Sensor Cleaning Question

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by david israel, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. Hello,
    I know this may be a redundant question for some but I am at the point where I need to clean the dust off of my Canon 20D's sensor. Every tutorial that I watch is dated from 2006 or prior and since they are older post I am assuming that the information may be dated as well and there is probally a better way 4 or 5 years later. I have a rocket blower and after doing everything the way the tutorials and instructions say I seem to have additional dust specks added to the already annoying existing ones. I am willing to try to use a solution and wipe but I have read both positive and negative reviews of certain items so I figured I would ask on good old reliable and trusted site The one thing I can tell you is that I would like to keep the cleaning process to a bare minimum expense as I am on a very tight budget and cannot afford to spend money to send in to a shop or Canon for cleaning and cannot afford the visdust thing for $80.00 at the moment.
    Any help, advice, website links would be greatly appreciated.
    David Israel
  2. I've always had decent luck with the rocket blower. Blow at an angle to the sensor while enabling sensor clean. Also hold the camera facing down. I have no experience with the solutions, but I would not want to actually touch my sensor, but thats just me, I'd rather take it to a professional camera specialists. I'd either call the repair shops in your area and see how much they'll do it for, or I know Canon used to come around to local shops once a year and do sensor cleaning at the shop for $20. I did this a few years ago, but they haven't been back lately. I don't know if Canon doesn't do this anymore or if its just they don't come to our store.
  3. stp


    Saran wrap wound around the end of a Q-tip and gently touched to the sensor will pick up individual dust particles. The problem is being able to see and find those dust particles. You would need some kind of magnification and lighting to find those particles. If the problem is a greasy particle, the saran wrap would probably make things worse. In my mind, sensor swabs with a cleaning fluid are hard to beat.
  4. In an emergency situation I have cleaned the sensor of a 5D with lens tissue wrapped around a piece of cardboard (cut to size), with a few drops of lens cleaning fluid. Not the best solution but it worked at that time. Since then I have the proper lens cleaning products available. I'd suggest wet cleaning in your case. Since having it done is probably more expensive than cleaning swabs and fluid you'd better buy a few things (or find a friend who is able/willing to help you).
  5. I use the copper hill method to clean my sensor. It took some practice to get it right but now I find it pretty easy. Their website has a good tutorial and their cleaning kits are well within your budget.
  6. I wish i had a "cheap" answer. I did pretty much everything in and out of the book (Canon returned the a camera with more dust on the sensor then when i send it in, so much for fool proof and CPS free service).
    The general best way is to implement the "Visible Dust way", so i suggest to use as many products from them as your budget allows: 1. the liquid (maybe the 2nd liquid), 2. the swaps, 3. the loupe and 4. the sensor brush (which you'll want at some point, maybe starting with a replacement tip only to save a bit).
    The liquid is a must to loosen the specs (and depending what they are you need different solutions),
    the swaps are cut and clean for the specific sensor size (there are various clean sheets out there, you can wrap around a "stick", but this is quick)
    and finally the loupe lets you actually see what you're cleaning and what's still on the sensor.
    I put the Sensor brush at the end of the (shopping) list, even that i use it as the first thing when cleaning, after the blower of course, but in your case it seems the stubborn specks are the problem, which points to cleaning with a liquid method.
    So you could obviously substitute some of the pieces (old slide loupe and flashlight), but with the kit it's a quick, precise and no-brainer operation (Now, i'm done cleaning in under 5 minutes without retesting and using dozens of swaps and i single out the loup to speed this up).
    Hopefully that gets you shooting dustfree very soon (and keep an eye out on ebay or the Visible Dust website for specials).
  7. Don't worry all too much about it. The "sensor" surface is really just the IR/UV filter in front of the anti-alias filter. You still want to be very careful and gentle, but it's not at all the same as scrubbing down bare, exposed electronics. Get a sensor cleaning kit from a reputable camera store. Not everything is a gimmick; some are actually the right tools for the specific jobs.
