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Sensor Dust Cleaning

Unlike film cameras, current digital SLRs suffer from a frustrating weakness: sensor dust. Just how bad is this issue? It's enough of a problem that I bought an extra digital SLR for my Africa trip! The following page summarizes the issue, and describes a method I've used to correct the problem.

Sensor Dust - What is it?

CMOS sensor exposed to view

The very nature of an SLR camera - the removable lens - opens up the flexibility of multiple lens choices, but it also opens up the inner chamber to the outside environment. When these small dust particles (smaller than you can see with your eye) settle inside the camera in that short period of time that you use to change your lens, there is a good chance that they'll immediately jump onto the CMOS or CCD sensor as soon as you turn the power on (charged surface will attract the particles).

The term "sensor" on this page is used loosely, as the dust isn't actually sitting on the sensor itself, but an element that is just in front of it. These elements include the dichroic mirror or low-pass filter.

These specs of dust, hair, lint and everything else cling to a surface in front of the sensor, and will be seen in many of the images that you take. As these particles are not on the sensor itself, but a little distance in front of it, a small aperture is required to bring them into focus -- a large aperture will allow light to "wrap around" the particles, essentially removing them from view.

Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don't

The effects of "sensor dust" are observed in photos taken with small apertures (ie. large depth of field, eg. f16, f22, etc.) The effects become less noticeable with larger apertures.

As many people shoot wide open (ie. with as large an aperture as possible, to increase available light and therefore shutter speed), the nuisance dust is often invisible. But, the day that you decide to take that one landscape photo with a nice blue sky (with large depth of field), you suddenly see all these dark specs across the sky!

Why is it a big deal?

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about sensor dust is that it is cumulative! Every time that you open up your camera body (ie. change your lenses), there is a good chance that you've just added a little more dust to your sensor. Dust never disappears, so over time the problem gets worse and worse!

Film versus Digital - Sensor Dust

You might be asking why it is that this dust issue isn't a problem for film cameras... They are just as susceptable to dust, but the dust settles on the negative itself. The frame that caught the dust will be affected by the visible effects much in the same way as on a digital SLR (often worse because it will be clearly in focus). The difference is that when you wind on the next frame, you get a fresh negative frame free from dust. Typically, it's only the first images after you expose the mirror chamber to dust that will show the symptoms.

Future solutions for Digital SLRs?

As more and more consumers become aware of the problem, there will be a natural push for dSLR manufacturers to develop unique solutions to the problem. To date, there are very few digital SLRs that have shown innovative solutions. A few that come to mind are:

  • Sigma - Image Sensor Dust Protector
    A removable clear plate that sits above the sensor, allowing a first surface for dust to settle upon, reducing the visible defects. The dust on the protector is rarely visible because it is far from the image plane, and it effectively seals the mirror box and also protects the reflex mirror and viewing screen (according to Sigma). Incorporated into the SD9 and SD10 cameras.
  • Olympus - Ultrasonic Sensor Vibration
    Called the Supersonic Wave Filter (or Dust Reduction System), Olympus introduces a unique approach that involves adding a filter in front of the CCD, one that uses ultrasonic vibration to free itself of dust just prior to shutter release. The Olympus E-1 was the first camera to feature this unique approach.
  • Nikon - Software Remapping
    The Nikon Capture software that is sold by Nikon introduces a feature called Image Dust Off. The software attempts to map out a sensor dust pattern with help from the user and a reference image. It then applies a correction to all images in a batch process. Of course this solution is a weak one, and one that any manufacturer or software company can provide. The problem should be addressed at the source (ie. the mirror chamber) instead of afterwards in software. The Nikon software to utilize the Dust Reference Image data costs $100.
  • Sony - Vibration
    Introduced with Sony's first dSLR, the Alpha / DSLR-A100K, a combination of anti-dust coatings is used along with a CCD vibration mechanism.
  • Canon - EOS Integrated Cleaning System
    On the new Canon Digital Rebel XTi (or Canon 400D), Canon has introduced their own version of a dust-reduction solution that involves anti-static coatings, vibration-cleaning (of the low-pass filter) and software mapping-out of stubborn particles. Yet approach Canon took with the Rebel XTi was moving the front of the low-pass filter (used for anti-aliasing / reduction of moire) out by another millimeter or two. The net effect of shifting the filter element forward is that it is more likely to throw dust particles further out of focus. The mapping process is dubbed the Dust Delete Data system and is easily configured by shooting a photo of a blank white piece of paper. After interpretation by the camera, the dust map is stored in the camera's non-volatile memory where it will be written into the metadata of all subsequent photos. Software on the PC (Canon's Digital Photo Professional 2.2, free) then uses this information to "blend in the density" of the affected areas (essentially cloning the particles out).
    Canon's Sensor Dust Cleaning in Digital Rebel XTi

How effective are these camera solutions?

