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Thread: How did I get so much dust on my sensor?

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    How did I get so much dust on my sensor?

    I went out to take some sunrise photos this morning. I was happy with the results and felt good until I got home and found there was dirt on the sensor.
    I have only had the camera a month or so, it's always had a lens on it, I've always been careful of the conditions when changing the lenses, the lens has never been off for more then a few seconds and I've never been in any particularly 'dusty' situations (rallies etc).
    It wasn't as bad as the photo I will post below, but I tried a camera blower and it made it worse.
    I know there are DIY kits to clean them yourself, but I know I will manage to ruin the camera doing it. Is there a good place I can send it to get cleaned that has a quick turn around?
    It's a Nikon D7200 btw.
    Another setback. Sigh.
    Dust-1926_zpshleswouf.jpg
    Last edited by R1Joel; 02-03-2016 at 6:53pm.

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    Ausphotography Regular John King's Avatar
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    Ugly, Joel. Sorry to see that, mate.

    Apart from pre-installed manufacturing grot on my E-M1 sensor (cleaned by Olympus under warranty), in nearly 10 years I have never had dust on any of my sensors, even when checked at f/22.

    Apart from ridiculous things like dust storms, I change lenses anywhere. Even down at the beach ...
    Last edited by John King; 02-03-2016 at 7:11pm. Reason: Added some stuff
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    any changing of lenses and even some of the push-pull zoom lenses let dust in. Welcome to the world of the digital SLR.

    couple of things, never aim your camera up when changing lenses, always point the lens to the ground. Dust like everything else is affected by gravity. So if your camera is pointed upwards, dust will drift down..inwards.

    A clean will probably cost you about $100. If you can, ask if you want watch the process cause doing it yourself is quite easy once you know how..and it is cheaper. Cameracheckpoint offer good gear to clean your sensor.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure your camera has in-built sensor cleaning.

    Look in your manual for Sensor Cleaning/Dust Reduction. I have my D800 set to do it at start-up and shut-down.
    Cheers
    Kev

    D600 : D7200 and too much stuff to list

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    Thanks for the replies and tips guys. I have contacted my nearest Camera House (still about 120km away) and I will await their reply. I will ask if I can watch them do it. When these type of places clean sensors is it usually done in a day? Or is it come back in a week sort of thing? I guess everywhere is different.
    I tried the in camera cleaner (also have it set for startup) with no luck. My only other option for the now was the blower, which just made it worse. Compressed air may be better. But I would like to start with a person who knows what they are doing (I am hopeless).

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    Ausphotography Regular John King's Avatar
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    DON'T use compressed air, Joel. You have to: 1) know what you're doing; and 2) use the right kind.

    Some have propellant additives that can do further damage. Misuse can blow crap into the sensor stack, etc.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    In the AM take a shot of the sky at about f22 and check the result.

    Do the test with the lens used above, and also another lens. That will eliminate a lens problem.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Or, don't go to bed yet, and to do it now like this...
    Photograph a flat, lightish painted wall at a bit of an angle using
    and a telephoto lens. The angle is to eliminate back-flash.

    Set your exposure to get a NORMAL shot EXCEPT, put lens on full zoom AND make
    sure it is DE-focused. Like, set to "∞" for a wall about 1.5 m away.

    Develop and look at result. Dust and oil spots should show up something like
    this image here...
    SDIM6166lr.jpg
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    No matter what precautions you try, you will always get dust on the sensor.
    The dust doesn't get to the sensor whilst changing lenses, unless you're taking a long exposure at the same time!

    All lenses will allow some dust through to the insides of the camera, this is a given and can't be stopped unless the lens is hermetically sealed(unlikely considering the cost of such gear).

    Any extending zoom lens where the physical length of the lens extends. It's cant' be sealed against dust as it needs to allow some way to push air out of it's system to allow contraction of the lens.
    Think of it as a syringe. If you seal a syringe at the open end(eg. with your finger) and pull the plunger out, it will automatically slide back as it's hermetically sealed. The lack of air into the syringe creates a vacuum so the extending section is sucked back into the body.
    If an extending lens did that it wouldn't allow you to zoom!

