It is great that the latest models of DSLRs have an automatic sensor cleaning mode to help keep dust and debris off of your camera’s sensor. But as most of us know, this is not a complete cleaning solution.Â How many of you have actually braved the inside of your camera body and attempted to clean dust and debris from your camera’s sensor?Â We have seen grown men shiver and quake in their shoes at the thought of cleaning the sensor on their DSLR by themselves (O.K., it was one man, and he quivers at the site of bugs too).Â The sheer anxiety of sticking something into your expensive camera body has left many people with the only option for dust removal being a stop at a camera shop or repair center for a cleaning. In this article we will look at how to clean your camera’s sensor the safe and easy way and dispel some myths around the black art of sensor cleaning.
What are you really cleaning?
There are two components that we will look at cleaning, the first being the focusing screen mirror. If you remove your lens and look into your camera with a lens off, you will see a small mirror.Â Dust typically doesn’t stick to this surface very much, so a few quick blasts of air from something like a Rocket Blower should keep the mirror in relatively clean and clear.Â This mirror, however, only affects what you see through your viewfinder and not what the sensor sees.
The second component is the “sensor”.Â To get to the sensor you have to put your camera into sensor cleaning mode which moves the mirror out of the way, letting you get to the sensor plate. It is important to note that we are never actually touching the sensor itself.Â The sensor sits behind a thin sheet of glass and it is this glass that we will be cleaning.Â Knowing that you are actually going to be cleaning a piece of glass, and not the actual sensor itself, will hopefully make some of you feel a little better about this process.
And for those of you who take your camera bodies to Canon and get a free cleaning whenever you want (like we do), be aware that the days of free cleanings are about over.Â Manufacturers are soon going to be discontinuing this free service, from what we have been told.
Tools of the trade
There are many things you can stick into your camera body to wipe down the sensor, but the goal of this article is to show you how to do it right.Â There are many, many products available on the market to clean sensors in DSLRs today.Â And quite frankly, many of them just don’t make sense.Â Recently, we were at PMA in Las Vegas and we saw the myriad of cleaning products and solutions available for this job.Â It is both overwhelming and confusing.Â Then, we came across a product and a solution that just made perfect sense.Â It’s called the Lenspen SensorKlear II CCD Sensor Cleaner and the SensorKlear Loupe.Â These two items, together with a blower ball like the Giottos Rocket Blower or the Lenspen Hurricane Blower, make perfect sense as a solution to the problem.
What are we getting into here?
The inside of the camera body is a dark and tight space.Â To know what you are getting into, the the SensorKlear loupe is what you use to look into the camera to see if there is any dust that needs to be cleaned off the sensor.Â This device is specially engineered to light the interior of the camera body and sensor surface, magnify the view to the eye and allow easy side access to get to the sensor.
There are also two kinds of dust that we will encounter.Â Dry dust and sticky dust. Dry dust will make up about 95% of the dust particles you will encounter which is good news since they are easily removed with a blower ball.Â A few quick blasts on the mirror, then putting the camera into sensor cleaning mode and then a few quick blasts onto the sensor is usually all you need for the majority of the dust you will encounter.Â This should always be your first step when cleaning your camera’s sensor, and many times will be more than enough to solve your problems.Â Once you complete this step, either check your sensor with a SensorKlear Loupe or put a lens back on, turn on manual focus and shoot a photo of a white background.Â Check to see if there are any spots on your image.
Any dust that remains on our sensor and refuses to budge with just a simple blast of air is known as “sticky dust”.Â This dust may be sticky from humidity or it is static charged and wants to just hang on the sensor.Â There are several ways to get the sticky dust off and dozens of companies that are ready to sell you all manner of cleaning supplies to solve this problem.Â In the worst case, it is possible that a spec might not be so easy to remove.Â There are brushes that may work, or sometimes they just end up moving the dust around.Â The other products offered are chemicals that will often leave a residue on the sensor glass (and yes, they ALL leave a visible residue… some just less than others).Â Depending on the environment, some dust could even have some oil on it and the best you can do with brushes is to move it around and never get it to come off.Â That’s when a chemical process and swab may (worst case scenario) have to be used to get that stubborn piece of dust off.
But outside of the worst cases (which RARELY occour), a simple blow, look and swipe should handle all your needs.Â This is where the two piece solution of the Lenspen SensorKlear II CCD Sensor Cleaner and the SensorKlear Loupe make the perfect combination.Â Let’s get into detail about these two pieces.
The SensorKlear Loupe is an electronically lighted eyepiece that sits over the body where the lens normally sits.Â With it’s multiple LED lights, it gives you a wonderful, lighted view of your sensor that is magnified many times.Â With this, you can see every spec of dust and debris on your sensor’s surface.Â This is the only way we know of today to effectively see what needs to be cleaned.Â You simply tell your camera to pup up the mirror for sensor cleaning, remove the lens and lay the camera on its back.Â Then, you put the SensorKlear over the body opening and turn on the light.
The Lenspen SensorKlear II CCD Sensor Cleaner is a pen-like device with a hinge in the middle.Â It has a capped cleaner surface at one end.Â This cleaner surface is a specially designed chamois surface that is shaped like a rounded triangle to allow you to get into the corner of the sensor area and reach any surface.Â Unlike brushes that can simply move things around, this pen can wipe just the area where the dust sits and pick it right up.Â If the dust is sticky, it will usually pick it up too, or in some cases, it will move it around and turn it from sticky to dry dust, which can just be blown out of the camera.Â Either way, there is no form of dust it cannot seem to handle.
So, the next step is to remove any debris we see.Â We are assuming at this point that you have blown out the camera.Â With the SensorKlear over the opening, there is a side access opening.Â You simple bend the CCD sensor cleaning pen at a slight angle and reach in through this side access opening, watching the whole time throuh the eyepiece.Â You make a small wipe or blot of the area where the dust is and it is immediately picked up and swept away.
We know that this sounds like a product plug; and truthfully, it truly is.Â This is the first series of products that have actually made us feel comfortable cleaning our own camera sensors.Â And that is saying a lot.Â As a matter of fact, we heard rumors that Canon service techs themselves use these products for the work that they do on customer’s cameras.Â I guess that makes sense to us too.Â After all, its the best solution we have seen.
Lenspen Website: http://lenspen.com