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cleaning your camera’s sensor

There’s a huge variety of tools and devices available on the market to clean your camera’s sensor. I’ve tried a few of them, but always come back to this simple method which is quite thorough.

First we have to get rid of the dust particles and lint and crap inside the camera’s mirror box, and on the sensor itself.

For this, I use a CO2 gas canister, made by American Recorder Technologies. The CO2 gas is inert, and doesn’t react with anything. Short soft blasts with this will blow out most of the junk inside your camera.

I bought this from Amazon, and buy the cylinders from Amazon as well.

American Recorder  CO2 Dust and Particle Remover Kit (Amazon)
American Recorder  CO2 – 6 Pack Replacement CO2 Cylinders (Amazon)

Next up, we need to dislodge any specs which remain on the sensor and didn’t budge with the puff of CO2 gas. Use Eclipse cleaning solution to very lightly moisten the swab with which you are going to clean your sensor.

Eclipse cleaning solution (B&H)

There are several sizes of sensor swabs, depending on your camera’s sensor size, whether full-frame, 1.3x crop, or 1.5 / 1.6 crop. I just use the small swab (Type 2) to clean my full-frame camera. I find the bigger swabs which are designed to cover your entire sensor, more difficult to manage inside the camera.

Type 2 sensor swabs (B&H)

For the times that I need to brush something off my sensor, I also use the VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly brush kit.

Arctic Butterfly SD800 Brush Cleaning Kit (B&H)
VisibleDust 3425966 Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly SD800 Professional Brush Cleaning Kit (Amazon)

{ 11 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Kim Nodurft June 10, 2011 at 9:38 am

Neil, you rock!!! You just saved me $250 getting my entire camera cleaned!!! Thank you so much for all the information you so generously share here!

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2 Johan Schmidt May 1, 2012 at 8:12 am

Neil,

How on earth does one get access to the sensor on the D300? I’ve googled and searched high and low in camera manuals, videos from cleaning supplies companies , but I can only get to the mirror up position where one can see the filter that covers the senors – cleaned an old D50 sensor quite easily as practise.

Thanks in advance.

Johan

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3 Christal Houghtelling May 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

Thanks for this. I have always been to scared to clean my own sensor. But I think I’m going to give it a go.

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4 naftoli May 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

thank u neil i have always been scared of going near my sensor and theres such a variety of different products available for sensor cleaning i had no idea where to start, do u clean ur sensors regularly or only once in a blue moon when u c visible dust?
Johan: there should be an option in ur camera menu “lock mirror up for cleaning”

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5 Geoff May 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Neil,

the CO2 cylinders look like the “bombs” used by cyclist to inflate their tyres when they are out on the road (especially during a race) and they don’t have the time to use a pump. I could not see the threads on the cartridges clearly on Amazon. It may be worth it, if they are the same cylinders, to check what your local bike shop is selling them for.

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6 Scott May 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Geoff,

I’d be very careful before using CO2 cylinders other than those manufactured specifically to clean camera sensors. I seem to recall a discussion where someone noted that cylinders made for CO2 pellet pistols, for example, contained small amounts of lubricant. It would be problematic if a cylinder contained any loose particles or liquid.

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7 Mohammad January 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Hi Neil,

I have been following your blog for a long time and have a few questions in regards to using the CO2 cartridges made by American Recorder.

Have you experienced any situation where the cartridges sprayed anything onto the sensor?

Can you use the cartridges with the camera facing down and the cartridge in a horizontal position or would this cause anything to be sprayed out like regular air cans?

What is your method of using these?

I would appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance.

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8 Neil vN January 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

Dealing with a camera’s sensor, one can’t be too careful.

I woud never point the canister down into the camera. That just doesn’t seem sensible.

With the American Recorder cartridges, there was one occasion where it did seem to splatter tiny drops onto my sensor. I was able to clean this. With that I am now cautious in that the first squirt of air will be onto a piece of clear paper so that I can see if there are drops of oil or any residue that is being sprayed. This will also clear the nozzle hopefully.

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9 mohammad January 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Thank you for responding. I appreciate the info.

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10 Derek April 11, 2013 at 8:06 am

I bought a kit for my D90 a few years ago and cleaned it with no issues. I recently bought a D700 and The sensor is covered with dust. Can I get away with using the same cleaning kit and just swiping a few times or should I buy the full frame swab? Thanks

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11 Neil vN December 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Just use the same.

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