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Thread: Sensor cleaning, the Copperhill way.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Sensor cleaning, the Copperhill way.

    had to clean the sensor on the D300 as it had at least one big annoying dust spot exactly where you'd generally place the sky in a frame, and having to open CNX just to clone out a dust spot is annoying.

    DSF_7976.JPG

    So what you will need to clean your sensor properly is:

    DSC_0408.JPG
    at the least: PecPads, Eclipse fluid and the sensor swipe(spatula) a rubber band or sticky tape to hold the PecPad to the spatula. What I also use is a can of canned air. Dust Away is cheap, but not as Good as the CRC brand version(name of which I forget now).. twice the price but worth it. (it seems to have a bit more pressure and is less likely to expel the propellant too.
    NOTE!! if your bottle of Eclipse has been sitting for a while, shake it well before use you may end up paying for it later!

    First up what I do is to blow out the mirror box(ie. with the shutter still closed) to get out as much dust as possible. no point in trying to clean a sensor if there's a chance that a small dust particle could drop onto the sensor at the exact moment your trying to clean it.

    DSC_0412.JPG

    Hold the camera in the air face it downwards and use the supplied straw to direct a higher pressure air stream around the edges of the mirror box to remove as much dust as possible. looks like the inside of the mirror box is lined with some kind of light absorbing felt like material and dust seems to stick to it easily, but blowing it out with canned air works well. I used to try that with a blower bulb but the pressure is not as direct. Never shake the can-o-air violently around as the propellant will come out with air and your mirror will get dirty with some mucky residue.. you really don't want that. IF that ever happens it all comes off but you don't want the hassle. Try it on a UV/protection filter to see what this residue is.. after all what else are UV/protective filters good for, if not to protect you from your own self!

    Once I feel as though there is minimal dust in the mirror box, I set the camera to sensor clean mirror up(not mirror lockup used for exposure purposes!!) and I'll use the can-o-air again first before I use the copperhill kit.

    DSC_0428.JPG

    (again) if you do try the can-o-air method, you don't need to get the end of the straw too close to the sensor. There's plenty of pressure to dislodge easy to remove dust particles. There's always the temptation to use a rocket blower or bub blower of some kind, but having done that once, the resultant dust spray on the sensor was a mess.. made it harder to clean with the copperhill kit. makes sense that the bulb/rocket blower will only blow dust filled air on to the sensor as the air it draws is from the air around you.. filled with dust.. and then concentrated. So I searched for canned air, and made sure it was purified before I did use it. AFAIK Dust Away and the CRC brand are both very good, clean.. as before tho, there do use a residue forming propellant, so don't shake before or during use, and to be sure I always expel a little burst into thin air(or onto my one and only UV filter ) to be sure.
    ** Camera is lying on the table for the convenience of taking these photos. In real life if you do this at home, and it's highly recommended that you at least try it once before you send it to a shop to clean!!... in real life you should be holding the camera up in the air, pointing downwards and doing all of this stuff. Dust generally falls down, not up, and while it can swirl around gravity usually takes care of most of the swirly particles. Minimize the risk in falling dust onto your sensor.
    Also! you don't necessarily need cleanroom conditions or an air purifier to clean the dust out of the air. all rooms will have dust to a degree, close all doors, turn off fans, don't smoke whilst doing this(should only take 10mins or so.. and if I can wait that long, so can you! ) .... just do as much as you can to minimise the dust environment.. clean table.. etc.

    Next post, we'll do the eclipse on the pec pad on the spatula on the sensor trick.....
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    Thanks for posting this Arthur, I've been wondering if I should have a go at cleaning my sensor myself, I just need someone to show me how
    Happy to take all constructive Critique, please don't rework or edit my photos. Thanks!

    Canon 6D, 2 Canon 50D's gripped, Canon 1000D, Canon 70-200 F2.8 ( non IS),Canon 70-200 2.8, Canon 24-70 2.8, Sigma 85 1.4, Canon 50mm F1.8.. yongnuo speedlights and triggers, and manfrotto tripods.


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    Nice post Arthur and very well written, Im sure a lot of members will enjoy it. Not that I need it cause I use Canon (they never get dirty)
    Cheers Peter
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    I was near the end of part two when the PC rebooted and I lost it all. Once I remove my fist from the insides of the CRT screen and vacuum up the remains of it all, I'll start it all over again!


