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How Do I Get My Sensor Clean?

How To Determine If Your Sensor is Dirty

It is often difficult to see the spots on your images caused by dust for various reasons. If the images are dark, or if the focus blends them out, you may not see them clearly. Also the software built into the camera may compensate a little for these imperfections in your image and filter them out. But eventually you will notice them and they will take away from your images.

There are a few options available to help detect whether there is dust on your sensor. The best way to detect dust is by using the VisibleDust Sensor Loupe™. With its vivid array of lights and clear 5x magnification K9 lens, it is the easiest way to detect any contamination on your sensor. Also available is the SensorScope from Delkin that helps detect dust, but not as efficiently as the Sensor Loupe™. Last but not least is the 'f/22' test. To ascertain if you have any dust particles on your sensor using this method:

  1. Make sure there is a lens on the camera.
  2. Set the focus to the longest focal length (infinity).
  3. Set the exposure compensation to +1 (if possible).
  4. Set the aperture to the smallest value (largest number i.e. f22, f32 -- hence the name).
  5. Shoot off a few pictures aimed at a light (preferably white) backdrop with a uniform background and consistent lighting. For example: a picture of the sky on a clear day/blank (white) document on a computer screen.
  6. Examine the images by zooming in on them in your on camera LCD preview screen or your favourite image browser after you have uploaded them to your computer. If possible, open the images in Photoshop and set the channels to ĎAutolevelsí (Image>Adjustments>Autolevels). This will help bring out the contrasts a bit.
  7. If you see any blurs, or blatantly black spots, chances are you have debris on your sensor filter. It is usually easy to determine after many shots if you have dust because the spots remain in the same place while the perspective has changed.

How Do I Remove The Debris From My Sensor?

Now that you have determined, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is debris on your sensor, you fundamentally have three options available to you.

Send To Repair Shop/Manufacturer For Cleaning

This is a practical option if you have any reservations about your ability to clean your camera yourself. The liability will rest on the technician and any damages incurred should be covered by the manufacturer or repair shop, but it may be a good thing to verify this beforehand. Unfortunately, it does come at some cost: usually US$50+. If your camera gets dirty frequently, it could be very costly after some time. Another factor to take into consideration is downtime. It could take up to 2-3 weeks for your camera to be returned and if you rely on your camera, as professional photographers do, this may not be feasible. One last consideration to ponder is that there is no guarantee from the manufacturer/repair shop that all the debris will be removed.

Ignore The Problem

As silly as this sounds at first, it actually is not that absurd. A lot of the time any anomalies caused by the debris will not show up in your images. Irregularities caused by debris do not show up well in low light images, and may be 'erased' by software interpolation (to some extent). Also these anomalies, if they do show up, can be touched up by imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop. It breaks down to a matter of tolerance.

Fix The Problem Yourself

Warning: Manufacturers do not advocate cleaning the camera sensor and any undertaking to do so will most undoubtedly void your warranty. Sensorcleaning.com and its agents shall not be held liable for any damage whatsoever, which may arise as a result of the information appearing on this website.

Cleaning the sensor with your own hands may sound like a daunting task, but in reality it's not that difficult. First and foremost you're not cleaning the sensor directly but rather the low pass filter/optical glass that sits in front of the sensor. Granted, this can be damaged as well but with patience, due care, attention, and the proper materials, one should easily be able to achieve their goal.


What we will focus on here is the liquids and swabs used to remove any unwanted stains or smears that may appear on your sensor.

Sensor Clean™ - This product is best suited for the removal of water based stains on your sensor. It provides an anti-static barrier for the prevention of dust accumulation, it has anti-fogging capabilities and prevents streaking as it cleans. If you intend to work in a humid or arid climate, Sensor Clean™ will provide a buffer against vapour build up and dust collection.

VDust Plus™ - This solution fits in the middle ground where it will clean both water based stains and light oil based stains. If you are unsure as to the nature of the particular stain or smear that you have on your sensor, VDust Plus™ is an excellent choice. It provides great cleaning ability and provides a moderate anti-static barrier.

Smear Away™ - This concoction is the strong sensitive type. It will remove any tough stains that finds their way onto your sensor safely and effectively. As it cleans, Smear Away™ acts as a buffer to prevent any hard and potentially harmful dust particles from scraping against the IR filter. It provides excellent dust repellent properties and prevents friction build up. Due to the nature of some tough oil stains, it may leave minor streaks behind and a follow up with Sensor Clean™ is usually an excellent measure.

Swabs - VisibleDust has produced two distinstive types of swab due to the varying consistancies of the cleaning liquids we offer, though after time we realized that the green series swabs could be used effectively with all of our solutions.

DHAP (orange) Sensor Cleaning Swabs - Specifically designed to be used with our VDust Plus™ solution, the DHAP swabs also work well with our Smear Away™ liquid. The unique woven pattern increases absorbency while reducing fiber shedding. The ultra soft material used in making the swab is the same that is used to clean extremely sensitive surfaces such as high powered space telescopes. This delicate fabric is ideal for critical cleaning since less pressure is received by the sensor, minimizing any abrasive action when coming in contact with any hard debris.

MXD-100 (green) Sensor Cleaning Swabs - The multi-fabric design of the green swabs make them compatible with all of our sensor cleaning solutions: Sensor Clean™, VDust Plus™, and Smear Away™. Although the MXD-100 swabs are a little thicker than the DHAP, they are still softer than our competitors.

Streak Prevention: The ability to prevent streaks after cleaning. Removing debris from the sensor only to find streaks left behind can be frustrating.
Anti-Static: The ability to prevent dust attraction to the filter surface after cleaning. After cleaning the filter it is desirable to have an anti-static barrier to reduce dust attraction in the future.
Cleaning Power: The ability to remove water, oil and protein. The water that appears on the sensor usually comes from humidity, raindrops, and spittle. Oil appears on the sensor when it is cast from the mechanisms (mirror, shutter) or from accidental contact with the IR filter with a finger. Proteins and bacteria can accumulate in the form of dust (ie pollen) or from breathing or spitting on the filter.
Smear Removal Power: The ability to remove lubricant contamination from the sensor surface. Smears occur when a liquid contamination develops on the filter and an attempt is made to clean it with a dry method such as a brush. This spreads the contaminant over the sensor creating a 'smear.' Smears sound detrimental but are easily removed with the proper tools.

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