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Photography Question 
Kevin T. Butler
 

Cleaning my sensor


I keep getting specks on my sensor (I shoot at a blue sky, load them on my puter and can see the specks). I try usuing a hurricane blower which has worked fine in the past but the local camera shop says it is time to do a serious cleaning. I've asked around and get answers ranging from 'don't ever try it' to 'its a piece of cake'. Then there is the issue of cost. The store wants about $150 per camera (I have a Canon 5D and a Canon Digital Rebel) while the do it yourself kits are less then $100 and can do the cameras several times. My question is this......is it possible to clean the sensor myself? Or do I risk putting too much cleaner on the sensor and making everything worse? What are some of your experiences either with the store doing it (Two weeks out at a minimum) versus you doing it yourself? Thanks to everyone for pitching in.


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6/18/2008 11:57:03 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Kevin,

I don't hesitate to clean mine myself. It is truly very easy. I use the kit from www.copperhillimages.com. Good instructions and if you follow them to the letter you should be fine. You'll want to start with light pressure at first. It may take several swipes of the pad to get it clean the first time; but, it's not hard. Others use different kits, and one of the gurus here uses distilled water and grain alcohol, if I remember correctly, on his.


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6/18/2008 12:08:07 PM

 
Kevin T. Butler   Thanks Todd. Isn't there a chance that you could scratch the sensor cover?


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6/18/2008 12:18:42 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  There is always that chance how ever I think it is a very slight chance. What you want to do is try to blow off the sensor with a bulb blower first and see if that takes it off, which you have tried. A lot of times that is all you need; but, in your case it hasn't worked. Then you will either need to use the brush they provide with the kit or use the cleaning solution with the pads. The key is light pressure. Let the pad and the solution do the work.

Go to copper hill images and look at their tutorials. That may help ease some of your concerns.

I think it's either Jon Close or Alan Marcus that uses the distilled water and grain alcohol on theirs. May be somebody else; but, those two names stick in my head for some reason. I don't know what the ratio of water to grain alcohol. They could tell you if you decided to go that way.

There are a lot of others on here that clean their own sensors. I understand your concern. I was worried myself the first time I did it.


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6/18/2008 12:33:46 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  One other thing Kevin. If you don't already do this, it's a good habit to get into. When you change your lens, be sure to hold it so the lens mount/front of the camera is facing down. Try to do it in a place where the wind isn't blowing. Make sure the back end of the lens doesn't have any dust or dirt on it and blow out the inside occasionally to get any dust out of the camera.


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6/18/2008 12:55:31 PM

 
Kevin T. Butler   Thanks Todd. It looks like I'll just have to bite the bullet and just do it. Have you used the arctic butterfly from visabledust?


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6/18/2008 1:09:42 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Negative sir.


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6/18/2008 1:12:08 PM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  I've used Visible Dust with good success. Follow the directions. If it says use 2 drops, don't use 3. You will end up with visible streaks. As Todd stated, let the solution and pads do the work.


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6/18/2008 2:53:16 PM

 
Kevin T. Butler   Thanks Dennis. How soft are the pads? And how much pressure do you use? As you can see, I am worried about scratching the sensor cover.


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6/18/2008 5:35:02 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Kevin,

Cleaning your sensor is really not that difficult. I've used "Sensor Swabs" with medical grade methanol and have had great success.

Scratching the sensor is next to impossible as you are not in contact with the actual sensor; rather what you are cleaning is the glass cover over the actual sensor. It is made of crown glass which is VERY resistant to scratching.

Ok..Now some tips that may help.

1) Totally resist the temptation to re-use a swab. Make a pass, turn it over, make another pass and throw it away!

2) Practice! Most people on their first attempt do NOT get all the dirt off. The technique is a bit of black magic involving stroke pressure and speed across the sensor. If you are able to get 90% of the dirt off in your first attempt, stop there, slap yourself on the back and go shoot..unless of course a speck or two remain near the center.

3) Concerning #2: Dirt that is centralized on the sensor is easy to clean. The problem is the lack of room to work in...pretty tight in there, particularly at the edges where you lift the swab off. Much of the dirt will accumulate near the edges. This is where patience and practice comes in and some more practice. It IS very do-able..many of us have done it several times, including myself with no probs whatsoever.

4) Make sure your battery is FULLY charged prior to the "mirror up" proceedure! Only thing worse than a scratched sensor cover is the mirror slamming down due to a dead battery while you have a swab inserted.Ouch! Broken curtain and probably a busted mirror mechanism.

Lastly: Changing lenses is the #1 culprit in sensor dust. Always blow off the rear of the lens before mounting.
This was one of my reasons for going with the Nikon 18-200 VR lens..I don't wanna' change lenses that often, so it stays on much of the time.

NEVER change a lens outdoors if it can be avoided. Seek the wind free shelter of your car or some other covered structure.

all the best,

Pete


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6/18/2008 7:23:31 PM

 
Kevin T. Butler   Thanks Pete.


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6/18/2008 7:51:20 PM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  I carry a plastic grocery bag in my camera case in case I need to change a lens in windy coditions.


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6/18/2008 8:14:18 PM

 
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