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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbikes View Post
    Nice post Arthur and very well written, Im sure a lot of members will enjoy it. Not that I need it cause I use Canon (they never get dirty)
    I am with bigbikes, great point, my 400D never gets any dust on the sensor and the cleaning process is 100% efficient - wink, wink, nudge nudge :-). Although I wont confess to this if hooked to a lie detector.

    Great thread though, I have considered this cleaning system for a while as it has some good feed back on the web, oh, um, not that I will ever need it.

    Good work.
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    So now that I'm trying desperately hard to remember what I'd written before the PC rebooted, this is going to be the shortened and condensed version with lots'o'bits probably missing.(so feel free to pull me up on anything that I get wrong).

    First up we need to place a pec pad onto the spatula.
    I use a fresh pecpad, as a protective mat on the pecpad to be used(TBU) on the sensor, and there may be lots of them if you're fussy about how well you want the sensor clean.

    place spatula about in the middle of the pecpad, only for the purpose of ease when folding the pecpad.

    DSC_0429.JPG

    then fold the pecpad(TBU) in half like this:

    DSC_0430.JPG

    then you fold the sides(either way... don't matter which goes first) just keep a bit of tension in them to keep the tip of the pecpad tight-ish.

    DSC_0431.JPG

    and then:

    DSC_0432.JPG

    from here you tape the final side across to keep it in place on the spatula. I use a piece of tape approx 30-40mm in length where it may just reach back onto itself as I wrap it across.

    Once the pecpad is in place on the spatula, one or two drops on the tip and youre ready to activate the mirror up for cleaning feature on your DSLR.
    Note that the tip of the pecpad whilst it's on the spatula is tapered, ie. there are two sides of the tip!!

    Mirror will now be up and shutter activated so that you can see the sensor directly.
    (if you haven't already been here before with the can-o-air treatment).

    DSC_0433.JPG

    If you look hard enough you can see that the Pec pad only covers approximately half the height of the sensor(maybe more like 2/3rds) and you swipe it across the sensor, not up and down. It's highly recommended that you swipe with one side of the tip for one half of the sensor, then flip the pecpad and swipe again the other half of the sensor.
    Theory is that, if your sensor has lots of dust ad is picked up on the first half swipe, using that same side of the tapered tip, may scratch the sensor. I've never seen it, but then again I ALWAYS use that method for the first swipe, and if I do lots of swipes to remove stubborn particles, I may in fact swipe multiple times with the same pecpad at about the third or fourth attempt. The sensor is basically clean, but I may be being fussy!

    Don;t be too gentle with the spatula, you can't really damage the sensor filter with a gangly piece of plastic like this spatula. You could if you tried, but I'm sure you won't try that hard.
    The first time you try this it may feel daunting, but there is no way to harm, the sensor. The thing that you're actually cleaning is the topmost filter, not the actual sensor itself. High quality filters can be had for little money and can be installed(this is where you need a really clean room!) by yourself if you're keen).. Dont panic and just use common sense. Medium pressure is good. cleans the dust off and doens't ruin a sensor.

    Sometimes I've had to do 5 or more swipes using new pecpads all the time, so if you find you need to do that, that may be normal. Dust gets baked on over time as the sensor charges itself it statically fuses the dust on more and more.

    Once you've done the swipe, take camera and lens and shoot the sky or whatever at f/22(for best dust seeking results).

    I have to post before the pC reboots.. I'll be back

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikew09 View Post
    I am with bigbikes, great point, my 400D never gets any dust on the sensor and the cleaning process is 100% efficient - wink, wink, nudge nudge :-). Although I wont confess to this if hooked to a lie detector.

    .....
    Bzzzzzzzzz!

    best use of uber small apertures is to seek out dust spots on your sensor.
    If you never use apertures f/11 or smaller... you need not apply to the CopperHill branch of the landscape photographers dust allergy unappreciation association foundation

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    lets see how far I get before the dreaded reboot:

    All shots @ f/22
    before cleaning

    DSF_7976.JPG

    after the first clean:

    DSF_7978.JPG
    if you can't see the streaking, I'll post a cropped version.

    and another 'dry clean' run, where no Eclipse was used on the pecpad and very very light pressure was used on the swab so that it didn't scratch the sensor.

