Cleaning D800 with the Sensor Gel Stick

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by david_r._edan, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. Hey.
    Couldn't find a forum that's specific to sensor cleaning, so, sorry if there is one.
    Can anyone attest to the purported effectiveness of this "Sensor Gel Stick"?
    I myself have no doubt that this gizmo is quite capable at picking up most of the debris. However, my main concern is its inherent "stickiness". I'm quite skeptical that upon contact, the sticky material does not leave any residue, especially around the edges (of the gel).
    I've had a few mixed-to-bad experiences with sensor swabs (on crop sensors), as the procedure would always leave some residue and possibly minor scuffing close to and parallel to the horizontal edges. I could observe those defects only in test photos, after applying a strong boost of contrast but the pictures spoke for themselves.
    The Internet is filled with testimonies and sample photos from all kinds of happy-go-lucky types, who vouch for the Sensor Gel Stick. But do those people even know how to properly analyze their sensors? Basically, all I've seen was before and after photos of the sky... at the normal contrast.... That doesn't tell me much.
    There are also plenty of horror stories. But I believe that those stem largely from product incompatibility or the fact that the market is flooded with cheap rip-offs of this "gel stick".
    Honestly, before shelling out close to 60 bucks on a plastic stick and possibly putting my OLPF at risk, I would really need a few honest opinions from people who have used this "cleaning product" on their Nikon cameras.
    I'm interested in hearing the testimonies of genuine pixel-peepers, such as myself. My main concerns with this product are the possibility of abrasion and residue being left on the OLPF.
    Thanks in advance!
  2. Just finished cleaning my D610 and D300 sensors tonight with Pec-Pad strips, Eclipse cleaning solution and a plastic "spatula". I wet clean this way pretty regularly - changing lenses in the field is a dust collecting enterprise - and it works well.
    I can't address the Sensor Gel Stick directly however I would be concerned about the same issues you are. I am reluctant to put something sticky on the sensor even if it is unlikely that something gets stuck, creating a nightmare.
    Wet cleaning is pretty straightforward. Have you tried or considered it?
  3. I would not use a gel tipped cleaning tool, ever! Besides being a dust magnet, they can potentially leave deposits which are really hard to remove (q.v., Lens Pens).
    Most of the time, all you need to do is blow off dust with a squeeze bulb (e.g., Giottos Rocket), without any contact at all. (Never use your breath. Spatters are inevitable.) For more persistent particle, microfiber brushes work well, and are reusable. They work using static electricity with very light pressure. The fibers are cleaned and charged using canned "air" or a spinning device.
    As a last result, use a wet method for removing grease or oil spots. The best method is using Sensor Swabs - plastic spatulas with a lint-free non-woven fabric tip - and Eclipse Fluid (spectroscopic grade methanol).
    Modern sensors seem to be much more resistant to dust than ten years ago or so. I have to clean my D3 every month or so, but have only wet-cleaned my Sony A7Rii once, in the first week (oil spots). The same thing happened with A7ii last year. Many cameras, the Sony included, have a cleaning cycle which shakes the sensor each time you turn the power on.
  4. They use them at the Leica factory - leading me to the assumption that they are indeed safe to use and don't leave a residue on the sensor (if used properly). Here's a video (start at 13:30, actual use is at 14:58: I would expect them to work quite well with dust - but wonder what would happen with oil drops (which aren't easy to get rid of even with wet cleaning).
  5. If it was as simple as blowing some air on the sensor, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I have a few stubborn specks near the center of the frame. They are determined to 'stick around'. Obviously I need to make hard contact.
    As per the wet cleaning. Well, I guess I wasn't specific enough. I've been using them SensorSwabs and the Eclipse solution for many years with mixed results. I still have plenty of Eclipse left, however, I would need to buy new swabs, since the ones that I have are in the crop-sensor variety.
    To all who are happy with this solution: Have a good look at your sensor. Make a test shot and REALLY boost the contrast. Chances are you'll be able to see smears that go in the horizontal direction, especially around the edges of the frame. And do you people really think that pressing down on abrasive particles and dragging them across the OLPF is a good idea?

