One of the biggest annoyances and problems for Digital SLR photographers is that tiny, almost invisible bits of dust on the sensor can result in enormous amounts of time “de-dusting” the images after a shoot is over. While applications like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom have some automated tools to help with the removal of dust that is already on the image, an ounce of prevention - like your mom told you - is worth a pound of cure. There are several approaches to this problem. Olympus has a high-frequency oscillator that vibrates dust off when you turn on the camera. The University of the Arts in Philadelphia where I teach has been checking out Olympus’ E-Series DSLR cameras to students for several years and we have never once had a dust problem. Other manufacturers have attempted to ameliorate dust problems with varying degrees of success, and sooner or later must folks have to address the dust problem with dedicated tools to clean dust off the sensor.
There are a couple of ways to do this, which essentially boil down to using either a dry or wet approach to cleaning the sensor. The first thing to do is to actually look at the sensor. VisibleDust and Delkin Devices both make great magnifying scopes complete with built-in lights to quickly show you what is on the surface of the sensor. The Delkin Devices is called the SensorScope, while the VisibleDust is called the Sensor Loupe, and boasts higher magnification. Once you spot the dust, make a note, either mental or written, so you can remember where the dust was to make sure it’s off when you are done.
Next, our recommendation is to use VisibleDust’s Arctic Butterfly brush to get most of the dust off. Looking a bit like a screwdriver with a brush on one end, it works in an unusual way. In the handle are batteries and a motor, which, when turned on, spins the brush at high speed. This generates a static electricity charge, which then attracts dust to it. So, press the button, spin the brush, let it stop, then sweep it across your sensor. Nine out of ten times, that’s it. Your sensor is clean. If that doesn’t do the trick, you step up to a sensor swab available in several sizes, and swipe it across the sensor surface. If that still doesn’t do it, you can switch to a wet solution to really clean the sensor.
Both VisibleDust and Delkin Devices both offer a variety of wet and dry cleaning solutions for different sized sensors, and complete kits with just about everything you would need to clean a sensor. We found that the VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly usually does the trick the first time. As you might imagine, the less you do to the sensor, the better! Scratch that sensor, and you might as well just buy a new camera, since the cost of replacement is often higher than purchasing an entirely new camera. Got Dust? Get a kit from VisibleDust or Delkin Devices send that dust packing!
Harris Fogel, Posted 12/20/2007
For more information on the Arctic Butterfly: www.visibledust.com
For more information on the Delkin Devices SensorScope: www.delkin.com