My Evolving Sensor Cleaning Method

Ever wonder how the camera manufacturers clean sensors? I have. Skip to min 13:20 in this video to take a look at what the Leica folks use.

My method for cleaning my gear has largely been informed by what I was taught by Moose Peterson in his DLWS workshops.

The simple process that I was following until very recently was to:

  • use the camera’s self cleaning system, which sometimes actually works(!)
  • use a blower to get rid biggish loose bits of dust
  • use a brush such as the Arctic butterfly to remove what wasn’t removed by the blower

If I decided that there were just too many dust spots remaining after a couple of passes with the brush I would then go ahead with ‘wet cleaning’. I used to think that wet cleaning was ‘one pass and your done’ but with practice I realize that it’s not unusual to need 3 or 4 passes with the sensor swabs to get the sensor clean. Occasionally, as was the case on a recent trip, during the initial wet cleaning I manage to drag oil from around the sensor on to the sensor itself and then have to do an even more rigorous cleaning. Visible Dust have a couple of different solvents for wet cleaning that I use. I generally start with VDust plus and then go to Smear Away if I need to.

As an aside, Visible Dust products are expensive and with the need for multiple passes for wet cleaning it’s easy to blow $20 or more in a single cleaning session. That can be a real pain in the wallet if you need to clean your sensor at the end of every day or before every shoot. Because of this many people are switching to Copper Hill products which offer a cheaper option for swabs that involves making up the swab yourself. I tried their products way back when and was never satisfied with how the swab went together. In this video from Moose it looks like Copper Hill redesigned the handle and now the swabs are easier to assemble.

So what’s changed with my process? I’m now incorporating the sensor gel stick that you saw in the Leica video above into my ‘dry’ cleaning method. While I could probably skip the arctic butterfly, and probably will, as I get more comfortable with the sticky pad I’m still using the brush prior to using the . Moose mentions that he didn’t get a year out of his sensor gel stick, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Check out the instructional video below for a how-to tutorial with the sticky pad.

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