Sensor cleaning - why not canned air?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ajzammit, May 5, 2006.

  1. i know ... we've gone over this topic a million times, but i have a
    couple of questions for you all experienced ones.

    1. Why can't we use canned-air to clean sensors?
    2. There are so many methods i met on the web that now i'm
    confused, so i ask you to simply suggest THE method (perhaps a link
    or two) to clean the sensor.

    I have a D70 for almost a year and never really cleaned the sensor.
    I have a silly bulb blower which is completely useless and also have
    a few detectable spots here and there at closed apertures.

    Your help is really appreciated. Thank you all

  2. Canned "air", is it really air (Nitrogen plus Oxygen) or something else. Check the can. Do not use it.

    See also:
  3. I once tried to clean some dust off a music CD with canned air and it blew a puddle of chemical onto the surface, leaving a stain. That was the last time for that, much less DSLR sensors.

    This is what I have been doing for 3 yrs with my Fuji S2. Works like a champ for me.
  4. Canned air can spit out nasty stuff that needs quite a bit of rubbing. As others said -- not recommended.

    Nothing beats dry contactless cleaning with hand-blower (not brush!) followed by good old wet contact cleaning a-la Copperhill.
  5. The problems with using canned air pertain to the bad things that can happen if you aren't careful, are overzealous, or are very unlucky. Your can avoid splutches of canned air "stuff" on your surfaces by putting out a pre-blast or two prior to aiming the flow of vapor toward your lens or other delicate surface. The icky stuff is most prone to coming out during the initial blast, particularly if you haven't used the device for a while, and/or if you have shaken can.

    You also need to avoid putting the tip of the nozzle too close to your surface. To clean your sensor you might need more "oomph" than a bulb-blower can provide, but you don't need point-blank power from the canned-air device. So use it briefly, at a distance, sparingly, and only after a few judicious pre-blasts to be sure that no burst of chemical crap spoils your sensor of lens.

    I've used this canned-air method for cleaning my CCD for a couple of years now, and I've had no problems and have never had to go through "wiping" the CCD, which itself a process laden with dangeres.
  6. "Canned Air" is really a volatile liquid hydroflurocarbon under pressure. When you press the valve it vaporizes and shoots out the nozzle. Occasionally liquid droplets can come out and if those hit your sensor you will be really, really sorry.

    If you're not happy with your bulb blower, I can recommend the large Giottos Rocket Blower. It's much better than those crappy little ones. It's worth using the Rocket Blower before resorting to actually touching the sensor with anything solid.

    I have had my D2x for about a year and have not yet needed to clean the sensor. I'm very careful about how I change lenses. I use the Giottos blower on the lens mount before I remove a lens, I blow off the back of the new lens before mounting, I keep the camera pointed down during the change, and I do the change very quickly. And I try to do all lens changes in a relatively clean area protected from wind.
  7. Like Douglas G., I throw caution to the wind and clean my sensors with canned air. Though, I'm a wild man and sometimes run with scissors.

    Yes, it would be very bad if the propellent got on a sensor, but I've been using several cans of canned air per week for about 30 years to blow gunk off of- and out of- cameras, lenses, electric shavers, computers, stereos, CDs, DVDs, guns, sunglasses, etc. I've not had a mishap in decades.
  8. Nothing beats dry contactless cleaning with hand-blower (not brush!) followed by good old wet contact cleaning a-la Copperhill. - Arnab
    AGREE 100%
  9. I've never tried cleaning a senson with canned air -- I'm a film guy -- but have used it enough on other projects to discover if you hold the can level or pointed slightly upwards there usually isn't any fromlem with liquid. If you point the nozzle downwards you'll get liquid along with the air.
  10. The best ways to clean sensors is the topic of many threads on Photo.Net. The most reliable method is with Eclipse fluid (methanol) and PEC pads. The simplest and possibly safest method is using the Visible Dust brush. Dust too small to be seen will affect the sensor. A human hair is about 80 microns in diameter, compared to a typical 6 to 9 micron cell in a DSLR sensor.

    Canned "air", actually a low-boiling liquid related to Freon, puts too much volume and velocity into the sensor. With the shutter open and sensor so exposed, it is possible to drive dust into areas impossible to clean, even under the anti-aliasing filter. If the blast entrains the liquid "air", it can leave deposits that are hard to remove. Besides, blowing does not seem to be very effective.

    Cleaning intervals are greatly increased if you keep your lenses and caps clean, and possibly vacuum out your bag from time to time.

    There is always a certain fringe element that throws caution to the wind. Not every drunk driver piles up on a tree, either. Unfortunately, when you bring this question up without even a token attempt to search the archives, you don't get the best answers. Call it burnout.
  11. The most terrible tragedy caused by the canned air spray should be the pipe attached to the nozzle is blasted off and hit the imager.

    I've even heard the same tragedy caused by the plastic pipe blasted off of a bulb-blower.

    I use a bulb-blower made of monocoque rubber exclusively.
  12. Sorry for my bad sense of grammar:

    ...air spray should be "that" the pipe attached to the nozzle is blasted off and hit"s" the imager.