    So the reality is that there really is nothing you can do about dust on a sensor.
    The dust has settled inside the camera the moment you had taken off the camera body cap to mount the lens for the first time.

    SO the best course of action to take is to acquire a sensor cleaning kit, there are probably many brands out there now, but the most common type for years has been the copperhil kit.
    Get used to using it as you may need it often to keep the sensor clean.

    The other problem with dust is that it gets baked on as you capture images.
    The sensor is an electronic device that creates a charge every time you make an exposure.
    This is what gets dust onto the sensor, and each exposure(ie. charge) then bakes the dust onto the sensor even more so.
    So the in camera sensor cleaner has no effect on baked on dust.
    it may help to remove some flotsam here and there .. but not like as shown in the OP's sample image.

    Blowers are the worst thing you can use as they just blow more dust onto the sensor. The dust is in the air, and a blower simply sucks that air into it's reservoir(usually a bulb) and then blows it all onto your sensor!
    I only use canned air, and as John warned .. you must take care in using it. But again, there will be basically no effect in using canned air on this sensor now as the dust is baked on.

    So to start with the wet cleaning (eg. copperhill kit) is your best choice to start with here, and it WILL take a few attempts to clean it all off if that's your wish.
    It sounds like a serious proposition to clean your sensor for the first time, but in all the time I've been a member here, I've never read of anyone doing any damage to their camera in trying it.
    many members have posted their thoughts in that they were or may have been apprehensive, but once they've done it a few times they get over that initial fear and it's like brushing your teeth.

    A few years back I read about a dry method of cleaning the sensor and had to try it for myself too.
    I find this method now much easier to do, as my latest camera was a lot harder to clean than my previous ones.
    Where my previous cameras only needed one or two wet clean swipes, I found the D800 needed five to 10 just to get it clean enough. It's like the coating on the filter stack is different and the wet clean method not as effective(at least for me) .. maybe my Eclipse fluid has past it's use by date or something.
    Anyhow, I don't think the dry clean method(basically a silicone stamp tool on a stick that you place on the sensor) will clean this sensor now either tho .. wet clean may be the only way from here if you want it clean .. as opposed to clean enough.

    As well as the copperhill cleaning kit, you can find individual wet clean sticks where each stick is already wet and sealed in a small package, so you don't have to worry about wrapping a paddle with pecpads and then applying drops of fluid and so on and sop forth. Just open the pack and wipe. But I reckon you'd need at least five wet clean attempts9at least) to get this sensor clean now .. from that point just clean it more regularly.

    Note that it's actually harder to ruin your camera doing a wet clean than you think it is .. as already said, many folks have been converted to doing it themselves and really .. unless you're using a chisel or screw driver to to the actual cleaning .. it's so hard to do damage!

    ps. this is not a setback .. it's just normal.
    Last edited by arthurking83; 02-03-2016 at 11:31pm.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
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    Looks like I should learn to do it myself as it's going to happen again. Just weird that it only took a month or so to get so dirty where as my old Pentax lasted about 5 years before any dust got in.

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    Ordered a wet cleaning kit from Camera Check Point. Hopefully I don't screw up too bad. Thanks for the replies everyone.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    No matter what precautions you try, you will always get dust on the sensor.
    My camera has in-built sensor cleaning. And no matter what precautions I try I haven't got dust on spots on the sensor yet.

    As rick mentioned keep the camera pointed down, and also make sure the camera is turned off when changing lenses.
    Reckon something strange happened to get that much dust. Once things are cleaned it shouldn't happen again.
    "Enjoy what you can do rather than being frustrated at what you can't." bobt
    Canon 80D, 60D, Canon 28-105, Sigma 150-600S.

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    Ausphotography Regular J.davis's Avatar
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    http://shop.cameracheckpoint.com.au/index2.html

    Thats the kit I use, its a good one.
    Regards
    John
    Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm OS Macro, Tokina 16-28 F2.8, Sigma 24-105 Art, Sigma 150-600C,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark L View Post
    My camera has in-built sensor cleaning. And no matter what precautions I try I haven't got dust on spots on the sensor yet.