  8. Thanks everyone. The Copperhill Method may be the route to try. I watched a tutorial video about it and it seems like it would work well as long as it's done carefully and correctly. I will update when I complete the process. Thanks,
  9. The information from 4 years ago is probably still current. It's much less of an issue now, however, with cameras with built in sensor cleaning, thus less attention to this topic. A loupe with built in illumination would be a good investment no matter how you clean.
  10. I have had to do this only once, on my 50D. I bought the Copper Hill stuff, including the brush, which is not part of the standard equipment. I decided to follow advice I found somewhere on the web:
    1. Try a rocket blower first and retest. This may be enough.
    2. If that fails, use the special high-static brush. That may be enough.
    3. if that fails, do a wet cleaning with a swab, using the copper hill method..
    I never had to get to #3. The blower was not enough, but #2 worked fine, and it is a whole lot less nerve-wracking than a wet cleaning. Just follow the copper hill instructions to a T.
    Good luck.
  11. Anyone with a 7D notice how the sensor cleaning mechanism has been "improved" from the other APS-C with sensor cleaning? Every time I turn mine off/on, I can hear a swooosh shound while the sensor cleaning screen is on, it sounds like a windshield wiper. I am in 3874 shots and still have not seen normal dust particles in my blue sky f22 shots. My 5Dmkii is up to 2389 clicks and can already notice dense particles. Weird thing is that I keep my 24-105L with 5D most of the time. And since I enjoy my 7D more, I change lens almost every time I use, from 10-22, 17-55 and 24L.
  12. One of the most important procedure, Use the proper Power Supply and not the camera battery power because the shutter may close on you and will destroy the blades.
    If you contact me and provide your address I will send you a sensor swab (at no charge), wet the tip with lens cleaner (or high grade alcohol) and swipe the edge all the way cross on the sensor in a dust free environment. If it will not work the first time, try again and shoot a frame in between, load it into the computer and see.
  13. stp


    I responded above, but I'd like to add that I wish I had bought stock in the company that makes Visible Dust products. I need and use their products, but I feel I'm getting ripped off and they're making a pile of money on whatever I purchase. I'm not saying their products are not good; I just think they are way, way overpriced.
  14. The general approach most people take for cleaning the sensor are:
    1. Use a blower. However this my not work if the dust is sticky or if some grease or oil from the shutter has gotten on the sensor.
    2. Use a static brush such as the Arctic Butterfly made by Visible Dust. I have found this to be 90% effective in removing dust after one or two swippes. The brushes are very gentle and will not damage the sensor. Be sure to keep the brush away from the shutter so that it doesn't pick up grease or oil from the shutter. If it does it may spread it across the sensor forcing you to go to step 3.
    3. Wet clean the sensor. I have seen references to the "Copper Hill" method several times in the past and I did review it on the web site. However the Copper Hill method is no really any different then any other wet cleaning methods. It does however have you manually wrap a wipe onto the stick. This is not a good idea since manually handling a wipe can cause it to pick up dust and debris before you even use it to clean the sensor. I would instead recommend using pre-packaged sensor wipes. These are pre cleaned wipes already attached to a stick and are sized to match the sensor. Remove a wipe from the package, apply the cleaning fliud, wipe once and discard the used wipe. If one wipe is not enough use a second clean wipe. Do not reuse the old wipe since it is now dirty (I work in the semiconductor industry and reusing a wipe is a big no no). A number of companies make individually prepackaged wipes including Visible Dust which I mentioned earlier.
    I rarely get to step 3. My Visible Dust static brush works very well and it is very fast. I have had very little luck with blowers. Some of my friends have had much better luck. However a blower is a very simple and quick and can easily be done in the field. I rarely need more than 2 swabs in step 3.
    You can find more information at this site which also has a brief summary of the various products. Before you clean the sensor make sure your battery is fully charged or if available use AC power. Cleaning the sensor should only take 5 minutes while most cameras can keep the shutter open for more than 30 minutes on a fully charged battery. Do not clean with a weak battery. If power fails during the clean the shutter will close on your brush or swap which will probably destroy the shutter. To check for dust before and after the clean, set your camera aperture priority, F22, and take a picture of the all blue sky ( or blank white sheet of paper). All dust should be visible, especially when you zoom in using the camera controls.
