So far, I've written articles to deal with dust on your sensor using dry-cleaning products ( such as the Sensor Klear or an air blaster).
However, sometimes that is not enough, dust is persistant and stubborn and won't go away no matter how much you blow or use the Sensor Klear's tip.
That kind of dust is called welded dust.
Welded because it sticks to the sensor filter as if you actually took a welding torch and bonded it with the filter.
As with lose dust, this kind will appear when using small apertures, however, it can show up in two forms:
1.- Like a regular black dust spot
2.- Like a liquid drop when it dries out on a crystal surface. This kind is tricky, because sometimes you can mistake it for something else or you won't see it because its translucid (meaning it will let light through it but its not completely transparent).
Particles such as pollen or that have a sticky composition will weld into the filter. Another way of welding a dry dust particle is to blow inside the mirror chamber with the sensor exposed with your mouth. The water in your breath will work as a glue for the particle.
If this has or hasn't happened to you yet, rest assured, there is a solution to try before having to send it to the manufacturer.
And that's to perform a Wet Cleaning.
A wet cleaning is basically the cleaning of the sensor filter with a liquid solution and especially made pads or cloths to rub the filter.
There are many ways to do this, the most popular is the Copper Hill method. Of course there are many other sites in the internet that can help you perform a wet cleaning, but this one is one of the most accurate.
The wet cleaning is usually regarded as a very difficult and/or risky process, and if it's the first time you do it, it will be.
Difficult because you got to be precise and fast in your movements, risky because you can make a worse mess on your sensor; you can move it out of place or spill liquid under the filter, and that would be BAD, because it would dry on the sensor itself, which means that all the pictures you take will have the pattern of the dried liquid and will require that you send it to the manufacturer so they can remove the filter and either clean or replace the sensor.
However, a well executed wet cleaning can get rid of all the welded dust attached your sensor, remove liquid stains and lose dust; leaving your sensor filter completely clean.
Just as its inevitable that at some point you WILL have to perform a sensor cleaning, it is INEVITABLE that at some point you will have to do a wet cleaning.
One problem of wet cleaning is the price of materials, they can be somewhat expensive and in the long run it may not be affordable to do a wet cleaning.
Another problem of the wet cleaning is that it's not as fast as blowing air into the mirror box or using a Sensor Klear. Not to mention that requires a clean place to perform the operation, otherwise it will be adding dirt over dirt...
The second point doesnt have much work around, but the first one does have a solution...
The charge of Dust bunny; my personal esperience
A few months ago I noticed a dust bunny (a.k.a. dust spot or dust particle) on the sensor filter of my A700, I blew and blew and blew at it with my air blaster, and just like the wolf from The Three Little Pigs, I ended getting nowhere...
Then I brought out my Sensor Klear and tried to remove it but it wouldnt budge either. I left it alone for a few days and tried again with the Sensor Klear, but the dust bunny had made a home in the sensor filter.
At this point I knew this meant only one thing... Welded dust, dreadful welded dust.
I was pretty much screwed because 1.- I didnt know how to perform a wet cleaning 2.- I didnt have anything to perform a wet cleaning and 3.- The dust bunny prevented me from using small apertures.
One small thing in my favor was that the dust bunny lost itself in the picture most of the time without being noticed, but if I used f/22 to f/40, it was visible if you know where to look for it.
I was pretty bothered at this because I thought I was staying ahead of the dust because I check for dust frequently and if there is, I blow it or rub it away. How this one got welded in particular, beats me.
I had to do a lot of reasearch about HOW to clean the filter using liquids, WHAT products to use and not to use and WHERE to get them. And when I say a lot of reasearch, I mean A L-O-T.
I found a lot of products to use but I needed something that included all the items I needed in one box, that was affordable and most importantly SIMPLE to use.
I kept coming across the items required for a wet cleaning separately in Amazon, and unfortunately the liquids I kept founding werent allowed in airplanes due to the fact they are flammable due to their chemical composition.
However, I came across a product called Dust-Wand Kit by Dust-Aid that included all the items needed to perform a wet cleaning, and all in one box.