    As rick mentioned keep the camera pointed down, and also make sure the camera is turned off when changing lenses.
    Reckon something strange happened to get that much dust. Once things are cleaned it shouldn't happen again.
    I am really hoping so. I will take extra precautions next time. There was 5 or so specs on it at first, then I used the camera blower and ended up with many more as the photo shows. Lesson learnt. Now I hope I can get it clean again.

    Quote Originally Posted by J.davis View Post
    http://shop.cameracheckpoint.com.au/index2.html

    Thats the kit I use, its a good one.
    Good to know.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    I highly recommend trying a dry cleaning kit too ...

    SEE HERE for a product.

    I have no idea on how that product works, as I use another type.

    This is my experience


    (the post is long and arduous, but there is some info to be mindful of in there).

    Overall, I basically stopped using the wet clean method.
    I much prefer the dry clean method now, as it's more effective when used properly.

    With the wet cleaning system, it was a painful(ok.. not painful, but annoyance in setting up and using fluids and so on and so on.
    And I can't really remember at any time when the sensor has been really dirty and a successful one or two shot wet clean.
    Whereas with the dry clean gel stick (or whatever the other link I posted uses) .. 100% every time with only one shot the sensor is cleaned properly of dust.
    The sticky nature of the gel stick seems to pick up most dust particles better than wiping them across the sensor with the wet clean system.

    But note that I do sometimes use both at the same time.
    Sometimes the gel stick doesn't pick up every single dust spot on the sensor .. I reckon it's just baked on properly .. so a wet clean is also handy to have access too.

    And never use any bulb blower on the sensor!!! .. things like rocket blowers or whatever other supposedly high quality bulb blower brand is the latest greatest.
    Remember they are only blowing ambient air onto the sensor, which is where this dust comes from!

    If you use canned air, just be 100% sure NOT to shake the can before usage. I give the canned air a short burst just before I use it to be sure no dust in the straw tube ... oh, yeah, always use a straw tube with the canned air for best results.
    As the can of air is depleted try not to be tempted to use it just to get maximum value for money .. this is where you are likely to get the propellant onto the sensor.
    Note that John wrote earlier that the propellant can cause more damage ... this is not my experience!
    I've accidentally had the propellant on sensors and I've tested it on useless UV/protective filters.

    Both my D300 and D70s have accidentally had propellant sprayed onto them from a can of air that was getting low on air.
    What the issue here is in getting it off .. using the wet clean method.
    The canned air brands have all had the same looking propellant stuff expelled from them .. a cloudy white looking stuff that seems to turn powdery on a surface.
    Not knowing exactly what it is, I didn't just wipe it off the sensors, I used the wet clean kit to clean it off .. no damage done .. cameras still fine after close to 10 years of such abuse!

    The moral there is Live and Learn!

    My bulb blower basically gets used to clean out my keyboard from the much that accumulates within the keys!
    For most photography related uses .. they are next to useless.
    I do sometimes use it to initially clean lens's front elements, or my grad filters, but this is to just get the very obvious dusty carp off them before I attack them with a microfibre cloth.

    Before I clean the sensors in my camera I use the canned air to clean out the mirror box area before setting the camera to mirror up (for cleaning).

    And finally, the last thing you need to be aware of for cleaning your sensor is the mirror up for cleaning setting in the camera's setup menu(spanner icon near the clean sensor item).
    Just be sure the battery has plenty of charge before starting.

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    Ausphotography Regular John King's Avatar
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    ^ that's good to know about the compressed air propellant being relatively harmless, Arthur. Thanks.

    Geez I'm glad that I have never had to clean the sensor on any of my four bodies! Seems like a right royal PITA . My oldest body is my E-1, and at 13 y.o. the sensor is still as clean as a whistle.

    Olympus won a serious design award for its sensor cleaning system some years ago. They certainly deserved it IMHO.