  15. Hi David,
    I'm mainly an outdoor photographer and it wasn't long before I noticed dust bunnies on the sensor of my Canon 5D. Unfortunately, many of the spots were not "dust" but some kind of more stubborn residue. It's easy to imagine how changing lenses in a humid coastal environment would allow tiny particulates of ocean spray to settle on the sensor.
    Many years ago I began reading up on the topic of sensor cleaning and it was apparent that there was wide consensus on several points, many already touched on in this thread.
    1) Turn your camera off before changing lenses. There is speculation that when on, the sensor retains a charge, which may attract particles.
    2) Sending the camera to the manufacturer for cleaning often gives unsatisfactory results.
    3) The blower is a good first line of defense, but not all spots can be removed with a blower or static brush. In fact, a friend bought an expensive static brush that came primed with some sort of oily residue, that smeared his sensor severely (apparently some accidental by product of the manufacturing process, but of course they wouldn't accept any liability).
    4) For any remaining smudges, you'll probably have to wet wipe. The Copper Hill method is similar to the method I adopted from Luminous Landscapes website, though I use Sensor Swabs, from Photographic Solutions, Inc., which are boxed in groups of preassembled, individually sealed swabs. You may have to squeegee 2-3 times to get the sensor reasonably clean.
    5) Even after going through all the steps of cleaning, you may still have some debris remaining, particularly at the edges of the sensor. At that point I just live with it, using Photoshop to crop or clone out if necessary the minor stuff that remains.
    Good Luck!
  16. Here is my approach that I've evolved over a number of years using DSLRs.
    1. Live with a bit of dust - just retouch it out in post. This is often less trouble that cleaning. If this isn't satisfactory...
    2. Try a quick cleaning with a bulb blower. Hold the camera chamber down, avoid inserting the blower tip into the chamber, direct a few dozen puffs at the sensor glass from varying angles. (Be aware that this can introduce some dust into the viewfinder...) When this isn't enough...
    3. Use an air-charged sensor brush - either the "official" versions or the less-expensive equivalents. This can almost always get the sensor very, very clean. The only things it can't solve are "sticky dust" or smudges. For these you may need to...
    4. Try a wet cleaning. I generally avoid this since it is more difficult and carries some minor risks ranging from putting streaks on the sensor glass to worse stuff. I might do this no more often than about once per year. However...
    5. Since I got a 5D2 with its built-in dust removal technology I have not had to clean the sensor in a year.
  17. Try the Dust-Wand kit from Dust-Aid it's pretty good, it's cheap with many spares in the kit, it's also allowed in carry on luggage in airplanes and comes in a handy box.
    It was the one I used after a highly unsuccessful and messy cleaning with the "Green Clean" kit witch left huge smudges in my sensor after the liquid dried off on the sensor. So I had to clean these too.
  18. The SensorKlear works well, surprised nobody has mentioned it. That's all I have ever needed.
  19. I second Ronald Smith. My 5D has accumulated dust over the years with little effect of just blowing. I was nervous about touching the sensor but I think that the risk of damaging the surfaces is not as great as has been suggested. I got a SensorKlear Pro kit (50% off in a sale!) and although it took several 'wipes' I can no longer see dust. And there is no sign of any other abnormalities, scratches, etc.
  20. This is another vote for Copper Hill. The method is very inexpensive and has been 100% effective for me. I have used blowers and Sensor Swabs but neither method could remove all specks. I have read that Sensor Klear is not 100% effective either. Using the Copper Hill method, it usually take 3-5 passes using a new PecPad each time. Don't be surprised or discouraged if it takes 10 passes if you haven't cleaned the sensor in a while. Fortunately a pack of 100 PecPads is about $7 and Eclipse2 is about $8. So you should get 20-30 cleanings for about $15!
  21. I generally check my sensor after I change a lens and when I have a few minutes.
    I have tried the rocket blower and it only seems to add more dust.
