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Thread: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

  1. #1
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    This may be one of those questions that all novices have at some point, and although the answer should be in my manual, if it is is I am unable to find it. Truth is, I would rather ask the question than take a chance on damaging a critical component of my new camera.

    When I look through the viewfinder I can see a small speck of dust to the lower right of center. Did my best to show it's location in this drawing (I'm no artist..lol):

    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    I first checked the UV filter, not there, so next was the lens, and it wasn't there either. Both are super clean and free of any dust. Next was looking inside to see if it was present, and I can see the speck (with a magnifying glass) on the component shown in this image taken with my Fuji P&S (sorry for the flash glare). The pattern for the focus points is also visible on this small panel, as is the bleeping speck:

    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    The image was taken with the lens removed, and no other changes. I've read in the manual about the image sensor and the low-pass filter, and I have activated the cameras "Clean Image Sensor" several times with no benefit seen. No attempts have been made at attempting "mirror lock up", as the manual warns about the potential damage that can be done by those unskilled at cleaning sensors (moi!), and although it will drive me nuts seeing it every time I look through the viewfinder, I would rather tolerate it than chance damaging the camera.

    The panel is not a mirror (as best I can tell), and sense I didn't use the "mirror lock up" feature then may I also presume it is not the highly sensitive sensor?

    I don't have a "formal" cleaning kit yet with blower, etc. (yes, it is now on order...Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?), but do have a Lenspen cleaning brush and "alcohol free" lens cleaning solution.

    What frustrates me the most is I can't find any diagrams in the manual or on-line that show a schematic of those internal components, and like most any other novice I'm not sure "what's what" in there. This means I'm not touching anything until I know what can safely be done.

    Q: Can someone please tell me what that part/panel is, and can I safely (gently) brush that speck off with a Q-tip or the lenspen brush?

    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 31st August 2011 at 04:41 AM.

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    New Member fmrnykr's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Mike,

    Do you see this speck in any of your photos? If not, the speck may just be on the mirror.

    You can take a photo of the sky or a white piece of paper @ F22 to determine if the spec is on the sensor. If you don't see the speck in your photo then it's on the mirror and not your sensor.

    From the photo, it appears you're pointing to the mirror.

    I hope this helps, and BTW cleaning your sensor is not heart surgery, you just have to be very careful and pay attention to what you're doing.

    I hope this helps.

    Bob

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Mike,

    It looks like it's the focusing screen to me.I wouldn't use anything other than a rocket blower or a soft brush to try and remove the speck.If that doesn't do it.It's either not dust(small defect) or it's under the screen.Don't use anything that might scratch the screen.

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Bob and Jim: Thank you for the very helpful input. Since I don't have a blower yet the best I have is the lenspen brush, and that may not be soft enough. I've seen where the "lipstick" brushes recommended for brushing these sensitive areas, and they are inexpensive and available at the local pharmacy; I'll pick up a couple tomorrow. Hoping to find a dust blower tomorrow as well, but unfortunately we don't have any decent camera shops within 120 miles, so I might have to find an alternative that will do the task equally well.

    Was just processing some attempts at catching tonight's sunset, and realized that the "dust bunny" that showed up in a sunrise image from Sunday is on all of my images. Was just messing about tonight (learning, actually), and had run all the way to F/25 for this pic. The dust bunny showed right up, and when I checked the rest of the pics, it sits in the exact same spot in all of them:

    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Again, I've run the sensor cleaner in the camera several times, and this critters not going anywhere. Would something like this typically be on the sensor? I doubt it's just a dust particle since it seems to stick after the cameras sensor cleaner has been run. Surprised that these spots are there, especially with as careful as I've been with the lens changes, dust, etc.




    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 31st August 2011 at 06:23 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Mike

    If it's showing up on the images then it's on the sensor. In that photo you posted above, what you have to remember is that 'bit' you have highlighted swings up out of the way when you press the shutter, so that the light can get through to the sensor. So, any specks on that are not going to show up on your image.

    It's a good idea to brush off any specks that are on that mirror as, a) they could work there way back onto the sensor and, b) you'll maybe see them in teh viewfinder as you compose the shot. But do it ina way that tries to get the dust to fall out of the body. Don't just blow it around inside - you don't know where it'll end up.