    Olympus recommend service centre cleaning of the sensor in any of the bodies with 5 axis IBIS if one should ever need it done. The sensor flops around in its frame when powered down, and when powered up is 'supported' in a magnetic levitation field. The only physical connection to the body is the electrical connection 'umbilical cord'. Of course, none of these bodies have a reflex mirror.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John King View Post
    .....
    Olympus recommend service centre cleaning of the sensor in any of the bodies with 5 axis IBIS if one should ever need it done. The sensor flops around in its frame when powered down, and when powered up is 'supported' in a magnetic levitation field. The only physical connection to the body is the electrical connection 'umbilical cord'. Of course, none of these bodies have a reflex mirror.
    You'd expect that an in camera stabilised system is designed so.
    The OP has a D7200 tho, so not a problem.

    But it'd be awesome if Nikon put some serious thought into keeping the sensor clean.

    As for the mirror, I doubt that this is in any way relevant to dust on sensors tho.

    If you think about dust on sensors and the mechanics of how a camera works:
    Sensor is hidden behind a shutter, and that shutter has to be light tight.
    If the shutter doesn't allow light through, then it's highly improbable(impossible?) that it would allow dust through either.
    So dust is really only getting to the sensor during an exposure(when the shutter is opened).

    It's therefore not unrealistic to expect that some folks never get dust on the sensor if they only use very short(fast shutter speeds) exposure times most of the time.
    The time that the shutter is open and the sensor is electrically charged must surely impact on the chance of dust getting to the sensor.

    You don't normally take a photo without a lens on the camera, so ambient dust getting to the sensor during an exposure is literally impossible.
    The dust that does get onto the sensor therefore has to already be inside the camera, in the case of a DSLR inside the mirror box!
    This is why I always blow the camera out with canned air before I proceed with any of the steps pertaining to sensor cleaning.
    Try to get as much loose dust, sitting inside the camera, out as I can. I reckon a vacuum of some type would be better, but that canned air is good enough.

    The other aspect to be mindful of too with dust, is that it's going to be a relative issue.
    Relative, in that each camera model will have various degrees of issues, and then add the usage variance so it's not hard to see situations where one user sees hardly any dust, or none at all, but some do.

    In my experience:
    D70s 6Mp APS-C sensor: dust was an issue sporadically. Never really caused me much issue, and to try to quantify it I'd rate the issue as very low.
    But it is a 6Mp camera, so that when you look at images ever at 100% pixel view, you really aren't increasing view size very much.

    D300, 12Mp APS-C sensor: dust was more of an issue compared to the D70s. But my usage was much higher. Where I may have shot over 1000 exposures a week with the D300, I'd possibly be only capturing a few hundred with the D70s. So usage was much lower with the D70s.
    Add to this that I started doing a lot more longer exposures with the D300, in that I invested more time and effort in using filters(mainly grads) which always increase exposure times.
    Not that I was doing exposures for minutes or hours with the D300 compared to the D70s or anything extreme like that .. but the usage difference would have been more along the lines of say 1/50s with the D70s, and something like 1/5s with the D300, simply due to the use of grads or maybe an ND here or there .. if that makes sense.

    Then with the D800E: 36Mp 135 format sensor: Almost from the get go, I had dust issues with this camera, but keeping in mind that this issue was a relative one.
    That is, compared to the D70s(every so often) to the D300(regularly) to the D800E(almost with every shoot .. or so it seemed).
    Added to the issue that the D800, I found, was much harder to clean too.
    But the D800 is a larger sensor, and I predominantly concentrate on landscapes, so aperture is usually set to something small for DOF and exposures will almost certainly be longer yet again.

    And apertures play a huge role in 'seeing dust'. Smaller apertures always accentuate dust spots on sensors... so the larger the sensor size(format), the more obvious will be the dust issue.
    m4/3rds is a much smaller format, and for the same DOF, you could get away with f/4 or 5.6, whereas on a larger sensor, say 135 format, you need more like f/11.
    That increased real DOF, makes dust more obvious!