So I decided to do some research about it.
I went to the official Dust-Aid site and researched the Dust-Wand kit, it seemed to be a good option to purchase for wet cleanings. However, I don't take everything the maker of a product says blindly, when trying to sell something, people will say whatever to convince you. Thats why the input of other people in this kind of stuff is needed.
I then tried to find reviews about this product and came up short of them, I guess because its a fairly new product, not many people have tried it. I kept finding mostly reviews by other users who got it and used it. As with all reviews, there were good and bad ones. Although the bad ones seemed to have happened due to a failure to follow the instructions contained in the box.
At this point it pretty much meant that I either went with it or kept looking. So I bit the bullet and purchased it.
Once it arrived, I reviewed videos, tutorials and articles related to wet cleaning. Then I watched the video by Dust-Aid about how to use their kit several times.
Once I felt sure enough, I did my first wet cleaning.
As of this point, I have performed two wet cleanings using the Dust-Wand kit with excellent results.
The Dust-Wand Kit by Dust-AidThe Dust-Wand kit its a product from a company called Dust-Aid that offers sensor cleaning products, either for dry or wet cleanings. The Dust-Wand is obviously for wet cleaning.
The kit contains the following:
- Travel case, red color
- Instructions manual
- Ultra Clean cleaning liquid (fast drying liquid)
- 3 plastic wands (they come in different sizes to cover the different sensor sizes: 1.0x, 1.6x and 1.3x)
- 3 cloth clips (these are used to hold the cloth on the wand once your wrap it)
- Dust Cloths x 50 (this are the wipes that youll use to clean the sensor)
Things regarding the contents:
- Everything comes packed in zip lock bags, this is in order to keep the items clean. Don't throw those bags away!
- The Ultra Clean liquid is a fast drying liquid (the fastest on the planet according to Dust-Aid) so dont let too much time pass once you apply it. This liquid is safe for travel, so you can take it on airplanes with no problem. It also leave very little trace once it dries.
- The plastic wands are small so they wont clash against the mirror box walls, they come in different ratios to cover different sensor sizes: A200/300/330/700 use the 1.3x wands, A900 should use the 1.0x wand since its the biggest and meant to be used with full frame sensors.
- The Dust Cloths are said to be lint free but I have experienced this isnt exactly true all the time, some of the cloths will have it, but usually it will come up in parts that you wont use to clean the sensor.
Extra recommended items
Aside from the Dust-Wand kit, I will list a few items I consider that you also should have in order to have a successful wet cleaning, especially if its your first time:
a.- Latex gloves: Like the ones doctors use, these will prevent that you touch the cloth with your fingers in the center or elsewhere in the camera.
b.- Head lamp or a lamp: This will allow you to see the welded dust particles and to light the area you need to see.
c.- A magnifying glass: Especially those pocket magnifying glasses with light included. This will help you spot the dust particles and check if your sensor is clean once you perform a wet cleaning.
d.- An air blaster: It may happen that dust falls on the sensor while cleaning it or after you do but before you put the lens back, in that case, the blaster can get it out of the way quickly without having to clean again.
Finally, if you feel you need it, something to cover your mouth and nose, like those things surgeons use while operating. It prevents that you breathe into the mirror box, but again, only if you feel you need it.
How to use it1.- You first have to put the wand and wrap it with the cloth included in the box. The exact procedure of how to wrap it is included in the instructions as well as in the video of how to use (which Ill link in the Links section). I wont put it here since it wont much sense unless you actually see how.
2.-.- Set the camera to Cleaning Mode
In the A100: Menu-> Setup (Wrench Icon) Page 3-> Clean CCD
A200/300/350: Menu-> Setup (Wrench Icon) Page 3-> Cleaning Mode
A700: Menu-> Setup (Wrench Icon) Page 3-> Cleaning Mode
A900: Menu-> Setup (Wrench Icon) Page 3-> Cleaning Mode
Cleaning Mode (or Clean CCD) locks the mirror up, opens the shutter and cuts power off the sensor for you to clean it.
