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07-22-2008, 07:41 AM   #1
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Sensor Cleaning Question

Ok, a bit of a preamble. There have been a couple of threads recently regarding cleaning sensors. People recommend everything from fancy blower bulbs to sensor swabs of varying types.

When I mention that all I ever use is an aerosol (canned gas) blower, there is always a collective intake of breath and a post or two warning about the perils of using this method, and how it can or will cause irreparable harm to the camera.

So, with this in mind, I ask this forum to put their collective money where their mouths are.

Has anyone actually got certifiable evidence that careful use of an aerosol duster has ever harmed a DSLR sensor?
Please note, anecdotes just won't cut it. In order to prove to me that five years of cleaning sensors with compressed gas and nothing else is harming my cameras, I need verifiable citations that this is a harmful practice.
Just the facts please, no unproven internet urban legends or theories, no third party stories about how uncle Bert's second best friend in the whole world destroyed a camera after drinking a case of beer and deciding to spray foam his sensor.

I want actual citations of cameras that have been destroyed by gentle and careful use of an aerosol cleaner.

I will discount any citations of blowing liquid out of the aerosol can as a non citation, since this is not careful use of the product, and to me falls under the Darwin Award for DSLR category.

07-22-2008, 08:28 AM   #2
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I'm not sure anyone has claimed it destroyed the camera, or maybe I missed it.

One concern may be in accidently tipping the can, the liquid propellant will come out, and I'm not sure what effect that may have on the various surfaces.
07-22-2008, 08:41 AM   #3
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I have never cleaned a sensor with canned air, so I cannot help you there.

However, I have used canned air in the physics and optics lab when I study and work for a long time, and have often seen condensation form, and deposits land, on optics. Mirrors, lenses, filters, etc. When that happens, the veterans always frown at the newbies who did it and tell them to unmount the optics, clean it the regular way, put it back, and realign the system.

"Cleaning the regular way" in our case means drenching the optics in isopropylic alcohol, while holding it with clean clamps, then using a dry lens cleaning tissue to remove the alcohol. To do this, you deposit the tissue on the optics, then pull it to one side. Then throw it away, to not repeat.

Those canned air bottles contain propellant, and that can damage your optics. Condensation, or the temperature shock, can damage optics.

Why would you risk it? A 10-15$ rocket blower will do the job much more safely, and just as well.
07-22-2008, 08:45 AM   #4
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And...

QuoteOriginally posted by Tom S. Quote
I'm not sure anyone has claimed it destroyed the camera, or maybe I missed it.

One concern may be in accidently tipping the can, the liquid propellant will come out, and I'm not sure what effect that may have on the various surfaces.
it is super-freaking-sub-zero-ice cold, which I'm sure is not good for the sensor.

Use these:

http://www.lenspen.com/?cPath=&products_id=SK-1&tpid=146

or better yet, in a nice little kit with everything you need:

http://www.lenspen.com/?cPath=&products_id=SKK-1&tpid=146

Cheers,
Cameron

07-22-2008, 09:34 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Ok, a bit of a preamble. There have been a couple of threads recently regarding cleaning sensors. People recommend everything from fancy blower bulbs to sensor swabs of varying types.

When I mention that all I ever use is an aerosol (canned gas) blower, there is always a collective intake of breath and a post or two warning about the perils of using this method, and how it can or will cause irreparable harm to the camera.

So, with this in mind, I ask this forum to put their collective money where their mouths are.

Has anyone actually got certifiable evidence that careful use of an aerosol duster has ever harmed a DSLR sensor?
Please note, anecdotes just won't cut it. In order to prove to me that five years of cleaning sensors with compressed gas and nothing else is harming my cameras, I need verifiable citations that this is a harmful practice.
Just the facts please, no unproven internet urban legends or theories, no third party stories about how uncle Bert's second best friend in the whole world destroyed a camera after drinking a case of beer and deciding to spray foam his sensor.

I want actual citations of cameras that have been destroyed by gentle and careful use of an aerosol cleaner.

I will discount any citations of blowing liquid out of the aerosol can as a non citation, since this is not careful use of the product, and to me falls under the Darwin Award for DSLR category.

Good qestion! But I don't think you are going to find an answer as nobody is willing to try it and see!

