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Sensor Cleaning


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#1 ski3pin

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 02:26 PM

This topic has my curiosity level up. The Ken Rockwell character says to never ever touch the delicate and expensive sensor in our cameras and the Copper Hill bunch says we ought to be cleaning our sensors every week and will sell us all the supplies to do it. What do our fellow wandering photographers do in regards to cleaning sensors?


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#2 Lighthawk

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:07 PM

Great question.

 

Dust motes in your photos are annoying and time consuming to clone out.  Whenever you swap out a lens in the field there's a chance of dust getting onto the sensor.  Most modern cameras have some sort of anti-dust technology.  My Canon 6D has a setting to have the sensor vibrate to clean just as it shuts on or off.  Try to change lenses in a quiet environment without exposing the sensor or back of lens for longer than you have to.

 

Manual cleaning of the sensor does take some research to learn how, a bit of equipment and willingness to probe within the camera.  To see the sensor, you need to enable manual sensor cleaning, which flips the mirror of your DSLR out of the way.  You should do this with a fully charged battery.  Mirrorless cameras (like my Fuji XT-1) have the sensor visible anytime the lens is removed.  

 

Others can comment on what the sensor is made of, but my understanding is that you are touching a layer on top of the actual sensor.  I mostly use a rocket blower to dislodge dust, which is a great tool for touchless cleaning of lenses, caps and camera bodies.  Highly recommended.  If something won't dislodge, then the Copper Hill products are a good choice.  I've got some other sensor brushes that I also use.

 

Quick way to test if you have junk on your sensor.  Set your aperture at f16, and focus on infinity (a far away object will do), then reframe and shoot the blue sky.  Depending upon the camera's display, you can often zoom in and scroll to see if you still have crud.  Better still, download the shot onto your photo editor and see if you still have dust.  If you do, then you need to clean some more.  Another thing to know:  the image you see on your monitor is upside down  and swapped left for right from what you see looking at the sensor.


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#3 pvstoy

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:48 PM

I have the camera do a self clean on power on and off, it just vibrates a little. Occasually I'll manually do a self clean where it will vibrate a little more ergessively.

I can check to see if there are crap on the sender by selecting f22 on one of my ~200 mm lens pointed to the sky. Take a image and review the image 1:1 or at 100%. What happens when you stop down the light travels longer and bends around dust that is on the sensor and you see it as a dust spot. If you shot open f4 - f8 you may not notice until you stop down and the light travels around and causes a shadow.

Now this is where your question is, what to do. Buy your self a big blower bulb. Rocket blaster or? Put your self in a some what clean place where no wind is blowing around more dust. Use the blower and blow around the lens mount. Take the lens off and blow inside holding the camera downward. A mirrorless camera you will see the sensor and no mirror. Next select on the menu clean manually. At this point I use a bright flashlight and look at the sensor and you will be able to see most of the larger specks. I will hold the camera face down and blast it with the blower. Don't push the the tip so far in that you hit the sensor.

Flip the camera over and inspect with the light. If it looks like I removed the specks then I remount the lens and take another image. Review the image and see if the dust spots are gone. When reviewing the image and you see a spot then you will find the spot on the sensor in the mirrored position. Spot in upper right image, find it lower left on sensor. Most of the time this is all that is needed to be done. There is a new product I have not tried is a gel pad on a stick. Shows promise for dust specks. Do not use any type of tape!

What if after blowing the spot just won't come off. I have bought years ago a brush from Copper Hill that I keep very clean. This brush I will make a static charge blowing fast air through the tip and lightly brush the sensor picking up the dust. I will recharge for each pass. Then I will blast the sensor and inspect with a bright light. Remount the lens and take another image at the sky. Most of the time one or two times this will take care of it.

