Digital SLR users will face the inevitable fact that the camera’s sensor will need cleaning at some point during their period of ownership – and more than once. Even those manufacturers who install a ‘Dust Barrier’ on their cameras will encounter similar problems. All imaging sensors, whether CMOS or CCD, are very sensitive to static charge build-up or the use of ‘hazardous’ liquids, so one will be entering very new territory when the time comes to clean that sensor for the first time.
This review does not set out to compare the DSLRClean product with its competitors in any way i.e. price-comparison against effectiveness etc but, since I have professional experience of electronics servicing – down to PCB ‘surface-mount’ technology level – when the time came to clean the sensor on my Sigma SD9, I wanted a product that was not going to use liquids or brushes.
This is what attracted me to the DSLRClean product from IMS. It uses neither in the normal cleaning process although a proprietary liquid is available for ‘…particularly stubborn particles.’ to quote their information sheet.
Having prepared the camera for sensor cleaning, I then followed their very clear and explicit, single page instructions :-
1. Set your digital camera to sensor clean mode (enabling access to the sensor chamber).
2. Insert the DSLRClean stick so that the tip touches the sensor surface.
3. Apply pressure to the stick until the tip bends to a right-angle and forms a shoe on the
sensor. Figure 1
4. Move the DSLRClean stick around the sensor as shown in Figure 2.
5. Follow the sequence from 1 to 4 so that the DSLRClean stick returns to the starting
6. Remove the DSLRClean stick from the chamber.
7. Reset the camera to normal operating mode.
For very dirty sensors, you may need two attempts to clean the sensor.
When you move the DSLRClean across the sensor, it will feel a little ‘sticky’. This is
intentional; the DSLRClean sticks are not sticky and contain no cleaning agents. This is the
result of the slight vacuum that is created by the DSLRClean stick.
In an effort to be as factual as possible in recording the results of the cleaning procedure, I thought it best to take some simple ‘before’ and ‘after’ images whilst actually doing the cleaning.
I wanted a sunny day with little cloud cover to best demonstrate the state of the sensor during the cleaning process and my patience paid off.
This was the original state of the sensor on my camera :-
Each arrow is pointing to a piece of debris on the sensor.
After the first pass with a cleaning pad, and having taken another image, some debris remained although the amount was reduced significantly:-
Using a fresh pad, I made a second pass over the surface of the sensor and took another image:-
The sensor is now completely clean.
However, I do have one critique The pressure required to get the pad to adopt the position shown in ‘Figure 1’ is a lot more than I envisaged. Bearing in mind that one applies this pressure directly onto the surface of the sensor and, if the user has not been forewarned – for example by this review – then I feel that some first-time users may be discouraged to actually continue because of a legitimate fear that they may damage their camera.
That said, I would encourage first-time users not to be concerned since IMS, the manufacturers of DSLRClean provide an excellent guarantee that goes a long way to allay such fears. Their guarantee states:- IMS Ltd guarantees that IMS DSLRClean will not damage your CCD or CMOS sensor when used in accordance with the instructions supplied by IMS or the Camera Manufacturer. If it is determined that IMS DSLRClean caused physical damage to the CCD or CMOS sensor, IMS will reimburse the camera owner for the full cost of repairs to the camera upon presentation of proof of purchase, camera manufacturers repair invoice and the damaged sensor. Incorrect use or use of non approved products will invalidate this warranty.
Will I use DSLRClean again? Yes. DSLRClean undoubtedly works – and works well in my view. Its simple, effective and does not use static devices nor liquids (with normal use).
DSLRClean information and ordering can be found online here.
Words and Pictures © Mike Otley – May 2005