Cleaning My Sensor

Clean Me Please!
Clean Me Please!

I have had my Canon XTi since 2007, and all during this time, I have used numerous tools to dust out the sensor chamber, including my old spray paint brush and compressor.

But lately, the dust monsters have really taken a toil on my productivity, only increasing my touch-up skills, and it was during my processing of some foggy morning pictures, that I knew, something had to be done.

Turning to my online connections on Facebook and Google+, I asked the question if anyone had done their own sensor cleaning, and if they had any tips, suggestions.

While waiting for responses, I started my own research, with a reference page, as well as reading various reviews on Amazon, Adorama and B&H Photo.

A great place to start, is CleaningDigitalCameras.com, which has a lot of comprehensive information on various tools and techniques.

After reading various pages, I knew that I needed 1) a very careful “Dry” cleaning; and if that did not work, 2) a “Wet” cleaning with swabs, and the two main vendors to look at were VisibleDust and Photographic Solutions.

What am I looking for?

I searched the internet for what it would cost me to get my camera Professionally cleaned, and although prices varied, be prepared to spend $60+ per cleaning, and being without your camera for a period of time, and in some cases, not as clean as you hoped (or paid for).

So, I am looking for a “Beginner” kit that can offer me both a Dry and Wet sensor cleaning option that does not cost a great deal.

As my daughter says, I’m cheap…

I like to think frugal…

VisibleDust

The VisibleDust systems are very cool looking and many different options to suit your needs, and I almost purchased their Christmas Special, but after reading some of the reviews on Amazon, I became very hesitant.

Photographic Solutions

According to Photographic Solutions, they actually worked with NASA to develop the BrushOff system, and is endorsed by most of the major camera manufacturers.

They offer two different “Digital Survival Kits“: Basic and Professional.

The Basic offers the same basics as the VisibleDust Christmas Special, but one still needed a brush, and with that additional cost, the price for the two systems is about equal.

The Professional version offers a Brush, Magnifying Glass and Air Blower, all in a nice nylon pouch for around $125.00 USD.

Adorama

I recently upgrade my Adorama account to a VIP status (what ever that means), and was eager to see if this might affect my order in any way.

On Wednesday, December 26th, I placed my order for the “Photographic Solutions Pro Digital Survival Eclipse Kit #2” and opted for the 3-5 Business Day shipping for an added  $3.95, and figured I would see my package early next week, just in time for the new year!

Saturday (30th), the snow is still falling, and my son and I, are finally finishing the plowing of the driveway by hand, and in checking the mailbox, I was very pleased to see a package from Adorama!

I know what I get to play with tonight!

Preparations

Finally, around 11PM Saturday night, the house is quiet, and I am able to unpack and examine my new toys.

Knowing that I wanted to start with a dry cleaning, I once again reviewed the BrushOff video provided on the Photographic Solutions website.

Note 01 – In the video, the instructor mentions an ECLIPSE packet that comes with each brush. This is NOT true for this Kit. Instead you have to create your own using a “PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner” –

“Be sure your fingers do not touch any of the PAD that will come in contact with the unique and patented fiber materials. If the brush should become contaminated, simple saturate a PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner and gently wipe the bristles. Air dry for a few seconds and replace protective cap being sure cap itself has not become contaminated. To further protect the BRUSHOFF fibers, they are fully retractable into the handle when not in use and a protective cap is also supplied.” – BRUSHOFF Information

Note 02 – The video suggests placing a PEC*PAD on clean area, so I placed mine on top of the Sensor Swab box, and then added a couple of drops of ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner.

Almost immediately, the ink from the box began to leach through the pad.

I should have known better.

I ended up using folded over white paper, and will seek a better setup.

Into the Chamber

I used the included magnifying glass to first look at what I was getting into.

I was pleasantly surprised to see, that it included a working LED light, and a magnification that was useful!

Using the magnifying glass, I could easily see some dust, and first used the included small Giotto Rocket Blower, and checked again.

I could still see some dust, so I decided to take the more dramatic measure of using the BrushOff.

I very carefully whipped the sensor a couple of times, blew with the Rocket, and then checked with the magnifying glass again, again.

The dust appeared to be moving, but not off the sensor.

Attaching the provided grounding wire, I ‘charged’ the brush, while tapping it firmly, and returned to cleaning the sensor.

This time, there did seem to be a difference.

Preliminary Testing

After the sensor cleaning, I took a couple of test shoots in my office, but the lighting at midnight is not really a good test.

What I could see, gave me encouragement.

I really need to get out, shoot some landscapes at f22, and then see the results.

Updates to follow…

Conclusion

It is still to early to make a definitive conclusion, but I have learned, it is not as hard as one might think, as long as you are very careful.

I also learned several new ways to clean my camera’s sensors, which should also carry forward into future cameras. There alone saving on time and money associated with Professional cleanings, and my costs moving forward should be relatively low since I now have some base equipment, which should last for years.

- Andrew
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