DO NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT USE BULB SHUTTER SPEED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.
This is risky AND stupid. Bulb is designed for long exposures NOT sensor cleaning. While its true that it opens the shutter and reveals the sensor as long as you keep the shutter button pressed, IT DOES NOT LOCK THE MIRROR UP NOR IT CUTS POWER OFF THE SENSOR, IF YOU ACCIDENTALLY REMOVE YOUR FINGER OFF THE SHUTTER BUTTON AND IT CLOSES, THE SHUTTER CURTAINS CAN CRASH AGAINST THE WAND AND THEY WILL GET BENT, THIS MEANS YOUR CAMERA IS RUINED FOR GOOD.
DO NOT USE BULB SHUTTER SPEED, USE CLEANING MODE.
3.- Remove the lens mounted on the camera and put it aside where its safe.
4.- Clean the loose dust that may be on the sensor filter, for this you can use an air blaster, a Sensor Klear or the Dust-Aid Platinum cleaner (more on that one later).
5.- Apply 3-5 drops of the liquid included (Ultra Clean) to each side of the wrapped tip.
6.- Place the Dust-Wand in the lower corner of the sensor filter and gently move it across the sensor filter.
7.- Remove the Dust-Wand and replace the cloth with a new one to insure you wont have any dust particles in the reverse cleaning. (Check the Notes of use section)
8.- Add liquid again to the tip, place on the upper corner of the sensor and clean.
As you can see, this is a fairly simple and quick procedure. It takes practice to become a master on it, but once you get the hang of this, you will spare yourself the trouble of sending the camera for a clean everytime you got dust since you can do it yourself.
Notes of use
- The instruction booklet includes diagrams as to how to wrap the cloth around the wand, how to move the wand on the filter, so if you couldnt picture it from the instructions above, dont worry.
- The liquid dries VERY quickly, so once you apply it, go straight for the sensor. A work around for this is to add 6-8 drops of liquid to the tip.
- I personally recommend wet cleaning only when its called for. Some sites recommend you do it weekly, but I feel that too much intervention too frequently on the filter may be more harm than good. If the blower and a dry cleaning dont work, then go for the wet method.
- The instructions recommend you also get a Dust-Aid Platinum for dry cleaning. The Dust-Aid Platinum is a stick with a sticky pad thats supposed to collect dust and other contamination from the sensor without damaging it. However, I cant vouch for the veracity of this, Ive seen the video of how to use it, but I personally dont feel that sticky pads are a thing you want to put in your sensor. I may be wrong, if anyone of you uses this product, let me know your experience.
- You will find a contradiction in the written instructions and in the video of how to use the Dust-Wand Kit. The instructions tell you to replace the cloth when going in reverse, but the guy in the video doesnt do this, he actually turns the wand and uses the same cloth. If you use the tip, then you will need to replace the cloth, but if you actually use the parts just below the tip, you can actually turn the wand around and avoid having to change the cloth. Ive tried this and it has worked perfectly for me. With this Im not suggesting you deviate from the instructions, just pointing out and letting you know the options. You decide what you do.
- One aspect that can turn confusing and requires A LOT of research is the kind of coatings the sensor filter uses. Why is this important? Because some wet cleaning liquids are meant for specifical coatings, not for everyone. The liquid in the Dust-Wand Kit is meant to be used with all Alphas since they all share the same coating. The Sony Alpha DSLRs use the ITO coating, ITO stands for Indium Tin Oxide, which is the chemical that the filter is coated with. For future reference also, if you cant remember the name of the coatiing, go with this, if the liquid you pick is safe to use with the Nikon D300, then its safe for the Alphas, since the sensor of that camera also shares the ITO coating.
- One important thing you will need to perform a successful wet cleaning is a clean room. By clean room I dont mean the one where sensors are actually mounted or records are recorded into the master plaques (in other words, 100% dust-less) If you could use one of these, great, go for it, but a more practical approach is this:
A clean room should be free of:
- Air currents. Turn off the ventilators or close the vents.
- Kids. Ask them out and buy them an ice cream if theyre nice and leave.