    Note that the OP showed us an image shot at f/20. I never use that as my point of reference for determining dust problems.
    I probably shoot on a regular basis at say f/11, sometimes f/16 and that's the aperture I use to determine dust issues.
    The other aspect of assessing dust issues.
    Because I mainly focus on landscapes, and sky is above and lands usually lower parts of the scene, if I have lots of dust in the upper part of the rendered image, I usually clean it off.
    If the dust particles are in the lower half and not much of them, I'll do the clean another time.

    But back to the OP's OP .. if that were my camera .. it'd be cleaning it ASAP.
    Not just because the dust is there, but all that dust will bake on, the more that the camera is used.(this is my experience).
    And going by the description of the image shown, 101% for sure, most of that dust is attributable to the use of a blower on the sensor.

    Been there and done that for the purpose of testing .. poor old D70s still going strongly tho .. no matter how much abuse I throw at it

    And for canned air .. try it on a cheap useless protective filter.
    White coloured goop is expelled if the can is agitated vigorously. Tried cleaning said filter, and it only smeared. Used Eclipse fluid, used for cleaning sensors .. and it cleans off completely.
    Whether it does long term damage, I have no idea but it won't do short term damage and does eventually clean off.
    I have to say I don't know what the white substance is other than many cans use the term 'propellant'.
    I've used many brands of canned air and the best by a long shot has been CRC brand.(I just don't remember what type of propellant they use).
    The propellant's white residue seems to be more of a frosting like effect, as in cold effect, not cake frosting .. so I don't think it's an actual residue of some type(but I don't know).
    And if you read the packaging on the canned air, many of them will warn that the propellant can cause a frostbite, or cold burn effect.

    So the white smeared effect of the propellant makes sense to a degree .. it's probably mostly water vapour, frozen immediately once it touches a surface.

    And to R1Joel. Try that same dust test you displayed up top at f/3.5 - f/5.6, which will be the fastest aperture setting for that lens .. and see the difference for yourself.

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    I seen the dry clean method and my immediate concern was it leaving a residue on the sensor. Maybe it can be my next purchase? Thanks for the reply.

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    Ausphotography Regular John King's Avatar
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    Arthur, the dust (actually probably manufacturing grot) on my E-M1 sensor was only visible at f/16 and f/22. That's the aperture range I use to check mine. I also use the sharpest lens I have (Olympus f/2 50 macro) to check all my sensors. This lens is still very sharp at f/22. Olympus cleaned it off under warranty. I do not expect to have any more.

    You are slightly wrong in that a dust particle on a mFTs sensor occupies a relatively larger area (measured in pixels covered) than the same size dust particle on (say) a 135 format sensor. As the magnification required to print at the same final image size is double with the mFTs camera, the dust spot (if present ... ) will occupy double the area.

    DoF calculations between formats is a little more complex than that. There is a 2 stop difference between mFTs and 135 format, but only because one needs to use a FL about half of that of the 135 format lens to get similar framing etc - e.g. 25mm on mFTs is roughly similar AoV to a 50mm lens on a 135 format camera. If the same actual FL lens is used on both, there is no difference in DoF at the same aperture.

    BTW, AFAIK all mirrorless cameras have the shutter open at all times. Ditto mirror cameras when using live view mode.

    Quite a few camera makes and models made have ended up with dirty sensors due to either manufacturing quality issues (a batch of E-M1) or shutter lubricant problems.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John King View Post
    ....

    You are slightly wrong in that a dust particle on a mFTs sensor occupies a relatively larger area (measured in pixels covered) than the same size dust particle on (say) a 135 format sensor. As the magnification required to print at the same final image size is double with the mFTs camera, the dust spot (if present ... ) will occupy double the area.
    Ah! I didn't make that reply as clear as I should have.
    I was referring to the actual physical size of the sensor and therefore it's ability to trap more dust for a given amount of time that it's possible to do so.
    Think of a fly zapper. Larger physical sized zapper(sensor) will catch more flies(dust particles) as they float about.

