Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wet cleaning your camera sensor

As promised I would like to share a little about wet cleaning your camera sensor. These are the items I purchased to clean my sensor with. They are available from B&H Photo supply and a few of them from Amazon.com. I think Visible Dust has a good product although a bit more expensive than Photographic Solutions.

Prices from B&H Photo on this date-

~Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly 724 $125.95
~Visible Dust Quasar 7X Sensor Loupe $99.95
~Visible Dust V Swab 1.0X size Green Pack for full frame sensors $41.95 (for 24mm Ultra MXD)
   The V Swabs come in different sizes, get the right size for your camera sensor.
~V Dust Plus Formula Solution $24.95
~V Dust Sensor Clean $36.95
~V Dust Smear Away $24.95
~Giotto's Large 7.5" bulb blower $7.75 - I believe it to be one of the best

*Beware-I should first warn you that cleaning your own sensor you are at risk of scratching your sensor. Do so at your own risk!*

On my first attempt to clean my sensor it took approximately 45 minutes to clean it to my satisfaction. I used a box of the V Dust Swabs 1.0X (12 per box). I now have the process down to 15 minutes and I use approximately 4-5 swabs.

My local camera store charges $65USD to clean a sensor, dry or wet clean. The V Swabs are expensive especially the first time when I flew through a box in no time. My Nikon D-800 tends to get oil spots on the sensor from the mirror mechanism very quickly (4-5 exposures) so it would be crazy to pay for a cleaning at my local camera store every time I go out shooting. I know the Loupe and Butterfly are not cheap but necessary items. The other material will be used up as I go. I figure I save money on cleanings but not only that I don't have the hassle of bringing my camera in and waiting a week to get it back.

This cleaning process takes some patience. Personally I found the V Dust Plus solution to not work very well and probably won't buy any next time. When cleaning your sensor make sure your camera has a fully charged battery. The Visible Dust website has videos on how to do the cleaning and there are plenty of videos on You Tube. I will not go into details. Before you attempt to use one of the V Dust Swabs give it a light blowing off with your Giotto or similar to get rid of any loose fibers or cotton particles. Also blow off your sensor holding your camera upside down to get rid of any dust or particles before you even start with the wet cleaning of the sensor. To get the oil spots off of my sensor I used the Smear Away solution. I could actually see the oil spots with the Loupe as dark perfectly round extremely small circles. While it did remove the oil spots it also left a hazy smear across the sensor. Do not reuse your swabs! You do not want to scratch your sensor! I then used a new swab with a couple of drops of the Sensor Clean Solution to clean the sensor of this film.  You may have to do this a few times. This is a bit tedious as it tends to leave some streaks on the sensor or cotton particles. You can use the Arctic Butterfly and Giotto if it helps get rid of the cotton particles at this time.  As you're cleaning and going through the swabs all I could think of was $41.95 a box!  But after you've done it a few times it's not too bad and you don't use many. I try and keep at least three boxes for backup. This is much like cleaning a dirty windshield at the gas station with that rubber squeegee. You know how it leaves streaks and you still have some bug spots even after the first wipe. Well you will experience the same thing, hopefully, minus the bugs. Have some patience and your sensor will be clean in no time.

Once you're done I would suggest going outside and taking a picture of a clear blue sky at f/16, no birds, no planes, no nothing in your frame. Why f/16? If you have any oil spots or dirt/dust particles that is the f stop setting they will show up best at. Then go inside and pop your memory card into your computer, bring up Adobe Light Room or whichever program you use. Zoom into the picture and look at every square inch for dust, oil spots etc.

If you did a good job you'll see nothing but blue sky. Remember patience is the key. Good luck!

I was not paid by nor coerced to specify these products, I use them because they worked for me. Although I wrote this in a very simple format there are several videos on line and other blogs that give a more detailed description on how to wet clean your sensor. I hope this helps someone out there.