With digital SLRs becoming increasingly popular, more photographers are discovering the problems that dust on the sensor can cause. Several solutions for removing this dust are available, ranging from home-made swabs to a full clean by the manufacturer. In this review Gary Wolstenholme
takes a look at a product which promises to provide a long term answer to many photographers' sensor cleaning woes. What is it?
|Sheathed in white plastic with a red cap at either end, is the conductive brush which removes dust from your sensor by neutralising the static charge which holds it there. The bristles are made of a shiny, metallic-looking substance which looks scarily like wire, but is soft to the touch and will not damage the sensor. For storage, these bristles can be retracted into the body of the brush, and a soft rubber cap is provided to keep out any dirt or grime. |
|Cleaning is performed in a few simple steps. The first thing you need to do is lock open your camera's shutter ready for cleaning. Each manufacturer has their own way of preparing their cameras for cleaning. On the Nikon D200 I used for the test, I simply needed to select the 'Mirror-lockup' option from the settings menu. If you're unsure, consult your camera manual before cleaning. Using the bulb exposure mode to open the shutter is not recommended as you are in danger of damaging the shutter if it closes whilst cleaning, and cleaning will not be as effective, as static charge will build-up on your sensor attracting more dust. Once you have done this, simply lock the lever on the side of the brush forward to expose the bristles. |
|When inserting the brush into the the camera, care needs to be taken to avoid touching any moving parts or the baffles inside the mirror chamber. These surfaces can have grease on them which could smear your sensor during cleaning. If any grease does get on the brush, Photographic Solutions recommend using a Pec-Pad lens tissue and a drop of Eclipse cleaning fluid to remove any residue from the bristles. |
|Cleaning is performed by pressing the brush inside the chamber so that it spreads out against the anti-aliasing filter on your cameras sensor. Once the brush has been gently dabbed against the sensor a couple of times, carefully remove it from the chamber taking care not to touch any greasy parts of the camera. |
And that's it, once these steps have been completed, switch your camera out of cleaning mode and you are ready to shoot. I found the cleaning process to be so quick and simple, that I have been carrying the Brush-off in my bag so that I can clean my sensor if dust becomes a problem when out-and-about. I couldn't ever see myself doing that with swabs and fluid.
Over time, the effectiveness of the Brush-off will diminish as static build up from the sensor is transferred to the conductive bristles. To resolve this a crocodile clip on a length of wire is provided to earth the brush, neutralising the static build-up. Simply connect the clip to an earthed metal object, or even to yourself if you are not wearing rubber-soled shoes. Effectiveness
The shots above were taken before and after cleaning with the Brush-off and are the whole frame. Although my camera's sensor wasn't the dirtiest, there were still some large dust particles that may cause problems with plain areas of colour when shooting at small apertures. Cleaning once with Brush-off has removed all of the large particles, leaving only a couple of tiny spots which are not visible in the resized version above. Overall I am very impressed by its effectiveness. Price
Brush-off sells for a recommended retail price of £42.95, which sounds like a lot, but when that is compared to Nikon service centre's £21.60 charge, excluding postage, for a single sensor clean you can see how this will work out to be good value in the long-run. Verdict
As a photographer who uses prime lenses for the majority of my work, I know the problems dust can cause all too well. Since receiving a Brush-off to review, I have cleaned my camera's sensor around two times a week because I find the cleaning process so quick and simple, it takes the worry out of the whole process.
On the negative side there's the chance of smearing grease on your sensor, although it's avoidable if you are careful, may put some people off this product. for those who are worried, it may be worth keeping a bottle of Eclipse fluid and a Pec-Pad handy, just to clean the bristles every once in a while.
In summary, the positive points of the Brush-off are:
Cleaning process is quick and simple
The negative points are:
Chance that camera lubricant way become smeared on the sensor by the bristles. This is avoidable, so long as you are careful.
For more details on Photographic Solutions products, please visit the ePHOTOzine directory