    I would like to stay on topic here. Deiter, watching that video is somewhat reassuring.
    Obviously, I would like to get additional feedback on the Sensor Gel Stick.
  6. Totally agree. Very easy to do. Personally I found that these v-swabs are the best.
    They leave no streaks and to truly find out if your sensor is dirty set the lens to infinity and at F/22. Shoot the sky or a black white wall. These along with Eclipse cleaning solution work well, even to remove the oil spots. Even those oil spots that were notorious in the D7000 that even had people sending those bodies back to nikon. The biggest thing is patience. Never use a swab twice. Once and done.
  7. David, since you haven't gotten a response from a first hand user of the Sensor Gel Sticks yet, I thought I'd chime in. I too was frustrated with sensor swabs and was never able to get the sensor truly clean. Out of desperation I ordered a SGS from Photographylife and tried it first on my D-300. It got every speck of dust off the sensor and left absolutely no residue on it. I had some particularly sticky spots on my D-810 that could not be blown off so I used the SGS on it as well. There were one or two instances where it left a slight amount of residue at the edge of the sticky pad but subsequent applications left the sensor completely clean. I tested the before and after cleanliness by shooting a white background and cranking up the contrast in post as well as applying a "Dust" tone curve in post. I know there is a bit of hesitation to use something sticky on your sensor but I've had nothing but positive experiences and will continue to use them.
  8. I've used the Sensor Gel Stick a couple of times on a D7100 and D750 with mixed results. In both cases the sensor had a number of spots and the gel stick removed most of those that the built in cleaner and hurricane blower would not, but there were always one or two stubborn stops left behind that still required wet cleaning.
    I had no indication that using the stick left any residue that made further cleaning more difficult and would not hesitate to use it again before resorting to wet cleaning, but it was not the miracle I was hoping for.
    For wet cleaning I too like the V-swabs, the plastic seems a little firmer and maybe a little easier to get even pressure across the sensor than the other brand I tried before.
  9. Use a blower and/or brush before using the Eclipse method to remove any abrasive particles. You can use a swab on only one pass in each direction. If you get smears, you are transferring oil from your fingers or contaminated Eclipse fluid. Never touch the swab (or brush) where it contacts the sensor, nor any part of the swab wet with the fluid. I may get dust at the extreme edges, but not smears.
    I watched the video and understand the concept of the gel stick. Since you're blotting, not scrubbing, you aren't going to drag dust across the sensor. The gel itself is probably a polymer like PVC with a lot of plasticizer. There's always a potential of leaving a deposit, particularly once the stick ages. While it will remove dust, it won't remove anything sticking to the glass, like salt, saliva or water spots. That will require a wet method of some sort. It could be highly effective against dust, but I'm more comfortable using a microfiber brush. Furthermore the brush is not consummable like the gel stick and sticky paper.
  10. Edward: Blowing the dust off prior to making any type of hard contact is cleaning your sensor 101. I've been using the sensor swabs and the eclipse fluid since 2006-2007, so I know the drill.
    Not all abrasive dust is dry. A lot of it will keep on clinging even if you can somehow get an actual hurricane to help you with your cleaning. And technically speaking, most solid particles are abrasive to some extent. Given my previous experience with wet cleaning I am really reluctant to use it on my D800, which has never been cleaned (except for air).
    We're getting off the topic I realize that people are trying to help but my original inquiry was about the Gel Stick.
    My current situation is "visible dust" on the sensor. In one spot there is something that looks like some sort of fiber. I have no reason to believe that I have any type of oil or saliva or any of those things on my sensor. I will order the Gel Stick and try to pick up with it whatever I can. If I should ever require wet cleaning I can always try Sensor Swabs (again).
    I've found a video on Youtube and it gave me a great idea.
    Prior to a cleaning session with the Gel Stick, I can test it first on a clean piece of glass, such as a UV or an ND filter. I will press the gel against the glass a couple of times and inspect the glass for residue in good lighting conditions. Any (new) smudges would be clearly visible, prompting me not to use the Gel Stick on the sensor.
    Dilemma solved.
  11. Didn't notice the other posts...
    Thank you, Richard and Tom. What you say is very reassuring. Actually I think I've solved my own dilemma. Read my previous post to get what I consider to be a pretty neat pointer on the Gel Stick usage.
  12. Edward, you indicate above that the Lens Pen leaves residue behind. I have been using the Lens Pen SensorKlear for several years with great success. I always use the blower before and after using it and have never noticed any residue afterwards. I'm not talking about using their Lens Pen made for the lens, but the one specifically made for the sensor. I know they both work using the same principal, but again it has never presented a problem for me. Since I started using it I have never had to do a wet cleaning.
  13. In that case, the Gel Stick sounds like a good method, perhaps not as portable as a brush but more effective. I haven't used the product, so I just relayed my concerns.
    I've used Scotch tape, rolled up, to clean LCD screens before applying a protective cover. In addition to dust, that removes fingerprints very well. It doesn't seem to leave a residue, but it probably wouldn't matter as long as the cover sticks evenly.
  14. Hi, I have used the Gel Stick on a D800 and D300 and have been very satisfied with the results. No residues or marks left and all dust cleaned.

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