Nikon Zf Sensor Cleaning Function

The Nikon Zf has a clean sensor function set to run automatically on camera power off. Here’s how it works.

Nikon Z f. Photo by David Coleman -
Text & Photos By David Coleman
Last Revised & Updated:
Filed Under: Mirrorless Cameras
Topics: Nikon, Nikon Zf

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Quick Summary

  • Nikon Zf features an automatic sensor cleaning function on power off.
  • Enabled by default, but can be manually activated or disabled.
  • Located in the camera menu under: Setup Menu > Clean image sensor.
  • Zf also has a sensor shield for protection when powered off.

Dust has always been an enemy in photography. Whether it’s dust getting in a lens, on film when you’re putting it in the enlarger to print, or settling on the sensor, it’s a very analog problem. But it can be quite a struggle to keep dust from ruining your shots.

That’s especially true with digital mirrorless cameras. When you’re changing lenses, the sensor is exposed. And with its static charge, it acts as a literal dust magnet. Even in the few seconds it takes to swap lenses, it’s amazing how much pesky dust can get in there. 

The Nikon Zf doesn’t have the sensor shield feature that the Nikon Z8 and Z9 have, which adds a protective cover over the sensor when the camera is powered off.

But it does have another useful feature that can help: the sensor cleaning feature. It’s a feature that many of the better digital cameras have adopted in recent years.

It’s not exactly “cleaning” in the literal sense. There’s no wiping, scrubbing, or fluids. What it does is much simpler: it vibrates the sensor at very high speed for a second or two each time the camera powers off, with the objective of shaking any dust particles loose.

Sensor Cleaning Function

On the Zf, this feature is enabled by default to clean the sensor every time the camera shuts down, even if the menu system isn’t as clear about this as it could be. You can disable it if you prefer, so that there’s no automatic cleaning. Or you can manually run the process.

You find this feature on the camera’s menu system under:

Setup Menu > Clean image sensor
Screenshot of Nikon Zf Clean Image Sensor Menu Setting

Under that menu item, there are two submenu items: Start and Automatic cleaning. 

The Automatic cleaning option is that controls whether the sensor cleaning is engaged automatically when you turn the camera off or not. The first time I looked at this, I found the display a bit confusing.

The OFF icon on the left makes it look like the feature is disabled. But in this case, that’s an icon indicating that the automatic cleaning is turned ON. The icon signifies that it’s engaged and that it’s engaged when the camera is turned off (that’s a graphic of the camera’s power switch).  

Screenshot of Nikon Zf Clean Image Sensor Menu Setting

To enable or disable the feature, go to the next screen, where you have only two choices: leave it at the default setting of Clean at shutdown or turn the feature off. 

Screenshot of Nikon Zf Clean Image Sensor Menu Setting

If you go back in the menu one level, you’ll also see the Start option. That’s to manually run the sensor cleaning. 

Screenshot of Nikon Zf Clean Image Sensor Menu Setting

Things Worth Knowing

  • The sensor cleaning feature is worth having and worth turning on, and I can’t think of too many reasons to disable it. But it’s by no means a silver bullet. I often find dust spots on the sensor even after having run the sensor cleaning operation multiple times. Admittedly, I tend to switch out lenses quite often—I’m a fan of fast primes—so I’m probably exposing the sensor more than maybe average shooters. 
  • I use this feature in combination with the sensor shield. And I’m in the habit of fairly routinely using a bulb dust blower
Profile photo of David Coleman | Have Camera Will Travel | Washington DC-based Professional Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a professional photographer based in Washington, DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and many places in between. I've been shooting for 30+ years, and my photos and time-lapse videos have appeared in a bunch of different publications, from major newspapers to magazines and books, billboards, TV shows, professional sports stadiums, museums, and even massive architectural scrims covering world-famous buildings while they're being renovated. You can see some of my travel photography here and here.

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