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Author Topic: tip: cheap method to clean DSLR sensor  (Read 12493 times)

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« on: October 20, 2007, 06:44 »
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I've a little useful tip for DSLR users. Probably you have the same problem as I - dust and dirt on the sensor. I shoot most of my photos at clean studio but it is impossible to keep my 5D's sensor clean. Because of electrostatics all small pieces clinging to the sensor each time I change the lenses.
I've used "SpeckGRABBER" but it is very expensive set and use up very fast. It is necesary to clean sensor every 2-3 sessions or spending tons of time at photoshop removing swarms of the black dots.
I found a very cheap and easy tool to clean the sensor. It's regular straw. I cut it at an angle and use it like goose-quill (look at the photo below). It is a very precision tool and because single-use always clean.



« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2007, 07:01 »
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hmmmmm.. i dunno i am want to try :)

if people are scared to put soft cloth type things on their sensor i don't think a 'hard' plastic straw is going to be very nice to it.

I would be afraid of the sensor getting scratched.

« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2007, 07:26 »
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My understanding is that you don't actually clean the sensor itself, but the clear low pass filter over the sensor.

This brings up a question: What is the sensor filter made of? Is it glass?

If it glass, then plastic wouldn't harm it.

I have also heard of using Saran Wrap to clean the sensor filter.  Anyone ever tried this method?

« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2007, 07:52 »
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My understanding is that you don't actually clean the sensor itself, but the clear low pass filter over the sensor.

This brings up a question: What is the sensor filter made of? Is it glass?

If it glass, then plastic wouldn't harm it.

I have also heard of using Saran Wrap to clean the sensor filter.  Anyone ever tried this method?

yeah, i realize that it is the low pass filter we are cleaning and not the sensor but I said sensor since that is what we commonly talk about - 'how to clean your sensor' and not 'how to clean your sensor filter' .. anyhow that is beside the point.  Either way I like SOFT things to touch my sensor :)

If you want to clean your sensor cheaply check out the copper hill method.  it costs basically nothing, and you are going to need a way to get sticky goo (oil from inside the camera mixed with dust) off the sensor and i don't think a straw (or speckgrabber for that matter) will cut it.

« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2007, 08:55 »
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Where can I find the copper hill method?

« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2007, 09:39 »
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I guess you all know, but anyway, its good practice to keep your body facing down when replacing
lenses. I know electric static will go against gravity but at least the 'heavy' things fall out and not on top of your sensor this way. Also make sure your 'new' lens is clean on the side it faces the sensor. Also when outside, try to do it inside a bag.

Just google for copper hill
1 of many results http://www.copperhillimages.com/index.php?pr=Tutorials



« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2007, 10:33 »
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I have EOS 400D with its integrated cleaning system (ultrasonic), but I am new with it, so what are your expiriences with it? Does it really works?

« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2007, 13:26 »
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I read about these cleaning methods all the time,  I tried the copper hill thing unsuccessfully.

Now I take my camera to my local Nikon service centre - they clean it and it comes back a day later like brand new.  Okay it costs a few $$ but then my camera is an important money earning tool and it deserves the very best treatment.

« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2007, 14:27 »
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I have EOS 400D with its integrated cleaning system (ultrasonic), but I am new with it, so what are your expiriences with it? Does it really works?

So far, the Olympus cameras seem to have the only cleaning system that works properly. I've had an E-1 for a year now, and so far, not a single dust spec. My Fuji S3, on the other hand, needs a thorough cleaning     :-\

« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2007, 15:27 »
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I guess you all know, but anyway, its good practice to keep your body facing down when replacing
lenses. I know electric static will go against gravity but at least the 'heavy' things fall out and not on top of your sensor this way. Also make sure your 'new' lens is clean on the side it faces the sensor. Also when outside, try to do it inside a bag.

Just google for copper hill
1 of many results http://www.copperhillimages.com/index.php?pr=Tutorials





or if you are in europe or norway go to
Rentkamera.no - My camera cleaning store :)

« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2007, 01:31 »
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HA HA HA..... I was just complaining about this all night. I'm working on about 600 pix I just shot down in the Smoky Mountains and the North Carolina and Tennessee countryside last week...   I swear, 98% of the work I did tonight was removing sensor spots from dark blue skies.....
 
I gotta get this thing cleaned!! Canon Rebel....  I'm very leary about cleaning it myself...  it hasn't been cleaned in over 2 years...and I've had this thing open in some pretty dirty/dusty locations (arizona desert, jersey beaches, appalachian trail,... LOL).  Man, I beat this camera to death, Canon should take it back and put it in their  "believe it or not' museum!

