Sensor Cleaning - when the other shoe drops

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by de_lenzer, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. de_lenzer

    de_lenzer Guest

    The bane of digital photography (in my perception) is dust/dirt on the
    sensor. Had I known about this I would still be waiting to make the
    switch from film. But now I just can't go back to hauling a roll out
    every 24 shots, threading another one in... AARGH!

    I think the key to solving most problems is understanding them - the
    concepts involved and the forces at work - etc. But in this case I
    have been able to find nothing that even begins to explain why dust is
    attracted to the sensor. Some say it's due to static charge but the
    battery packs a whopping 7.2 volts - not a lot of charge, there!

    Eleven days ago I upgraded from a 20d to a 30d (with a "IS" lens,
    which still gives me the willies...). I looked and looked but found
    no camera with the ability to change lenses AND enough pixels to do
    the job that did not have this problem. Sigma makes a camera (which
    is rated as mediocre, in every respect save its sensor) in which the
    filter is a fair distance out in front of the sensor, creating a
    situation wherein dust is not in focus and does not show. Sadly, that
    camera lacks sufficient resolution to be used professionally.

    I thought the 30d would have to be better. WRONG. After only 11 days
    and about 250 shots the dist is back... not bad enough to panic me
    yet, but back. It makes you wonder if this is something designed to
    make money after the sale...

    So, would everyone please be kind enough to add what you know about
    the basis of the problem; about how you clean your sensor safely,
    reliably and, above all, at a reasonable cost - pretty well anything
    that will help to expose, define and then solve this problem not only
    for myself, but for all?

    Before I go I suppose a few words, in the way of a review of the 30d
    (so far) would be in order. Some, even most say that the differences
    between the 20d and the 30d are not enough to warrant the money
    expended, in order to upgrade. Myself, I could not disagree more.

    My 20d was one of the very first two to appear here, in my little hick
    town in the mid-west. I got it the day before they were officially
    released. Maybe that is why that cam was soooooooooo funky.

    The viewfinder - OH MY GOD! So grainy I was completely unable to
    focus, manually. I had to remove it and clean it hard several times
    (with acetone!) in order to get whatever miserable coating that was
    the source of the grain off of it. I'm not a camera mechanic and that
    stuff makes me nervous... and afterwards the viewfinder was still bad,
    but usable.

    None of my other complaints about the 20d are that strong but, taken
    together, they made for a dubious and uncertain relationship with the
    cam. I never did trust it. The dust magnet thing certainly did not

    The 30d says to me: I'M READY. The years in between must have
    provided papa-son Canon with a liberal dose of feedback from 20d
    users. The viewfinder does what it should - I can focus manually with
    relative ease (but no diopter). The thing weighs a ton, thanks to the
    28-135 IS lens which is crystal clear, relatively sharp and seems to
    do what is says it will do. The camera is intuitive - the ergs
    improved, by light-years. It's not slick, like a Nikon. I don't
    really like that. What I do like is the cam being out ahead of me,
    waiting for me to do my part and responding, instantly. I think we
    are on our way to being joined, at the eyeball .)

    One problem, remains. Maybe this will be the message that begins the
    process of solving it... ???
    de_lenzer, Jul 28, 2007
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  2. de_lenzer

    newsmb Guest

    I've had my Nikon D200 for about a year now, I change lenses fairly
    often, and quite honestly I have had to clean it only once and a
    simple $10 blower bulb did the trick.
    newsmb, Jul 28, 2007
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  3. de_lenzer

    Scott W Guest

    If you don't shoot at f/16 or slower dust will not be much of a problem,
    at least that is what I have found on both the 20D and 350D. If I go
    looking for dust by photographing the sky at f/32 I will normally find a
    fair bit, but I don't shoot much at f/32.

    Most of the time if I do find dust I can blow it out, with one of those
    little bulb blowers, if that does not work then a bit of distiled water
    and a cotton swab seems to work the best for me. And I am talking about
    a very little bit of water.

    I normally go many months without cleaning the sensor, and in a typical
    day of shooting I will change the lens a lot, maybe twenty times or more.

    Scott W, Jul 28, 2007
  4. de_lenzer

    de_lenzer Guest


    Hey, Scott :)

    Your results and mine vary, by quite a bit! I have found that cotton
    (in ANY form) leaves lint in the camera - big time. I put a cotton
    swab in the 20d just once and then tried to get the lint out of it
    until I decided to trade it in. It got caught on the edge where the
    viewfinder target mounts - ugh. Wiping a lens with cotton balls
    leaves a heck of a mess of lint - so much so that I did it only once.

    Was talking to Mick today - a guy who is in the pic printing business
    and runs kind of a camera store, on a very small scale. He said that
    if I had the guts to clean sensors he could send me about a hundred
    people - right away! He said he would not do it because of the
    liability involved...

    While it's true that dust has to be pretty bad before it will actually
    show up in mid to large apertures it's still there - just out of
    focus. I shot some art hanging in a gallery. I got the shock of my
    life! The neutral-gray walls were ALIVE with dots. The day after I
    shot cars, outside, and saw nothing. But it was still there,
    gradually robbing the quality from the images.

    My next thing will be pec pads and some 200 proof alcohol. I bought a
    foam rubber "paint brush" (made to trim without slopping the paint all
    over) for a dollar or so. It's half an inch wide and very soft. I
    will put a pec pad over it, moisten with the alcohol and go.

