Dslr Sensor Cleaning

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I purchased a used 35mm DSLR Canon 30D camera off EBay a couple years or more ago and have had a tremendous amount of fun using this camera.  Prior to the Canon 30D, our son Bill, Jr. upgraded his Canon and I got his Canon 20D and accessories as a gift.  I used that camera for at least a year and the electronics went out and unable to get Canon to repair it due to its age and non-availability of replacement parts.

A few weeks ago, I noticed some small spots on my digital images especially against the white background while using my soft light boxes.  I thought it might be the lens and swapped lens and the spots were in the same place on the frame and knew it had to be the camera.  I checked the mirror and didn't see any visible dust specks and only one place left; the sensor.

I Googled DSLR camera sensor cleaning and there is a ton of stuff on YouTube and other websites detailing how to clean the sensor.  Most will let you know that camera manufacturers do not recommend home cleaning of the sensor since improper cleaning can damage the sensor which is a serious outlay of cash to have the sensor replaced.  Also, the camera warranty is void if the manufacturer ascertains that you attempted the cleaning yourself and damaged it.

Since my used Canon 30D is not under warranty and is about obsolete as far as replacement parts, I feel confident that I can clean the sensor myself without damaging it.  The area that you are cleaning is not the sensor itself but a filter that is mounted on top of the sensor.

After viewing many videos and reading articles, the sensor cleaning process is broken down into a three stage cleaning process. The Canon 30D has a sensor cleaning option from the main menu which when activated, locks the mirror up allowing access to the sensor.  Make certain you have a fully charged battery when you activate the sensor cleaning mode and when finished turn the camera to the off position and the mirror will retract to its normal position.  You need to be in a dust free environment as possible when removing your camera lens and doing the sensor cleaning procedures.

Below is test pix taken prior to cleaning the sensor with some serious dust spots visible:

I use the Canon 30D DSLR regularly in my basement woodworking shop to document some of my woodworking projects which is a very dusty environment as evidenced by the pix above.  The inside of the camera is a magnet for collecting dust and zoom lens aids in the dust collection along with changing your lens in a dusty environment.

Below are the products I will be using.  Added pix on 08-16-16 after receiving the Eclipse solution:


After the camera is placed in the sensor cleaning mode, remove the lens and invert the camera upside down and blow air onto the sensor filter without touching the tip of the blower to the sensor filter.  A Giottos Rocket-Air Blaster creates a powerful air stream and the only non-contact method recommended by Canon.  Replace the lens and turn the camera off.

Above internet stock photo showing the mirror locked up aka retracted with the sensor in view.

Take a test shot against a white background or the sky with the aperture set at F22 or higher and focus at infinity.  Download the image and see if blowing air onto the sensor filter removed the dust spots. If blowing air onto the sensor removed the dust spots, do not go any further.  If blowing air onto the sensor filter didn't remove the dust spots, it is time to go to stage two.

Below is pix after blowing air onto the sensor.  It did remove a major portion of the dust spots but need to proceed to Stage Two Cleaning.


Again, set the camera to the sensor cleaning manual mode which will retract and lock the mirror upwards exposing the sensor.  Remove the lens.  Using a specifically designed brush for lens, mirrors and sensors such as the StaticWisk # SW-010, charge the brush by blowing air onto the soft bristles for a few seconds using the Rocket-Air Blaster.  Gently brush across the sensor being careful not to come into contact with the mirror mechanism which could contain lubricants such as grease and try and stay away from the outside edge or border of the sensor.  Attach lens and turn camera off to allow the mirror to return to its normal position. Take another test image as above and see if dust spots were removed.  If the spots were removed, do not go any further with the sensor cleaning.  However, if using the StaticWisk didn't remove all the dust spots, it is time to go to Stage three sensor cleaning which is a wet cleaning process.

Below is pix after using the Static Wisk and it removed nearly all the troublesome dust spots.  I don't think it is necessary to proceed to the Stage Three Sensor Cleaning at this time.

I increased the brightness and contrast settings of the image taken using PhotoShop CS2 to help identify any dust spots and impressed with the results using the Static Wisk #SW-010.  There are a few very small dust spots but are not troublesome enough at this time.  Those spots are most likely from my PC monitor screen and it needs cleaning too......grin if you must!  Besides, my Eclipse sensor cleaning solution has not yet arrived, otherwise I probably would have given it a field test.  The vendors using DHL E Commerce shipping is about like the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic as far as I am concerned.  I have a package that was received in Raleigh, NC destined for the USPS on the 10th and it hasn't arrived at our local post office yet which is only 117 miles distance!  The Pony Express was faster than DHL E Commerce.

Recent pix showing a good clean bill of health for the sensor.


For stage three cleaning, you will need a sensor cleaning solution such as Eclipse and swabs specifically designed for sensor cleaning and the correct width of your camera sensor.  I will be using Photographic Solutions Sensor Swab type 2 which is 17 mm in width which is correct for the Canon 30D sensor.  The sensor swabs come in a sealed package and are used only once. The swabs are not cheap; averaging 3 dollars or more each but are definitely worth the extra expense.  Place your camera in the sensor cleaning mode and remove the lens.  Remove a swab from its protective wrapper and apply two or three small drops of cleaning solution across the tip of the swab and wait about 10 seconds to allow the solution to wick around the swab tip.  Starting from the left to right, place the swab tip onto the sensor tilting the swab handle to the right and firmly drag the swab across the sensor to the right edge of the sensor being careful not to touch the mirror mechanism to contaminate the cleaning swab.  Without moving the cleaning swab from the sensor, lean the cleaning swab handle to the left and drag the swab firmly from right to left which will use the other side of the cleaning swab flat tip portion.  Remove the swab from the sensor and discard.  Replace the lens and turn the camera to the off position to allow the mirror to retract to its normal position. Take another test pix and download the image to ascertain if the dust spots are removed.  If they are removed, you are finished.  If some troublesome spots still remain, repeat this stage three sensor cleaning with a fresh swab until the dust spots are removed.  Remember, use the cleaning swab only once

There are other techniques and products available to clean the sensor and it depends on how deep your pockets are as far as the cost of the air blower, cleaning brush, swab and cleaning solution.  The above products I use are not cheap but an investment to keep your DSLR camera operating at peak performance.  The above hyperlinked video using Copper Hill Products are currently not available but the video details the stage three cleaning procedure very well.  I believe the Sensor Swab might have helped antiquate their own swabs.

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 08-14-16 and updated on 08-16-16.


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