You have your fancy DSLR camera with all of your fancy lenses and everything is working fine until all of a sudden one day your images have spots on them. You get your lens cleaner and cloth but the spots are still there. What happened? It is dust on the sensor. You can generally tell that it is from the sensor because the spots appear on every picture in the same place no matter what lens you are using. An easy test is to set your f-stop to f/22 and shoot at a blue sky. If it is the sensor, you will see the spots.
How did that happen? Well, every time you change lenses you are open to the possibility that dust can be sucked in to the opening even in the most controlled situation. If you are outdoors, the odds are increased dramatically.
Now that you have dust on your sensor, what can you do? You really have two options. One, you can send your camera out to be cleaned. This can cost anywhere from $50 to $125 dollars depending on the type of camera you have and where you live. You not only have to figure the cost, but it can also take as long as two weeks or more to get your camera back. For a professional, that is just not an option.
The other option is to do it yourself. Isn't that dangerous? Sure, if you are not careful and don't use the right tools. But so is driving to work if you are not paying attention to a certain set of rules. The key is to have the right tools and learn the correct steps. Also keep in mind that you are not really cleaning the sensor, but rather the low pass filter that covers the sensor.
VisibleDust has a complete set of the right tools. Their new Arctic Butterfly 724 (Brite) Sensor Loupe Combo along with their Sensor Cleaning Swabs, Hurricane Blower, and Sensor Clean gives you everything you need to safely clean your camera. While I will look at the some of the steps and tools for cleaning your sensor, this is by no means complete. In fact, for a better understanding and before attempting to clean your camera go to SensorCleaning.com for more in-depth information. Primarily, I am going to look at two of these tools that come together as a combo — The Arctic Butterfly 724 (Brite) and the Sensor Loupe.
VisibleDust Sensor Loupe
First I am going to first look at the Sensor Loupe. One of the problems with cleaning dust off of the sensor is actually seeing the dust on the sensor. Remember I told you to take a picture of the sky with your f-stop at f/22. That is how you have to do it old school. With the Sensor Loupe, you don't have to keep going out to take that picture after each step to see if it is clean enough.
The Sensor Loupe is effectively a magnifying glass with a lighting system that goes over your lens opening, allowing you to see clearly on to the sensor area. There are two models of Sensor Loupe, a 5x and a 7x. The one I am working with is the 7x.
When you set the Sensor Loupe over the lens opening you can clearly see down into the sensor and, even though I cleaned my lens last week, I can see two tiny particles. For this, I can just use my Hurricane Blower to blow the two particles off. I do need to put my camera into sensor clean mode before attempting this though to protect the sensor.
With the VisibleDust Sensor Loupe you get the Loupe itself which is about 2 ½ inch diameter and 1 ¼ inch thick very hard plastic. It is very solid and feels like it will last a long time.
It also comes in a leather case that has a carabineer clip that you could clip this to your equipment with. It also comes in a pouch made of microfiber fabric as well as a lens cloth made of the same fabric to keep the glass clean. There is a nylon strap that you attach to the Loupe itself if you want to hang around your neck for easy access. It also comes with the two batteries for the light.
Arctic Butterfly 724 (Brite)
The Arctic Butterfly is a sensor cleaning wand that gives you the ability to perform what is called dry cleaning to your sensor. It is called dry cleaning because there are no chemical agents used in this method. Instead you would clean the sensor using a dry brush.
In the past when you wanted to dry clean your sensor, you would have a brush that you would have to blow canned air across to clear off any unwanted particles and add a static charge to attract the dust off the sensor. The Arctic Butterfly changes all of that.
Now instead of blowing the particles off the brush, the Arctic Butterfly uses a high speed spinning mechanism to spin any excess particles off of the brush and at the same time it gives the brush a static charge that will help attract dust particles from the sensor.
One thing to note: You never want to spin the brush in the lens chamber or anywhere near the sensor. This could cause major damage to your low pass filter and or sensor. So you spin the wand for a couple of seconds and turn it off before you approach the lens chamber.
In the case before I had a couple of dust particles on the lens that I blew off with the VisibleDust Hurricane Blower. If they had not come off, I would have gone to stage two which would have been a dry cleaning.
To do this, after using my Sensor Loupe to see the particles still attached, I would have then fired up the Arctic Butterfly to statically charge the brush and then, with it in the off position, gently moved it from left to right over the low pass filter on my sensor. I would remove and then go right to left. On the front of the Butterfly is a light that can be turned on to give you a better view into the sensor area.
At this point, most of the dust particles should be removed. You can then take your Sensor Loupe and check for any more particles. If you need to, you can repeat this process if necessary. The Arctic Butterfly comes in a hard plastic case with foam padding to keep it secure. That comes in a leather case that also has a carabineer clip as well.
VisibleDust also makes a superb wet cleaning method. This consists of Sensor Cleaning Swabs and Sensor Clean solution. The swabs are a one-time use product where you put a couple of drops on the swab and allow it to absorb evenly. You then gently move it from left to right over the sensor. Remove it, turn it over, and then go right to left.
Personally, when I got my first DSLR, I was afraid of cleaning it myself. In fact, the first time it was cleaned it cost me $80 and took a little over a week to get it back. Now when I say that the Arctic Butterfly 724 (Brite) Sensor Loupe Combo retails for around $178.99 USD, it might seem like a lot of money, but when you consider that for a little more than the cost two cleanings, it paid for itself. This does not include the inconvenience of being without my camera for a period of time; this is really inexpensive. Once you get used to the care needed, these tools make it very easy to clean your DSLR. I very highly recommend the VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724 (Brite) Sensor Loupe Combo.