Does photographing laser light shows damage a sensor?

Some things you read on the Internet are true. 

Just like looking at the sun with your bare eyes can blow rods and cones to smithereens and leave you blind, the intense focused light of a laser is not something you want hitting directly on your camera's sensor (or your eye). A direct laser hit doesn't just take out a photo diode, but tends to damage the photosite's circuitry, too. 

Depending upon the type of sensor design, a direct laser hit can cause all kinds of very visible issues. The classic symptom is that you get a bright horizontal or vertical line (sometimes both) on the axis of the blown photosite(s). If you absolutely must take images in a scene that has a laser show going on, try to figure out where the laser is emanating from and what angles it throws light to (many are on rotating platforms and move the light around quite a bit). Keep the camera away from any angle where the laser can hit near perpendicular to the sensor (i.e. enter the lens and get back to the sensor). Sometimes you can shoot above, below, behind, or to the side of the area of a laser sweep, and that should be safe. Frankly, though, aren't you a little old to be attending rock concerts, discos, and raves?  

text and images © 2017 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2016 Thom Hogan-- All Rights Reserved
Follow us on Twitter: @bythom, hashtags #bythom, #dslrbodies