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How to clean CCD sensor on digital SLR cameras

How to clean CCD sensor on digital SLR cameras
How to clean CCD sensor on digital SLR cameras
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Cleaning the matrix - it is a vital necessity. Below are examples of dirty matrices, for those having nerves of corroded steel, heart conditions, please stop reading here.

One of the disadvantages of modern DSLR cameras compared to film is that the camera's sensor with time gets dirty. In film cameras for each shot there is a new piece of film, so that the dirt issues are no existent.

How to check if the camera matrix is dirty?

Very simple. To do this, take a picture with closed aperture of monochrome background. The easiest way to do this is to put the camera into the aperture priority mode (A or Av on the mode dial). Set the minimum allowed aperture value, which means that the number F should be on maximum, most often it is F16, F22, F32, F36. Turn off auto ISO and set its minimum possible value: often it's ISO 50, ISO 100, ISO 200. Then - just take a picture.

Note that the focal length of the lens does not affect the "dirt" test. Monophonic background is needed to be photographed only to make it easier to see the dirt on the sensor. If you close the aperture, it'll set the shutter speed on slow, so it's better to set the camera on a tripod or on a stationary object. Slow shutter speed does not affect the test. If a tripod is not available, you can simply take a shot of a blue sky.

dirt on the sensor

In the photo above, I applied the following settings ISO 100, F16, 50mm. In order to have a better look at the full splendor of the dirty matrix, in the program editor, you can set the maximum image contrast. See below.

dirt on the sensor 2

With arrows I showed the dirt that was on my Nikon D200, the camera was not cleaned for a year.

Warning: do not be afraid of a dirty matrix. With the aperture opened (aperture F/8.0) the dirt has almost no effect on the image quality. You can take pictures your whole life at F1.4-F4.0 and have no worries about a dirty sensor.

contrast enhanced in order to see the dirt

Do you need to clean the sensor?

Everyone should decide themselves. I personally need to have a clean matrix, because I earn my living with photography. I often have to shoot scenes with a closed aperture (group portraits, landscapes, photos for reviews), that's why I monitor closely the condition of my matrices and try to get my cameras cleaned every 6 months. Cleaning a matrix costs from 40 to 100 USD and takes about 1 or 2 days. Yes, it's quite expensive, and I'm not always satisfied with the end result. That is why, I decided to take everything into my own hands. For more or less reasonable price of $60 I came across a cleaning system Green Clear Sensor Cleaning System (Non full frame Size) for DSLR Cameras. The system allows around 80 times to clean the camera with a spray and 3 times to clean it with special cleaning brushes and mops.

Built-in sensor cleaning system

It has become very popular to install sensor cleaning systems in DSLR cameras (Digital single-lens reflex cameras). From my personal experience I can see that such systems can not fully protect the matrix from dirt. In general, the self-cleaning systems are based on the idea of the matrix vibrating and shaking off the dust. But dirt – is not dust, it may include stains caused by condensation, etc. The cleaning systems simply can not handle these issues. With my Nikon D90 which does have a cleaning system I had to take it to the service after a year of use despite the function being active. Cameras with self-cleaning systems often fall into my hands but still I always see the dirt on the matrix. So, present date (2012) self-cleaning systems can not provide the supreme cleaning quality, which is so heavily advertised by manufacturers.

Matrix cleaning system Green Clear Sensor Cleaning System (Non full frame Size) for DSLR

The story of me cleaning the matrix:

The system Green Clear Sensor includes a spray with gas, three tips for dust suction and three sets of mops for cleaning. You need to read the Green Clear Sensor instructions or watch instructional videos. The most difficult part was attaching the valve to the spray - first press down and then tighten.

  1. I put together a vacuum pump. Simply by connecting the valve to the spray, then to the valve attach the extension tube, and then to the tube one of the cleaning tips;
  2. Set the camera to clean it;
  3. With the pump sucked dust;
  4. With mops cleaned the sensor.

Honestly, it's a little bit scary to work with the camera matrix, but if you do it often, the fear will go away.

Before and after cleaning

Warning: I advise you to read the instructions for your camera. To clean the camera matrix, we must raise a mirror which goes before the matrix. To do this there is a special function, usually it's called "mirror up" or "mirror up for cleaning". When this function is activated on my Nikon one needs to press the shutter button - the camera will raise the mirror and keep this position until it will to turn off . If the battery is less than 60% then the function of raising the mirror will be blocked. Do not use the shutter speed on slow to clean the matrix. My friend was cleaning matrix with shutter speed set to 30 seconds and was a bit carried away by the process, the camera closed the mirror and the shutter – that was not so good. Also, in this special mode, the camera does not take pictures - no voltage is applied to the matrix, which also reduces the risk of damaging something vital.


Sometimes you need to check the camera's sensor for dust or take it to the service, or to clean the matrix yourself. Self-cleaning is 3-4 times cheaper than the service. Built-in sensor cleaning systems can only postpone a serious matrix cleaning check up.

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Discussion (total 1 comments)

Machine Vision
November 04, 2015 at 10:38 pm
Thanks for sharing this nice article.It have some great use full information.

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