Unfortunately, it seems that some users have found that these built-in methods are not as effective as all the glossy marketing may imply. Have a look at Testing Dust Removal Systems fore more.

A Disclaimer!

This page is intended as a rough guide to introduce the issues and potential options. I assume no liability for any damage (operational or warranty) caused by the use of any methods listed on this page. The reader is fully responsible for doing adequate research on the various solutions before undertaking any of them!

Current Solutions

Assuming your camera has not provided you with a great solution to the dust issue, you are left facing the predicament of how to fix it. The option that most people take are:

  • Ignoring the problem
    Many people are not even aware of the problem because they rarely shoot with large depth of fields. Or, they notice the problem and choose to overlook the little specs. Perhaps some people can do this, but there's no way that these little distractions sit there.
  • Correction in software
    Perhaps the most time-consuming of all approaches is the one most people naturally end up doing if they take the rare small-aperture photo. In Photoshop CS, it is a relatively easy task to use the healing brush (or clone stamp tool in prior versions) to stamp out the dust specs, one at a time. If you are taking many photos that suffer from this problem, you're probably going to go crazy. Some software utilities (like Nikon's Capture) allow you to batch automate the process to a degree.
  • Sending to manufacturer
    All manufacturers are going to encourage this solution as it guarantees that the operation will be done carefully, won't void your warranty and will increase their revenues. Unfortunately, this can be reasonably costly, inconvenient and can set you apart from your camera for a period of time. In environments where you are going to experience dust issues regularly, or places where you are far from a service centre, this option becomes less appealing.
  • Air-based cleaning
    Many people try to use air-based methods to clean their sensor. Although you run far less risk with scratching the sensor as the next two options, there can be some potential damage from using compressed air / CO2. Also, you will find that many of the dust specs are truly stuck to the sensor and blowing air across them won't do anything to remove the stubborn pieces.
  • Sensor swabbing (wet method)
    More and more, sensor swabbing is becoming a very popular do-it-yourself approach to sensor cleaning. There are some extremely good articles written on how to do this safely, and I cannot do them justice by paraphrasing the techniques here. One of the most thorough resources on the topic is provided by Nicholas R in the Copperhill CCD / CMOS Sensor Cleaning pages, which is based on the use of Eclipse solution (methanol), a SensorSwipe and lint-free Pec*Pads.
  • Sensor brushing (dry method)
    Another very popular method is to use a special brush with very fine fibers to clean the surface. The fibers are charged to help carry the dust away from the surface, without having to use a cleaning solution. The most notable product in this category is the Sensor Brush by Visible Dust. An obvious advantage versus the wet methods is that no cleaning fluids need to be used.
  • Unusual approaches
    It appears that there are a number of people posting in user forums who are using Scotch Magic Tape to clean their sensor. Apparently people are seeing success with this approach, even though I would expect it to leave a residue behind. I cannot recommend this approach, but have yet to see any postings regarding residue or damage occuring from this method. My hunch is that very few people are using it. Read a forum post about the Scotch Magic Tape method.
  • Terrible approaches
    All that being said, there are some very creative and terribly destructive approaches that have been floating around the internet. They range from everything including using a vacuum cleaner inside the mirror chamber. I hope my readers are intelligent enough to see the humor in these disastrous but creative solutions.

What did I do?

With a trip to Africa coming up within a week, it was time for me to bite the bullet and use the cleaning kit that I had ordered from Copperhill ages ago. At the time it was a toss-up between the dry brush technique and the wet swabbing technique -- in the end I chose the Copperhill kit, but I am sure that the Sensor Brush method would have worked equally well. To be honest, I was quite nervous about doing a sensor cleaning, and kept putting it off until I realized it was time to do it. I had collected a significant amount of dust in my Canon 10d and a moderate amount in my Canon Digital Rebel / 300d.