As one of my initial flight instructors told me, if you spin an aircraft that is not certified for spins, you become the test pilot. While you train to know the limits of the aircraft, you know just that...the limits. And you don't exceed them if you plan on remaining alive for a long time. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots!

When it comes to compressed air, YOU, my friend, are the test pilot! If it works for you and you have not seen any damage, then you have proved it will work.

As for me, I don't feel the benefits outweigh the risks and therefore declare the mission to be unnecessary. I love my camera too much!
07-22-2008, 10:30 AM   #6
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07-23-2008, 12:23 AM   #7
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canned air can sometimes spray "spittles" out of the tip... even "careful use" cant stop that... aerosol cans can be unpredictable just like any other spray device. if one were to land on the sensor it may leave a mark that would have to be cleaned via a swab method... ive always just used the wet method... very easy to do and fool proof as far as getting your sensor clean.

Last edited by pentaxbling; 07-23-2008 at 12:42 AM.
07-23-2008, 05:02 AM   #8
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So far Bill, the answer looks like, no.

Dave

07-23-2008, 05:43 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentkon52 Quote
So far Bill, the answer looks like, no.

Dave
Yup. A regurgitation of a few urban myths, and a couple of parables that are meaningless to the discussion, but no factual evidence supporting the argument against canned air.
07-23-2008, 05:48 AM   #10
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Yes! About 4 years ago made the trek to the only pro camera shop around. Not a pro, but love to see the equipment - so exotic. It was Schillers in St. Louis Mo, USA. As I was entering a guy was leaving. On the steps of the business I said "Wow, nice camera" to the guy. He stopped, had a very bad look on his face and said "yeah, wish I hadn't bought it". I was amazed at the answer. It was still brand new in the box, never opened. He then explained. He was cleaning his original dslr (a nikon D2 I think) with the canned air and the little red "stick" flew off and hit the sensor. It messed some thing up on the sensor. It was going to be very expensive, and take a while to repair. He couldn't shoot with one body so he had to buy this one to have a backup, while the other was off to Nikon for repair. Got my attention. Had never even considered the stick, only the propellent.

thanks
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07-23-2008, 05:57 AM   #11
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From Belkin's own mouth:

"Contact with product in liquid form may cause some plastic materials to permanently discolor. Never use this product on camera mirrors. Do not let product in liquid form contact photographic negatives."

From Microsoft.com:

"1. Blow Out the Mirror Chamber
Before entering Sensor Clean mode, use a hand blower such as the large Giotto Rocket to blow out any excess dust and debris in the mirror chamber. This step removes any particles that may migrate on to the sensor after the cleaning process. Do not use compressed air. The pressure is too strong and will result in damage to the delicate mechanisms within the camera."


From New York Institute of Photography:

"The reason I recommend a rubber bulb blower to blow dust and grit out of the inside of the camera body is that when squeezed, it provides a concentrated "puff" of air, but not the overly powerful "gush" that most brands of canned air supply. At NYI, we avoid canned compressed or propelled air, regardless of whatever type of propellant is used because the burst of air can be too strong, particularly for today's delicate electronic camera systems. In addition, some types of canned air use a propellant that – if you tilt the can downward – shoots out a burst of solid, frozen stuff. Who needs that in your camera or on your lens?"


From PC World:

"Avoid Canned Air: Don't use canned air--the force of its air blast can damage your camera's sensor. If you want to try cleaning it yourself, camera makers usually recommend you use only a handheld air blower, such as Giotto's Rocket Air Blower."


From BetterPhoto.com:

If that does not solve the problem, you might be tempted to use pressurized “canned air”. I strongly recommend against that approach. Should the liquid propellant reach the sensor, it will dry on the glass cover; in that case, you may need to send the camera to a service depot for professional cleaning.


From Better Digital Photography:

"The easiest way to clean your camera sensor (remember when I say that I am actually talking about the glass or plastic filter that sits in front of the sensor) is to blow it off with a bulb blower or other similar device. NEVER EVER use DUST OFF or any similar canned air product. Canned air is sprayed with the help of liquid aerosols that can seriously damage your camera."


From Shutterbug:

"Stay away from canned air and homegrown swabs—they can both do more damage than good."


I suppose I could find more, but I think that's enough. Maybe there is a conspiracy against canned air, but when a product's own maker (Belkin) says not to use it, that's enough to convince me.

