The heading image of this post is a rare photograph - it is a super-macro-micro shot of the sensor surface of the Flapoflex 8D camera form inside the camera on a fine day. You'll see all the individual elements of the sensor there - the Flapoflex 8D has nearly 10,000 pixels available for use on short notice - and you will be impressed at the cleanliness of the images.
This is because the Flapoflex camera is equipped with an effective cleaning system. Once a week a little man climbs over the surface with a hose and brush and gets out the bits of dirt and leaves that blow in. Birds can be a problem in the spring but Flapoflex are bringing out a catadioptric lens to solve this. It has a real cat attached.
Those of us who cannot get our hands on the Flapoflex 8D but are working with lesser marques like Nikon, Canon, and Pentax must be satisfied with their provision for sensor cleaning. At various times in these cameras the sensors are shaken, or minute puffs of air are wafted past them to dislodge motes of dust. In some cameras there is a little sticky strip at one side intended to trap these loose particles. If it is like the bottom of our toaster, these particles will eventually build up until they catch fire or are eaten by mice.
All well and good, and in the case of the major players, the cleaning mechanisms seem to work to a certain level. Unfortunately here in Western Australia we manufacture dust for export and some of our product is very good dust. So people who change lenses frequently will end up with spots on their sensors and grey dots on their images. Then they need professional help.
It is available here at Camera Electronic at short notice in the form of Daniel and Ernest who clean sensors to a very high standard indeed for $ 55 on a DX sensor and $ 77 on an FX sensor. If you have been using your camera as a snuff box they can also clean the other bits but the price will mount up with each task attempted. This professional cleaning is far and away the best idea for professional cameras.
If you are caught out on the road with impossible spots you can resort to two products - the Photographic Solutions emergency swabs in 1, 2, and 3 size - these are coded for use on different sensor sizes. You get 4 swabs pre-moistened and sealed in packets, and if you follow their instructions you may be able to wipe the horrors off your screen in the field.
If the spots are less adherent or you do not wish to risk scratching your sensor screen with a physical wipe, you can try one of the static brushes from Visible Dust. These are battery-powered units that fling themselves about to pick up a static charge and then let you draw it gently over the sensor to attract the dust motes by magic. It won't lift rocks but it will pick dust up, You do NOT turn on the motor while it is in your camera...
Ernest is philosophical about the dust cleaning - when I asked him how often it should be done he said whenever it became too distressing for you. Some photographers who deal with dense patterns or dark subjects may never have noticed anything amiss for years, while others with clear skies or studio backdrops to photograph might react to each single mote. If your images show consistent spots, hairs, or dead insects, bring it in and get the pro-clean.
Labels: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Photographic Solutions, Visible Dust