    DSF_7979.JPG

    when I did the first swipe, I did notice some streakiness on the sensor after using the eclipse. Never seen that before, but I did use a bottle that I hadn't touched for months(I have three bottles of the stuff). it looked like there was some kind of water separation or whatever???
    The dry clean run fixed the streaking, seen along the middle of the second image.

    Dust was gone, but the streaking was obvious.

    After that clean, I then turned to the D70s which was used to capture the images of the D300 being cleaned, but I vigorously shook the bottle of Eclipse beforehand, and there was no streaking.

    NOTE: there will be an initial streaking look to the sensor when you use clean fresh Eclipse, but it dries immediately. Nothing to worry about, and that's how it works.
    The streakiness I saw in the first run before the dry run was a bubbly residue like streak, that looked like water was being applied to an oily surface.

    Image #1 is more dusty that it appears too. Lots of speckles in the lower left corner, but that big dot was getting annoying to clone out every time!

    Image #3 at 100% zoom pixel peeping view is totally devoid of dust spots


    Next post(soon) will be of the cleaning out of the viewfinder chamber and focusing screen.


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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Bzzzzzzzzz!

    best use of uber small apertures is to seek out dust spots on your sensor.
    If you never use apertures f/11 or smaller... you need not apply to the CopperHill branch of the landscape photographers dust allergy unappreciation association foundation
    lol, if I promise to stop telling fibs can I apply :-). Joking aside, the reason I am interested in this method is because my mate cleaned my sensor with an artic butterfly brush, worked a treat. But, one of the draw back of Canons (or so I have read) is the amount of lubricant in the camera when new, the brush cleaned away the dust nicely but left me with a big smear across one corner of which I later had cleaned off. Dust bunnies we can live with, a great smear across the sensor was not only very stressful at the time, but really did limit small aperture shots. On one of my photos it looked like someone had run a highlighter across teh photo.

    Hence, this tutorial is very interesting to me. thanks Arthur.

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    The other product that copperhill have is the sensor brush. I'm assuming similar to the arctic thingy your mate used.

    it comes with a specific type of paper(Velum paper) which you rub the bristles with to statically charge them. Rub the brush gently across the sensor and it doens almost the same thing.. But stubborn baked on bunnies are no match for anything other than either a coppehill kit(the eclipse fluid is what does it) or AFAIK(and from reports I've read on the net) a sticky spongey product that you use once(can;t remember the name of it). This particular thing is apparently great for air travel as the eclipse fluid is not allowed on planes being flammable. And the sticky things work on the principle that the spongey end is very sticky, you place it on the sensor and the dust adheres to the the sticky spongey thing. Seen them for sale at Vanbars but the kit worked out to be roughtly $7 per clean.. the Coppehill kit works out to less than $7 per thousand or so! .. Just remember that in overt a years time when you stil have lots of Eclipse remaining and tons of PecPads too(and I waste them like there's no tomorrow!) shake the eclipse fluid to be sure that it doesn't leave a streaky residue either.

    My parallel is that, if you can brush your teeth and not induce bleeding in your gums, then this sensor cleaning kit is for you!
    I was going to use another parallel such as pasting cream on a cake with a spatula, but I was terribly inept at that task.. but only because the majority of the cream ended up in my mouth, and the cake was barren as Lake Eyre!(so I ate the cake too ).

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    Thanks for that - At the same time you wrote this, I was busy ordering a copperhill cleaning kit having just cloned out an awful number of dust spots in a photo I was PP'ing. So, your timing is perfect!
    Regards, Rob

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    Great post Athur, very informative.
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    f o t o w o r x

    People taking the time out to give me CC is always very much appreciated

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    Thanks for the post Arthur.. EXTREMELY helpful...!!
    Just wondering, should you have your camera off at all times to minimise static pulling dust onto the sensor??

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    I don't expect that having the camera off will stop the static fusing dust onto the sensor.

    I'm not an expert but what makes sense is:

    Sensor is only statically charged/charging for the duration of the exposure.. otherwise the sensor is always turned off(even tho the camera is in the On position)

    the sensor only needs to be electrically active for the duration of the exposure.

    of course Live View changes that, and you'd expect that if you use LiveView more often than not then expect to have more dustbunnies. Of the cameras that I know of, there are none that have LiveView as an option, that don't also have sensor cleaning.