    I finally got my sensor cleaned one it got to the stage that my images looked as if they had a very nasty rash. Despite what Bob says above, I wasn't brave enough to tackle it myself (I really must learn to do it because, as he says, it's not heart surgery).

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Mike

    If it's showing up on the images then it's on the sensor. Or as Dave said here a few days ago, "Them be what's often known as 'dust bunnies' - specs of dust on your digital sensor. Actually, they are on something called the anti-aliasing filter (which sits across the front of the sensor, but no matter on the technicalities."

    In that photo you posted above, what you have to remember is that 'bit' you have highlighted swings up out of the way when you press the shutter, so that the light can get through to the sensor. So, any specks on that are not going to show up on your image.

    So, given that you're seeing dust in your viewfinder and on your images means that you've got a bit of dust on both the mirror (that you can see) and on the sensor. That fact that they seem to be in about the same relative position is coincidental.

    It's a good idea to brush off any specks that are on that mirror as, a) they could work there way back onto the sensor and, b) you'll maybe see them in the viewfinder as you compose the shot. But do it in a way that tries to get the dust to fall out of the body. Don't just blow it around inside - you don't know where it'll end up.

    I finally got my sensor cleaned once it got to the stage that my images looked as if they had a very nasty rash. Despite what Bob says above, I wasn't brave enough to tackle it myself (I really must learn to do it because, as he says, it's not heart surgery).
    Last edited by Donald; 31st August 2011 at 07:22 AM.

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    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Mike
    If it's showing up on the images then it's on the sensor. Or as Dave said here a few days ago, "Them be what's often known as 'dust bunnies' - specs of dust on your digital sensor. Actually, they are on something called the anti-aliasing filter (which sits across the front of the sensor, but no matter on the technicalities."
    In that photo you posted above, what you have to remember is that 'bit' you have highlighted swings up out of the way when you press the shutter, so that the light can get through to the sensor. So, any specks on that are not going to show up on your image.
    So, given that you're seeing dust in your viewfinder and on your images means that you've got a bit of dust on both the mirror (that you can see) and on the sensor. That fact that they seem to be in about the same relative position is coincidental.
    It's a good idea to brush off any specks that are on that mirror as, a) they could work there way back onto the sensor and, b) you'll maybe see them in the viewfinder as you compose the shot. But do it in a way that tries to get the dust to fall out of the body. Don't just blow it around inside - you don't know where it'll end up.
    I finally got my sensor cleaned once it got to the stage that my images looked as if they had a very nasty rash. Despite what Bob says above, I wasn't brave enough to tackle it myself (I really must learn to do it because, as he says, it's not heart surgery).
    Thank you Donald, as now it all makes sense. This kind of thing seems to be where the best learning experiences come from, as there is little choice but to learn how the camera works and how to keep it clean, or pay a pretty penny to someone to do it for me.

    Decided to take a much closer look, so I removed the lens again, cleaned the magnifying glass and had a good look around that mirror. For the life of me I couldn't see a speck on it, but it was still present in the viewfinder.

    Then, I gently brushed off the upper part of the viewfinder with the lenspen brush, and immediately realized that was a bad idea; spent the next 10 minutes getting it clean from the dust that the brush applied. Finally had to use a Q-tip and a bit of alcohol-free lens cleaner. The tiny dot is still there in the viewfinder, however.

    Needless to say, a few "colorful metaphors" have been uttered this evening, and apparently both my cats feel safer outdoors.

    Decided to go ahead and lock-up the mirror (per the Nikon manual directions) and have a look at the sensor/filter area. Couldn't see anything, but there is clearly something on there to cause that spot in the same location each shot. In desperate need of a blower (tonight) so that I could at least have a fair chance at removing that spot, I cobbled one up from a couple borrowed items from the wife's kitchen.

    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Then proceeded to carefully lock-up the mirror and blow out the entire area, and the turkey baster/blower actually put out a nice puff of air. The top image was shot at F/22, while the bottom was at F/3.8, and the spot shows up much more prominent at the higher settings.

