FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

TP: Cleaning the sensor in your camera

Page  123 4>
Author
MiPr View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Mikre Dyxum Administrator

Joined: 25 August 2006
Country: Poland
Location: Wroclaw
Status: Offline
Posts: 20993
Post Options Post Options   Quote MiPr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: TP: Cleaning the sensor in your camera
    Posted: 02 June 2008 at 12:54
Cleaning the sensor in your camera

First of all - why do you need to clean your sensor? The answer is simple: small dust particles deposited on your sensor will obscure light coming to it and as a result some dark spots ("dust specks", "dust bunnies") will appear on the photo. On photos with a lot of detail (e.g. landscape with lots of grass, trees, etc.) they may not be visible but they become apparent on shots where sky takes most part of the frame. Besides sky is usually shot at higher aperture numbers and dust bunnies have a bad habit of becoming more pronounced at higher f-stops (the higher f-number, the more visible and "sharp" the dust speck is).

Here we have a shot illustrating how it looks (courtesy of k9tales) - dust spots are circled in red.



When to clean the sensor?

Before you start doing anything you should check whether you need to at all. The test is very simple, can be done in a minute or two, and all you need is your camera with a lens mounted.

The very first step is to unmount the lens, examine the rear element, and clean it if necessary. That's because dust on rear element can give an effect similar to dust on the sensor (recently I was caught by this - I spent a few minutes cleaning sensor where there was no need for it at all). Using a blower or a lens brush on the rear element should be enough.

After mounting the lens back, the test can be started: turn your camera on, switch it to manual focus and aperture priority. If a zoom lens is being used, set it to longest focal length and then set the aperture to the highest value possible.

Now there are two ways of continuing this check:
  • during the day you can go out, set the lens to the closest focusing distance possible, point your camera to the sky and take a shot. The point is to get completely blurred shot of a bright subject that is more or less uniform across the frame. Remember to never shoot through the glass (window) - it could be dirty and that dirt can appear sharp on the shot giving a false alarm.
  • in the evening you can use ... your computer screen. Make the screen white (e.g. open your browser full-screen on some blank page), set your lens to infinity, come very close to the screen (the closer the better) and take a shot. Again - we want a blurred image of a bright subject.
After taking the shot you can examine it on the rear LCD of your camera - I assure you that the most weird dust specks will be clearly visible even without magnifying the image. To check for less visible ones you can magnify the picture (still on camera's LCD) and "sweep" it starting from e.g. left upper corner (go down, then slightly to the right, up,then slightly to the left, etc.). Of course you can also upload the picture to the computer and check it on screen.
Now the decision must be taken: to clean or not to clean? My personal approach is: don't do it if the dust specks are not very pronounced. If at f29 you see some faint specks then it's not worth the hassle - on f11~f16 you probably will hardly see them (you can check this). Similarly, if there are only one or two specks you may be able to live with that - it's very easy to work-around this in post-processing.

What equipment is needed?

From my experience most of the sensor dust can be blown away with a stream of air - I bet that more than 90% of cases are cured just with a good puff (I have never ever had to use any "wet" method on my DSLRs). Beware: never use any canned air as it is wet (they use some chemicals inside) and these will make things much worse - believe me, you really don't want a bunch of small droplets on the sensor. The right approach is to use so-called rocket blower, which is simply a kind or a bulb syringe, which you can get in nearby pharmacy for a few bucks. Both "devices" are clean (i.e. no dust inside) so you can safely blow air on sensor. Besides they also can be used to blow dust from lenses and from mirror compartment in the camera body, so it is a really useful tool. BTW, never ever give the blower to your children - I was really lucky that I discovered that my children used my cleaning syringe to play with water before I used it on the sensor ...

Next stage would be "dry" mechanical cleaning - the suggested method is to sweep the sensor with some clean soft brush. This brush can be the one made specifically for sensor cleaning, like the Visible Dust products reviewed by Kiklop here and here, but it also can be ... a simple cosmetic brush - please see this article how to choose and prepare such brush for cleaning (BTW, the "filter test" is a great method of testing if a bulb syringe is clean - just blow on a filter before blowing on sensor and throw out the syringe if it is not clean).

The other "dry" approach is to use or some soft, clean cloth (e.g. a "pec pad") wrapped around some spatula. Personally I had to use the method only once and I used ... a cotton bud for that (clean, almost sterile, has nice "brushing" effect, it does not loose cotton because it is all wrapped around tightly, the disadvantage is that they are rounded so the area of contact is very small) and it turned out to be quite effective on that single annoying dust particle which didn't want to be blown off .

