By Diane Berkenfeld
I have to admit that although I consider myself a techno-geek, who will add memory to a laptop myself with no second thoughts, I feared the idea of cleaning my own DSLR sensor for years. At one point, I even knew there was dust in my camera, but would spend tedious time in Photoshop digitally removing the dust from each image.
When the early DSLRs were introduced, we were told not to clean our own sensors (CMOS or CCD)—that we should send them in to the manufacturer’s service center for cleaning. That can become expensive, not to mention the downtime with no camera. Eventually sensor cleaning systems found their way to market. Some did the job, others were cheap products that you’d never want near your camera gear.
Most DSLR’s image sensors are not what you’re actually cleaning—instead a low-pass filter, which sits above the sensor, is where the dirt or dust accumulates.
In the past few years, LensPen has introduced the ideal DSLR sensor cleaning system, that even sensor-cleaning-phobics like myself could use. The system includes the Hurricane Blower, SensorKlear II, and SensorKlear Loupe:
- Hurricane Bulb. Bulb air blower.
- SensorKlear II. This is what you actually use on the image sensor or filter. The improved version II utilizes an angled head so you can easily pass it through the Loupe to clean.
- SensorKlear Loupe. This is what you use to look at or magnify the dirt or dust. What makes the SensorKlear Loupe unique is that it features a slot in the side so you can view the dirt and slip the SensorKlear II in to clean it while watching to make sure you’ve got the dirt.
To clean your DSLR’s image sensor/filter, you need to put the camera into the sensor clean mode. This will lock up the mirror so you can get to the sensor/filter beneath it.
This will work for most DSLRs, but you need to check your owner’s manual. The Nikon D100 for example, which I own, won’t let you activate the clean mode unless the camera is being powered by the optional AC adapter, although, there is a way around this. Attach a cable release to the D100 and lock it on bulb. This will lock the mirror up. You’ll want to do this with the camera’s battery at 100%; if the power goes too low, the mirror will release back down.
Once you have the mirror up, you simply take the Hurricane blower and holding the camera so the sensor area is facing downward, blow the air into the space to dislodge any loose dust or dirt. Then place the camera on a flat surface and place the SensorKlear Loupe atop the aperture ring. Turn on the lights and look through the Loupe to visually see if there’s any dirt. If there is, you just take the SensorKlear II and clean the sensor/filter. Most dirt or dust will by dry and you’ll be able to loosen it. Then you repeat the step using the Hurricane blower to remove the dust. Checking with the Loupe once more, you can ensure that the sensor/filter is clean. Release the camera from the clean mode and put the lens back on the camera, and you’re done.
I found the instructions simple to understand. There’s even a tutorial video on the LensPen website and YouTube so you can see exactly what to do. Once you try cleaning your DSLR’s camera sensor with the LensPen solution, you won’t be afraid of performing this maintenance in the future—I know I’m not.
Many of the latest DSLRs now incorporate a cleaning system that is either automatic or are triggered by a cleaning mode. Just because your camera incorporates such a cleaning mode, doesn’t mean you won’t have to clean your camera’s image sensor or filter in the future, especially if you change lenses often and/or shoot in dusty environments or the beach. Most of these systems are designed to dislodge dust, but it is likely that the dust or dirt will remain in the sensor chamber and find its way back. In this case, you’ll eventually have to manually clean your camera’s sensor/filter.
To find out more about LensPen and the products they offer, go to the website at www.lenspen.com.
Sensor Cleaning Disclaimer: PictureSoup blog has posted this review of the LensPen SensorKlear Loupe system in good faith. While we found the product to be of high quality and definitely work well, many camera manufacturers post disclaimers regarding sensor cleaning and how doing it yourself may alter or void a warranty. Remember that cleaning a DSLR’s image sensor is meant to be done in a clean space, (never outdoors) and you shouldn’t be rushed. We found a great website that offers a plethora of great information on sensor cleaning, the different methods on the market and what the camera makers have to say about photographers doing it themselves vs. sending cameras in for authorized service. Check out the site at www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com.