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Author Topic: Sensor Cleaning  (Read 15286 times)

Robert Ardill

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Sensor Cleaning
« on: January 28, 2016, 03:44:04 am »

Hi,

I've recently changed over from Canon to Sony and there's no doubt that the mirrorless camera sensors (or perhaps just the Sonys?) are much better at accumulating dust than the DSLRs.  With the 1DsIII I just didn't bother cleaning the sensor as the amount of dust was pretty easy to deal with in Lightroom or Photoshop... but not the case any more with the Sonys.

I've tried blowing air and this is OK for loose dust but does nothing for dust that's stuck a bit.  I bought an Arctic Butterfly which I am returning because it leaves as much dust behind as it removes (I guess I'm exaggerating a bit) - but at any rate it leaves dust behind and also moves it around quite effectively (which really isn't what I want).

So far I've balked at a wet clean using Eclipse and Sensor Swabs as I'm a bit concerned about damaging the glass coating.

The one useful tool I've bought is a Photographic Solutions Sensor Check loupe which is really excellent.  I tried the Visible Dust Quasar Sensor Loupe and didn't find it good at all with the Sony as the lights are spaced too wide apart ... but that could be a question of technique I guess.  At any rate the Sensor Check loupe is cheaper and shows up every spec of dust perfectly.  Getting rid of the dust it shows up is another matter though!

So I would really appreciate some advice and some do's and dont's.  I've seen Brian Smith's recommendations, but I haven't tried the Sensor Gel sticks (the very thought of using a gel stick gives me the creeps) and I haven't gone to step X, which is the wet clean.  The other steps haven't done the job.

Taking the camera back to a camera shop isn't an option for me except occasionally as I am often in places where these facilities are not available.  Also I don't much like forking out $100 a pop, only to get dust back on within a few days.

Robert
 
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Jens Peermann

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2016, 06:45:37 am »

I've had my A7 for about a year and a  half now and it needed exactly two sensor cleanings so far. That's about as frequent as my 5D3 needed it and I live in dusty Nevada.

It's not completely dust free, for sure. But the occasional spot is easily removed in Capture One or Photoshop and I don't see why there should be a problem with doing it in Lightroom.

I can understand your instinctive reaction to the idea of sticking something on the sensor's filter in order to clean it, but it is absolutely safe as long as you use the one that is specifically marked for use with Sony cameras (don't buy any of the ones offered at Amazon, even if they say it's OK for Sony. It's not and many found out the hard way).
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ctz

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2016, 07:43:14 am »

A7R II, having the sensor stabilizer working with the help of a magnetic mechanism, I guess is more prone to caching more dust.
Indeed, I also see a lot of dust, al ot more compared to Canons or Phase One P45, the only recent cameras I worked with.
I also tend to clean the sensor as late as possible :)
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2016, 09:12:54 am »

I've had my A7 for about a year and a  half now and it needed exactly two sensor cleanings so far. That's about as frequent as my 5D3 needed it and I live in dusty Nevada.

It's not completely dust free, for sure. But the occasional spot is easily removed in Capture One or Photoshop and I don't see why there should be a problem with doing it in Lightroom.
Have you checked your sensor by taking a shot at f/22 or thereabouts?  A lot of the small stuff doesn't really matter unless you have to stop down a lot and then it can be pretty ghastly.  Of course the same applies to all digital sensors, but the mirrorless ones seem worse, probably because the sensor is so exposed.

I can understand your instinctive reaction to the idea of sticking something on the sensor's filter in order to clean it, but it is absolutely safe as long as you use the one that is specifically marked for use with Sony cameras (don't buy any of the ones offered at Amazon, even if they say it's OK for Sony. It's not and many found out the hard way).
What gel stick do you use? looking at this thread it seems that there's a lot of confusion about which are OK and which are not (or even if any are OK to use): https://community.sony.com/t5/Alpha-SLT-DSLR-Cameras/Sensor-GEL-cleaner-Stick-quot-sticks-quot-to-ONLY-SONY/td-p/292092

I'm also getting a Koh Hepa Jet Air Blower ... which seems like a good blower as it filters all the air (after all, there's not much point in trying to clean a sensor by blowing dust into it :) ).
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Jens Peermann

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2016, 09:39:56 am »