    Quote Originally Posted by John King View Post
    .... DoF calculations between formats is a little more complex than that. There is a 2 stop difference between mFTs and 135 format, but only because one needs to use a FL about half of that of the 135 format lens to get similar framing etc - e.g. 25mm on mFTs is roughly similar AoV to a 50mm lens on a 135 format camera. If the same actual FL lens is used on both, there is no difference in DoF at the same aperture....
    I was referring to most used aperture settings in actual shooting conditions.
    For a given FOV situation, you need less aperture on a smaller format sensor.
    Eg. if you have a static landscapey type scene and want 1.5m to infinity:
    On a m4/3 camera with a 7mm lens, you may only need f/5.6 using hyperfocal whereas to get away with the same roughly similar depth, you may want to use f/11 with the 135 format sensor.
    If the sensor is dirty, the m4/3rds shot is less likely to show the same number of dust spots as the same FF image will .. dust shows up the more you stop down, and with the larger sensor you stop down more.
    The generalisation comes from my experiences only .. in that with the change to Fx I have noted that I do tend to apply more aperture than I once used to with the Dx cameras.
    Taking into account I primarily do landcapey/static stuff.
    ie. I used to shoot primarily at 10mm on APS-C, until I got a F camera and wider lens to play with. The wider lens is actually wider(at 12mm) and I used it there a lot, but seemed to settle in on the 14mm FOV look more so(for many reasons) .. aperture setting just seemed to settle(at about f/11) naturally after so many images were taken.

    Quote Originally Posted by John King View Post
    .... BTW, AFAIK all mirrorless cameras have the shutter open at all times. Ditto mirror cameras when using live view mode.

    Quite a few camera makes and models made have ended up with dirty sensors due to either manufacturing quality issues (a batch of E-M1) or shutter lubricant problems.
    Yeah! forgot about mirrorless cameras needing to keep shutter open to view the image through the camera! Bit of a brain fade moment on my part there .. sorry'bout that!

    Ditto re using Lv mode .. this not only eats batteries like nothing else .. but attracts dust onto sensors with manic fervour.
    I use Lv very rarely .. I'm a die hard OVF type (personally!)
    I love Lv for what it can do, when OVFing is impossible tho.

    As for dirty sensors at manufacturing .. none are, or have been, as well publicised as the Nikon D600 saga!
    Oil splatting on sensors is where Nikon dominate in terms of camera performance!

    @ Joel: if you read my dry cleaning gel stick experience (that I linked too) .. there should be no residue on sensor issue .. except that on the D800 I did see that.
    It never actually affected images in any way(tested) .. just that it induced panic on my part when I saw it.
    That was on the D800 only tho.
    D70s and D300 never showed this residue looking stuff on the sensor using the same gel stick.
    But now, after a few more(actually many more) uses with the gel stick on the D800, residue stuff is sometimes no issue at all(as in none), and sometimes I see some, randomly on the sensor.

    The issue doesn't make any sense to me tho. That is, sometimes the randomness of the residue stuff is that I see happens during the one clean effort.
    The way these gel sticks work is that you touch the gel onto some supplied sticky paper stuff. You peel the sticky paper back to reveal the sticky backing .. so they are always clean.
    You then just dab(no pressure) the gel stick onto the sensor and dust gets stuck to the gel stick. Dab the gel stick back onto a new clean part of the sticky paper and go again on the sensor onto a new area.
    The hardest part is to remember where you have just applied the gel stick.
    Sometimes the randomness of the residue issue is that I apply it to the sensor and there's no residue, the sensor's size is that it needs about 6 applications to cover the whole area with some overlap.
    In 5 out of those 6 applications there is no residue, and on one there is .. so it could be that I'm doing something wrong
    But if so, the randomness of it all makes it hard to pinpoint exactly what and why.
    Sometimes I can do the D800 with no residue at all, and it's a much more preferable way than a wet clean when that happens.

    But on the D70s and D300 have never seen any residue, even tho I have deliberately tried to induce it by not applying the gel stick to the sticky paper to remove the dust picked up off the sensor.
    In fact on the D300 now, apart from the very first application where I want to remove any accumulated dust on the gel stick, I don't use the sticky paper .. doesn't seem to need it.

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