In rare times where it is oil spots or the dust is pollen and really welded on and all I'm doing is smearing it around is when a wet clean is required. I have not over the years need this level of cleaning very much. There is a protective layer over the sensor and you are not really touching the sensor. Use any pre made of your choice or make your own, just don't have it too wet. To do it it is like using a paint brush and apply a little pressure pulling from edge to edge flipping the tip over on the next pass. If the oil or welded pollen is stuck it could take one or several passes and many cleaning sticks.

Don't be afraid to clean the sensor. The more you do it and take care and be carful doing it the easier it becomes. Take your time.
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#4 MarkBC

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:48 PM

On my first digital SLR, a Nikon D70, I frequently got dust on the sensor and cloning dust spots out of photos (using Lightroom) was a tedious chore.  That model didn't have a sensor-shake cleaning function, so I bought and used "Sensor Swabs" and their cleaning solution and used it.  It seemed to work OK, but I didn't like such delicate (scary) work and only did it once.

 

My Nikon D300s had the sensor-shake cleaning function and it seemed to work pretty well.  I never tried to clean the sensor of the D300s (not with cleaning swabs, I mean) and it never needed it.

 

My Nikon D750 is too new to need any cleaning yet.

 

Once I learned that dust gets on the sensor when changing lenses I made a point of pointing the open "hole" of the camera down while changing a lens.  I know that dust can float up and stick by static attraction, but I think it helps to work with gravity.


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#5 pvstoy

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:52 PM

I'm a very slow typer and I see Andy posted when I was typing and I have parallel comments
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#6 MarkBC

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:59 PM

A friend of mine with a Nikon D600 (with an oil-spot issue) cleans his sensor with appropriate swab from time to time with good results.


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#7 pvstoy

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 04:10 PM

http://www.naturesca...p?f=57&t=248669

 

What I was referring to with the gel pad on a stick.
 


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#8 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 05:44 PM

I will chime in, although it appears that the topic is covered.

 

As Andy mentioned, try not to change your lenses in a dusty environment.   On my first trip to DVNP, Ranger Bob Greenburg gave me that advice, and it is spot on.   BTW, Bob has now retired and is volunteering at the park.   He is a good guy to talk to about where and when to get a photo.

 

When I need to clean my sensors, an appropriate sized swab with sensor cleaning fluid (alcohol) is all that I use.   Just be careful that you don't pull dirt/grease/oil from other areas around the sensor, on to the sensor.   It usually takes me two swabs to get the sensor clean, sometimes three.   If you have a loupe or triplet, that is a handy tool to inspect things when there is a problem area.  As Andy mentioned, remember that things are 180ยบ out in both axis.    I think most folks know you're not cleaning the sensor itself.   There are usually low pass and anti aliasing types of elements covering the sensor.   But, do be careful.

 

I tend to not believe much of what Ken Rockwell says, as I have observed him flip flop like a politician.   Thom Hogan and Moose Peterson are the two that I put more faith in.   Moose has a good tutorial on "Cleaning da Gear".   If I can find it, I will edit and post to the thread. 

 

Mr. 3Pin, thanks for posting the question.   It's a 'good un'!

 

Edit:  Here's a newer Moose Peterson cleaning tutorial.   Warning, he is pushing a product, but it looks like good gear.


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#9 PaulT

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 06:33 PM

For dusty conditions , use a changing bag. Search for "film changing bag" and select one you like. I still have one from years ago when I developed my own film and bulk loaded used film cannisters. By comparison, changing lenses is a piece of cake. Blow off the camera and lenses before putting them in the bag to keep the bag clean. Or keep the lenses inside Ziploc bags.

Now that I think about it, it seems like someone could make a clear changing bag from one of the 2, 3, 10, or 20 gallon Ziploc plastic bags.

I keep equipment in a variety of sizes to organize them and keep them clean. Ziploc bags can be rolled or folded and weigh little when empty. I always have gallon & quart sizes with me for carrying water as part of my emergency kit.

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#10 ski3pin

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 02:49 PM

Wonderful responses! Thanks, and it really helps to hear similar advise and recommendations from our crew of photographers here!


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