What gel stick do you use? looking at this thread it seems that there's a lot of confusion about which are OK and which are not (or even if any are OK to use): https://community.sony.com/t5/Alpha-SLT-DSLR-Cameras/Sensor-GEL-cleaner-Stick-quot-sticks-quot-to-ONLY-SONY/td-p/292092

https://photographylife.com/product/sensor-gel-stick-for-sony

There's a lot of stuff you will find in an an image that was taken at f/22. But unless you need an image rendered in soft focus there's no need for f/22 or f/16. I rarely use f/11 and usually don't go beyond f/5.6. Keeping the sensor clean is important, no doubt. But there is a point where you move from being a photographer who occasionally cleans the sensor to being a sensor cleaner who occasionally takes photographs. I try to stay in the first category.
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2016, 09:52:21 am »

https://photographylife.com/product/sensor-gel-stick-for-sony

There's a lot of stuff you will find in an an image that was taken at f/22. But unless you need an image rendered in soft focus there's no need for f/22 or f/16. I rarely use f/11 and usually don't go beyond f/5.6. Keeping the sensor clean is important, no doubt. But there is a point where you move from being a photographer who occasionally cleans the sensor to being a sensor cleaner who occasionally takes photographs. I try to stay in the first category.
Yes, I've just had a look at the Vimeo clip referred to in this link at it's very interesting.  So really it's air, followed by gel stick, followed by a bit of wet cleaning using isopropyl alcohol if there's any hard dust that doesn't come off with the gel stick, followed by more gel stick.

Leica obviously have a clean air compressor which I don't, but the Koh Hepa Jet blower should do the job as well.

I take your point regarding obsessing about dust ... but there are times when it is necessary to stop down to f16 or more and then the dust can be a real nuisance.  With my 1Ds3 I once spent nearly an hour removing dust spots, which wasn't much fun.

At any rate, what I want is a safe and effective method of removing dust.  As far as I can see, the Arctic Butterfly is really a waste of time and money and may make the sensor worse. Blowing with clean air on a regular basis (and especially blowing out dust on the lens before changing lenses) seems to be a good way of keeping dust down to a reasonable level. Then, as and when needed, to use the gel stick and some wet cleaning for tough dust. 
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Jens Peermann

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2016, 10:06:18 am »

Lens changing technique is a very important factor indeed. Holding down the camera so that nothing can fall in during the procedure is very helpful. So is removing dust from the lens' rear element before attaching (I use a Lenspen for that).

"Hard dust", as you call it, comes from heating up the sensor. It can be reduced significantly by turning off the camera whenever you don't use it, including between shots. And as a side benefit, a cool sensor produces less noise.

Developing dust preventing habits can be very effective in reducing the need for cleaning.
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2016, 10:14:00 am »

Lens changing technique is a very important factor indeed. Holding down the camera so that nothing can fall in during the procedure is very helpful. So is removing dust from the lens' rear element before attaching (I use a Lenspen for that).

"Hard dust", as you call it, comes from heating up the sensor. It can be reduced significantly by turning off the camera whenever you don't use it, including between shots.

Developing dust preventing habits can be very effective in reducing the need for cleaning.
Yes, for sure ... the best solution is not to get dust in in the first place.  I didn't know about the dust getting 'burnt in' by the sensor getting hot.

Regarding the gel stick, this (from PhotographyLife) is pretty scary:

"Sony A7 II, A7R II and A7S II advisory: Please be extremely careful when using the product with the A7 II, A7R II and A7S II cameras. Since the cameras have in-body stabilization, the sensor will move during cleaning. Instead of picking the Sensor Gel Stick straight up, we recommend to detach it gently from the side and be attentive during the process of cleaning, so that the IBIS system does not get moved too much. We have tested the product on the A7 II and A7R II successfully, but one must perform the procedure with extreme care on such moving sensors. If the gel sticks a bit too much, please detach it slowly from the side instead of moving it straight up, as shown in the videos."

Not at all sure I want to go there (I have an A7II and A7RII).  Have you used the gel stick on any of these cameras with the IBIS?  I suppose one option would be to do the gel-stick cleaning with the camera powered on.

Beginning to sound like camera sensor clean, air ... and occasional wet clean.
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Jens Peermann

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2016, 10:29:31 am »

I have not yet used it on an A7II (mine is scheduled to arrive on Friday), but I won't worry much about using the stick on that camera as well. After all, while working on a sensor you always have to be careful, IBIS or not. But this disclaimer by Photographylife is certainly a "cover your butt" kind of note. Sony must have been aware that sensors need cleaning. So when they designed that thing they probably made sure it will not come apart when cleaning, even with a gel stick. Reputation can get damaged faster than a sensor during cleaning.

Wet cleaning, by the way, is not as bad as it's reputation as far as scratching the sensor filter is concerned. I actually did once scratch a sensor and it wasn't easy to do that. It takes effort. From there I conclude that accidental scratching is very unlikely.
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2016, 02:38:21 pm »

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has used a gel stick on an A7II or A7RII.  Also from anyone who knows the construction of the IBIS and would know if it can be damaged by being pulled on.

