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01-27-2013, 12:06 PM   #1
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Sensor Dust Removal

Greetings All!

I know this issue has probably been beaten to death in other threads, but, I'd like to offer a possibly "new" solution to this seemingly age old problem.

Unfortunately, as the rubber seals, gaskets and pieces of foam in our DSLR cameras age over time (along with the continual movement of air in and out of the camera with the use of zoom lenses) one can't help but have dust and other crud sucked into (or around) inside your camera, some of which eventually winds up on the sensor.
I have also learned that this can happen even if you don't swap lenses all the time. For example, some dust showed up on the sensor of my brand new K-20 a while back even though up to that point I had never swapped lenses on it!

The bottom line here is that dust WILL get onto your camera's sensor sooner or later....regardless of how careful you are to keep it out.

I also know a lot of folks here have recommended using a "Rocket Blower" (or something similar) to remove dust from their camera's sensors. However, I've learned (the hard way!) how that approach simply moves the dust around inside the camera. Unfortunately, it may even blow dust into other places where I've found it becomes even MORE of an irritant...such as between a pentaprism and a focusing screen.

What's more, the "sensor shake" feature on K-20D-era (and earlier) Pentax cameras may have been a great Madison Avenue selling point at the time, but they are nigh on useless in practice. I've never been able to get rid of one single speck of dust on any of my DSLRs by using just the "sensor shake" feature alone.

Now, granted, I understand the newer Pentax cameras have incorporated an "ultrasonic" feature that shakes the dust off the sensor....and into a "catcher" of some sort. Call me a purist, but, just with the use of Rocket Blowers, this feature still only moves the dust around inside the camera rather than getting it out completely!

These days, I regularly remove dust from the sensors on all of my DSLRs using a thing called an Arctic Butterfly. Indeed, I've learned that, compared to the cost (and hassle) of having a camera shop do it, along with my penchant for swapping lenses all the time....which, in turn, means lots of dust getting on my camera's sensors...the thing paid for itself the very first time I used it.

The Butterfly thingie works by spinning the inserted brush (which gives it a static charge) outside the camera. Then, once you've removed the lens and activated your "mirror up" feature on the camera, as you pass the brush (gently) over the sensor and the dust is sucked up onto the brush because it (the brush) is statically charged. You then spin the brush again (outside the camera). This gets rid of the collected dust off the brush as well as re-charging it. You can then repeat the process if you like. Usually, one or two spins and passes over the sensor are enough to get rid of the pesky stuff.

And, if you have any concerns about scratching your sensor with the brush...relax. The Arctic Butterfly brush is specifically manufactured for sensor cleaning and contains some VERY fine bristles, so there should be no worries about scratching your sensor with it.

The Arctic Butterfly is marketed by an outfit out in Canmore, Alberta, but is available in the USA via Amazon and most of the big US camera dealers such as B&H as well as Adorama. The outfit's name is Visible Dust. I also own their lighted Sensor Loupe that lights up the sensor to show you exactly where the dust is on the sensor before you clean it (and to show you when it's gone!).

Visible Dust also markets a line of liquid cleaners specifically manufactured to get rid of such things as oil smears and other more stubborn "goop" from sensors. But, as I said, most the time, it's simply a dust issue and it usually takes less than a minute or two (with a few swipes of my Arctic Butterfly) to get rid of it.

Here's a link to a You Tube Video that shows you how the Arctic Butterfly works:

Now if this all sounds like I'm getting paid to advertise for Visible Dust...I'm certainly not.

I'm simply a very satisfied user of their products. And while their products may appear a bit pricey at first brush (pun intended!), the Arctic Butterfly is a really great product that is simple to use, VERY effective and a whole lot less costly over time than having a camera shop continually remove the dust for you.

Needless to say, my Arctic Butterfly and Sensor Loupe now occupy a special place in my camera bag and go with me everywhere I go.


Last edited by KB1SFVE3; 01-27-2013 at 12:15 PM.
01-27-2013, 01:03 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by KB1SFVE3 Quote
Greetings All!

