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How-to's Camera Reviews

Creating and using a dust-off reference photo

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: nikon, d2x, camera, bodies

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Dust bunnies are a fact of life, under the bed, and on your camera's CMOS or CCD imaging sensor. Users of Nikon Capture and Nikon's new digital SLR cameras have an exciting new way to deal with the problem.

We'll use the Nikon D2x as a reference point in this article, but the information applies to almost all of Nikon's digital SLR cameras, with a few differences in the menu selections and filenames. (The D1 is excluded, but not the D1x or D1h with firmware upgrades 1.10 or later – See footnote at the end of the article*)


The Nikon D2X rear monitor



Often, you may go out and do an exciting shoot, only to return and find that some dust spots have magically appeared in the worst possible place your images. If you then create a dust-off reference photo, you can simply use it to remove the dust spots from your images, and then go clean the sensor.

Here's how it works. When you use the instructions below to create the dust off reference photo, you will be shooting a blank unfocused picture of a pure white or gray background. The dust spots in the image will then be readily apparent to the Nikon Capture software. When you load the image to be cleaned into Nikon Capture, along with the dust-off image, it will use that image to remove the spots in your production image.

By learning to use the dust-off reference photo system you'll have a form of insurance against sneaky little dust bunnies. (They move around quickly, you know. Just try to catch one!)

Finding a Subject for the Reference Photo

First, we need to select a featureless subject to photograph for the reference photo. The key here is to use a material that has no graininess, such as bright white, slick plastic. I tried using plain white sheets of paper held up to a bright window, but the resulting reference photo was unsatisfactory to Nikon Capture 4.x. It gave me a message that my reference photo was “too dusty” when I tried to use it.

After some experimentation, I finally settled on three different subjects that seemed to work well:

  1. An old slide-viewing light table with the light turned on, or
  2. A computer monitor screen with a blank white word processor document displayed.
  3. A plain white card in the same bright light in which your subject resides.

Both of these provided enough light and were "featureless" enough to satisfy both my camera and Nikon Capture. The key is to photograph something fairly bright, but not too bright. You may need to experiment with different subjects if you have no light table or computer.

Now, let’s prepare the camera for the actual reference photo:

Menu Selections for Getting the Reference Photo

  1. Press the Menu button on the back of your D2x.
  2. Select the SETUP MENU and scroll down until we find the Dust Off ref photo menu selection.
  3. Once there, scroll to the right and you will find the Start > OK selection.
  4. Scroll right once more, and your camera is ready to take the reference image.

In Figure 1 you’ll find the sequence of screens to prepare your camera for taking the photo.

While the screen in Figure 1 is on your camera computers rear monitor, you will also find the word rEF in the viewfinder and top control panel. This simply means that we are ready to create the image.

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Originally written on April 25, 2006

Last updated on October 28, 2016


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