Realizing that Africa would be extremely dusty, I was faced with a serious problem: how to use multiple lenses in a dusty environment where one cannot hope to do a proper sensor cleaning? Similarly, I discovered that I couldn't ship the cleaning solution (methanol) on the trip, so I would only be able to clean while still at home.

The solution? I bought three digital SLRs instead of two (one is the standard backup, or should I say my wife's!). My plan is to have my two main lenses continuously mounted to the two cameras, that way I never have to change lenses in the [dusty] field. My Canon 100-400/L IS is mounted on my Canon 10d and the Canon 17-40/4L is on the Digital Rebel. By never changing lenses, the introduction of dust into each camera is reduced significantly. Unfortunately, the Canon 100-400 is a telescoping lens (ie. no internal zoom) and so it is expected that it will pull some dust through the chamber by the very nature of its changing volume. I will have to see what really happens in the field.

Then, it was time to do the cleaning...

Copperhill's Sensor Cleaning Kit

Following the directions from the Copperhill website carefully, I tested out the approach on the Digital Rebel first (I was going to experiment on my wife's Digital Rebel first, but I didn't feel right doing that!) It took far less time than I expected (half an hour), and you can see the tremendous improvements shown below.

The images below show the degree of dust on my sensor before cleaning and after. These images are highly modified to reveal the dust patterns. In photos, these particles are only visible in very small apertures (eg. f22). The images were created by photographing a [roughly] even illuminated white card at f22 at ISO 100. In Photoshop CS, I then used Auto-Levels which will introduce an extreme degree of contrast into the image, making the dust specs stand out. Then, I desaturated to remove the irrelevant color shifts.

CMOS sensor before cleaning

CMOS sensor after cleaning

As one can see in the images above, I had a large number of dust specs on the sensor prior to cleaning. After cleaning, I was left with only a couple, typically around the outer edge of the sensor.

I repeated the cleaning process twice for both of my cameras, and if I had done it again, it is very likely that I would have removed nearly all of the annoying specs.

Steps for Dust Prevention

  • Don't change lenses in dusty environments.
  • Always turn off your camera before changing lenses. The CCD or CMOS sensor will be charged when on, and it will be attract dust much more easily in this mode.
  • When you change your lens, don't remove the dust cap from the new lens until after you have removed the old lens. Immediately use the dust cap on the old lens (or stand it mount-end down) and then swap.
  • Try to keep the camera chamber pointing down while changing. Similarly, try to keep the camera-side of the lens pointing downwards when handling it. If it is windy, turn away from the wind and use your body as a natural shield.
  • Consider a longer-range zoom instead of smaller-coverage zooms if you will be working in dusty conditions for extended periods of time.
  • Buy an additional camera so that you can leave your short lens mounted on one camera and the long lens mounted on the either (my current solution for Africa).

Other notes and experiences

The following are other articles I have come across that might throw some more objective light on these techniques.

 


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
2012-11-22Rob
 The hoime brew is a disaster waiting to happen. Pay the money!! I used a home brew on a lens in a project TV and it melted the coating on the lens. Maybe sandpaper would be a cheaper alternative, NOT!!!
2010-10-31pocholo
 i have a big problem with my slr when im taking some pictures i saw a black spot i thought it is with the mirror so i clean it with isopropyl alcohol when i was about to take picture i can saw a ray of light when im pointing it to the light can it be remove?
2010-10-07Norman
 Hi!
Recently I discovered brightish spot on my photos. Sure at first I supposed it is related with lens, but after then it was obvious that - the reason is sensor.
We talked about this issue in a forum quite well, and so we came together on this, it is not a dust. Mostly it was like to be a lubricant of some parts inside camera (Canon 1000D/Reblel XS). But if it is, how may I assure that there won't be such situations in the next future - as this happened on the 2nd week of purchase of camera...
2010-09-02tim
 All this is interesting. For DSLR users only. However the same problem crops up with fixed-lens cameras. Anybody have any idea on how to solve it? My guess is that the only way out is to throw the thing in the garbage and buy a new camera. Tends to be expensive though...
2010-05-05This works
 For compact cameras I've used this method, with success and sometimes without. You know how those nice DSLR's vibrate? Take a "massager" and hold it up against your compact.

Right now I've got a stubborn one and am trying the vacuum through the mic, speaker, and battery holes. Haha, professional.