    I remember reading of a chap that made a static dust gun, where he used a static charge type fire igniter and disabled it's ability to cause a spark. He used to aim it at the sensor of his DSLR and give it a couple of shots, and the resultant static charge(but no spark) loosened the dust prior to him either using a blower bulb or canned air to blow it out. Worked well from memory(but that was 4 odd years ago, and I've since lost the link to his homebrew contraption).

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    Re: Sensor cleaning, the Copperhill way.

    You know that there are many people, including ft pros who would never wet clean their sensor, just too risky in their opinion. I know this as I asked for someone to help me clean mine.

    So, not for the faint hearted


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    The only issue I see with wet cleaning(for pros) is the nature of the cleaning fluid.

    if you travel regularly by plane, you can't take it(Eclipse) with you as it's flammable.
    Can't be easily found at any 'ol shop either!

    As far as I know there's no risk with wet cleaning, and apparently it's got the full support from a canon head honcho(if you read the advertorial blurb on the Copperhill site).

    Some Canons apparently have a lubricant at the edges of the sensor that may be afected.

    Dunno what or why these pros would be unsure of by using Eclipse to clean their sensor.
    Not having access to a electron microscope myself.. there doesn't appear to be any side effects to the filter packs on the sensor. And a while back there was some concern of using the original Eclipse fluid on Nikon's then new filter coatings(Tin Oxide).. and the makers of Eclipse invented E2 as a substitute.. but then found that the original wasn't harmful to the tin oxide coatings anyhow.

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    Re: Sensor cleaning, the Copperhill way.

    More the fact that it's not unknown to scratch or otherwise damage the sensor.


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    I think that's why it was decided to make it a wet process.

    the wet process part of the system makes it far less likely to scratch the surface of the filter than any other form of wiping to remove stubborn dust spots.

    there are a brand of sticky pad type swabs, that have a sticky surface on them that you dab onto the sensor and then pull back of again. the idea is that the stickyness of the pad grabs the dust particles and so wiping is not needed(which is supposed to eliminate the scratching posibility0 but from what I've read on some user reports the really stubborn dust spots don't come off(because of the static fusion issue).

    My D70 has lasted a good 4 years with regular cleaning and well near too two hundred(2x 100 packs of PecPads gone!) cleaning sessions(some PecPads have been diverted for the purpose of filter cleaning/testing/etc). As far as I can tell, there is no issue with it.

    where does one access an electron microscope?

    BTW!
    having read much of Bjorn Rorslett's thoughts and musings, he once made a very valid argument for dust spots and scratches on lens elements and said that most lenses focus at some point far forward of the front most lens element. it's therefore a very unlikely situation where any scratches on any lens elements that would affect an image(apart from the issue of contrast).

    ie. you won't see the effect of the scratch unless you shoot into a light source(where it flares up).
    So scratches on a filter(which is not expensive to replace BTW) would(should) affect IQ in a similar manner. You won't see it unless you stop down very far(by then you're diffraction limited anyhow) and unless you're always shooting into super bright light source that can focus rays of light specifically on that micro scratch on the sensors filter surface.. that is if the lens itself doesnt' flare/glare/spot of it;s own accord anyhow....
    To me, it seems to be a non issue.. not that I've seen it on either D300 or D70s.

    Dust spots are different because they cast darkened spots onto the sensor itself.. and a painful to have to clone/heal/remove/bloody useless bandaid tool in CaptureNX2!!!

    ...OOOOP! ... I'm ranting again

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    Having wet cleaned dozens of times in the last 3 years I really can't understand how someone would scratch their sensor using the Copperhill system? I've really given mine (D300 & D70s) a good scrub at times and never had any issues. I also use an industrial air compressor to blow the mirror box out

    I remember when I got the D300 and told my local dealer I was going to clean the sensor myself he nearly fainted and couldn't understand why I wouldn't spend $50 and send it to Nikon and be without a camera for 1-2 weeks

    Good write up AK.

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    Re: Sensor cleaning, the Copperhill way.

    Well, that's where I'm at too, the d3 is so shocking I'd go either broke or mad or both if I have to get it cleaned


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