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Sensor Cleaning - DIY or send it away

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by dazdmc, Mar 4, 2020.

  1. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    Pretty much as the title really/
    I have some dirt on my sensor that I can't get rid of, I've tried the in-camera sensor clean, air blower and wiping with a filter brush. I know you can buy the swabs and cleaning solutions but is it worth it? How easy is it to damage the sensor permanently? Any tips or hints before I make a decision either way?


  2. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Swabs and sensor cleaning solution is what they use in the service centres.
    Never use a brush it makes things worse. First option is the blower and it is often enough. Then use the swabs with solution.
    Then check the sensor by shooting the sky with the lens stopped right down to the smallest aperture. And look at 100%. Do not reuse a used swab.
  3. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Depends on how quickly you want it done, how convenient it is to have it done professionally and how confident and competent you are.
    I used to do mine with Eclipse and swabs. After getting everything to hand and the camera on a tripod and instructions to hand it used to take 5 minutes max. Try to do it in as dust-free an envirnoment as you can. Strangely enough, I haven't heard of one person damaging their sensor. That over years and years.
    Terrywoodenpic likes this.
  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Putting a brush on it was probably not a good idea. If it is a Nikon then there was a problem with certain models getting lubricant on the sensor some (small) number of years back. I can't remember the details but that probably needs a professional clean. I haven't heard any tales of woe of people damaging their sensors with DIY clean, which is essentially what you'll get in a shop. It would have to go to a service centre to get cleaned in a dust-free environment. The sensors have a protective filter in front of them - that is what gets cleaned. I've only used the "blow" method and that was infrequently on a 5D which didn't have a self-cleaning mechanism. Running the camera on full burst can shift dust around on a DSLR. The mirror going up and down circulates air quite effectively. You need a lens or at least the lens-cap on of course or you'll make it worse.
    Catriona likes this.
  5. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Yes, I received my Nikon D300S new, complete with a lubricant splodge on the sensor. Noticed it after my first try out. Sent it back it was fine after that was cleaned. Very graciously (not) they didn't charge me for the cleaning!!
    Yes. If it is spots on the sensor, then it is most likely dust. If it is a smear, then likely to be lubricant. Swabs and fluid is the best way to get a clean sensor.
  6. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the replies guys,
    Looking at it under a strong magnifying glass it looks like little smears so I'm guessing at the lubricant theory or some other contaminent has managed to find it's way in. In which case I have probably made it worse with the brush :oops::oops::oops:
    I'll get some swabs and cleaning fluid this afternoon from my local b+m shop.
    Catriona likes this.
  7. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    That's good. Let us know how you get on or if you need more help.
  8. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I bought a modellers paint brush and then cleaned it thoroughly with detergent, trying it on a mirror between washes, until it was grease free. It is brilliant for focusing screen dust removal. If you want to use a brush it must be absolutely grease free. The Arctic butterfly is little more than a very clean brush but mine cost a few pounds.

    A professional clean is no different from what you can do with sensor swabs, but if there is dirt on the sensor out of the box the seller/manufacturer should do it free of charge. The Nikon with the problem was the original D600 although any camera can get debris on the sensor, if its in there it can get on the sensor.

    Neither have i, it is pretty difficult to damage a sensor, or more accurately the low-pass filter, if you use sensor swabs or the tip of a brush. Unfortunately it may require more than one pass to remove the dirt.

    I have used a blower and normally that is all that is required, for some reason one of my D3 bodies seemed to attract more than any other camera, I cleaned it twice! I haven't tried the burst mode to shift dust. More recently I am finding dust on the focusing screen more annoying but the brush works well. What I do use when cleaning is a very bright LED torch which makes it much easier to see the offending items.

    There is no need to be frightened of cleaning the low-pass filter, despite what the manufacturers say, it isn't easily damaged if you use the right tools as directed. For the price of a "professional" clean you can buy all you need to clean the sensor several times and you won't be without your camera for a couple of weeks (unless you live near Fixation or the like where it can be done while you wait).
  9. IanG1957

    IanG1957 Well-Known Member

    As previously stated, the low-pass filter (if present) or cover glass to the sensor is pretty tough and getting used to cleaning your own sensor is pretty fundamantal - more so when you own mirrorless cameras as the sensor is not 'protected' from ambient muck as muchj as in a DSLR.

