Dust in sensor: wider insights, please.

Started Aug 13, 2014 | Discussions thread
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PhotoKhan Forum Pro • Posts: 10,212
Dust in sensor: wider insights, please.

This is a theme most talked about in this and other DSLR forums, I am sure.

However, I have had kind of an epiphany in the sense that I now feel that the industry is not addressing this in a way proportionate to the problem it actually is.

Last week while in my "obligatory" annual stay in Alqueva, Alentejo, Portugal I took the opportunity to experiment with new photography sub-genre I've been studying - night landscape photography - while also stumbling upon a chance to try another, long-to-be-done one - Shooting a traditional Portuguese bullfight.

While roaming around the area we were staying in, scouting spots for night photography I came across a soon-to-be-started bullfight. I made sure photography was allowed, bought a ticket and entered the venue.

I am not a big fan of bullfighting and can only recall another instance in my entire life where I attended one just out of sheer curiosity to see it live.

However, for quite some time now, I have targeted bullfighting as a possible good scenario for "dragged-slow-shutter" photography given the "dances" of both animals and human figures in the ring.

This was a "low-budget" bullfight and so was the lighting but it was a good test for what I had envisaged (I will post some samples later) .

What it also had (all bullfight arenas do) was a compacted-earth arena floor.

Since it is an fast-paced event, I engaged high-speed drive on my 1DMKIV. Needless to say, the shutter fast mechanical action sucked in a lot of very fine earth powder coming from the ring action

(no lens was exchanged, mind you. I had the 70-200 on the camera the full time).

The very fine earth-powder created havoc on the sensor and since I didn't have my full cleaning kit with me on our holiday stay or quick access to a maintenance center, it compromised my experiences with night photography in next few outings (I will also post some samples of these, once I finish removing the dozens of spots from them )

Once we arrived home, I took my usual approach at cleaning the sensor: Rubber blower + wet cleaning with Eclipse and Pec Pads.

Now here is where it gets puzzling: I had to quickly dismiss the rubber blower as all it was doing was moving micro-dust lodged in other parts of the shutter chamber into the sensor surface.

Also, after having successfully and fully cleaned the sensor I tried to engage high-speed shutter mode. You guessed it: The sensor was once again covered with dust drawn from other parts inside the chamber to the sensor surface.

I had to re-engage high-speed drive and use it for several multi-shot drive runs before cleaning the sensor a second time.

...and then, a third time.

Even now I am not sure still-stray dust won't be settling back on the sensor surface whenever I'll need to engage high-speed drive again.

I would like for you guys to chime in with your experiences on scenarios like this one: Action photography in environments featuring dust and micro dust in suspension.

For instance - hello Tim Rucci? - I know some of you have gone to safaris in Africa and shot wildlife action from dirt roads. There are some who, surely, go to off-road motor events for action photography. How did you handle this problem?

How can a professional PJ have his/hers cameras rendered useless after some minutes and for the following days of a multi-day action event in environments with dust suspended in the air by the actual photo subjects action, unless they have a CPS center at hand or retire for some hours to have the sensors cleaned by themselves?

I feel this is a extremely serious issue, one that that has been poorly addressed by the industry and would like to hear from you guys about your experiences (...and possible solutions...) in this particular exacerbating scenario of a common and recurrent problem.


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