I know this issue has probably been beaten to death in other threads, but, I'd like to offer a possibly "new" solution to this seemingly age old problem.

Unfortunately, as the rubber seals, gaskets and pieces of foam in our DSLR cameras age over time (along with the continual movement of air in and out of the camera with the use of zoom lenses) one can't help but have dust and other crud sucked into (or around) inside your camera, some of which eventually winds up on the sensor.
I have also learned that this can happen even if you don't swap lenses all the time. For example, some dust showed up on the sensor of my brand new K-20 a while back even though up to that point I had never swapped lenses on it!

The bottom line here is that dust WILL get onto your camera's sensor sooner or later....regardless of how careful you are to keep it out.

I also know a lot of folks here have recommended using a "Rocket Blower" (or something similar) to remove dust from their camera's sensors. However, I've learned (the hard way!) how that approach simply moves the dust around inside the camera. Unfortunately, it may even blow dust into other places where I've found it becomes even MORE of an irritant...such as between a pentaprism and a focusing screen.

What's more, the "sensor shake" feature on K-20D-era (and earlier) Pentax cameras may have been a great Madison Avenue selling point at the time, but they are nigh on useless in practice. I've never been able to get rid of one single speck of dust on any of my DSLRs by using just the "sensor shake" feature alone.

Now, granted, I understand the newer Pentax cameras have incorporated an "ultrasonic" feature that shakes the dust off the sensor....and into a "catcher" of some sort. Call me a purist, but, just with the use of Rocket Blowers, this feature still only moves the dust around inside the camera rather than getting it out completely!

These days, I regularly remove dust from the sensors on all of my DSLRs using a thing called an Arctic Butterfly. Indeed, I've learned that, compared to the cost (and hassle) of having a camera shop do it, along with my penchant for swapping lenses all the time....which, in turn, means lots of dust getting on my camera's sensors...the thing paid for itself the very first time I used it.

The Butterfly thingie works by spinning the inserted brush (which gives it a static charge) outside the camera. Then, once you've removed the lens and activated your "mirror up" feature on the camera, as you pass the brush (gently) over the sensor and the dust is sucked up onto the brush because it (the brush) is statically charged. You then spin the brush again (outside the camera). This gets rid of the collected dust off the brush as well as re-charging it. You can then repeat the process if you like. Usually, one or two spins and passes over the sensor are enough to get rid of the pesky stuff.

And, if you have any concerns about scratching your sensor with the brush...relax. The Arctic Butterfly brush is specifically manufactured for sensor cleaning and contains some VERY fine bristles, so there should be no worries about scratching your sensor with it.

The Arctic Butterfly is marketed by an outfit out in Canmore, Alberta, but is available in the USA via Amazon and most of the big US camera dealers such as B&H as well as Adorama. The outfit's name is Visible Dust. I also own their lighted Sensor Loupe that lights up the sensor to show you exactly where the dust is on the sensor before you clean it (and to show you when it's gone!).

Visible Dust also markets a line of liquid cleaners specifically manufactured to get rid of such things as oil smears and other more stubborn "goop" from sensors. But, as I said, most the time, it's simply a dust issue and it usually takes less than a minute or two (with a few swipes of my Arctic Butterfly) to get rid of it.

Here's a link to a You Tube Video that shows you how the Arctic Butterfly works:
How the Arctic Butterfly Works

Now if this all sounds like I'm getting paid to advertise for Visible Dust...I'm certainly not.

I'm simply a very satisfied user of their products. And while their products may appear a bit pricey at first brush (pun intended!), the Arctic Butterfly is a really great product that is simple to use, VERY effective and a whole lot less costly over time than having a camera shop continually remove the dust for you.

