DSLR SENSOR CLEANING Basic Information for Photographers
CLEANING DIGITAL CAMERAS Primary Web Site Resource www.CleaningDigitalCameras.com - This web site which as you have seen is a comprehensive look at the entire D-SLR Sensor Cleaning subject. www.CleaningDigitalCameras.com Additional Web Sites www.WetMethod.com - An in-depth look at the "Wet Method" of sensor cleaning. www.WetMethod.com www.DryMethod.com - An in-depth look at the "Dry Methods" of sensor cleaning. www.DryMethod.com www.BrushMethod.com - An in-depth look at using a brush to clean your sensor. www.BrushMethod.com www.SensorInspection.com - An in-depth look at inspecting your sensor for contaminants/dust and the tools used to accomplish this. / / Under Construction \ \ www.SensorInspection.com www.DustFreePhoto.com - Dust Free Photography is our HD Video training series on Cleaning Your D-SLR Sensor. www.DustFreePhoto.com
CLEANING DIGITAL CAMERAS We call it cleaning the sensor, but in reality you never actually clean the sensor itself, but a low pass filter mounted in front of the sensor. Not everyone is capable of cleaning their own sensors, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. If you have a steady hand and a good mechanical aptitude, you may well be capable of accomplishing this task successfully. I don't want to scare you, but if you don't do it right, you can mess up your camera. If you still don't feel comfortable after reading all the instructions, by all means don't attempt this. Take your camera to a professional.
SIMPLE CLEANING STEPS Inspect for dust. Use a loupe inspection device. Alternatively, shoot a image that shows the dust. Clean sensor with the camera held upside down and using blown air from a hand-held rocket air blower. Dry clean the sensor only with a sensor brush. Do not wipe a swab dry across the sensor or use any brush other than one designed to clean sensors. Inspect the sensor to see if the dry cleaning sufficed. If necessary, wet clean the sensor Inspect and determine if repeated cleaning using wet cleaning is needed.
CLEANING METHODS Sensor Swab and Eclipse - Eclipse/Methanol is the chemical of choice by the engineers and optical specialist of Nikon, Kodak, Fuji and Leica. You use a swab of one type or another, put a couple (2-3) drops of chemical on it and wipe the low pass filter. Pros: This is the most widely used method and when done correctly will clean the sensor 99.999% of the time. The manufacturer of these products have a guarantee against damage to the sensor. This is the ONLY physical contact method endorsed by any manufacturer. Recommended by Kodak, Fuji and Leica! Dries extremely fast. Cons: The chemical used here (Methanol) is flammable and cannot be shipped by air. Methanol is also illegal to possess in certain countries without a license.
CLEANING METHODS Sensor Cleaning Brush The term sensor brush is a generic term just like hair brush, tooth brush and scrub brush and there are multiple manufacturers of sensor brushes. Sensor Brush/D-SLR Brush/Arctic Butterfly/Sensor Sweep - A brush used to sweep and extract the dust. The brush is energized to attract dust by blowing air through it creating a static charge, this effect is called the triboelectric effect. Dust that has attached itself with moisture, (to use Thom Hogan's coined term) "Welded Dust" or pollen, will not be removed with this method. Pros: No liquid required and works 99% of the time on non-welded dust. Safe for travel (OK to fly with). Cons: The drawback to this method is that you are using the same surface to physically touch the low pass filter over and over again. With this in mind it is very important that you keep the brush and mirror chamber free of contaminants. Does not work on "Welded Dust". Not guaranteed* by its manufacturer to not damage your sensor.
CLEANING METHODS Blowing - This is the method you will see described in your owners manual from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax & Sigma. They don't want you touching the low pass filter for liability reasons., None of these manufacturers use this as their exclusive in-house method to clean the low pass filters. Yes, blowing should ALWAYS be part of your ritual, but using it as your only method and hoping the dust will leave is a waste of time in most cases. Pros: Blowers are cheap to buy and can be carried most anywhere. This is a non- physical contact method so chances of damaging the sensor is nill. Cons: Will not remove pollen or dust that is attached with moisture. Dust attached with a static charge is also hard to remove with this method.
SENSOR COATING TRIVIA First, dont be put off by Nikons disclaimers (both Fujifilm and Kodak endorsed user cleaning that touches the sensor if done properly). The Lithium Niobate filter over the Nikon sensors is somewhat difficult to scratch if you use the right tools On the MHOS Scale of Hardness table that ranges from talc at 0 to diamond at 10, Lithium Niobate is a 5, the same as Apatite, and a bit lower than Orthoclase and Quartz; Fujifilm and Kodak don't identify the material they use [nor does Nikon on the latest cameras], but it seems just as durable). While it's possible to scratch the filter surface, it's also not at all easy to do if you're using the right tools. Nikon currently uses filters that have a special additional coating on them ( Indium Tin Oxide, or ITO for short ). This coating is there to help the filter "shed" dust more easily (it essentially blocks some of the static charge that can build up and attract the dust). As with any coating, it is possible to damage it, and when you do so, the filter essentially needs to be replaced. When ITO first became known, it was perceived that an ITO-coated sensor was easier to damage than a non-ITO one. In theory, that's probably true, but in practice it doesn't appear to make any difference. Photographic Solutions dropped their special ITO-only cleaning fluid and now has gone back to Eclipse as their only sensor cleaning solution. Photographic Solutions honors their "no sensor damage" guarantee regardless of whether you clean a non- ITO or ITO filter with Eclipse.
CLEANING PRECAUTIONS & TIPS Ensure you are working with a camera on a fully charged battery or alternatively, use your cameras AC adapter so that you are ensured no power interruption Find a clean environment to accomplish your sensor cleaning do it indoors in an area free of dust, pet dander, etc.. Make sure you are not underneath a air conditioning output vent or where anything can fall down into the camera when its open and exposed. Do not clean your camera sensor outdoors. If you need to clean in the field, locate a good clean environment. Take your time. Identify a time when you can work uninterrupted and without rushing yourself. Leave yourself 20 45 minutes time.