Will using the wrong sensor cleaning fluid ruin your camera's sensor?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jose_perez|3, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. I sent this letter to the manufactures of Eclipse sensor cleaning fluid:
    Dear Sir,
    You may want to let one of your distributors know about your E2 sensor cleaning fluid. Two months ago I was sold the Eclipse fluid to clean my Nikon D80 sensor. I am now discovering that your company site recommends only E2 for the D80 sensor….”
    This was their response:
    I will follow up on your request, thank you. The other issue is that the Eclipse will work fine on your camera and won't damage it. The E2 was developed by the sensor manufacturer. Our tests show the Eclipse is just as safe.
    Will using the wrong sensor cleaning fluid ruin your camera's sensor? Or is it just a rumor that using the wrong fluid (Eclipse instead of E2) will corrode your sensor's tin oxide filter?
  2. I don't think the question is so much one of right cleaner versus wrong cleaner as it is a question of risk. The Eclipse fluid is basically pure methanol (there will be some trace amount of water). The E2 cleaner is a mixture of ethanol, methanol, and isopropyl alcohol. And since it has isopropyl alcohol, the water content is much higher.
    Both methanol and ethanol will react with tin oxide, but that appears to be dependent on the degree of defects in the film, so a theoretically perfect film would have very low reactivity. Methanol is considered to be somewhat more reactive than ethanol.
    So the Eclipse formulation has the theoretically more reactive substance, but the duration of contact with the sensor is shorter since the virtual absence of water ensures that it evaporates almost instantly. The E2 formulation is considered a gentler cleaner, but since it has considerably more water it will take noticeably longer to evaporate completely off of the sensor.
    The company stands behind both formulations as being safe, but anytime you clean the sensor there's a theoretical chance of some damage. I wouldn't worry about it - the chance of something going wrong is very small, and if it does it almost certainly means that something was wrong to begin with.
  3. I used Photographic Solutions Eclipse to clean the sensor of my Nikon D70 until Photographic Solutions started recommending E2 for the job. I never experienced any problems with the plain Eclipse product, and in fact, I heard early on that Nikon used pure laboratory grade methanol to clean sensors at their repair facilities.
    Nikon may use something else now, I don't know. However, I seriously doubt that the original Eclipse product damaged my D70 sensor or anyone else's. I certainly don't see any problems with my D70 performance today after several cleanings using the original Eclipse product, (methanol).
    I use E2 today for my Nikon sensors and the leftover original Eclipse product as a lens cleaner. Works great.
  4. here's the most thorough answer to this i know of: http://www.bythom.com/cleaning.htm
    and here's the relevant excerpt:
    Recently, Nikon began using filters that have a special additional coating on them (Indium Tin Oxide, or ITO for short). This coating is there to help the filter "shed" dust more easily (it essentially blocks some of the static charge that can build up and attract the dust). As with any coating, it is possible to damage it, and when you do so, the filter essentially needs to be replaced. Here's the list of cameras that do and don't have this coating:
    • ITO coating: D40, D40x, D70s, D80, D300, D2xs, D3
    • No coating: D1, D1h, D1x, D2h, D2hs, D2x, D50, D70*, D100, D200
    *Photographic Solutions lists this model as having an ITO coating, but I've not been able to confirm that. If you want Photographic Solutions guarantee, you should use E2 solution on a D70, though.
    If you have a camera that has the ITO coating, Photographic Solutions says that you need to use a different liquid in cleaning it.
    so... basically, for any Nikon DSLR after the D70, E2 solution is recommended. the guy at photographic solutions you emailed appears to contradict his company's own recommendation -- as well as Thom Hogan's. I'd go with what Thom says, since he tends to be stubbornly correct to the point of being anal. for all we know, joel may be an intern.
  5. I think some of the chemistry mentioned above is incorrect. Adding isopropyl alcohol to a mixture of methanol and ethanol will not add any water to the mixture if all three alcohols are pure. Tin oxide is an inorganic compound and won't react with organic alcohols. I'll have to look into the chemistry of the sensor coating. If there is some organic agent used as a binder, that could be affected by an alcohol based solution though it would surprise me since either of the mixtures mentioned are quite volatile and the contact time on the sensor would be relatively brief (methanol is the most volative of the three). In the old days when I still had a record turntable and LPs I used to prepare my own cleaning solution of isopropyl alcohol, water and a trace amount of detergent (this is essentially what Discwasher was selling).
    I'm siding with the manufacturer on this point.
  6. I ran out time and couldn't edit the response above. I forgot to note that indium oxide is used with tin oxide and it goes on the sensor by vapor disposition. Both are inorganic compounds.
  7. I would not use the E2 formula on a D70.
  8. Alan, I think the water issue is one of purification process of the isopropyl alcohol. I agree it wouldn't add water if it is pure. I will say I'm working off of memory on this one as when I tried to check my facts before posting before I didn't readily find anything to confirm it, so it could be that my memory is off. Regardless, the manufacturer makes a point of highlighting the higher water content of the E2 fluid including in having slightly different instructions for its use because of the different evaporation characteristics.
    In terms of the reactivity with the tin oxide, and particularly the role of defects, that came primarily from a reasearch paper that studied the effect of various chemical compunds on tin oxide films. I don't recall whether it spoke to any organic agent as a binder.
    As you said, contact time on the sensor should be pretty small, particularly the pure methanol Eclipse. Unless you clean the sensor a lot, it wouldn't seem to be a big issue, and in the absence of a bunch of clear reports of problems, it does seem like this is a bit like chasing ghosts.
  9. the amount of product that they are selling is very small. Back in the old days (not telling how many years ago) when I was working on my doctorate in chemistry, 0.5 liter bottles of all three alcohols were inexpensive (and probably still are, though pure ethanol is taxed and controlled). The manufacturer may not be using pure alcohols in the formulation. I did go to the website and saw that there was a problem with one of the products and Canon camera sensors. However, as you also note unless you are cleaning the sensor every time the lens is changed, this is not likely to be a major problem. I'm going to see if there is anything that Sony has published on this since they make the sensors for Nikon.
  10. I have used Eclipse fluid on my D100 and D200 for years, and the results have been great. Now I have the D700. Is the consensus here that I should switch over to E2 for the D700?
  11. All,
    Thank you for the responses.
    Here the Photographic Solutions link to their list that shows what sensor cleaner fluid and swab to use for a particular camera. On the right hand side there is a column that says if the cleaner is approved by the camera manufacture: http://www.photosol.com/cameras_bymfg.html

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