Cleaning of your Nikon or Canon Digital SLR sensor is easy peasy and is something which has to be done for any of us who shoot often enough.
Sure, we can do things to make the need for digital sensor cleaning less frequent, like change lenses less frequently. Never ever change lenses in a dusty environment … and, do not lock up your mirror to admire its shiny surface, unless you are cleaning it.
If you are going to clean your sensor, consider having it professionally done. It will probably run you about $45-$100 for this service. Which, isn’t at all bad.
Never ever spray your sensor with pressurized air cleaners, such as those used for computers and other electronics… I almost ruined a sensor on a Nikon D90 trying to do this. If you gotta spray air, use Giottos Rocket, more on that later…
The aerosol can, even though it was supposed to be safe… left a horrible film on my sensor. Luckily, when I took the camera in to a certified Nikon repair center to be cleaned, I was led by the technician in the direction of Eclipse Optic Cleaning Fluid and Digital Image Sensor Cleaner Swabs, both made by Photographic Solutions, Inc.
He offered to charge me $70 bucks and take 2 weeks to clean my camera sensor…
Or, he said, I could using these very same two products he was going to use himself and check on the web for videos on how to clean the sensor on my own.
My Nikon service guy was pretty sure the sensor would come clean, and it did.
Several forums postings also report seeing Nikon Service technicians using Sensors Swabs and Eclipse Fluid at locations around the world.
Using these products and following what I got from the various directions, my newly clean sensor was quite the relief.
On further investigations, Eclipse and Sensor Swabs are the only products guaranteed by their manufacturer (Photographic Solutions, Inc.) not to damage CCD and CMOS Digital Camera Sensors.
When you gotta get your sensor clean, you have to make sure you get the right size Sensor Swabs.
There are three different Sensor Swab Sizes.
WHICH SIZE SENSOR SWAB TO USE?
Nikons are easy.
Canon DSLR and Swab Size:
|EOS 50D (FL)||2|
|EOS 5D, 5D Mark II (FL)||3|
|EOS 1D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark IIn, 1D Mark III, Mark IV||1|
|EOS 1Ds, 1Ds Mark IV||3|
|EOS 1Ds Mark II, 1Ds Mark III||3|
|EOS 20D, 30D, 40D, D30, D60, 7D||2|
|EOS 500D (FL)||2|
|Rebel (original), 400D Rebel Xti||2|
|450D Xsi , 1000Xs||2|
Cleaning swabs and solutions are available from Photographic Solutions, of course, or are also available at a discount from Amazon, see links below.
A few more tips, there are a number of videos on-line for how to clean your sensor. I was instructed to watch these before I start cleaning…
There are guys cleaning digital sensors after they have had a couple of drinks to calm their nerves… I get it, though I do not recommend this method.
Video Tutorial for cleaning a Canon DSLR. Run time is under 3 minutes. Also uses a couple of cool tools I don’t have and do not need, like a sensor scope. It’s a pretty good instructional video otherwise for seeing the job successfully done.
For me, I cannot see the sensor dust, unless it is really really REALLY large, by looking at the sensor. It takes a special tool to do this. Not usually worth the effort or bother. Also, these tools themselves can drop particles onto your mirror…
How do you know your sensor needs cleaning?
I know my sensor needs cleaning when I see flakes of dust in the same spots in my images, particularly when shot at small apertures, against light backgrounds.
How do you know the dust is on your sensor?
Sensor dust is visible with any lens you use. Try a different lens, see what happens, to make sure the dust is not on the lens.
The dust is usually in the same location, unless it is a large floater that moves. Usually, it stays in specific spots.
Sensor dust gets more visible at narrow apertures, like F16 to F22 and may become invisible at wide apertures like F2.8, etc.
To see it easily, shoot against a blank wall, or uniform sky. Look for little darker fuzzy blobs.
How do you clean the sensor?
The instructions on box and internet vary a bit…
There are commonalities and realities..
Work in a clean well-lit, uncluttered environment
- Keep the camera body facing sideways to down, to avoid more dust falling into the body
- Work out of the wind
- Do not force air into the camera body with anything other than a clean Giottos Rocket
- Keep the swabs wrapped and clean till ready to use
- Use the swabs only once per side, or the swabs themselves add dust to sensor, I have seen it, done it…
- Prepare to need about 3-4 swabs… it often takes a few tries
- If you drop or dirty the swab, throw it away…
- When you have your work surface ready, make sure you know how to lock your mirror up and to drop it again.
- Prewet your swab, with 2-3 drops per side of the swab of the Eclipse Optic Cleaning Fluid, put the swab back inside the baggy to keep it ready for use.
- Lock up the mirror, grab the ready (wet) swab. Swipe the sensor, using one side of the swab.
- Flip the swab and swipe the sensor again.
- The swabs do not fully cover the whole sensor, so make sure in your back and forth swipings, you do clean/swab the entire sensor surface.
- Let the swab go, after the use of both sides of the swab once. ONLY ONCE.
- Turning off the camera drops the mirror.
- Put back on your lens.
- Shoot a blank white surface or sky.
- Check to see if your sensor is dust free by examining the image in detail. On camera or on your large computer screen.
- If you still have dust, and it will probably be in new spots now… repeat steps 2-11 till you are dust free.
It is really pretty simple. At $50 per box of 12, the swabs are pricey at about $4 each, even if you do get them for $3.25 each at Amazon. They are not cheap.
Still, Every time I tried to use one more than for one pass on each side, they just seem to start dropping dust after the first pass. So, use them once per side, and be prepared to check and redo a few times till your sensor gets clean.
The sensors do get clean if you work with some care and patience. They’ll usually get dusty all over again if you try being cheap by reusing the swabs more than once per side…
The Giotto Rocket, large size, is good for blowing out large dust particles. Anything stronger, or not kept clean, will put dust into your camera. Or such blowers may push dust into the innards of the body… yuck.
When not in use, I store my Giotto Rocket in its own separate zip lock bag to help keep it clean and dust free.
The Rocket will only work for large loose dust on the mirror or sensor. To use it, in a clean place, turn the camera face down. Squeeze some air into the body. Any loose dust will fall out after a few gentle puffs.
Smaller dust is often stuck more firmly to the sensor. Gentle blowing will usually not release this small dust. It can only be cleaned by a professional or as described above.
Never try to clean the mirror. It’s surface can be damaged easily by cleaning. If the Giotto, with a few gentle blasts won’t clean it, take it to a pro, or live with it, it will probably be alright as defects on the mirror will not show up in your images.
To find the Sensor Cleaning Solutions, Swabs and Rocket on Amazon, use links below:
- Swab Type 2 (DX Sensors like Nikon D7000, D90, etc)
- Swab Type 3 (FX Sensors like Nikon D3X, D3, D3s, etc)
- Swab Type 1 (Certain Canon Sensors, See list above)
- Eclipse Optic Cleaning Fluid (Cleaning solution for your swabs)
- Giottos Large Rocket (To gently blow out larger loose dust particles)
Keep calm, work in a clean environment, and the sensor will come clean.