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Thread: Cleaning your own Sensor

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Cleaning your own Sensor

    I'm living in a small town in Mexico, and of course it is very dusty during the dry season, and I am always trying to keep on top of cleaning my sensor (with a blower) I'm also careful where I change lens and my one true talent is cloning out dust spots...

    I would like to know if most of you clean your own sensors with the kits available (and if you have any recommendations for kits) and if it really is as risky as they say?

    I ask because right now I only get to Canada every 12 or 16 months, and to have my camera cleaned in Mexico I have to take it to Guadalajara (5 hours from where I live) and leave it there for 5 days.


    Thank you.

  2. #2
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    I clean my sensor and use the Visible Dust gear. I rarely do the wet cleaning, however if needed (ie the blower and electrostatic brush won't suffice) I will do it. Just be careful to blow all the dust out, use the electrostatic brush, look for particles with the loupe; remove particles if any left and then clean with the liquid. One swipe only allowed and gentle pressure. You are only cleaning off soluble stuff, not trying to scrub off dirt. For dust: the blower and brush will suffice and is really the only solution. If you have adherent particles be really, really careful not to abrade the sensor and try the blower and brush multiple times before attempting to remove with a wet swab.

    As for the danger; probably you void the warranty. With good hygenic technique then the danger to the sensor is slight.

    Visible Dust has a good video and directions. http://www.visibledust.com/

    You are in a very close situation as regards access to a camera store as I am. I hate having my camera gone for weeks by the time I send it in, get repairs then get it sent back.

    Be bold. Of course boldness in this case is like boldness in surgery. Know where the pitfalls lie; avoid everything you can; then be trained, prepared and equipped to accept the consequences.

  3. #3
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Thank you... So far I've only used my blower... I've never heard of an electrostatic brush (and will look into getting one. Ive watched the videos on wet cleaning, and read all the warnings... My cameras are old, so no worries with the warranty..

    I appreciate that one must be gentle, and it is nice to know that others are cleaning their own sensors, when absolutely necessary.


    Thank you.

  4. #4
    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    I do much the same as Trevor, but using the Copper Hill materials. I use a blower first, then resort to the static brush if that fails, and only do a wet cleaning as a last resort. I have done wet cleanings perhaps 4 of 5 times with no problems, but I still hate to do it, so I only do it if nothing else works.

    Copper Hill also has a good tutorial on their website.

  5. #5
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Bill S

    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Christina,

    I recently just got into cleaning the senor on my camera. I have been doing some super-macro work (greater than 1:1 magnification) and it really shows any dirt. So I looked at the cost of having a shop clean it or doing it myself and opted to do it myself.

    In the past week, I cleaned two Canon Rebel XTs and my Canon 7D without any problems (well, technically I made a couple little mistakes, but was able to recover and the end results were favorable in all cases. There was actually just a discussion here: If you're as afraid as I am... about this, and I made a blog post here: http://www.ktuli.com/photography/node/353 that shows some of the before/after test shots from the two XTs I cleaned.

    On the XTs, I smeared some of the lubricant onto the sensor with the static brush, but was able to easily and effectively clean that with a single pass of the wet swab. On the 7D, I think I accidentally tapped the edge of the swab on the chamber wall while removing it - causing a bunch of micro droplets to fall onto the sensor (I also think I had too much solution on the swab), so I had to make a couple extra passes (with a new swab each time) to get it right.

    I'm also working with the Visible Dust stuff. It is a bit expensive, but it worked and had the reputation behind it. I'm sure there are plenty of other perfectly good products out there too.

    As the others said, you can definitely do the cleaning yourself - just be confident, do your research to help with that, take your time, use quality products, and make sure you have plenty of time and can work in a clean environment, and you'll be fine.

    - Bill

  6. #6
    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Hi, Christina;

    Cleaning your own sensor is a "must" now for any photographer, in my opinion. I am a little leery of your situation, though, because you are dealing with 'dry dust' and that to me sounds as if it is the most likely of any foreign material to damage a sensor during cleaning when using swabs.

