by PETER K. BURIAN, DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE INSTRUCTOR, http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/PBN01.asp
Recently, I received a question from a student in my Digital Photography course wondering how to clean her digital SLR’s sensor. The question was certainly valid since every D SLR owner will eventually need to arrange for sensor cleaning. (NOTE: This is not relevant to those who own digicams with a built-in lens.)
The Question: “After a vacation trip, I noticed that my images (made with an EOS 10D) have a lot of dust spots. I tried to clean the sensor with a puff of air from a blower bulb as recommended in the owner’s manual. That did not work too well. And I don’t want to spend money sending the camera in for service or be without it for weeks.”
The Answer: Most camera manufacturers warn against any other type of cleaning by the user due to a risk of damage to the the glass cover that protects the actual sensor. Such damage would call for a full sensor module replacement (very expensive!) because the glass cover cannot be removed if it becomes damaged.
However, consider the following options:
(1) If dust specks are obvious in your images, try using an extra-large blower bulb such as the Giottos Rocket-Air ($12) http://www.adorama.com/GTRAB.html
Or check out the more powerful Bellows Foot pump ($10.) http://www.thesportsauthority.com/sm-sevylor-small-foot-pump--pi-11737.html
Activate the sensor cleaning feature of your digital SLR camera as instructed in the Owner’s Manual. Use several blasts of air, with the camera held downward toward the floor, so the dust can fall out. That process will usually remove all but the smallest dust specks.
If it does not solve the problem, you might be tempted to use pressurized “canned air”. I strongly recommend against that approach. Should the liquid propellant reach the sensor, it will dry on the glass cover; in that case, you may need to send the camera to a service depot for professional cleaning.
(2) Several companies make products designed for use by the camera owner. I have tried the two that were most often recommended on digital camera e-zines on the Internet.
Visible Dust (www.CleanMySensor.net) markets brushes designed specifically for sensor cleaning. They employ super-charged fiber technology that causes dust to adhere to the bristles for effective removal. ($85.) These work well but the Visible Dust products have not yet been approved by any digital SLR camera manufacturer.
The most highly rated product designed for a more thorough cleaning is made by Photographic Solutions Inc. (http://www.photosol.com/) Their Sensor Swabs ($48 for 12) with Eclipse fluid ($8.25) are apparently approved by Kodak and Fuji but not by other Digital SLR manufacturers. NOTE: Photographic Solutions guarantees the safety of their products when used according to instructions. For specifics: www.photosol.com/guarantee.htm
The Bottom Line: Don’t worry about a few dust spots on your digital images. Often, they will not be visible except in light toned areas such as the sky in a photo. Remove the troublesome specks with the cloning tool available with most image editing programs. (Cloning means copying some pixels from a clean area to cover the pixels in a blemished area.)
Buyer Beware: If you insist on trying a sensor cleaning kit not approved by your camera’s manufacturer, use extreme care and follow the cleaner manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. And use the kit infrequently: only when the sensor is very dusty and only when you cannot solve the problem with a blower bulb.
The Bottom Line: Remember that prevention is always preferable to the solution. Try to minimize the amount of dust that gets into the camera. Vacuum your camera bag regularly. Avoid changing lenses in very dusty locations. Whenever you do change lenses, do so quickly and carefully. Minimize the amount of dust that gets into your digital SLR camera and you won't often need to worry about sensor cleaning.