    End result for the night is that I learned plenty about the mirror and sensor, and also that these spots are going to be there until I have a professional remove them. Crap.

    Least I didn't break anything, so there was a bright side to it all..

    Mike

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Mike

    Okay. Now that you've got all that, the final bit of the equation is the focusing screen. If you go here, there's a neat little diagram that shows you where the focusing screen fits (click on that diagram to see it larger).

    Given that you've said you cannot find a dust spot on the mirror, but that you are seeing it in the viewfinder, the one other place it could be sitting is on the focusing screen.

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    If you are willing to tackle cleaning the sensor, use the right gear and technique. I use this ( http://www.visibledust.com/ ) system and so far no problems. I live in a pretty remote part of the world so it became a necessity for me to tackle my own cleaning or be without a camera for up to several weeks. Just be systematic, methodical and gentle. And be aware the camera warranty is void as soon as you personally muck with the inards.

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Donald: It's often said that "discretion is the better part of valor", and in this case that old saying applies quite well. The speck is small, and since my home-made blower won't clear it, it's only going to be cleaned off by using a more aggressive approach. The risk-benefit just doesn't balance for me, and I'll try to simply ignore the speck until there is a need at some point down the road to send the camera into Nikon service.

    Trevor: Thank you for the link to Visibledust, but for the cost of the brush alone I could pay to have the camera cleaned professionally. I can certainly see the benefit of the kit, but for now it's best I keep the warranty intact and just learn to clone out the dust bunny when it is visible.

    Must confess that I am a bit obsessive about looking through clean glass, however, after reading on numerous sites about the dangers and pitfalls of doing your own cleaning (beyond blowing things off with a proper blower), it seems best that I just learn to live with it until the sensor/screens demand attention on a higher level. At that point I'll ship it off to Nikon and let them do it up properly.

    Mike

    (edit: Harry Callahan had it right: "Man's got to know his limitations.")
    Last edited by Dizzy; 31st August 2011 at 04:32 PM.

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Update: Just to make sure I didn't screw up the whole works by messing about where I shouldn't have been, I stepped out just now and took 3 shots of the cloudy but sufficiently bright sky.

    At F/22 the dust spot is visible but easily cloned out; at F/14 it was present but very faint, and at F/11 it was invisible even when viewing the full image at 100%. I can live with that.

    My presumption is that these are somewhat common issues, and apparently are prevalent in most DSLR's. Logic seems to suggest that [for most of us non-surgeons] it's best to just tolerate them and clone out the spots until it becomes an unacceptable irritant, and at that point send it to the factor for cleaning.

    It was however a wonderful exercise, and well worth the evening invested in order to learn about the inner workings of my camera. Thanks to all of you for your knowledgeable input, and hopefully this thread may be helpful to others over time.

    Mike

    p.s. Just spoke with the local Nikon service center (about 110 miles from home...not very far), and they were very pleasant and helpful over the phone. They charge less than $100 for a full cleaning of the sensor and all related components (mirror, focusing screen, etc.). It's "walk in - same day" service, so no need to ship it off anywhere.
    Last edited by Dizzy; 31st August 2011 at 05:57 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Hi Mike,

    I agree you should live with it for now.

    I would urge good techinique for changing lenses though, and apologies if you already know this stuff (but someone else reading this thread may not).
    I always;
    Get the new lens ready; i.e. have it oriented such that when you pick it up, the white dot (or whatever Canon/Sony/Pentax/Olympus use) is going to be correct place to just attach the lens
    On old lens; release, but leave in situ, the rear lens cap
    Holding the camera lens pointing down (this is imporatnt, it stops stuff 'falling in' and may even encourage stuff to come out)
    I remove the old lens, place it next to the new one and transfer the rear lens cap
    Pick up the new lens and place on camera and lock it
    Properly tighten the rear lens cap on the old lens

    The above should be done;
    As quickly as possible; don't dither, but don't rush and drop a lens
    Not in windy, dusty, wet, super hot or super cold, places

    That should avoid adding to the one you have

    Also of course, never leave the camera lying around face up with no lens attached.
    Don't peer into it if you have dandruff or flaky skin
    etc. (you get the idea)

    Cheers,

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    I'll do it the way Dave describes if I need to change lenses quickly, but if I've got more time, I'll put the body cap on the body after removing the lens. That way, I don't have to hurry, and I can cap and uncap and stow lenses in the bag at my leisure.