    I find I must clean my sensors more regularly on the mirrorless bodies - the routine is simple

    - take an image of the sky (for instance) on the widest angle lens you have, stopped down to maximum
    - check this on your computer monitor if you see small blobs appearing, time to clean
    - open the shutter and give a short blast with a compressed air cleaner (to get the BIG muck off)
    - swab with light cleaning solution (you don't have to flood the sensor) - I generally give two passes, turning the swab after the first pass to use the other side
    - let the sensor dry for a few seconds before turning the camera off (to close the shutter)

    - retake the image of the sky to check the dust has gone

    NB the idea of taking a picture of the sky (or any other regular surface) is simply to give the most neutral background for the dust spots to show up on - the wide angle lens, stopped right down, creates the greatest diffraction which will also tend to make the dust stand out...
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I'd be very wary of using a compressed air cleaner on the inside of a camera. I was looking for a rocket blower in a camera shop (which seemed to do no business) in Brussels. Bit of a language problem. The guy brandished a tin of compressed air and gave a squirt. It flattened quite a big pop-up cardboard display packed with leaflets and swept it off the counter. This at a distance of about 6 feet. No way I'd let that loose inside a camera! I'll stick to the rubber bulb solution.
  11. IanG1957

    IanG1957 Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry, I thought it was obvious that these things are used at a distance from the sensor itself.

    My apologies - next time I'm give dimensions etc.

  12. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    I've always done my own without any issues, but it's very much a matter of how confident YOU feel
    Catriona likes this.
  13. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Clear and concise!
    As I said last time you posted that illustration, there are nozzles available that allow very fine control rather than just "on" and "off". I trust IanG hasn't destroyed his shutter/s so I must assume that he has sufficient fine motor control to allow him safe use of an air cleaner.
  14. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Unless, as Geoff said, it has a fine control to keep the flow down and trap the (usually butane) propellant, then using it at a distance will, by the nature of jet flow, entrain any dust in the atmosphere and take it into the camera. Clearly the one I was shown was more for cleaning the outside of the body by blasting dirt away than doing the inside. It was considerably more vigorous than a can of air-freshener/fly-killer/deodorant etc. Having been shocked by that display I haven't explored the use of compressed air further.
  15. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    I do remember my first experience of trying to clean the sensor on my old D50. It was a bum of a camera with the zoom on and picked up dust like mad.
    Well, I didn't know much about cleaning sensors in those days, but I knew how to lock the mirror up and had a look. I then blew into the space. Haha! I can tell you, it shows how bugs can travel from one person to another! The sensor was absolutely covered in a mist of droplets. That was when I realised what a fool I was and got the swabs and Eclipse online (since I live miles from anywhere I can get stuff) and cleaned it properly. It took a couple of goes but when I had done it and stopped sweating, I saw it was clean!
    So, don't think we know all the answers, but just know we have learnt by experience what is best. :)
    IanG1957 likes this.
  16. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Not to mention a few things that definitely don't work!
    Catriona likes this.
  17. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    So true! :D:rolleyes:
  18. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    Well I went into my local shop, the only one left in Perth, and they didnt have anything. All they had was their own stock which they weren't willing to sell. They did however offer to clean it for me for £40. Doesn't seem too expensive but I'd rather give it a go myself. I'll get some swabs and fluid ordered online, which brings me to the next question.
    Any recommendations for a particular brand or are they all pretty much the same? There are dozens of different makes all claiming to be better than the other on amazon, I was looking there first as I can get same day/next day delivery.
  19. IanG1957

    IanG1957 Well-Known Member

    40 quid??? Come over here and I'll even give you a coffee and a doughnut for 40 quid…. (oh, and clean the sensor too)

    This is called "commerce", and is a bit like these fora - "mine is better than yours (cos I say so)" - Eclipse is the "juice" and sensor swabs are pretty much identical.

    Sorry, I still can't get over the £40....
    Roger_Provins likes this.
  20. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    The camera repairer in Newcastle charged me £10 to fully clean a sensor a couple of years or so ago!

    Well they would all claim to be better wouldn't they...
    IanG1957 likes this.

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