Last edited by Tom S.; 07-23-2008 at 06:14 AM.
07-23-2008, 06:12 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Yup. A regurgitation of a few urban myths, and a couple of parables that are meaningless to the discussion, but no factual evidence supporting the argument against canned air.
if you have used canned air you have surely seen the bits of liquid spew and quickly evaporate from the nozzle at times... if you haven't, you eventually will if you continue to use it. if the risk of getting some of that discharge on your sensor doesn't bother you then you have no reason to stop using the canned air! don't say we didn't warn you lol... also, even though its a super burst of air, does it really clean the surface? or does it move dust around... the only TRUE way to see how much dust is on your sensor (IMHO) is to take a shot with your camera stopped all the way down of your computer screen when set to a solid white background... then open this file in photoshop and then auto level it.. you may be surprised at what you find lol... either way, i still say that the wet method is the only true way to remove 99.9 % of the dust from your cameras sensor.
07-23-2008, 06:57 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Yup. A regurgitation of a few urban myths, and a couple of parables that are meaningless to the discussion, but no factual evidence supporting the argument against canned air.


I've used canned gas (cheapest variety) forever for cleaning keypads and various mechanical devices. The cans do unpredictably dribble. Has to do with quality variations, perhaps, or humidity. I don't use them on film and I didn't allow my staff to use it on film, though I did allow the certified-dry cans sold by graphic supply houses.

Airbrushes dribble too, unless you have a moisture trap in the line. Humidity in the air condenses sometimes, then spits.

It's drooling-idiotic to use canned gas when you can more cheaply get a Rocket blower, which won't dribble, and which is universally recommended.

PENTAX recommends a blower. Their lit shows a Rocket.
07-23-2008, 06:59 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tom S. Quote
From Belkin's own mouth:

"Contact with product in liquid form may cause some plastic materials to permanently discolor. Never use this product on camera mirrors. Do not let product in liquid form contact photographic negatives."

From Microsoft.com:

"1. Blow Out the Mirror Chamber
Before entering Sensor Clean mode, use a hand blower such as the large Giotto Rocket to blow out any excess dust and debris in the mirror chamber. This step removes any particles that may migrate on to the sensor after the cleaning process. Do not use compressed air. The pressure is too strong and will result in damage to the delicate mechanisms within the camera."


From New York Institute of Photography:

"The reason I recommend a rubber bulb blower to blow dust and grit out of the inside of the camera body is that when squeezed, it provides a concentrated "puff" of air, but not the overly powerful "gush" that most brands of canned air supply. At NYI, we avoid canned compressed or propelled air, regardless of whatever type of propellant is used because the burst of air can be too strong, particularly for today's delicate electronic camera systems. In addition, some types of canned air use a propellant that – if you tilt the can downward – shoots out a burst of solid, frozen stuff. Who needs that in your camera or on your lens?"


From PC World:

"Avoid Canned Air: Don't use canned air--the force of its air blast can damage your camera's sensor. If you want to try cleaning it yourself, camera makers usually recommend you use only a handheld air blower, such as Giotto's Rocket Air Blower."


From BetterPhoto.com:

If that does not solve the problem, you might be tempted to use pressurized “canned air”. I strongly recommend against that approach. Should the liquid propellant reach the sensor, it will dry on the glass cover; in that case, you may need to send the camera to a service depot for professional cleaning.


From Better Digital Photography:

"The easiest way to clean your camera sensor (remember when I say that I am actually talking about the glass or plastic filter that sits in front of the sensor) is to blow it off with a bulb blower or other similar device. NEVER EVER use DUST OFF or any similar canned air product. Canned air is sprayed with the help of liquid aerosols that can seriously damage your camera."


From Shutterbug:

"Stay away from canned air and homegrown swabs—they can both do more damage than good."


I suppose I could find more, but I think that's enough. Maybe there is a conspiracy against canned air, but when a product's own maker (Belkin) says not to use it, that's enough to convince me.
Lots of maybes and might be's, but still no will be's.
But we do seem to have one incident of careless use of canned air damaging a sensor, though not by the product itself.
07-23-2008, 07:00 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by janosh Quote


It's drooling-idiotic to use canned gas
Oh yes, and intercourse you too.

Last edited by Wheatfield; 07-24-2008 at 12:09 AM. Reason: bad language objected to by the children within us all.
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