    I generally keep a body cap in the bag, screwed into the rear cap of the lens I've got mounted.

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Mike,

    I agree you should live with it for now.

    I would urge good techinique for changing lenses though, and apologies if you already know this stuff (but someone else reading this thread may not).
    I always;
    Get the new lens ready; i.e. have it oriented such that when you pick it up, the white dot (or whatever Canon/Sony/Pentax/Olympus use) is going to be correct place to just attach the lens
    On old lens; release, but leave in situ, the rear lens cap
    Holding the camera lens pointing down (this is imporatnt, it stops stuff 'falling in' and may even encourage stuff to come out)
    I remove the old lens, place it next to the new one and transfer the rear lens cap
    Pick up the new lens and place on camera and lock it
    Properly tighten the rear lens cap on the old lens

    The above should be done;
    As quickly as possible; don't dither, but don't rush and drop a lens
    Not in windy, dusty, wet, super hot or super cold, places

    That should avoid adding to the one you have

    Also of course, never leave the camera lying around face up with no lens attached.
    Don't peer into it if you have dandruff or flaky skin
    etc. (you get the idea)

    Cheers,
    Of course the other approach Dave is "just don't worry about it and just clean the darn sensor yourself whenever it needs it"

    In all seriousness, I have to admit to now being in that camp a bit. Don't forget that the sensor is normally covered by the shutter curtains anyway - so it's only the dust in the mirror box getting stirred up by the movement of the mirror and/or shutter curtains that can get to the sensor - and in practice, although I've always got dust on my sensors eventually, I can't say I've noticed the problem getting any worse since I stopped worrying about changing lenses in the wind etc (although having just said that, I still try to do it down-wind and expediently as possible).

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    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Dave,

    Thanks for the helpful tips, and while I pretty much follow that same routine it never
    hurts to be reminded to pay attention to detail. My camera is still so new to me that each
    lens change is a moment of concern, as there is always the fear of the "unknown issue" that
    us novice's have to deal with.

    Colin, if I had your years of experience with cameras I might feel much the same, but then
    those same years might also have taught me the limits of what I should, and shouldn't try to do.

    Was in town today and stopped by a camera shop (that does everything but sell cameras as they
    can't compete with the massive retailers like Amazon, etc.). Purchased a proper Hurricane Blower
    and a Promaster Microfine lens cloth. Fellow there also told me to never try and use a brush
    to clean the focusing screen..Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?, and that if I didn't damage it I got very lucky.
    (btw, he didn't seem to like it when I told him I would take the opinions of the experts here
    on CiC over what he had to say..lol)

    Plan to try out the blower in the next few minutes, and hoping it can remove the offending
    dust bunny and unwanted speck. If not, option #2 is below.

    For the moment, I have to presume that the technicians at the local service center in Seattle know
    what they are about, and may just drive down there tomorrow and have them do a proper cleaning
    job and give it the "once over". For me, it's a matter of "peace of mind" knowing that a factory
    trained person has cleaned it, and given it their blessing.

    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 1st September 2011 at 12:50 AM.

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    KWM's Avatar
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Hi,
    So were you able to get it cleaned in the end?

  17. #17
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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    This thread ended five years ago and Dizzy hasn't been active for over three years - if you are having a similar issue Tayyeb a new thread might be the best option.

  18. #18

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    Re: Unwanted dust speck in/on viewfinder - can I safely clean it?

    Guys you can find on a number of threads re sensor cleaning. Just a few bits of advice as someone who does clean my own.

    Brushes on the sensor may cause more problems, any grease about and they can spread it about - as I know from experience - my old Canon 5D was notorious for this.
    Modern sensor cleaning will get rid of lose stuff, but not sticky bits like pollen grains, and for that one needs a cleaning kit.

    Never use items from the kitchen - basters etc can have grease in the rubber bulb and this can come out and put nasty spots all over the camera internals. Always use items with soft tips, never hard plastic.

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