Needless to say, my Arctic Butterfly and Sensor Loupe now occupy a special place in my camera bag and go with me everywhere I go.
I have to totally agree with you about the Arctic Butterfly. I have found it to be the most effective way I know to keep dust under control on a camera sensor and have been using one for a number of years. In fact I do not go away from home without it being in my camera bag. I have also found Visible Dusts sensor swabs very useful for getting rid of those bits of dirt that seem to stick to the camera sensor. I have no problems in recommending Visible Dust products as they all seem to do exactly what the manufacturer claims.
01-27-2013, 01:09 PM   #3
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DR II (found on the K-5 and K-7) seems to be quite a bit more effective than the original system found on the K10 and K20. Whenever I see dust (and believe me, sometimes there's a lot of it), I just fire up the camera's just removal feature a couple of times and the dust goes away

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01-27-2013, 02:05 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
DR II (found on the K-5 and K-7) seems to be quite a bit more effective than the original system found on the K10 and K20. Whenever I see dust (and believe me, sometimes there's a lot of it), I just fire up the camera's just removal feature a couple of times and the dust goes away
As I said, the newer Pentax cameras have (as you call it "DR-II) which reportedly seems to work better than what's on the older models.

But, even so, its use still begs the obvious question: Where does all that "shaken" dust end up? My hunch is the DS-II feature still only moves the dust around inside the camera...most likely to give it time to collect some other "dust bunnies" that will eventually wind up...back on your sensor!

Once again, I freely admit that I'm a purist in these matters To me, simply shaking the dust off the sensor provides only a temporary fix unless and until the dust is completely removed from the camera.

Clearly, Pentax's new "sensor shaker" feature may be useful if you are in the field and can't get to a cleaner place where a more thorough manual sensor cleaning can be accomplished. But, for us K-10, K-20 (and earlier model) DSLR owners, personally cleaning our sensors manually remains the only affordable option. And as I and others here have opined, the Visible Dust line of products does the job quickly and easily.

01-27-2013, 02:14 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by KB1SFVE3 Quote
As I said, the newer Pentax cameras have (as you call it "DR-II) which reportedly seems to work better than what's on the older models.

But, even so, its use still begs the obvious question: Where does all that "shaken" dust end up? My hunch is the DS-II feature still only moves the dust around inside the camera...most likely to give it time to collect some other "dust bunnies" that will eventually wind up...back on your sensor!

Once again, I freely admit that I'm a purist in these matters To me, simply shaking the dust off the sensor provides only a temporary fix unless and until the dust is completely removed from the camera.

Clearly, Pentax's new "sensor shaker" feature may be useful if you are in the field and can't get to a cleaner place where a more thorough manual sensor cleaning can be accomplished. But, for us K-10, K-20 (and earlier model) DSLR owners, personally cleaning our sensors manually remains the only affordable option. And as I and others here have opined, the Visible Dust line of products does the job quickly and easily.
AFAIK there's an adhesive strip below the sensor which collects the dust. It will probably outlive the shutter mechanism, but that's just my guess!

Also, I think that K-30 and K-01 users are in the same boat as you are. Pentax seems to be using DR II sparingly...

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01-27-2013, 02:50 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
I think that K-30 and K-01 users are in the same boat as you are. Pentax seems to be using DR II sparingly...
It would appear.
01-28-2013, 09:36 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by KB1SFVE3 Quote
It would appear.
You can buy very small vacuum nozzles to fit over the vacuum cleaner, mainly for keyboards, do these help remove dust from the sensor area?

Tuggie76
01-28-2013, 04:21 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
DR II (found on the K-5 and K-7) seems to be quite a bit more effective than the original system found on the K10 and K20. Whenever I see dust (and believe me, sometimes there's a lot of it), I just fire up the camera's just removal feature a couple of times and the dust goes away
In my experience DR does not work all that well if the air humidity is high. A day or two in a desiccator at RH of 20% or less seems to dry out any pollen and cr*p enough for the DR to shake it off.

01-28-2013, 06:12 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuggie76 Quote
You can buy very small vacuum nozzles to fit over the vacuum cleaner, mainly for keyboards, do these help remove dust from the sensor area?

Tuggie76
Vacuum cleaners can generate static. I wouldn't stick one inside a camera because a spark could damage electronics.
01-28-2013, 06:18 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Vacuum cleaners can generate static. I wouldn't stick one inside a camera because a spark could damage electronics.
O/k,we'll scratch that idea!