Forgot to mention, you can bang it lightly on a slab of concrete
2010-03-26Alan Leder
 I've been shooting with a Nikon D200 for two+ years, and only recently noticed a soft spot at the upper center of certain photos. figuring it might have been my lens, I did a thorough cleaning of the glass and filters, but it persists.

Then I explored the possibility it was on the sensor, and located your web page. A colleague asked me if my D200 came with a "vibrating sensor cleaning feature" that he has on his high end Canon 21MP body. My Nikon doesn't have that feature. If you're still up and running, and you could respond by e-mail, I'd like to attach a an example of the spot, especially since it is radically different (larger and softer) than the tiny dust spots seen in other sensor dust examples.

Much appreciated!
Alan
 Hi Alan -- Send me a shot by email and I'll take a look.
2009-09-29Adrienne Campbell
 How about a "clean room" portable case that weights about 2 pounds, that provides a virtually dust free environment? Please go to www.photipherals.com. There are DoD professional photographers very interested in this product.
2009-02-07David Penick
 I have a digital rebel with firmware ver. 1.1.1. I do not have sensor clean listed in my menu options. I would like to clean the sensor. Any ideas would be appreciated.
2009-01-31Colin
 I was cleaning my Canon 400D sensor and by accident my nephew was around and without my knowledge, he used cellotape to tap on the sensor .... now I can see tape residue on the sensor ..... The pictures taken however do not show that in a visible manner. How would you suggest that I clean the tape residue off? Unlucky day truly. Cheers.
 That's terrible news, Colin. Good to hear that it doesn't appear to impact your image quality -- although it's more likely to show up when you shoot stopped-down (ie. f16, f22, etc.). I would recommend taking your camera to an authorized Canon service center to let them attempt the cleaning (often < $100) -- I doubt that there are any good methods by which the average person would be able to remove this residue without doing further damage. Good luck!
2008-12-20 
 I haven't gotten any dust on the camera sensor yet. I always get dust on the mirror and the matte-prism that the cameras viewfinder graphics are printed onto. This dust is noticable at any depth of field, and is untouched by any automatic cleaning systems, but, none of these components are that delicate, so its as simple as taking a lens cloth and wiping the dust off with your pinky finger. Just make sure that your finger isn't greasy (for whatever reason), or else you'll get that annoying refraction of light you get when you don't clean your glasses well.

As far as hostile dust environments go, I have found my bedroom to be the worst. Seriously. Haha.
2008-07-03Kacper Antoszewski
 I haven't gotten any dust on the camera sensor yet. I always get dust on the mirror and the matte-prism that the cameras viewfinder graphics are printed onto. This dust is noticable at any depth of field, and is untouched by any automatic cleaning systems, but, none of these components are that delicate, so its as simple as taking a lens cloth and wiping the dust off with your pinky finger. Just make sure that your finger isn't greasy (for whatever reason), or else you'll get that annoying refraction of light you get when you don't clean your glasses well.

As far as hostile dust environments go, I have found my bedroom to be the worst. Seriously. Haha.
2008-06-15Rowan
 very high quality isopropyl Alcohol can be picked up from specialty electronics stores. not from consumer grade places. The last bottle I received was 98.999% anhydrous. You also should stay away from any cleaner that contains ammonia. Ammonia will leave a blue speckled residue that is really hard to remove.
 Thanks for the suggestions.
2008-01-14Anonymous
 Hello, I have a compact camera that has this problem. A small speck of dust always shows up whenever the fstop is set at a high number and the zoom is on. Unfortunately, since this is a compact camera, I can't simply remove the lens to clean it. Anybody else experience this?
 Great question... unfortunately, even compact digicams can suffer from the same dust issues. How does the dust get in? If the zoom lens extends out, it is probably creating a vacuum effect that pulls air in through the gap around the lens. Sometimes dust can make its way in too.

Thankfully, one doesn't tend to accumulate much dust this way. You might consider relying on a dust-mapping software utility to clone out these pixels in future shots at small apertures.

Anyone else have any ideas or experienced this?
2007-05-17Dale Blevins
 It might be good to remind folks that the mirror box itself can have quite a bit to do with sensor dust problems. I just cleaned my 5D's sensor for the first time, and wouldn't you know that every time I put the lens back on I actually had more dust than when I started! After about 6 attempts I was satisfactorily successful. Then my first shoot showed a good sized dust bunny back on the sensor!
Yep, I promptly ordered a Rocket blower and am looking for the best place to get mirror box swabs.