The last resort in my opinion is a wet method. I have never needed to use it so I have no experience whatsoever. The principle is similar to the above-mentioned "dry" method (spatula + pec pad), but now you put some solvent on the cloth (e.g. look for Copper Hill Method). Just like window cleaning and probably with the same risks: some smudges can always be left on the glass.

How to do this?

First of all - do not be afraid. Sensor is not that sensitive and it is hard to break it unless you are really incautious. Besides, you never actually touch the sensor itself as it is covered with a glass filter element. Anyway, sensor cleaning is not anything that requires a visit to a service center - you can do it yourself.

Steps required are following:
  • Charge your battery - you should be at 100% when starting the cleaning process,
  • Remove the lens,
  • Turn the camera on and enter the menu - somewhere at the very end of it you'll find the "Cleaning mode" option,
  • Turn on the cleaning mode - the mirror will be lifted up and the shutter will open - this will give you an access to the sensor itself,
  • Remember that an image on the sensor is rotated 180 degrees, i.e. if you see a dust speck in the upper left corner of a taken photo then the dust is in the right bottom corner of the sensor,
  • Put the camera on a table and use blower to blow off the dust. Blow over whole sensor, not only over the place where the dust is. Be very careful to not touch the sensor with the tip of the blower - there is some risk because when you squeeze the "bulb" of the blower all blower is moving (i.e. it's hardly possible to keep the tip steady). I managed to do it once and you can imagine my horror - thick smudge on the sensor, yuck! But it cleaned easily.
  • If you need to use the "dry method" - do not apply much pressure to the spatula (or a cotton bud) - do it really gently,
  • If you need to use a wet method - be very careful to not overdose the solvent - it should be wet sweeping not a bath
After you finished the cleaning just turn the camera off and redo the test to see if your cleaning was effective. Be prepared to repeat the cleaning, especially when using the blower - from my experience it is not unusual that blowing needs to be done additional times.

------------------------------


p.s.
Dear Dyxumers, please feel free to add your comments, suggestions, and observations that may be useful for others.



Edited by brettania - 02 June 2008 at 13:53
 



Back to Top
MichelvA View Drop Down
Alpha Eyes group
Alpha Eyes group
Knowledge Base Contributor

Joined: 26 April 2008
Country: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Posts: 16981
Post Options Post Options   Quote MichelvA Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 13:16
A few days ago i saw a small dust particle on photo's of the air.
Went to a Photo-equipment store and bought this set.
It consists of a pressurized can (to vacuum clean the sensor) and 6 pads. There are wet pads to clean the sensor (after vacuum) and dry pads to remove the fluid. Works great! The box mentions it is not suited for full frame...
edit: i have the SC-4200 set. Details of the vacuum clean device can be seen here. The underpressure (no vacuum of course..) is equivalent to a 2m watercolomn.

Edited by MichelvA - 02 June 2008 at 13:25
Back to Top
pegelli View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Dyxum Administrator

Joined: 02 June 2007
Country: Belgium
Location: Schilde
Status: Offline
Posts: 25892
Post Options Post Options   Quote pegelli Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 13:16
@ mipr: very good and clear story. Thanks for sharing.

Couple of additional comments:
1: Preventions beats curing, i.e. never change lenses in a dusty/dirty environment. Do it quickly, immediately replace the rear element lens cap and hold the camera with the lens mount facing down to reduce the chances of dust falling in. Also when I change lenses at home I usually blow the rear element as well as the mirror chamber with a rocket blower so dust particles get blown out as far as possible.

2: I'm as lucky as mipr, sofar only used a blower and a arctic butterfly brush. Never had to resort to mechanical or wet cleaning. With the arctic butterfly be carefull not to have the hairs pick up grease from the shutter mechanism. Next time this might get smeared on the sensor

3: consider a sensor loupe (Delkin or other brand). Actually being able to look at the glass filter in front of your sensor and see dust (or even better see no dust ) gives great piece of mind. Clean the sensor loupe carefully before use (you don't want your tools to be the source of your dust, do you    )
Mind the bandwidth of others, don't link pictures larger then 1024 wide or 960 pix high, see here
Back to Top
dogears View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 05 September 2006
Country: Philippines
Location: Philippines
Status: Offline
Posts: 9364
Post Options Post Options   Quote dogears Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 13:42
I've successfully cleaned the sensor on my KM7D and KM5D with cotton buds. Just pinch the tip of the cotton bud to make 'wooly' tip and gently use that to wipe the stubborn dust on the sensor.
Where's the disclaimer?
Back to Top
dA100vor View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 12 December 2006
Country: Australia
Location: Australia
Status: Offline
Posts: 904
Post Options Post Options   Quote dA100vor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 13:44
Mentioned this before somewhere, but almost got shot down (even with a warning) but now I got my flak jacket on - oh and ear plugs for the whining

So...
In case you dont have a full battery or for a quick in-field clean...

