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How to Clean the Viewfinder on a Nikon

How to Clean the Viewfinder on a Nikon

The viewfinder is the little box on the outside of your Nikon camera. It is the “eye” of the camera, giving you the ability to see what image will be captured when you press the shutter button. With normal use, the viewfinder will become dirty, causing little specs to appear in the image when you look through the viewfinder to prepare for your shot. So how do you clean the viewfinder when this happens?

Both the exterior and interior of the viewfinder must be carefully examined to determine the source of the dust specs. A dirty exterior is an easy clean. A dirty interior, while manageable, must be cleaned with greater caution. The following guide will help you understand how to safely and effectively clean the viewfinder of your Nikon camera in both situations.

Steps to Cleaning a Dirty Viewfinder on a Nikon

If you see little specs when you peer through the viewfinder to focus on a shot, and these specs become more pronounced when you zoom in, then you are dealing with a dusty viewfinder. The following troubleshooting tips can help you remove the dust from the viewfinder and attain a clearer image when focusing on a shot.

Start with the Exterior

In a perfect world, no dust will ever enter the interior of the Nikon, and the dust you are seeing is a result of exterior buildup. When this is the case, cleaning is very easy.

  1. Moisten a cotton swab or microfiber cloth with lens cleaner.
  2. Gently wipe the exterior surface of the viewfinder.
  3. Carefully dry the viewfinder with a fresh microfiber cloth.

If you prefer, the same cleaning process can be performed with a specialized lens cleaning pen.

Once these steps are taken, look through the viewfinder again. If you still see specs in your image, then dust has entered the interior of the viewfinder, and you will need to take some more extensive steps.

Blow Dust from the Mirror

If a dirty exterior was not the culprit, the next most likely source of dust specs is a dirty mirror inside the viewfinder. The mirror reflects light coming in through the camera lens up through a prism and into the viewfinder, giving you a preview of the shot. Dust can accumulate on the mirror when changing the lens outdoors.

To clean the mirror, take the following steps:

  1. Take your camera indoors to a clean, stable area with no open windows or blowing fans.
  2. Remove the camera lens.
  3. Keeping the camera facing down, use a ball blower to blow up into the mirror box. This will loosen up any dust attached to the mirror surface.
  4. Use a flashlight and a magnifying glass to see if any dust remains visible on the mirror before reattaching the lens.

When blowing into the mirror box, it is important to keep the camera facing down so any free dust can fall to the ground. While keeping the camera face up is more comfortable, the loosened dust will simply settle back onto the mirror.

It is also important to use only those blowers designed for camera cleaning, as anything stronger has the potential to cause damage to the camera’s interior components.

Have the Prism Cleaned

If dust specs remain visible after cleaning the exterior and blowing the dust off the mirror, dust may have somehow gotten up into the prism. The prism is not actually visible when you take the lens off the camera, as the mirror is required to direct light up into the prism. This actually makes the mirror a sort of barrier that blocks dust from reaching the prism.

While it is not common that it happens, dust in the prism can present a real problem. If dust does get into the prism, the camera will need to be taken apart and cleaned. Those highly experienced with cameras may be able to perform this type of clean, but most users should have the camera sent in to be cleaned by a professional, as ineffective cleaning of a disassembled camera will cause damage to the device.

As the risks associated with cleaning a dirty prism DIY and the cost of sending it to a professional are so high, it is often best to live with a dirty prism and ignore the dust specs as much as you can. 

Will a Dirty Viewfinder Affect Image Quality?

A dirty viewfinder will not actually affect image quality. Although it seems that the specs you are seeing should show up on your photograph, the image you see through the viewfinder is not the same as that which will ultimately travel through the lens.

When looking through the viewfinder, you are viewing through the prism (as light from the mirror is reflected) and down through the lens. When the image is actually created, the mirror box is flipped up and out of the way, with light traveling directly to the camera’s sensor.

Therefore, dust in the viewfinder will not show up on the actual shot. If you notice blotches or specs on your digital images, you are dealing with a dirty sensor, which requires a different cleaning process than the viewfinder. As a result, a dirty viewfinder is more annoying than detrimental.


Visible specs when looking through the rectangular box of your Nikon camera’s viewfinder is the result of a dirty viewfinder. By exploring the aforementioned exterior and interior cleaning tips, you can determine the best course for cleaning the viewfinder and securing a clearer preview of your shots.