Sometimes it's not what get's introduced, but what gets left in!
Thanks for your help,
Dale
2007-05-15christer Rosewell
 I am now using Canon 5D's mainly. I have found that cleaning the sensor is a very risky thing - the AA filter covering the sensor is extremely sensitive, the slightest push on it will result in a "dimple" or streak if you move at the same time. The first time this happened I more or less freaked out. I was in Canada and managed to get to Calgary where I found a camera repair shop owned by an Asian man - unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the shop as I've lost the piece of paper I wrote it down on - but they cleaned the sensor FREE of CHARGE - I presume with a wet technique - and this removed the "dimple"

I've since bought the Artic Butterfly sensor brush and found that even that if you touch the sensor can make a dimple or a streak in the AA filter...

Every time I now have to do a sensor cleaning I go into a state of high tension. I am about to get the wet system and see if that is easier - hopefully it'll be easier on my nerves...LOL
 Thanks for sharing your experiences!
2007-04-13Jim Bechdel
 Sensor home brew.
A very respected ocean research lab mentioned this from their Canon rep:
  • 50% Windex & 50% isopropyl Alcohol
  • Sterile Q-tips
  • Sterile KEM Wipes used for Lab Microscopes or slides.
I have a Canon 5D with a filthy sensor, no amount of air wil help.
2007-04-03David McKinlay
 I have a Canon 20D and have not use it that much, however I do have four speck on the sensor and can't seem to move them. Iv'e tried dry and wet, so I guess I have to have it professionally cleaned. Any suggestions...Thanks
 If you have tried both the dry and wet swab techniques, then it is probably safest to have it sent away. Trying to aggressively go after stubborn particles could be a risky. I am not sure how much Canon (or other repair shops) would typically charge, however.
 
2006-12-21mike s
 how do you lift the reflex mirror to inspect the shutter curtian not the sensor
i have a nikon d80 thanks
 I am not as sure about the Nikon, but I know that on the Canon I can view the shutter curtain by enabling mirror lockup, then pressing the shutter release. This flips up the mirror while the shutter remains closed. Depending on the camera, the shutter may remain closed until you press the release button again or it may automatically open up after a delay.
2006-12-19Dave
 I read the comment about Strip Coat, the solvent-based material normally used for cleaning first surface mirrors, being applied and left to dry on the low pass filter, then peeled off. Theoretically this seems like a good idea for stubborn particles, but I would want to be absolutely sure the solvent would not harm the filter. There is a strong chance of scratching the filter while trying to lift the edge of the emulsion, and some danger that the emuslion could get into the moving parts inside the sensor box, where it might act like a glue. Unless this is thoroughly tested and proven safe, I'd stay away from it.
2006-08-11JBGraphic
 A good resource for Cleaning a Nikon D200 can be found at www.climaxphoto.com/nikon_D200_sensor_cleaning.html
 Thanks!
2006-07-07Grenville Barrett
 Because in sensor cleaning mode the camera has to be switched on, surely the sensor will be charged making it harder to remove the adhereing dust particles. Just a thought.
 I think it is highly likely that the camera does not charge its sensor when it is in sensor cleaning mode (after raising the mirror). There is no need to have it charged, especially for the reason you note.
2006-06-20Jeb
 I heard that the Lenspen people now have a Sensorpen device as well. Never having used a lenspen or a sensorpen, I can't comment on its effectiveness one way or the other, but maybe others can.
2006-04-21Chris C
 Current camera is a Canon Digital Rebel. Am I the only one who can't find the option under the menu to open the shutter exposing the CMOS sensor? When visiting the Canon website the documents say to just select the 'sensor clean' option under the menu, but my camera doesn't have that option. I have the latest firmware 1.1.1, but am at a loss as to what to do. Any advice as to what I might be doing wrong?
 On the Digital Rebel, you need to set the mode dial to something other than the green-rectangle Auto mode. Then, you will see it in the far right menu (Setup #2).
2006-04-04Stuart Munro
 Hi, I bought a Canon 1Ds mk 2 a month ago, replacing an ageing 10D. The 10 D never displayed a significant dust problem, the 1Ds does already. So I need to clean it but I'm nervous. I've read that Canon put more oil inside the mirror chamber and you should wipe this out first to avoid transferring it accidentally to the sensor cover. Anyone with experience of this?
 I wasn't aware of this... hopefully someone else might be able to offer some ideas.
2006-03-30Spike
 Spare a thought for the user of bellows for photomacrography and/or the photomicrographer! 6 months ago, I fitted bellows to my new EOS 1Ds Mk ll and made a few exposures, then carefully fitted my new 100mm macro lens and made a few exposures and then attached it to a microscope and ditto. When I processed the last images, 156 dust spots were easily visible at 100%! Since then the camera has only been moved (carefully) between microscopes, and that only when the absolute need arose, while the macro lens has remained in its box. Yesterday I counted (and removed)230 spots! I am sure that my lab is not abnormally dusty - just that the image from a microscope behaves as if it were produced at a minute aperture, with the result that positively minute specks become visible, if only indirectly as diffraction rings.
 Sounds like it would be well worth your time to get a proper cleaning done if you have that many spots to contend with. Doing it in post (Photoshop or other automated tool) would be a hassle.

