Cleaning your Nikon camera sensor - a guide
Thanks for posting this. Your kit looks very effective -- much better
than what I got. Neither with brush or wet cleaning have I ever been
able to get the sensor completely clean. And that loop of yours is
much better than the one I have: having it sit on the lens mount is
Thanks!...it's not a cheap system but it works well.
You're right about the loupe as it makes a fantastic difference to be able to really see the sensor properly.
I think the loupe and the wet cleaning kit are the best bits of the 'visible dust' system.
Ana Souza wrote:
what a wonderful guide, thanks!
Thanks Ana!....I'm really pleased that you found it useful. Sensor cleaning seems to be one of things we never discuss properly on the forum yet I'm sure it's something a lot of photographers here worry about before they've tried it for the first time - I know I did.
Thanks Ian for taking the time to explain how to do this and publish it. I am sure you spent a lot of time producing this - thank you!
How much money are you talking about for the Arctic Butterfly? Did you buy the web swabs separately or are they included in the Arctic Butterfly kit?
Michel F wrote:
Thanks for doing this. Can I inquire as to the cost of the whole kit
? I went on the visible dust site and their stuff seems really
expensive. Also, when you do a wet cleaning, do you use the dry
surface of the swab to dry the sensor after the wet pass ?
I hasten to add that I have no links to the 'Visible Dust' company, financial or otherwise so this review is just the way I see the product.
It's not a cheap kit but you'll find it on the web if you google 'arctic butterfly'.
This is the one I bought + when I bought it mine came with a voucher for a set of free wet cleaning swabs with fluid: http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=1028072
I bought the version of the brush with the llight, and to be frank, the light is completely useless.....a cheaper version of the brush may be just as good.
The best parts of the system are the loupe and the wet cleaning fluid & swabs.
To answer your question about using the swabs: no, if I need to use the other side of the swab then I use it wet (3 drops is all thats needed) The fluid dries almost instantly and without leaving a trace.
A well contrusted thread and tutorial, which is very useful. Thanks for posting.
...for this informative and well-written guide. Many thanks for including the photos, especially for showing how the sensor will look before and after cleaning.
Congratulations on your new web site! I like the design and certainly the photographs!
Well Ian ,
You have excelled yourself with that detailed explanation plus photos, thank you very much for taking the time to do all that for us ... brilliant !
The pictures make all the difference ...however ........I wished you lived next door to me !
Many thanks again .
The sensor's not as fragile as you might think. Manufacturers and third party vendors want to scare you into buying unneeded and super expensive products.
Remember, you never actually clean the sensor itself, but a low pass filter mounted in front of the sensor.
The low pass filter is glass and nothing goes through it (alcohol, methanol, Kodak lens cleaner).
So all you have to be careful is not to scratch the glass filter.
Secondly you must not drip excess moisture into the camera.
Like any other lens use only circular motions when using a swab.
With fluid cleaning follow up with a dry swab.
You can also use PEC*PAD's available at any camera store and for fluid use any standard lens cleaner.
PEC*PAD can be cut to size and held with surgical locking tweezers.
I worked at a Navy submarine's periscope shop and this is how we clean the scopes and image sensing equipment in a clean room that's almost 90% clean and then pressureize the scopes with dry 99.9% nitrogen after vacuuming them.
A scope costs millions of dollars, a top Nikon camera doesn't even hit $10K.
Only Kodak, Leica and Fuji support the consumer in using the same method that they themselves use for cleaning the low pass filter. All the others manufacturers only support the non-physical contact use of a hand blower. If Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax or Sigma, can tell that you have touched the low pass filter, your warranty is void. On the other hand, Photographic Solutions Inc., guarantees that you won't damage your camera, if you use their Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™.
Canon - Blower and a Kimwipe, held by tweezers. They do not like to use fluid but when necessary they use either 90% isopropyl alcohol or a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and Windex.
Fuji - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
Kodak - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
Leica - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
Nikon - A commercial grade lens tissue wrapped around a chopstick style piece of wood with medical grade methanol. Several forums have posts where readers have been to Nikon Service outside the USA and reported seeing the technicians using Sensors Swabs and Eclipse.
Olympus - A Kimwipe held by tweezers and Olympus Proprietary Solution (dries quickly without streaks and is bio-degradable).
Pentax - A special lint free cloth (provided from Japan) folded into a small square and held with a pair of tweezers as a swab moistened with a freon derivative.
Sigma - Uses a special vacuum cleaner that was provided by Japan.
Sony - Uses Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™ by Photographic Solutions.
As for the "Not guaranteed" statement, this is only meant to emphasize that other products of the same type do offer a guarantee and that these don't.
Ian , nice job.
I will only disagree about the rocket blower. If you use it properly holding the camera upside down it work well as a dust preventative measure. After I close the mirror back down I give it another few puffs . I do this once per week and after every outdoor shoot.
Check my Photo Blog
rickmystic - Thanks for the good rundown on other approaches.
Ian - thanks for taking the time to share your procedure. The loupe is nice.
Supr X wrote:
Just checked out your sales site and- Very Cool! Nicely built and
intuitively simplistic, i like it a lot. Hope you do well with it!
P.S.- Excellent sensor-cleaning guide, another Well Done!
Thanks very much David...I've only just established the web site in the last few weeks as a result of getting increasing requests for commercial licensing and prints of my photos via the contact form on my photoblog. It's only a hobby but I'll let you know how things go.
Great instruction Ian, and so nice of you to take the time to put it
together. One thing though, many people can't afford that "kit" you
have demonstrated and there are more reasonably priced alternatives
to the artic butterfly.
Thanks Lora, I'm sure you're right as there are many so products out there on the market designed for camera sensor cleaning that the choice is bewildering.
As long as you find a way to clean the sensor yourself then you are always going to save a lot of money compared to paying a company to do it for you.
If it needs another go after checking with the loupe, just use the
other side of the swab. The swabs are very effective and I've never
needed to use more than two to get the sensor on my camera as clean
as the day I bought it (probably cleaner!)
Ian, great photos and text. Although your experience was a good one,
some people, including myself, have needed much more than two swaps
to clean the sensor (10-12 my first time). The Copperhill
instructions state something to the effect that you shouldn't give
up, and that it can sometimes take a dozen wipes to fully succeed.
I only put that out because some people have attempted to clean their
sensors but after 1 or 2 failed tries, they become dejected and think
that there is a permanent scratch or stain on the glass, when it fact
it just takes a little more work to succeed.
It's great to get the input of as many photographers as possible into the various methods that are used.
I was really impressed by the 'Visible Dust' wet cleaning swabs and fluid but the first time I tried it I only used 2 drops of fluid per swab which didn't work at all well. Increasing it to 3 drops really made a big difference to the results and I'm sure this kind of variable will apply to other manufacturer's products too.
I'm sure you are right about the need for a bit of courage and persistence.
Lowell Schechter wrote:
Its so amazing how many people buy digital SLRs and never know about
the possibility of getting unwanted dust on the camera sensor and
having many photos ruined. you certainly don't get much advice about
that from a camera salesman who's only job is to make the sale, but
anyway not only is it a pleasure to view your photos its also a
pleasure to see the information that you have posted here about
cleaning the all important camera sensor. I dread taking the lens off
and trying to clean my cameras sensor. I try the Rocket Blower first
and if not successful there I go ( Ugh ) to the next extreme. Very
informative to people who need to be educated on taking care of the
When I first got my DSLR I could find little advice on how likely it would be for me to get dust on the sensor and what effect it would have on my photos.....your procedure of getting rid of the dust in steps sounds really sensible.