a year of use, I took the plunge and tried cleaning the
sensor of my Canon EOS 350D. Maybe others will be
interested in my experiences with this process, so here
goes with a short account. The whole experience was a
good deal easier than I had thought it might be. Since
then, I have cleaned my other DSLR's (40D and 50D) using
exactly the same technique, with success every time.
There is plenty of material on the Internet
about this subject, but a lot of it is contradictory and
the 'best' information seems a bit scattered. A good
tutorial is on the Copper Hill website, which describes the
process of wet swabbing using PecPads wrapped around
sensor swabs. I read this account carefully, and
subsequently followed much of it, but I didn't fancy the
idea of preparing the swabs themselves, nor was it clear
where I could get all the components in the UK.
I ended up
ordering some pre-prepared sensor swabs (just use out of
the packet, after applying a couple of drops of the
Eclipse fluid), sized exactly for my camera (you specify
your camera model when ordering on-line), together with
some Eclipse fluid and a low cost Hurricane blower from Digipad. For 5 swabs, all this cost less than £20,
and the order arrived in a few days - no problems at all,
despite their website!
downside of the pre-prepared swabs is their price - some
£2 each - but I reckon its probably worth it, especially
for beginners - even several are a lot less than the cost
of getting the camera sensor cleaned professionally.
Probably the best method of minimising dust
problems is never to change the lens, but with the x1.4
converter as an option, I do keep swapping it in and out,
quite frequently, but each time I do try to be as quick
as possible. Nevertheless, very early on, I got a biggish
dust spot - but it was well away from the centre and even
at max aperture (f5.6) it often didn't show up at all.
When it did, it was often in the sky or other uniform
background, and could easily be removed with Photoshop's
you reduce the aperture to the minimum (f32) and point at
the sky, all the dust spots are revealed in horrible
detail. Here is what I saw a few weeks ago - using Auto
Levels in Photoshop. Ugh! Note the brute
of a spot top centre, (the one which sometimes becomes
visible on "real" pics as mentioned above), but
all the other spots have never shown up. I am sure all
these spots, even out-of-focus, don't help the overall
image quality - they must reduce contrast if nothing else.
starting point - after a years use!
Getting ready for action
following were the main tips I can pass on:
the Copper Hill website carefully from start to
finish, despite the distractions/irrelevant stuff
some effort to do the cleaning in a clean, dust
free environment, with no draughts
the camera on the tripod, at about 45° to the
vertical worked well
plenty of light so you can see what you're doing
- an Anglepoise helped
your camera instructions about going into and out
of sensor cleaning mode carefully
practising on a clear CCD case (with a separate
swab) is a good idea
wore a dust mask, to avoid breathing on the vital
re-use a swab on the CCD
two drops of Eclipse fluid to the swabs and let
it disperse into the swab for a few seconds
before applying to the CCD.
sure you don't touch the swab with the fluid
container - just squeeze a little and out it
cleaning the CCD, I move the swab once from to
left to right, and then back again (right to left)
maintaining contact with the CCD the whole time.
withdraw the swab from the camera and then go
back with it to try cleaning again.
use a fresh swab if it turns out I didn't remove
all the dust spots first time around.
Before diving in with the swabs, the Copper Hill site
recommends inspecting the sensor to see if there are any
visible dust specks. Sure enough, my old friend top
centre was visible. In these cases, Copper Hill suggests
try to blow these visible specks off. To my surprise
using the Hurricane blower worked, and I got this image
after just the initial blowing:
with the Hurricane only - got rid of the large
spots visible above and quite a few of the
Although the initial blowing had removed the large spots,
and reduced the number of smaller ones, I wasn't
satisfied, and tried some wet swabbing (added 2 drops of
the Eclipse). My first attempt wasn't perfect, and there
was a fairly large spot at the centre left-edge, and
quite a few smaller ones around as well:
and first wet swabbing - good progress, but note
the quite large spot centre left, and various
smaller ones towards the bottom
I still wasn't satisfied, so I broke out
another swab, and gave it another go. This time I was
happier with the result, but a bit worried by the first
image I got - it showed some worrying diagonal streaks:
After second blowing
and second wet swabbing - only a few spots left
now, but what are these nasty looking diagonal
I then took a few more sky shots, without
re-opening the camera, and found the diagonal streaks
must have been due to the cleaning fluid not been fully
dry (phew!). However, to my annoyance, another biggish
dust spot just spontaneously appeared centre left:
As above but
a few minutes later. The diagonal streaks have
gone, but a brute has appeared centre left!
I guess this extra spot must be due to
dust just floating around inside the camera, and it might
go and/or another appear. Anyhow, having now used up 3 (1
for practice and 2 on the camera) of my 5 swabs, I
decided to call it a day for the time being.
Since I wrote the account above, I have cleaned the 350D
sensor several times, and also the 40D and 50D sensors on
my newer DSLRs. In all cases, the combination of first
dry blowing with the Hurricane blower, followed by the wet
swabbing, worked well. No real problems at all, and the
funny streaks shown above have never re-appeared.
Sometimes I have needed to use 2 or even 3 swabs in a
session to get the CCD into a state I was happy with (few
if any significant dust spots left).
Note that I
find the so called sensor clean function available on the
EOS 50D to be of limited value - it still accumulates
dust spots just like the 350D and needs cleaning from
time to time.
the swab on the sensor, I once tried wiping round the
inside of the camera, in the immediate vicinity of the
sensor. It may have helped to reduce the re-appearance of
spots, but it is difficult to tell.
I would suggest first trying the blowing technique on its
own, using a Hurricane or similar. This can reduce the
number of spots, and might be sufficient without going
If you are
not satisfied with the results of just blowing, then I
can recommend the wet swabbing technique. It isn't too
difficult to do, and the risk of permanently damaging the
AA filter seems low. But completely removing all dust
spots seems difficult/impossible.
the inside of the camera as well (with the same swab but after
doing the sensor), to reduce the general dust levels in
the camera, could be worthwhile.
all this, keeping the sensor completely dust free seems
very difficult, and is probably not worth it either!
Have you found this new page
useful? Got any comments/further tips?
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