick, take off the protective plastic container, the snaps around the end of it, set that back in the metal box while you’re using it so you don’t lose track of it. And then what you’ll do as you will turn on your DSLR. If you have a Dslr, of course you’re going to have to go into the menu, tell what you want to do, a manual sensor cleaning. And when you do that and you push that option in your menu, you will hear your mirror flip up out of the way. It’ll flip up and stay flipped up as long as your camera has power, as long as there’s life in the battery, that mirror, we’ll stay up.

Liam Douglas: 25:16 When that Mir locks up, it exposes the sensor. You can then take the sensor cleaning gel stick and you gently press it on your sensor. Now it doesn’t do the whole sensor in one shot, so you’ve got to do it in a little steps across, left to right, start at the top and then go across the bottom. If you have a full frame sensor, if you’ve got a crop muddy sensor, you might be able to do the whole sensor in one full pass from left to right. Um, but it’s all, it’s all going to depend on the size of your camera’s sensor. Micro four thirds might be a better idea. You might be able to do micro four thirds in one pass and maybe not quite the crowd body might take one and a half passes and a full frame sensor is going to take about two full passage because it’s a bigger sensor of course, but basically you’re going to gently press this slightly sticky pad that’s on the end of the sensor cleaning gel stick.

Liam Douglas: 26:08 You’re going to just press and lift, press and lift and just go a little bit at a time across the sensor and what’ll happen is any dirt and debris that has gotten onto your sensor that showing up near images, the sensor cleaning gel stick, we’ll carefully lift that debris back off the sensor. When you’re all done before you put the Sensor Clean Gel, stick back in. It’s a little plastic protective a suitcase. I guess you want to call it and put it back in its metal box. You want to take one of the pieces of sticky paper that came with it and just gently press the sensor cleaning Gels, sticks, sticky pad down line to that sticky paper and then lift back off. And you generally only need to do this once. And what’ll happen is the sticky paper won’t pick up any debris that’s on the sensor cleaning gel stick that was lifted off your sensor.

Liam Douglas: 27:04 So you’re taking the dirt off your sense around at the jail, stick off the Gel, stick out in the sticky paper and you put the end of the Gel stick back in. It’s a little plastic suitcase, snap it shut up. But the whole thing back in it’s aluminum box flows lid on the box, put it up on a shelf or in a drawer or whatever the case may be until the next time you need it. Now this thing is a marvel, it makes it a million times easier to clean dirt and debris off your sensor. It makes it pretty much so anybody can clean their own sensor. And as I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, yes, it’s $55 to buy the sensor gel stick. Like you only need to buy it once every so many years. I mean, depending on how often you need to clean your sensor, you know, one of them could last year, 10 years probably or more.

Liam Douglas: 27:55 So in the long run it’s extremely cost effective because you’re not going to need to spend $55 every year for a new center cleaning gel steak or every six months. And if you’re somebody that tends to be a little more forgetful, you tend to switch lenses when you’re outside shooting and when you probably shouldn’t or you do and you don’t remember to point the opening of your DSLR or mirrorless camera down towards the ground and in you pointed up towards the sky, you’re going to tend to get dirt on your sensor a lot more frequently than I will. And you’re going to need to clean your sensor maybe several times a year. But the point is you’re still going to be saving money because one $55 charge to be able to clean your censor yourself as many times a year she need to is a lot more cost effective.

Liam Douglas: 28:48 And then 25 to $50 a pop to have a camera shop cleaned the sensor for you. So there’s a little tip that will not only save you some money, the you to be a little bit of a DIY or and service your own sensor. Now, like I said, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re not sure it’s something you’re comfortable doing, I don’t recommend you do it yourself. Go ahead and take your camera to a local camera shop or send it to the nearest service center for your manufacturer, whether it’s Canon and Nikon, Fuji, Sony, whoever descended it to the nearest center am you know, 25 or 50 bucks. Whatever it is, they’ll clean the sense of Foria. They’ll ship it back to you when it’s done. All right, so there we go. Three items today you’re diopter and how do you use said focus screens and how you replace them to get a clear view finder again and your Dslr is optical view finder and the sensor cleaning gel stick.

Liam Douglas: 29:51 That’s all I have for you today. In episode 13 of Liam photography Podcast, I want to thank you again for subscribing, rating and reviewing and iTunes and anywhere else you might be listening to us. Be Sure to stop by and join the Liam photography podcast based, but group you do have to answer a question in order to join the group, but the question and you have to answer as the name of the host of the pot, this podcast, which is myself, Liam, that’s all you have to do is putting Liam or you can put Liam Douglas, either one and your end and that’s to keep the spammers and bots and all that stuff out. Also be sure to stop by lamb photography, where you can find the show notes, links, descriptions, all that good information, as well as any screenshots or redirect over to the blog posts on Leanne where you can see actual images that go along with those articles. All right, so I’m going to go ahead and wrap up this time. I will see you again in episode 14