As for why you are getting so many extra spots even in a relatively dust-free environment: are you turning off the camera between lens changes? With a charged sensor, dust will be easily attracted to the surface.
2006-03-27Dave
 I have a Nikon D70. About 6 months ago I cleaned off a speck of dust from the sensor using compressed air. Accept for the obvious cases, how would I identify whether I damaged the sensor or not? I notice that I have consistent gaps in the right side of my histograms, between the third line and the far right margin. Could this be evidence of damage?

Any help would be apreciated.
 Hi Dave -- it is really hard to say what damage, if any, might have occured. In all honesty, I think that it would be more likely that the shutter would be damaged than the sensor itself (unless there was contact). Testing your camera across all shutter speeds should give you some idea as to whether it is OK. As for the histogram gap, that sounds very odd. Is the gap always identical and in the exact same region? Are there ever any highlights shown to the far right (ie. if you completely overexpose the image)?
2006-03-06Ross
 I have a Canon 10D and it was VERY dirty after a year. Not just dust particles but hairs etc that I dicovered with f22/against a bright white card. I tried isopropyl alcohol and this left the sensor clean and very streaky. A slightly dampened swab with a drop of distilled water fixed the problem.
I now use sensor brush and their small motor drive to spin the brush to charge it up. It works in a few seconds and is fantastic. No more dust.

I only have one body and use 4 lenses often, live in a very windy environment so I have to deal with plenty of dust. So the Sensor Dust brush is a godsend to me.

Thanks for your fantastic site.
2006-02-24clive tabutt
 You can always use imageduster Pro - this is our software for removing dust from images. Demo is available from wwwphototeknik.com/imageduster

Any feedback or comments please send to ssales@phototeknik.com
2005-11-18Curt Fargo
 A good preventative step is to wipe down the inside of the mirror box with a foam swab (never use cotton or nylon swabs for this) lightly wetted with Eclipse or ChamberClean. This removes some of the stray dust particles that were on their way to you sensor. If you’re using the brush method, this also removes stray lubricants that are waiting to contaminate your brush.

Curt Fargo
www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com
2005-11-05Nev
 

Why do you use Methanol & not Iso Propyl Alcohol?

 

From what I have read elsewhere, the Isopropyl Alcohol the you often find available is typically not pure enough for this cleaning and is more likely to leave streaks.

2005-10-30 
 

Hello.

I have just cleaned a little dust spec with an bent hair sticked to the end of a rolled sheet of paper.

It was very easy. Of course, the spec was not very stuck.

2005-10-11MartianBachelor
 

Inbetween Sensor swabbing and Scotch tape there's something called Strip Coat (or some variation on that, like "Kote") which I know is used to clean telescope mirrors -- which are front-coated and very thin, and therefore subject to fine scratches which scatter light if they're rubbed with anything even remotely abrasive.

The basic idea is the Strip Coat goes on as a liquid which dries in a few minutes to something resembling a flexible plastic film which is then peeled off. Dust is (ideally) imbedded in the coating and removed along with it. The version I've seen has an organic solvent in it which also removes fingerprints and other environmental grime which may have condensed onto the surface out of the air over time. So it sort of combines the best features of the wet and dry methods. Disclaimer: I have no idea if this approach is OK for digital cameras; the cover glass over the sensor may have coatings which could in principle be removed by it. I really don't know.