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01-29-2013, 08:19 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by KB1SFVE3 Quote
As I said, the newer Pentax cameras have (as you call it "DR-II) which reportedly seems to work better than what's on the older models.

But, even so, its use still begs the obvious question: Where does all that "shaken" dust end up? My hunch is the DS-II feature still only moves the dust around inside the camera...most likely to give it time to collect some other "dust bunnies" that will eventually wind up...back on your sensor!

Once again, I freely admit that I'm a purist in these matters To me, simply shaking the dust off the sensor provides only a temporary fix unless and until the dust is completely removed from the camera.

Clearly, Pentax's new "sensor shaker" feature may be useful if you are in the field and can't get to a cleaner place where a more thorough manual sensor cleaning can be accomplished. But, for us K-10, K-20 (and earlier model) DSLR owners, personally cleaning our sensors manually remains the only affordable option. And as I and others here have opined, the Visible Dust line of products does the job quickly and easily.
long ago I bought Visible Dusts Arctic Butterfly travel kit. It gave the brush, special fluid, wet swabs, corner swabs, a black zippered pouch that had room to hold it all if you leave the hard case home. I also bought the curved mirror, focus-screen brush and cleaning solution (both tablets and now liquid) to clean the brushes once every ~15 uses or so. You never want to use the sensor brush on anything but the sensor! So its best to have two. The products perform flawless, perfect. I have never had to live with even a tiny spot of dust in my OVF. Sensor, no way! And this is with over five years use with the K10D, K20D. The K20D did not need its sensor cleaned often. All of the latest (since K10) dSLRs have Pentax special Super Protect coat on the sensors cover. A hard shake many times did the job with the K20D. I have only used the K5 for about two weeks so I don't know yet. I did have to clean the focus screen however. A small piece of debris got onto one corner. It had to come out (anal, big time). I learned the tool to take out the K20D focus screen is too big for the K5 focus screen and immediately had to go to other tools and techniques on the fly to get it back in with no damage. Now I just let it drop without removing it.

Oh BTW most of the dust you see when you start blowing onto the focus-screen to clean it is really up on the bottom of the prism glass bottom (many times). The curved brush fits perfect to clean dust off it. It just plain works. I did notice after cleaning the mirror chamber on my new K5, just a bit of oil on my brush. I suppose many don't know there is a super fine layer of oil someplace in the mirror chamber. I just cleaned the brush with its special cleaner. You don't have to buy the special brush cleaner however and can use regular items found at a drug store. So you never have to buy anything with normal to medium heavy use for years. The supplies have lasted me over five years and has more than paid for itself, big-time!

On most Pentax bodies I have seen there is three pieces of sticky tape to capture the fallen debris from the sensor. A quote from the K20D literature "The K20Dís SR system, which normally functions to minimize camera shake, also shakes dust off the image sensor surface by its cleaning vibrations. The dust shaken off is collected by the adhesive sheet placed at the bottom of the camera body, preventing it from drifting within the camera body and re-adhering to the image sensor. Even though the SR system automatically starts its cleaning action every time the K20Dís power is turned on, you can also activate it manually whenever you sense the need for cleaning." The subject is not even brought up in newer models but I would bet there is tape down on the bottom frame.

For four years I never once used a blower on my K20D sensor that I can remember. I used the brush and wet swabs a couple of times. I cleaned the focus screen many times (I change lens outdoors at times). But in the end my K20D looks like new through the OVF and no spots on the sensor, mirror, OVF On my four year old K20D or new K5.

Last edited by jamesm007; 01-29-2013 at 08:25 PM.
02-01-2013, 11:00 AM   #12
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I have to agree with Adam and James on this one. After using my K10 and K20 for years I never had any issues with the sensor shake for dust removal. Sure dust is inevitable on your sensor but I found the dust removal more then adequate on both cameras. I have used my K10 exclusively as a travel camera for the past 2 years and I have never had to have the sensor cleaned. Just blow it out with a rocket blower and everything is good to go. I know have a K-5 and have found that the ultrasonic cleaner works just as well.

I think the more you don't have to touch your sensor the better it will be.
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