    I've even heard "of" the same tragedy...
  13. For the reason Akira mentioned, I don't use the dust-off cans the take the little red plastic straws. Those straws fly out of the nozzles at inopportune times. I use the metal nozzles with the interchangeable cans:
  14. Oh, and comparing people who clean their sensors with dust-off to drunk drivers- how weeny is that? Why not somehow equate us with Nazis?

    My D100s are years old and I clean the sensors on rare occasions with dust-off. I've had no problems with residual dust and certainly not with dust migrating under the sensor filter.
  15. Hey Eric,
    I use Office Duster 3 which is tetrafluoroethane and has a red plastic pipe that I hold. I keep the end of the nozzle out of the D2hs body and blow away. I also am not a Nazi nor do I drive and drink. Now I don't have to clean my sensor very much as I try to be careful when changing lenses. There is a possibility that the monks in the himalayas might have a technique that would work also since they are on a mountain top with rare air, and I don't think they are Nazis.
  16. "There is always a certain fringe element that throws caution to the wind. Not every drunk driver piles up on a tree, either. Unfortunately, when you bring this question up without even a token attempt to search the archives, you don't get the best answers. Call it burnout."

    This is just plain silly. I never have considered myself as part of a "fringe element." I'm honored, really.

    The fact is that if you are aware of the potential problems and hazards associated with the (very occasional!) use of canned vapor, you can anticipate and adjust. As I said previously, you spray at a distance, you be sure that you've cleared out the potential for propellant release with "pre-sprays," and also, I guess, you make sure that your nozzle thing is affixed tightly (I have never experienced a nozzle "fly-off," ever). You give the sensor a very quick, surgical airstrike with the camera held at an upward angle so that dust doesn't settle back onto the sensor.

    Keep in mind that there are potential problems and risks associated with all do-it-yourself sensor cleaning methods. I actually have heard of more than a few (!) cases in which people using the "recommended" wiping methods have accidentally scratched the sensor.

    People always have the option of taking the camera to a repair shop and paying $15 or so to have a technician clean the sensor.
  17. The reasons for NOT using canned air:

    1. It may eject liquid.
    2. it may eject the pipe.
    3. the pressure may be too high for the filter which covers and protects the sensor.
    4. The best reason is that the canned air is not completely dry air. it will have some water content. which can stain your sensor and worse even get behind the filter layer and directly over the CCD itself because of the pressure.

    The best thing you can do is:
    1. Ignore the spots until it gets really bad (remove it on PS until it gets to bad)
    2. Use wider apertures as much as possible.
    3. Buy sensor swabs, sensor pen and other safe "contact cleaning" system and read the instructions thoroughly and attempt it only if you have surgeon's hand.
    4. Give the job to the pros. :)
  18. hi friends.
    First of all, i would like to thank all of you who particapted in this forum. As we have seen, this debate on sensor cleaning remains an issue which gives rise to a lot of different feelings and ideas. It has however still helped me to clear my mind. I have decided to 'avoid' using canned air as it doesn't seem to be really safe. I can't afford having my sensor destroyed just for a few dust spots. I'd rather keep the dust and shoot happily. :)
    So i gues that for now i'll start with the blower suggested at the begining of the thread, then if the problem gets worse - i liked the idea suggested on the PBase link.
    Again, i really thank you all for your replies.
    regards to all
  19. "Canned air" comes in all different qualities, ie the amount of residual "crap" that gets deposited on ones optics, sensor, mirror etc. <BR><BR>Common Joe Six pack usually seeks out the cheapest product, and thus has problems. In precison repair of optics, some folks use a micro vacuum, or commerical "canned air" that has controlled specs of the residual crap that spues out. This usually involves alot more money, thus the lay public calls these products a "rip off", and thus LOVES the el cheapo typical garbage canned air products, often labeled for photo and optics.<BR><BR> The lay public seems to think the blown off dirt and lint magically disappears when using "canned air". A micro vacuum at least removes the crud to a known place, instead of just moving it. Hell you might as well get your wife a leaf blower to replace her vacuum for the house. You just blow the crap behind the sofa to another area of the room, and feel dumb and happy. <BR><BR>Mis-use of "canned air" is real common with camera repair, watch repair, copy machine repair. Heck why not use a pressure washer too! :) Often on lenses folks deposit the residual crap on the lens elements, then procede to scrub the deposit off, and cause further damage, often to the lens coatings.<BR><BR>In focal plane shutters and sensors sometimes folks ruin the shutter or sensor with canned air, then claim the shutter or sensor died naturally during the warranty period. This adds to warranty costs, real costs of a removeable lens camera. A good part of this real cost is due to the duffus factor. It is not part of warranty cost of a P&S digital camera, since the sensor is protected from then "expert with canned air"
  20. hi Kelly.
    you have mentioned some interesting points, and as i said in my previous, i'll aviod canned air, but doesn't a bulb-blower blow dust around here and there too?

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