- Pets. They let hairs loose into the environment. So take them out of the room.
- Dust. Duh...
- Anything that can distract you. This is a sensitive procedure, and you must put your full attention to it so you wont screw up. Whatever distracts you, get rid of it momentarily.
If you follow this, you shouldnt have a problem when cleaning the sensor on a well cleaned room in your house.
- I recommend that once youve done cleaning with the wet method, to test if the sensor is clean. For this do the following:
- Use the smallest aperture possible on the lens your using. If it goes up to f/40, go there. Raise the ISO if you have to.
- Set the exposure for 0EV or +1EV maximum. If your shutter speed is too slow (0.6" or slower) dont worry about it, the dust will come out even if there is slight movement in the photo. Just dont make the picture TOO bright otherwise the dust will be hidden in the highlights.
- Focus at infinity at a white wall or the sky.
- Take a shot, if theres nothing on it but color, then youre done, if there is a hair or dust spec, go to Cleaning Mode again and try getting rid of that with a blower or Sensor Klear. If it wont do, do a wet cleaning again.
- The gloves I recommended earlier are meant to be used when you manipulate the cloths, here's why: If you touch the middle section of the cloth with your fingers, the oils in your hand will be transfered to the cloth, therefore you will rub them all over the sensor. I recommend using the gloves so you wont touch any of the cloth with your fingers and eliminating the risk of messing the filter worse than already is. If you touch the center and clean the sensor with it and you notice, repeat the procedure for the cleaning but with gloves, the liquid will remove the oil stains.
- Make sure that you do this procedure from A to B with no stops in between. One reason is to reduce the time the sensor is exposed to the environment so it wont gather more dust, another one is to avoid light build up on the sensor itself, it may affect the Bayer filter in it and affect the colors the camera yields.
- If you welded dust that wont budge using the normal dosage of liquid, double it and soak the dust spec by placing the tip over it. In my experience when welded dust is soaked, it lets go easily when you brush it off with the wand.
- I recommend that if its the first time you do a wet cleaning, that you watch the instruction video several times, read this instructions and do a simulation of the movements youll need to do. This way youll be familiar with what you need to know so you dont have to interrupt the procedure when you actually do it.
- An important point: BE CALM when doing this procedure.
- The Dust-Wand Kit is safe for air travel.
- Finally, remember the Sensor Cleaning Axiom #1: IF YOU DO NOT TRUST YOURSELF OR DO NOT FEEL CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO DO A CLEANING PROCEDURE, DO NOT DO IT. TAKE YOUR CAMERA TO AN AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER OR LET A QUALIFIED PERSON TO DO IT.
Dust-Aid's Official Site
No one likes to clean their sensors, but its a fact we have to deal with until someone invents a way to stop dust from entering the mirror chamber.
Now you know of the three ways I recommend for sensor cleaning: Air blaster->Dry Cleaning->Wet Cleaning. If all else fails, then you have to send the camera to Sony for them to deal with it.
Eventually you will have to do a wet cleaning, which is a trickier procedure than dry cleaning, but it can be done easily and quickly if you got the right tools and you know how.
The Dust-Wand Kit is a product Ive tried on my A700 with excellent results. The first time I used it it removed a spec of welded dust than had on my filter some time, the next one it removed some weird streaks that showed up on the pictures at small apertures. I still dont know how they got there, but they did and the Dust-Wand Kit got rid of them for good.
The good thing about the kit is that you can take it with you and perform a wet cleaning anywhere, just as you would with the Sensor Klear. The procedure isnt as fast as the dry cleaning, but its better to have the option available than having to wait to get home to perform a cleaning and either waste time post-processing your pictures to remove the contamination on your sensor or worse, miss the pictures due to a dirty sensor.
This product is therefore an Alpha Sight Recommended Product.
Finally, if you dont feel up to the ask to do a wet cleaning, dont ruin your sensor and leave it to someone who has done it successfully or take it to an authorized center. Dont risk a more expensive repair or having to replace your camera body.
I hope this article was helpful to you,
Until next time.