I'm sure that the disclaimer is a bit of CYA, but still, I'm not about to try the sticks on either of these cameras.  I think that there is a real risk of dragging the stick when it is pulled off by twisting it sideways and this could result in smearing or marking.  They are normally used up and down and the twisting off sounds to me like a poor workaround.  If pulling the stick can in fact damage the sensor then so can twisting it off, unless great care is taken.

Much better and safer, IMO, to use nothing but air (preferably clean air :) ); and for the bad stuff to use sensor swabs with Eclipse or isopropyl alcohol.  At least with these I know that I can clean the sensor and not damage it.

If you look at some of the comments on other forums (DPReview, for example) there is a litany of disasters ... and having to replace one of these sensors would not be a cheap job!
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2016, 02:51:46 pm »

Hi,

My favourite is the Sensor Brush Arctic Butterfly. I have used this since 2006 on all my cameras and never needed wet cleaning.

Is it overpriced? Yes! Is it practical? Yes!

http://www.visibledust.com/products3.php?pid=3

Best regards
Erik


Hi,

I've recently changed over from Canon to Sony and there's no doubt that the mirrorless camera sensors (or perhaps just the Sonys?) are much better at accumulating dust than the DSLRs.  With the 1DsIII I just didn't bother cleaning the sensor as the amount of dust was pretty easy to deal with in Lightroom or Photoshop... but not the case any more with the Sonys.

I've tried blowing air and this is OK for loose dust but does nothing for dust that's stuck a bit.  I bought an Arctic Butterfly which I am returning because it leaves as much dust behind as it removes (I guess I'm exaggerating a bit) - but at any rate it leaves dust behind and also moves it around quite effectively (which really isn't what I want).

So far I've balked at a wet clean using Eclipse and Sensor Swabs as I'm a bit concerned about damaging the glass coating.

The one useful tool I've bought is a Photographic Solutions Sensor Check loupe which is really excellent.  I tried the Visible Dust Quasar Sensor Loupe and didn't find it good at all with the Sony as the lights are spaced too wide apart ... but that could be a question of technique I guess.  At any rate the Sensor Check loupe is cheaper and shows up every spec of dust perfectly.  Getting rid of the dust it shows up is another matter though!

So I would really appreciate some advice and some do's and dont's.  I've seen Brian Smith's recommendations, but I haven't tried the Sensor Gel sticks (the very thought of using a gel stick gives me the creeps) and I haven't gone to step X, which is the wet clean.  The other steps haven't done the job.

Taking the camera back to a camera shop isn't an option for me except occasionally as I am often in places where these facilities are not available.  Also I don't much like forking out $100 a pop, only to get dust back on within a few days.

Robert
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2016, 04:32:59 pm »

Hi,

My favourite is the Sensor Brush Arctic Butterfly. I have used this since 2006 on all my cameras and never needed wet cleaning.

Is it overpriced? Yes! Is it practical? Yes!

http://www.visibledust.com/products3.php?pid=3

Best regards
Erik

Hi Eric,

I'm interested that you find the Artic Butterfly good ... because I have one here that I'm about to send back.  I haven't had much luck with it at all ... the persistent dust it doesn't remove and the loose dust I can get rid of just as well with air. But maybe I'm not using it correctly?

Robert
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2016, 04:47:10 pm »

Hi,

It works by static electricity. Very well possible that it is not better than clean air. But it has solved all my problems for ten years.

I never needed wet cleaning.

Best regards
Erik


Hi Eric,

I'm interested that you find the Artic Butterfly good ... because I have one here that I'm about to send back.  I haven't had much luck with it at all ... the persistent dust it doesn't remove and the loose dust I can get rid of just as well with air. But maybe I'm not using it correctly?

Robert
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2016, 05:26:03 pm »

Hi,

It works by static electricity. Very well possible that it is not better than clean air. But it has solved all my problems for ten years.

I never needed wet cleaning.

Best regards
Erik

I must give it another try. Do you change lenses much Eric?  Part of my problem is that I mainly use prime lenses so I'm always changing them, and it's quite difficult not to let dust in.

Robert
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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2016, 05:50:36 pm »

I've had one noticeable dust spot with my A7r2 so far. I was actually able to shake it off with a few rounds of sensor vibration. I needed to clean my older A7r a couple times with a Sensor Swab, once after seriously gunking it up via my own stupidity. I doubt I'd lean on the r2's sensor as forcefully as was needed to remove that gunk, but I've wet cleaned various "floating" micro-Four-Thirds sensors over the past 3 years with no ill effects. Gently & carefully does the job.