I usually set the cam to shutter mode, put the shutter on around 5s and just give it a few quick blows with the rocket. Probably go about half way in and do it very very quickly.


WARNING: obviously this is not recommended for those that are unsure or slow or want to be precise etc.   It is just a 'last resort' type of clean that I figured you could do in case you are on the last battery or only have one battery (like myself). So if unsure, dont attempt this...
Back to Top
MiPr View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Mikre Dyxum Administrator

Joined: 25 August 2006
Country: Poland
Location: Wroclaw
Status: Offline
Posts: 20993
Post Options Post Options   Quote MiPr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 14:15
Originally posted by dA100vor dA100vor wrote:

Mentioned this before somewhere, but almost got shot down (even with a warning) but now I got my flak jacket on - oh and ear plugs for the whining

What whining? That's simple: you break it - your problem

To be honest - usually battery does not need to be at 100%. Recently I cleaned the sensor with a battery at a few percent of load. Strictly speaking I used the grip with two accus: one at a few % and a second one at 100%. I did not notice the battery load to be affected - it remained at the same load level.

I'm noise-blind. And noise-about-noise-deaf too ... |   BTW, Dyxum Weekly Exhibitions don't grow on trees ...
 



Back to Top
momech View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 27 August 2006
Country: United States
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Posts: 2845
Post Options Post Options   Quote momech Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 14:25
This site has some excellent on line tutorials and products:

http://www.copperhillimages.com/index.php?pr=Tutorials
Back to Top
Mark L View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 28 August 2007
Country: United Kingdom
Location: North Dorset
Status: Offline
Posts: 3750
Post Options Post Options   Quote Mark L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2008 at 14:58
If you perform an auto levels adjustment on your pure white (or sky blue) test photo, that really shows up every speck of dust.

I have also mentioned Dust Aid pads before.

According to that UK site, the most recent versions have now been given the OK for use on A100 and A700 sensors, and in any case I have already used the older, classic version on my 7Ds and A700 without problems. Dust Aid is my preferred cleaning method when blowing doesn't work. Like others, I haven't had to use a wet method yet.
Back to Top
brettania View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Dyxum factotum

Joined: 17 July 2005
Country: New Zealand
Location: Auckland
Status: Offline
Posts: 20650
Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 June 2008 at 12:16
Some further "experiences" can be found here.
Back to Top
DLNY View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 05 January 2007
Country: United Kingdom
Location: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Posts: 1821
Post Options Post Options   Quote DLNY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2008 at 00:42
Said and done this before, open the shutter through the menu and stick the vacuumhoover in, turn it on and most bunnies get sucked away. (if your sensor gets sucked up, most hoovers can be opened)

Thanks Mipr for the TP
Back to Top
MiPr View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Mikre Dyxum Administrator

Joined: 25 August 2006
Country: Poland
Location: Wroclaw
Status: Offline
Posts: 20993
Post Options Post Options   Quote MiPr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2008 at 08:21
DLNY, what vacuumhoover do you mean? Any links? Or you are just kidding?
I'm noise-blind. And noise-about-noise-deaf too ... |   BTW, Dyxum Weekly Exhibitions don't grow on trees ...
Back to Top
MichelvA View Drop Down
Alpha Eyes group
Alpha Eyes group
Knowledge Base Contributor

Joined: 26 April 2008
Country: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Posts: 16981
Post Options Post Options   Quote MichelvA Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2008 at 09:13
Maybe something that looks like this..? See also the second post in this thread. From my experience i can say it works pretty good.
Back to Top
DLNY View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: 05 January 2007
Country: United Kingdom
Location: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Posts: 1821
Post Options Post Options   Quote DLNY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2008 at 21:45
No I mean the thing you use to clean your carpet. They come with a smaller nozzle for sofa's and so. This nozzle is usually clean and it does a good job. Cleared all my dust bunnies!
Back to Top
MichelvA View Drop Down
Alpha Eyes group
Alpha Eyes group
Knowledge Base Contributor

Joined: 26 April 2008
Country: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Posts: 16981
Post Options Post Options   Quote MichelvA Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2008 at 22:02
Don't you find using such a relatively big device inside your camera a little risky? It might work, i agree, but i'd rather use a cleaning method especially made for a DSLR camera.
Back to Top
Dyxum main page >  Forum Home > Dyxum Community > Knowledge Base Page  123 4>

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down



This page was generated in 0.063 seconds.

Monitor calibration strip

Dyxum.com - Home of the alpha system photographer

In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania

Feel free to contact us if needed.