    I never seem to have much luck with just the blower brush; and that is partly because the sensor itself, as an electronic device, has an electrical charge that actually attracts stuff to it and holds it there. That's why the anti-static brushes like the "Arctic Butterfly" work so much better than just a blower does: the static charge on the brush is stronger than that of the sensor so it picks up dust that the blower can't dislodge because of the electrical attraction of the sensor.

    The problem with the brush, as many have mentioned, is that it can pick up grease from the side of the sensor well in the camera and transfer it onto the sensor; and that is generally a worse situation than the dust one started into this process trying to remove.

    So then, we get to the wet swabs; but if you have grease on your sensor, you need a special type of wetting agent to remove it (believe me, I know this all too well). Of course, that stuff works really well but it doesn't evaporate very well; so the fluid itself will leave streaks. Then you need the regular fluid to remove those! And these will leave marks too, unless you let the fluid evaporate on the swab for thirty seconds or so before using the swab (just so that it isn't as wet as when the fluid is first applied).

    Well that's all a real pain, particularly when you have to go through the whole process a few times to actually get every trace of everything off of the sensor. But, it is worth it!

    A few pointers:

    1) I would never do this without my AC adapter for my Nikon D700; because having a battery go dead in the middle of a cleaning and then having the shutter and mirror snap shut on a swab is not something I ever want to have happen.

    2) Visible Dust makes a range of swabs, for different sizes of sensors. They also make tiny little "Corner Swabs" for along the sides and in the corners of sensors. I usually buy about twice the number of corner swabs as I do regular swabs; because sometimes, if I put a little drop of fluid on a corner swab and let it evaporate a bit, I can get the few specs of dust that are bothering me without doing a full sensor clean just by dabbing at them. That's DEFINITELY the way to go!

    3) Of course you need to see the dust specs; so a magnifying sensor loupe is definitely a must. But of course you can't use that and swab at the same time (well, some brands are designed for that) so I always start into the process of cleaning my sensor by slipping on a 'hands free' LED head lamp - probably the cheapest piece of sensor cleaning equipment I own but at the same time the one most useful for every sensor cleaning task.

  7. #7

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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    The following thread might be helpful: If you're as afraid as I am...

  8. #8
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Thank you everyone for your detailed replies and reference links.. I read and enjoyed "if you're as afraid as I am" before posting here, and it is good to know that others clean their own sensors.

    I will buy one of the cleaning kits when I visit Canada, and use this post as a reference for the first time I try it.

    Thank you.
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 13th August 2012 at 07:20 PM.

  9. #9
    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Christina, you might be a little less leery about cleaning your camera's sensor by your self after you have a look at Thom Hogan's page on doing that:

    http://www.bythom.com/cleaning.htm

    He even includes a now notorious still frame pilfered from a Nikon video that seems to show a Japanese technician wrapping lens cleaning paper around the end of a chopstick and using that after wetting it in fluid. After seeing that, a lot of people start to think: "Hey, as long as I am careful, it can't be THAT difficult or dangerous!"

  10. #10
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Thank you John... Great how to information in that link.

  11. #11

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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    You might want to consider a new camera, with some sort of ultrasonic sensor cleaning - it should work well for dry dust.

    Here's a link on cleaning the D80 sensor;

    http://www.jaysonjc.com/diy/cleaning...ge-sensor.html

    HTH

  12. #12

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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by proseak View Post
    You might want to consider a new camera, with some sort of ultrasonic sensor cleaning - it should work well for dry dust.
    My D7000 has that capability and my sensor seems to get just as dirty just as often as my D80 that doesn't have that capability. And I'm VERY careful when I change lenses.

  13. #13
    Susana's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning your own Sensor

    I just recently cleaned my sensor for the first time and I was pretty terrified at first, but it proved not entirely difficult. I followed all the instructions in my camera's manual to a T. I went to buy a specific brand of blower but the guy at the camera store suggested I get a blower with a Hepa filter on it, as he said that would prevent me from blowing even more dirt into the sensor. Since the one he sold me was actually less expensive than the one I wanted I accepted his advice. I am not sure whether it is better not, but it did the trick. I had to do it a couple of times though, before all the dust was gone. And yes, my camera has an ultrasonic sensor cleaner but that's never enough. If you change lenses you're eventually going to get dust, and I think you might as well learn to do it yourself rather than trying to rely on someone else to do it.

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