Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dust bunnies. Unless you live inside a clean room environment, you will get some on your DSLR sensor.

Hi Photographer friends.
Dust bunnies:

Some things are sure to happen in this world. We're all going to die, we're are all going to be taxed to death, and if we own a Digital SLR, we will get dust bunnies. The dust bunnies multiplies like rabbits, they live in small dark places, they are a pest, they are hard to eradicate, they jump into your photos, and they serve no useful purpose. 
What are they?

If you get these kind of bunnies, they are good bunnies, but still leave you in the dust.

If what you have on your sensor look like these above, frame the image and sell it to the Smithsonian museum. These are extremely rare.

The image above shows the kind of dust bunnies you are likely to have.

Here is a close up of what they look like...
and here's a close up of the close up. Can you see them now?

How to get rid of them?
  1. If you have several spare DSLRs or time to wait and the money to spend, send the DSLR back to the manufacturer for a professional sensor cleaning. It's guaranteed work and the safest way to clean your sensor. 
  2. If you're like me, you don't have enough time to do half of what you'd like to do everyday but you don't want to spend your money for camera maintenance. You want to spend your money on lenses and camera equipment.

What I do first is activating the built-in dust removal system and repeat the operation at least twenty or so times in a row. On most Pentax DSLRs, you can set the dust removal system so that it activates each time you turn the camera on. You can also do it repeatedly when you want to. The Dust Removal feature is accessible from the  (C) menu. When activating it, it is always a good idea to place the camera face down so the dust can fall away from the sensor.

If that is not enough try to blow the dust away from the sensor surface, I use my Giotto blower.  Blow toward the sensor vigorously, making sure you don't hit the sensor. I found that holding the blower with three fingers and my thumb, while my index finger is braced against the camera lens opening, works best and keeps the blower tip from hitting the sensor. Check your results by using the manual focus function, and photograph a cloudless sky or white piece of paper, with the lens set to the smallest aperture. Take a few pictures and inspect the images on your computer.  Dust bunnies might  be hard to notice on your cameras LCD.  Repeat this step until they are gone. With luck, that will be all you need to do. However, if the dust  has been there for a long period of time or if humidity got in, they might have become stickies. These won't go away with the two methods described above.
I think that Giottos makes the best blowers.



Blow the dust with the camea facing down.


The wet cleaning method:

This is the best cleaning method, but it is also the most apt to damage your sensor surface. Are you sure you want to go through with this? If you don't have a steady hand, don't do it. If you don't have any mechanical aptitude, don't do it. If you have the money, let a professional service technician do it for you. He's probably messed up many sensors before becoming a Pro at it.



Seriously, almost anyone can do it, but it's your choice.

Sensor Swab™ and Eclipse™ - Eclipse/Methanol is the chemical of choice by the engineers and optical specialist of Pentax, Nikon, Fuji and Leica and other brands. You use a swab of one type or another, put a couple (2-3) drops of chemical on it and wipe the sensor. Actually, you wipe the low pass filter which is in front of the sensor.  The eclipse kit comes with instruction on how to clean the sensor. The Internet is full of sites showing the steps to clean the sensor with a swab and methanol. Just Google Digital sensor cleaning, and you will have dozens of sites showing "step-by-step" instructions. I particularly liked this site:  http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com/cleaning.html

Read over and over until you are comfortable with the steps, then go for it. What have you got to lose other than your DSLR sensor?



The above shows what I use. It does a good job.
 Thanks for reading and happy cleaning,

Yvon Bourque
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