-Dave-
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dwswager

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2016, 07:05:15 pm »

Hi,

It works by static electricity. Very well possible that it is not better than clean air. But it has solved all my problems for ten years.

I never needed wet cleaning.

Best regards
Erik

As a mirrored shooter, I typically

1)  Use proper lens changing techniques
2)  Blow out the chamber anytime I plan to lift the mirror with a lens off.
3)  Use a Rocket blower for the sensor, if that doesn't work then
4) Use a Dust Off Anti-Static brush, if that doesn't work then
5) Use a Sensor Swab and Eclipse Fluid.

I have only done a wet cleaning 6 times in about 14 years.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2016, 01:14:35 am »

Hi Robert,

I am changing lenses quite often. I only had the A7rII since September and was shooting A99 before that.

Don't have a lot of problems with dust on sensor, partly because I seldom use small apertures, so it doesn't really show up.

Best regards
Erik

I must give it another try. Do you change lenses much Eric?  Part of my problem is that I mainly use prime lenses so I'm always changing them, and it's quite difficult not to let dust in.

Robert
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2016, 02:21:49 am »

As a mirrored shooter, I typically

1)  Use proper lens changing techniques
2)  Blow out the chamber anytime I plan to lift the mirror with a lens off.
3)  Use a Rocket blower for the sensor, if that doesn't work then
4) Use a Dust Off Anti-Static brush, if that doesn't work then
5) Use a Sensor Swab and Eclipse Fluid.

I have only done a wet cleaning 6 times in about 14 years.

Yes, that sounds good although I personally wouldn't do step 4.  My reasoning is that a brush is likely to do more harm than good. I assume your brush is earthed?  If so that would at least ground the sensor glass so that further air blowing would be more likely to remove any previously-static-clung dust.  But on the other hand, unless you wash your brush well in isopropyl alcohol before use, there is a good chance of smearing on whatever stuff has got onto it since you last used it.

I mount some of my pictures under perspex, with the print stuck to the perspex, and it's incredibly hard not to get trapped dust.  The print & perspex can be totally dust-free but dust can still sneak in between the print and the perspex even in a very clean room.  Earthing the perspex definitely helps, but it can build up charge really quickly.  So I would think that the sensor glass coating is not so different.  I wonder if earthing the camera would help?  But the sensor probably isn't earthed to the camera case ... it would be interesting to find out.

« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 02:33:07 am by Robert Ardill »
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2016, 02:40:25 am »

Hi Robert,

I am changing lenses quite often. I only had the A7rII since September and was shooting A99 before that.

Don't have a lot of problems with dust on sensor, partly because I seldom use small apertures, so it doesn't really show up.

Best regards
Erik

Thanks Eric.  Yes, on the whole I think a good recommendation is not to worry too much about dust unless it becomes a real problem on the images.  I bought my last camera in 2010 and never did one single clean, not even blowing air.  Certainly dust was visible at very small apertures, but only a nuisance in some areas, like sky ... and it was usually easy enough to get rid of in LR or PS.

Still, the mirrorless cameras do seem to be a lot more dust-prone, so taking care with lens changing, keeping the camera in a clean bag, and so on, is a good idea.  I'll try a regular clean-air-blow into the sensor to try to minimize hard dust, but if that doesn't help I'll just back off and do a wet clean when it gets too bad.

I just came across this article, which seems pretty sensible: http://content.photojojo.com/tutorials/digital-slr-sensor-cleaning/

Robert
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Robert Ardill

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Re: Sensor Cleaning
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2016, 09:00:48 am »

I've spoken to the manager of a repair center and he tells me that Sony are OK with wet cleaning with Eclipse and sensor-swabs, and that as long as it's done carefully that it will not void the warranty.

Secondly, he has some gel sticks provided by Sony for removing tough spots.  These are not designed to be used on the whole sensor, but just to pick off the odd dust spot that's causing a problem. I will be getting some from him and I'll let you know how they work.

I have done a bit of practising with wet cleaning as I don't want to be in a situation where I have to do a wet clean and my hands are shaking from nerves.  Using the Sensor Check loupe, it's very easy, using a small sensor-swab with a drop of Eclipse, to remove any stubborn spots. Because of the design of the loupe it can be kept in place while cleaning, making it very easy to see if the spot has been removed or not.  Then, I used a larger sensor-swab to do the final clean and the sensor is absolutely perfect both using the loupe and with an f/22 shot.

I think the pec-pads can well be re-used after being washed in isopropyl alcohol ... just my opinion :).

Robert
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