 

Very interesting.... Although I've never heard of an application of such a product to sensor cleaning, it wouldn't surprise me if someone took a chance and tested it out. I wouldn't! One of the biggest problems (and this applies especially to the Magic Tape method), is that by pulling off the adhesive, you are causing small stresses on the filter above the sensor. Repeated pulling on this may eventually cause damage. It would also be hard to imagine finding a way to carefully find an edge to start the unpeeling without coming in contact with the delicate surface. Thanks for the unique astronomy parallel.

2005-08-17Jakob
 

I find it incosistent of you to list the tape method under Terrible approaches while not showing a sigle case where damage has been done, and at the same time listing the swab method as a sensible one, even though you link to a case where actual damage has resulted.

So please show a case from actual reality where actual real damage has resulted from using the tape method.

 

Jakob -- Prompted by your comment I did a little digging and it seems that some people are actually using the tape method with apparent success. It seems unbelievable to me that this would not leave behind any residue, but others are reporting positive feedback on it. Unless I could be convinced that it didn't leave a residue behind, I wouldn't consider using the approach. Similarly, I could not find any reports on the web regarding damage or residue left behind with this method. Nonetheless, I have updated the page to reflect these comments. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

2005-07-29Fred Carpenter
 

A few months ago I found an excelent article on how to clean CCD-CMOS at www.europepress.com portal. In every case be very patient: cost to repair camera is "more than high".

Good luck Fred

2005-06-22Dierk Haasis
 

Well, as Visible Dust themselves admit - ot least by selling a wet method - the Sensor Brush will have trouble with glued on dirt particles. This is intrinsical to the method, which does not use the friction of the fibers but their static electricity; this can only work with relatively loose particles.

My own experience with sensor cleaning has taught me to do it as seldom as possible. Never in a dusty environment (like deserts, beach or open-cast mining) but carefully afterwards in the hotel or home bathroom. Only do it when specks are really intrusive and if there's more than just one or two.

Before the SB, when there wasn't too many commercial products for sensor cleaning (and none in Germany), I organised some 99.9% methanol, a wooden spatula from a shop specialising in painter tools, optic paper. The paper was fixed to the spatula, which was as wide as the Nikon sensor. The methanol came in a standard German apothecary bottle with a tight but wide cap; I turned the bottle over, turned it back, unscrewed the cap and wet the paper by wiping the inside of the cap. Helps tremendously it getting a tiny amount onto the paper.

Hopefully I will never ever have grimy dirt on the sensor, hence won't have to use the wet method anymore. It's not just the risk of getting too much liquid onto the spatula but also the problem of having to leave the camera open for a rather long time if streaks are left. Methanol is not as hygroscopic as other cleaning liquids but still ...

Looking forwrd to your Africa travelogue!

 

Thanks Dierk for the very insightful response. The dry brush method certainly does sound lower-risk, especially because you're relying on charged bristles to take up the dust, rather than simply dragging sediment across the element.

My original plan was to do the sensor cleaning in the field, but as it seems very likely that one can introduce more dust than one cleans, given certain environments, it sounds like a bad idea (for a non-hotel based trip). In addition, I don't think one can pack Methanol in your checked baggage!

Having done the process now 4 times (twice on each camera), I don't intend to do it that regularly, and only after I see visible evidence. When doing it, I found that I would have to keep the mirror chamber open for a good minute or so, which is a fair amount of time to collect new airborne specs. As for the liquid evaporation & streaks my new bottle probably hasn't had much of an opportunity to absorb atmospheric moisture, but over time one might expect that the streaks would tend to linger more.

Two days left, and I hope that my custom travelogue will actually work from remote via satellite datalink, but you never know! I just have to caution everyone that lack of updates doesn't mean that something has gone wrong!

2005-06-21Dierk Haasis
 

Did you just overlook or purposely leave out the dry (in contrast to wet swabbing) cleaning solution Visible Dust offers with their Sensor Brush?

My own, and many other's, experience shows this to be a very good way to clean a sensor from dust, especially in the field. It is less dangerous (no liquid can enter the camera), slightly easier, more flexible.

 

Very true.... I accidentally missed out the dry method and have now included it in the above. Thanks for the reminder! One question I have: how well do the dry brush methods (ie. with the Sensor Brush) work with stubborn dust particles?

As for the liquid entering the camera, one of the caveats mentioned in the "wet" method is to use 2 drops maximum, and eventually reduce this down to 1 when you get proficient -- so there does appear to be some degree of concern there.

 


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