Digital SLR sensor cleaning

First, let’s cover why dust is more of a problem with digital SLR cameras than it is with film SLR cameras. In a film camera, the “sensor”, i.e. the film cell, is changing for every picture. It isn’t exposed for long enough for dust to be a problem. In a digital camera, the sensor never changes. This alone increases the chances for dust build-up. The other issue is that every time you take a picture on a digital camera, the sensor builds a static charge that can cause dust to be attracted to the sensor more than it would be normally.

Never taking your lens off a digital SLR body doesn’t guarantee lack of dust, either. Not to mention that it’s sort of impractical; I mean, you got a digital SLR so you could change lenses, right? Zoom lenses can act as a vacuum, with every twist of the zoom ring forcing air in and out of the camera body, adding more dust.

In other words, you will get dust on your digital SLR sensor. There is no way around it. However, if you have a reliable means of cleaning it, it’s not nearly as much of a problem as it could be.

You may not be sure if your sensor has dust on it or not. Here’s a simple method to determine if you do: go into aperture priority mode on your digital SLR, set the aperture to be as small as you can get it (largest f/ number), go into manual focus mode, set focus to infinity, and add +1.0EV exposure compensation. Use a textureless, evenly illuminated subject (I taped a piece of white printer paper to a cabinet door in my kitchen.) Have some decent lighting. Completely fill the viewfinder with the subject. Take the picture. It doesn’t matter how slow the shutter gets or if there will be blur.

Look at the resulting file under 100% magnification in your favorite image viewer. You’ll have to scroll around a lot. Look for little grey dots. Those are dust specks. I was in a camera store the other day, testing other Nikon D70 bodies. I tried this test on 3 brand new D70s and every single one of them had at least 5 specks. I seriously doubt your camera has 0 🙂 You must use the smallest aperture your lens is capable of. The specks won’t show up with big apertures.

In the realm of Nikon digital SLRs, there is a program called Nikon Capture that has a feature named “Dust Off”. This feature, combined with a file produced by your Nikon digital SLR in a special mode, can automatically remove all dust spots on a picture (the picture has to be a RAW picture (NEF)). This feature works extremely well. I have taken numerous test shots and looked at the pictures under extreme magnification, looking for artifacts, density differences, and other anomalies, and was unable to find any.

I don’t know if Canon has a parallel to this. Regardless, some people want to get dust off their sensor even if they have means of removing the dust from a picture in post processing. I am one of those people. You have two choices: have the manufacturer remove the dust for you, or remove the dust yourself. To have the manufacturer remove it, you have to mail it to them or drive it to them. From what I’ve read in numerous web forums, the camera bodies never return 100% dust free. Usually they come back with less dust, but not completely clean. It can take a few weeks for the camera to come back, too. This wasn’t good enough for me. I looked into cleaning it myself.

SLR sensor cleaning

There are many number of android apps to guide you for cleaning your dslr lens and you can download it from this site

There are a bunch of new products out there to aid in the cleaning of a digital SLR sensor. I considered a lot of them: Sensor Swabs, Pec Pads, Eclipse and the SensorSwipe.

At first glance, the Sensor Swabs are the most attractive solution because they are exactly the same size as your camera’s sensor and are pre-assembled, coming with their own stick. The drawbacks: they can only be bought in packages of 12 for $48.00. The other drawback is, from what I’ve read, the stick the Sensor Swabs are mounted on doesn’t allow for even application of the pad on your sensor. This makes cleaning harder.

After doing some more reading, I bumped into this tutorial on sensor cleaning. In this tutorial, the author uses a Pec Pad, folded over a custom-made tool in a special way, with a few drops of Eclipse cleaning solution. The “custom-made tool” is a plastic spatula cut to a certain size. Hi-tech! After numerous requests from his readers, the author actually sells pre-made Sensor Swipes now. I bought one and highly recommend it. It’s only $8.00 and it beats trying to find an appropriate spatula at a store and cutting it yourself.

I now use the method contained in the above tutorial for cleaning my sensor. It produces results far better than Nikon’s service center has ever achieved. When I was finished, the sensor in my D70 was cleaner than a brand new D70’s sensor.

To summarize: I have had excellent results following this tutorial. The products necessary to use this tutorial can be bought here: Sensor Swipe, Pec Pads, Eclipse. Total cost excluding shipping, for all materials: $23. And you’ll be able to clean your sensor many, many times.

You may have noticed on the manufacturer web site for the Pec Pads that they state you should not use Pec Pads for cleaning digital SLR sensors. According to the above mentioned tutorial, this statement was purely political in nature: Kodak provided funding to Photographic Solutions (manufacturer of Pec Pads, Eclipse, and Sensor Swabs) to develop the Sensor Swabs. Thus it is in Photographic Solutions’ best interest that you choose the higher-priced Sensor Swabs to perform the cleaning. I wouldn’t mind doing this myself, if the Sensor Swabs worked as well as the Sensor Swipe+PecPads+Eclipse solution, but they don’t.

 

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Author: peruvian

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