    To find out where dust is, shoot at a blank wall or sky at the highest aperture (f22 or higher) and try to get the exposure so the histogram is right in the middle. I try to take a couple of pictures (more on this below) Load the image in a view program and view at 100%. It can be difficult, but remember the image is inverted so for example a dust spot seen in the lower right corner is actually on the upper left portion of the sensor.
    1. I use my camera sensor cleaning selection and I would estimate it works about 10-15% of the time.
    2. I use the Arctic Butterfly from Visible Dust. Supposedly there is some 'grease' like material around the sensor so when you use the brush, don't touch the side and then drag across the sensor. Instead place the brush somewhere on the sensor and drag to the side. I only clean where I know there is dust. This works 98% of the time with one or two sweeps. I clean my Arctic Butterfly with 91% isopropyl alcohol every once in a while.
    3. In case this does not work, I use there liquid one-time-once brushes
    I would guess that I clean my sensor once a month or so.
  22. If you use a blower without sucking out the dust bunnies all you do is redistribute the dust to another area. I have successfully used a brush like a Butterfly first, then the blower but have a small vacuum nozzle inserted into the light box to suck up the bunnies and it does work
  23. More on my post above. For a about two years a 5D was my main camera and before that I had a Canon cropped sensor DSLR body. At one time or another I tried just about all of the cleaning methods. I finally and begrudgingly decided that a wet cleaning (with Eclipse and PecPads) was the only way to get the AA glass truly clean, and I resorted to it perhaps once every month or so.
    But this method has its issues. It is a bit awkward to accomplish. You need to wrap the pad around something - I used the plastic "spatula" that was provided with the Eclipse fluid - and tape it. It isn't easy to get the material to move perfectly across the surface of the glass. You typically have to do it more than once. It is very easy to create "smear" marks on the glass. Occasionally a piece of dust that would have come off using a dry method ends up sticking to the glass, particularly near the corners or the edge.
    It worked for me, but I wasn't happy.
    During the final year in which the 5D was my primary body I finally figured out how to use the air charges brush effectively, and this changed my cleaning approach completely. With dry dust - the most common issue - the brush can get the glass very clean and, with care, completely free of dust spots. And it is much quicker, won't smear (as long as the brush is kept clean), doesn't require fluids, and won't cause stuff to end up sticking.
    With a body like the 5D, you are going to get dust on the glass. Often. I felt that under heavy use I had to clean the glass about once per month. (And keep in mind that in my earlier post I counseled living with some amount of dust and removing it in post - so I'm not demanding a perfectly clean sensor glass.) Once I figured out how to clean with the brush, I could do it very quickly... and I hardly ever had to resort to a wet cleaning again.
    I discourage over-use of the wet methods. It is worth having them around for stubborn spots and streaks, but for normal maintenance they are overkill.
  24. I've used some of the methods described above with a bunch of different cameras, including my current workhorse (Canon 5DM2). The rocket blower is never enough and, since it isn't really filtered, I always wonder if it is just blowing the dirt around. The wet method, with a sensor cleaning kit and fluid, seems to work pretty reliably though it is somewhat tedious (cleaning, shooting, looking for dirt and cleaning again). I wonder why no one here has mentioned the use of Dust Delete Data. I find it can be a much more useful tool to let the software remove persistent dust spots up front, as opposed to spending time later manually removing spots from images.
  25. By the way, and by clarification...
    I am not against wet cleaning. I have the Eclipse/PecPad method materials, and I still rely on them on those occasions when the blower/brush approach can't remove a smudge or a stuck bit of "stuff." For this sort of thing the wet cleaning method is effective and probably necessary.
    My main point was that I don't believe that it is a good first resort. For that I find the brush/blower approach to be much simpler and very effective.
  26. I honestly have to say THANK YOU to everyone that responded to this question. I really appreciate all of the detailed responses and advice. I am definately going to get that annoying dust off the sensor and I have lots a ways to go about getting it done. I will post what works for me and I know there may always be a spec or two of dust but if you had seen my senssor and the amont of post photoshop work it created you would understand my frustration too.
    David Israel

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