Is it time to clean your dirty camera sensor? Removing dust spots manually is faster than doing it on the computer. If you’re like me, you don’t enjoy this necessary evil. It’s time-consuming, concerning and expensive. But there is a better way; I’ve spent hours researching the best (value) tools to clean your camera sensor in 2016, and present them to you here, now, for free.
Love The Blow Job
Shot.Click gives you the smarter choice, fast. For cleaning your camera’s sensor, get a Blower. This is the best value, safest way to clean your camera’s sensor. You needn’t read on unless you want perfection.
Remove dirt and dust from the sensor with a blower. Dirt that cannot be removed with a blower can only be removed by Nikon-authorised service personnel.
IMPORTANT: Note that the sensor is extremely delicate and easily damaged so please follow the instructions carefully. Nikon recommends the use of a blower to remove dust and lint. Do not use a blower-brush as the bristles could damage the filter. Under no circumstances should you touch or wipe the sensor surface. Nikon recommends that the sensor surface be cleaned by Nikon-authorised service personnel.
I thought the blower wasn’t really effective because I had been using a cheap one. But I got a Giottos Rocket Air which seems to be the standard choice, and was surprised by how well it worked. Sure, it won’t remove some spots, but it removed 90% and that’s enough for everyday photography.
There are lots of places to buy the Giottos Rocket Air Blower. I chose this one because it’s popular. I paid €11. Other manufacturers may have better versions. There are also copies from websites like Ali Express. I’d assume they work well too but might not have the same quality. Don’t get one with a brush. Get a big one.
There’s a blower called the Koh HEPA Jet Air Blower II that’s more than double the price. Why? Because it has a big filter and uses a different material so that the air it blows is cleaner. I didn’t think it was worth the extra money, but you might.
Love The Sticky Stick
Sometimes the blower won’t clean your sensor well enough so the next step after using it (and not an alternative by itself) is the sticky stick. It’s a gel on a stick that catches dust etc which is then transferred onto a sticky sheet. It can be washed in clean water so should last years.
The sensor gel stick seems to be pretty popular in the US. Having seen it in use by the Leica technicians in Europe, I bought the SensorVu Cleaner (Adidt AC-01) for €33 from MicroTools. I think either are fine. Obviously there’s a big margin on this product so there are copies; apparently these have damaged sensors, so stay clear of them.
The benefit of using the sensor gel sticky stick to clean your camera’s sensor is that it’s convenient, cheap in the long run and difficult to misuse.
Hate The Wet Wipes
If you want a completely clean sensor and the blower and sensor gel stick haven’t worked, the final option is cleaning liquid, lint-free cloths and a stick. This is something you want to avoid as much as possible. I don’t mind a few specks of stubborn dust that I can remove on the computer but you might think differently, especially if you make videos. But beware.
There are various types of imaging sensor cleaning products available that may include a liquid cleaner together with imaging sensor wipes. It is possible that these liquids can be used, but as stated above the sensor is extremely delicate and easily damaged.
Because it’s possible to damage your sensor, there are plenty of over-priced options on offer that play on the fear of ruining your camera. Actually the process is pretty simple. I got the industry standard combination which is Pec Pads with Eclipse cleaning fluid. Various pre-prepared options are available; you will end up wasting money if you choose them as cleaning the camera sensor often takes several passes.
Wet cleaning your camera sensor is invariably frustrating and time consuming. I tested the combination on my lens before cleaning my sensor and I’m glad I did. The ‘solution’ left big smear marks. Even if you wet clean your sensor properly, dust etc will accumulate on the edges of the sensor. You may also touch the inside of the camera by accident and make the sensor worse. You can also scratch the sensor. Avoid wet cleaning unless absolutely necessary.
Ignore The Loupe
There are a few loupes available so you can check if your sensor is clean or not. They are a waste of money. You can use an illuminated magnifying glass if you feel so inclined.
Ignore The Butterfly Brush
I spent almost €100 on a vibrating brush years ago because I was fooled by fear and marketing. You can learn from my mistake. It works okay, but not as well as the options I’ve covered here.
Love Your Camera Sensor Cleaning Tools
So these are the best value tools that I researched, bought and recommend for cleaning your camera’s sensor in 2016.
I bought the kit that included the blower here;
If you can find the same/equivalent tools for less money, please share the details with everyone in the comments including which country you live in.
Prevention Beats Cure
It’s best to avoid cleaning your camera sensor. You can do this by keeping your gear clean. Simple things like pointing the camera down when you change lenses, not changing lenses in dusty, windy environments (and holding your hand over the opening if you do), vacuuming your camera bag occasionally, washing your rear lens caps, and keeping your lenses clean will all make a big difference.
Cleaning Your Camera Sensor
Camera sensors always get dusty. Film had the benefit of being used once per photo. I’ve always had to clean my cameras. To my delight, the Nikon D600 I bought enraged some people online which forced Nikon into offering free sensor cleaning. I enjoyed this for years, then had a free shutter replacement, which I’d have needed anyway after 100k photos, and finally a brand new D610 replacement camera just as I was about to upgrade. Thank you internet ire.
But of course I realised that the Nikon D610 camera was just back to normal. Sure, the D600 may have had a bit more dust/oil, but I have to clean the D610 camera sensor pretty regularly anyway. It was easier to let ‘professionals’ clean my camera sensor, but getting the gear and learning to do it yourself will save you time and money.
Here’s a couple of the best tutorials I found on how to clean your camera sensor;
This chap knows what he’s talking about. His main USP is even that his photography is ‘Dust Free’!
This charismatic fellow says more or less the same thing. We might be using a ‘Rocket Air’ but it’s hardly rocket science…
Wade through this video if you wish to hammer in the important point that keeping your lenses and lens caps clean makes a big difference to keeping your camera sensor clean.
I’ve seen the other videos from DRtv and Karl Taylor etc and their omission is intentional…
So that should be a pretty definitive review on how to clean your camera sensor, and what tools to use as of 2016. Cleaning your sensor is pretty basic maintenance. It’s a necessary chore so invest in the ‘proper’ gear, keep your lenses, lens caps and camera clean inside, and use the blower when necessary. If you can avoid cleaning your camera sensor, that’s the smarter thing to do.