Tuesday, January 21, 2020

WARNING - LASERS CAN DAMAGE CAMERA SENSORS by Blog Master

caution sensor issue
Story by Wayne Inverarity. My involvement with this cautionary tale began with good intentions and an advertisement in a local online marketplace. An individual was trying to sell a fairly high-end digital camera at a price that seemed too good to be true. The individual placing the ad pointed out that they had issues with the camera’s sensor. The seller suggested that someone with more expertise and time could possibly fix the camera or use it as a parts camera.

 

From a perspective of interest and wanting to help the individual, I sent them a message inquiring about the camera. At this point in time I didn’t know what the seller’s level of digital camera and technology knowledge consisted of. This began a series of back and forth messages with some suggestions from me. I first discussed the reality of dust on the sensor of an interchangeable lens camera, and how to clean, or have the sensor cleaned correctly. I did a little online research looking at that particular camera’s manual and passed on the information that it had a self-cleaning function that could clean the sensor on demand, or one that could be set it up to clean each time the camera was turned on.

 

spots laser damage flowers

Pink Laser Sensor Spots; (Photographer: Aven Wang)

As our correspondence progressed the seller and I discussed the issue further with me being sent sample images taken with the camera. There were indeed considerable spots for sure but they were a bright pink in colour. The spots were in the same position on each different image. The spots were not what I had seen as sensor dust spots in the past.

It became apparent that the seller had sought some advice prior to listing the camera and had been told that the sensor issue was likely caused by laser damage. Those little spots had actually been physically burnt into the camera sensor! The only permanent solution was to have the sensor replaced by the appropriate manufacturer. This is a relatively expensive solution that the seller was not prepared to enter into and was also not ready for post processing removing the spots each and every time an image was taken. The camera was damaged.

 

spots camera sensor

Pink Laser Sensor Spots; (Photographer: Aven Wang)

Further research on my part turned up the information that this was not an uncommon occurrence. Relatively low powered lasers can cause permanent damage. This of course holds true as well for the intense lasers that are used in astronomy and at most rock concerts. The optical lens was doing its best to focus the image including the lasers at the surface of the sensor. It was mentioned that the more moderately powered lasers were sometimes more dangerous. They were cheaply designed and manufactured and that their power might be poorly focused and thus could do damage well off to the side of the direction in which they were pointed.

So, buyers beware! Check that used digital camera closely, make sure everything operates as it should, and all functions are working. Take some images of the sky and look closely at those as enlarged files. It could be a costly and disappointing experience otherwise.

 

laser image

Burning Red Laser; (Photographer; Wayne Inverarity)

I commended the seller on her honesty in her listing of the camera as evidently the original owner had failed to mention the sensor issue initially, and to be charitable, may not have been aware of it. However, intent after the fact is hard to prove and strays solidly into the jurisdiction of speculation.

Several sources cautioned that the digital sensor is even more sensitive and more easily damaged than the human eye. So, for those photographers out there shooting wherever there are lasers in use, such as those common at rock concerts -  keep this warning in mind. Proper concert set up and planning includes trying to direct the laser show away from shooting at performer or audience eye level but it’s always better to be personally cautious.

Blog Posting submitted by:

Wayne Inverarity
Dip. Photography
B. Voc. Tech. Ed
PPOC, SPA, Hon-F.Ph

PPOC National Executive, PPOC Student Program Chair

PPOC Logo

Login

Person icon
Close