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on Jun 24, 2009 in Tech Tips

CCD Cleaning

“Dust” on the CCD is a real common problem and MAJOR concern for some digital shooters. The dust on your CCD is not the dust you find on your bookshelf or that floating in the air as many propose. The silly notion that never changing your lens prevents a dust problem is ludicrous! (This means you don’t have to hide in a sterile tent to change lenses in the field.) The “dust” (which isn’t air born particles in this case) that causes the problem is actually created by the mechanism you use to attach and remove a lens. (This problem is at its worse when a camera body is brand new.) The cause of your dust problem is the lens mounting ring which gets “shaved” when you attach a lens.

Minute brass particles are created each and every time you attach a lens that lie on the bottom of the mirror box. If you don’t clean those minute brass particles out prior to cleaning your CCD, you will end up blowing them right onto the CCD when you attempt to clean it. This just makes your problem that much worse. Using a small flashlight, shine the light on the bottom of the mirror box (mirror is not raised, CCD is not exposed to do this) You will see what appear small flecs of gold. You’ve not struck it rich, those are brass shavings you need to clean out. To do that, use a dry Q-Tip and simply wipe out the bottom of your mirror box by twisting the Q-Tip, right by the curved shelves. Even if you can’t see the shinny little brass shaving, DO IT! This is the cause for 99% of the dust problems digital shooters report!

The Nikon instruction book is pretty firm on how the CCD should be cleaned when it comes to stuck on particles. Send it in to Nikon. Well, a long time ago, a little snow flake hit my CCD (long story) and there was no FedEx drop off in the corner of the Yukon where I was shooting. I had to take care of it then and there. This is what I did.

First, I clean out any small particles on the bottom of the mirror box. I then set the camera to M exposure mode (refer to your IB for your body). I then set the shutter speed to Bulb. Once this is done, I depress the shutter release, which pops the mirror up out of the way. I look at the CCD with my very small but powerful flashlight. Finally, I use the Sensor Brush to clean the CCD. I charge the Sensor Brush (I prefer the full size Sensor Brush over their Arctic Butterfly though it works pretty down good in a pinch) with a blower bulb before use. With two wipes, the CCD is clean and I’m back in business.

What if the particle is “stuck” on the CCD and it won’t come clean? I use Visibile Dust’s Sensor Clean which is a killer product. The best thing about it, unlike other brands, you can safely travel by air with Sensor Clean, it’s non-flammable. Mr TSA won’t confiscate it and leave you a nasty note.

CCD dust is not a big issue, don’t make it one! You’ve got better things to do with your mental powers then worry about something that can be taken care of in seconds!

Sensor Brush

Sensor Cleaning is a big time part of being a digital photographer. It causes a lot of photographers great heart ache and digital darkroom time. The specialized sensor brushes from Visible Dust are a great solution!

It’s real simple, the charge on the brushes is opposite the charge on the sensor so the brush “suck” up the particles. Normally, you charge your brush with canned air. If you travel, you know you can’t take canned air with you on planes. Not a problem. You can charge the Sensor Brushes with a normal blower bulb. Just blow the brush multiple times prior to use and you’re good to go.
All you need to learn about the Sensor Brush is on the Visible Dust Website. I got the Ecno Kit which works great for my needs. I HIGHLY recommend you get yourself a kit!