    This is... the stuff of which insanity is made. There is always some
    tiny white specs SOMEWHERE. I don't think the ones on the surface of
    the lenses show up nearly as bad as the stuff on the sensor. If I had
    to remove all the dots from those shots in that gallery... man... I
    would be in for a lot of time and work in PS.
    de_lenzer, Jul 28, 2007
  5. de_lenzer

    Matt Clara Guest

    Whoa there, fella. It's not all that bad. I bought one of those cleaning
    kits which comes with some liquid to clean the sensor with and a dozen or
    more swabs that fit the width of the sensor exactly. It was somewhat
    ridiculously priced at something like $50, but I've only used three swabs
    thus far, and it's been two years, and they work perfectly:

    (And what do you mean, it's not "slick" like a Nikon? Nikon and Canon both
    make some very nice cameras...)
    Matt Clara, Jul 28, 2007
  6. Whoa there, Jasper! It is beyond foolishness to pay that kind of money for
    sensor cleaning supplies. You guys like overcomplicating the simplest task
    to the realm of astrophysics. For Christ's sake if you need to use the
    "wet" method just get a PEC-PAD and wrap it around a disposable chopstick
    and apply a drop of Eclipse (methanol) and you're set.

    If you need to use the "dry" method this is the only approved method that is
    universally adopted by all technicians in the photographic industry.


    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Jul 28, 2007
  7. de_lenzer

    Alan Browne Guest


    Much ado 'bout nothing...
    1. Unless you shoot bland, low contrast, low detail scenes at f/16 all
    of the time, whatever dust there is (usually little) will not show in
    most images.

    2. Using the "dust cleaning" routine of the camera, a few sharp blasts
    with a blower bulb are all that are needed. Do it with the lens mound
    down, so most of the dislodged dust falls downward.

    3. If there is persistent dust, then use a swap kit. I've never had to
    use one.

    4. In 2.3 years I have cleaned my sensor 2 times. That's all that it
    has needed despite constant lens changes.
    Alan Browne, Jul 28, 2007
  8. de_lenzer

    Mardon Guest

    On Jul 27, 10:19 pm, wrote:
    It's not that big of a deal once you do it. Pec-Pads, Eclipse
    solution and a suitable swab works great. I shoot a lot of macros, so
    I have to keep my sensor clean"
    Mardon, Jul 28, 2007
  9. de_lenzer

    Paul Furman Guest

    Noone has mentioned the brush method. Canned air on a soft nylon brush
    charges it with enough static to grab the dust. I use a rocket blower &
    a cheap makeup brush from a dollar store. Usually just the blower works.
    Paul Furman, Jul 28, 2007
  10. I use the same. I bought my brush(es) -one for the sensor, one for the
    mirror box on Ebay from this guy:

    Sample of item:

    I bought a Giottos blower locally.

    My main concern at the time I purchased this (other than doing it at a
    reasonable cost) was a kit that could be carried (or taken on in checked
    baggage) on an airplane - which at the time many of the liquid based
    cleaners couldn't.

    I have cleaned the sensor/mirror box on my D50 successfully and without
    incident 4 or 5 times since.
    Brian Sullivan, Jul 28, 2007
  11. RE: Sigma - the camera particular the sensor.
    Randall Ainsworth, Jul 28, 2007
  12. de_lenzer

    de_lenzer Guest

    .. =============

    DANG IT !!

    Wouldn't yew no thayut Nikon wud step aeout ahed again...

    Yew rekon they'll make one fer cannon? Looks like it just miite be
    good fer underwater shootin' two... maybe even outter spase?
    de_lenzer, Jul 28, 2007
  13. de_lenzer

    newsmb Guest

    The Foveon is kinda cool, actually. The 14.5 MP Foveon in the Sigma is
    roughly equivalent to a 8 or 9MP APS-C-sized Bayer sensor, which is
    fine. It's just that the Sigma does not deliver the resolution
    *advantage* that the Sigma and Foveon people are claiming. That said,
    if people like the way the Sigma SD14 handles and the photos it
    produces they should just use it, takes lots of great photos and not
    spend a second worrying about what anyone else thinks.
    newsmb, Jul 28, 2007
  14. de_lenzer

    ASAAR Guest

    Wouldn't it get expensive having to replace dusty sensors? :)
    ASAAR, Jul 28, 2007
  15. de_lenzer

    Alan Browne Guest

    Alan Browne, Jul 28, 2007
  16. de_lenzer

    Alan Browne Guest

    Every 18 months, about as often as I clean my sensor... that should
    please one of the chief idiots around here...

    By the way, something to chaw on with you, pls drop me an e-mail ...
    mind the Freelunch...

    Alan Browne, Jul 28, 2007
  17. de_lenzer

    ASAAR Guest

    54321, launched!
    ASAAR, Jul 29, 2007
  18. de_lenzer

    Somebody Guest

    No need to piss ones self. If it isn't dust it will be something else.
    Nothing made by man is perfect. Best to get used to it now. Saves on the
    need for asprin.

    Somebody, Jul 29, 2007
  19. de_lenzer

    Yoshi Guest

    Guys, you are making this too difficult.... just take off the lens and run
    the camera through the dishwasher.
    Yoshi, Jul 29, 2007
  20. de_lenzer

    RichA Guest

    Most common question when selling digital SLRs on Ebay: "Is the
    sensor clean?"
    RichA, Jul 29, 2007
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