My last Canon went swimming. I was shooting white water, standing in it up to my knees... and the next thing I knew, me and Canny were * in h2o.  The Canon folks fixed it for only $99. That was sweet!
   
  But I'm motivated to get the Rebel cleaned..   my wife won't let me buy a 5D until I get this one cleaned for her....LOL..  Monday, I'll get my nose in the phone book and find a shop that'll clean it.    -tom

P.S.  I'm thinking I won't be standing in any water once I get the 5D.... LOL

« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2007, 05:18 »
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How do you use the straw?

Scrape it across the surface? Suck through it? Don't tell us you blow through it?

Another problem is seeing where the specks are. Most of them are microscopic and in the opposite place to where you think they would be, looking at the image.

As for it scratching the surface of the sensor ... if I remember my geology lessons correctly only substances harder that a surface will scratch it.

One way of measuring the hardness of a rock sample is to try to scratch the surface with other, known, samples. The hardness will be one step down from the hardness of the known sample that leaves a scratch.

Anyway, I use a rocket blower, coupled with the Arctic Butterfly brush system. Works well for me.

« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2007, 07:33 »
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I haven't noticed anything in my camera yet, and I wonder if I'm blind to it.  It's a Canon 400D, but I don't expect its auto cleaning thing to be so perfect.  What would be the best test to do, like shooting a plain color surface or whatever. 

Regards,
Adelaide

« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2007, 08:04 »
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Shot the sky with a very high f number

« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2007, 08:15 »
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then open the image up in curves and click 'auto' (which makes the contrast very high)... and look at all the black dots (this is dust)

« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2007, 08:21 »
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I'll try that.  Any alternative to the auto curves?  I don't think I have that in PSP7.

Regards,
Adelaide

« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 08:31 »
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I'll try that.  Any alternative to the auto curves?  I don't think I have that in PSP7.

Regards,
Adelaide

just just the image lots of contrast and you'll see the dust.  I can guarantee you that you have dust!! :)

I bought a camera once from a pro photog and did the dust test only to find it was HEAVILY freckled with dust everywhere.  I like to keep the dust spots to a minimum of 20-50...

« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2007, 08:34 »
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Shooting a well lit white wall is even better. Over-expose 1 or 2 EV.

Or buy an Olympus   ;D

« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2007, 08:52 »
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Shot the sky with a very high f number

oh yeah...  especially a dark, deep blue sky   (if you can find days like that anymore) .....  My wife said I sounded like a madman last night as I 'shopped' them out...  the spotting was horrible and very very time consuming... and when you deal with sky,  it is usually gradient, changing ever so slightly from top to bottom side to side.. then, sometimes...  you just can't  'paint'  the spot out,  you just create a different looking spot!   LOL     ... repeat after me, "sensor dust sux, senso dust sux..."    -tom

« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2007, 08:59 »
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Shot the sky with a very high f number

oh yeah...  especially a dark, deep blue sky   (if you can find days like that anymore) .....  My wife said I sounded like a madman last night as I 'shopped' them out...  the spotting was horrible and very very time consuming... and when you deal with sky,  it is usually gradient, changing ever so slightly from top to bottom side to side.. then, sometimes...  you just can't  'paint'  the spot out,  you just create a different looking spot!   LOL     ... repeat after me, "sensor dust sux, senso dust sux..."    -tom

yeah sky gradients are a nightmare but photoshop 'patch' tool seems to deal with it it like a pro.

« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2007, 09:34 »
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I'll try that.  Any alternative to the auto curves?  I don't think I have that in PSP7.

Regards,
Adelaide

Try the equalize tool... create a layer and equalize it, then, paint over the spots on the first (background) layer... then delete the layer and you have a clean image.

As for dust i use a blower, not a rocket blower but is similar, and i use it occasionally before a big session or every few weeks. I blow it to the sensor with the camera facing down so dust will fall as much as it can and do it several times, inspecting the sensor in between blows. This at least removes the big stuff, as for the rest, i don't have really that much of a problem with dust.

« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2007, 10:02 »
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I'll try that.  Any alternative to the auto curves?  I don't think I have that in PSP7.

Regards,
Adelaide

Try the equalize tool... create a layer and equalize it, then, paint over the spots on the first (background) layer... then delete the layer and you have a clean image.

As for dust i use a blower, not a rocket blower but is similar, and i use it occasionally before a big session or every few weeks. I blow it to the sensor with the camera facing down so dust will fall as much as it can and do it several times, inspecting the sensor in between blows. This at least removes the big stuff, as for the rest, i don't have really that much of a problem with dust.


could you go over that a little more slowly - what is the equalize tool?

« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2007, 10:56 »
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then open the image up in curves and click 'auto' (which makes the contrast very high)... and look at all the black dots (this is dust)

But, the thing is, doing that shows up everything.

I'd guess even a camera fresh out of its box will show dust specks using that test.


I haven't noticed anything in my camera yet, and I wonder if I'm blind to it.  It's a Canon 400D, but I don't expect its auto cleaning thing to be so perfect.  What would be the best test to do, like shooting a plain color surface or whatever. 

Regards,
Adelaide

My advice would be to ignore the dust unless you can see it on your normal images (and you seem to be okay Adelaide). Then deal with it by blowing with a blower/brushing with a static-charged brush.

Of course, take sensible precautions whilst changing lenses (camera switched off, pointing down, in a non-dusty environment, quick lens change). But the dust question can get blown out of proportion.

Not so long a go I saw a photographer with some weird little changing bag. It looked like something for handling radioactive waste. He changed his lenses by putting camera and new lens into the bag, zipped it all up, slipped his hands into glove-shaped pockets at the sides of the bag, changed the lens and then unzipped it and took the whole lot out again.

Now that's seriously paranoid.

« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 11:02 by Bateleur »

« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2007, 11:01 »
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I haven't taken the lens off my 5d since buying it but I still have dust accumulating on the sensor.

« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2007, 11:03 »
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there is wear and tear of the gears and such inside the camera which create dust and goo so it is going to come no matter what.

and if you are taking images of landscapes at f18 or so, you are going to see all the dust that way as well - so I prefer to get all the dust away with cleaning (or at least 90% of it)

« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2007, 11:04 »
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I haven't taken the lens off my 5d since buying it but I still have dust accumulating on the sensor.

Probably because you're using a zoom lens. Every time you zoom in and out you're pumping air (and dust) in and out of the camera.

« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2007, 13:32 »
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Not so long a go I saw a photographer with some weird little changing bag. It looked like something for handling radioactive waste. He changed his lenses by putting camera and new lens into the bag, zipped it all up, slipped his hands into glove-shaped pockets at the sides of the bag, changed the lens and then unzipped it and took the whole lot out again.

When I have a backpack (almost always...), I try to use it as a cover, exchanging my lenses with it.  Not as techie as the closed bag you saw, but helpful anyway.

Given what you say here, I can't imagine taking my camera to a seriously dusty/sandy environment, like the sand dunes I photographed in Namibia last year!  My P&S survived, though not closing well that lid in front of the lens for a couple of days.  I had sand in and behind my ears for two days after that...

Regards,
Adelaide

« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2007, 15:44 »
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I have one of those  cheap air pumps and it does the trick every time. A friend had something sticky on his sensor few times and the air pump couldn't blow it away , so we bought cleaning swabs and it is a 2 minutes job to clean that. Just make sure you lock the mirror and that your battery is full.

Even if you are using swabs or something similar its recommended to use air pump first , just in case there is something beside the dust (  sand for example) on the sensor that could scratch it.

Find the best position it the house , a room with less dust in the air possible , without carpets  etc ,  bathroom is most often a best place to do it , and NEVER experiment with home made equipment or liquids on your sensor.

Maybe the thing from the start of the topic works , (even if i don't realize how) but I would never try that  on my camera.

« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2007, 22:12 »
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Leaf wrote:
"Either way I like SOFT things to touch my sensor :) "

Me to - i insist of only soft things touching my sensor! lol

Best regards

« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2007, 16:18 »
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I found this article on sensor cleaning that you all might find worthwhile:

http://www.prime-junta.net/pont/How_to/a_Brush_Your_Sensor/a_Brush_Your_Sensor.pdf

« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2007, 16:20 »
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I found this article on sensor cleaning that you all might find worthwhile:

http://www.prime-junta.net/pont/How_to/a_Brush_Your_Sensor/a_Brush_Your_Sensor.pdf


thank you, sir!!  I downloaded it!....  -tom

« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2007, 08:04 »
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Great article, thank you.  I'm waiting for my Canon compact to come home from having it's sensor cleaned.  I'm not up to disassembling a compact myself..not if I want it put back togrther again right.
Rosta

« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2007, 08:27 »
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yeah, very nice article.  thanks for the link

« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2007, 08:33 »
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Great article. It makes a lot of sense, with solidly practical tips.

I'm off to test my brushes ...    :)


 

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