My Camera History as a Function of Dust

As I mentioned the other day, I got an easy introduction to digital SLRs with my Olympus. For years I heard of the dust-spot problem, but I didn’t worry about it – I didn’t need to.

One fateful day, in search of improved image quality, I upgraded my camera. I got a beautiful, used Nikon D200 and was in love – for a while. I started seeing spots in my images, but they didn’t bother me too much. I could clone them out in Lightroom quite easily. As the months wore on more and more spots appeared. Okay. Time for the dreaded sensor cleaning. I made a few half-hearted attempts with sensor-cleaning kits, but they didn’t seem to do much. It got to the point where my photos were unusable. I was missing my Olympus. So I switched back.

With the new Olympus, all was well for a while. My dust problems were a faint memory. I was content. And then, I started talking with a stock agency. They liked my photos, but the image quality was a problem. Olympus didn’t make anything with better image quality. Time for an upgrade. But (for all you thinking of making a living off it), nature photography doesn’t pay very well. So I went in search of cheap image quality, and ended up with a used Canon 5D. Yup, an old camera with no dust shaker and more sensor to get dirty. But this time I was determined. When dust became an issue, I swabbed, I wiped, I brushed, and I did it all very well. I used any and every commercial solution available to me. And they all failed horribly. Dust was driving me mad. It was time for the crazy. I tried a vacuum (with some distance – static electricity is dangerous to sensors) and I tried some homemade swabs. No luck.

It turns out my solution was Scotch Tape. I have read numerous times how tape will ruin sensors – this may be true. I tested it out on other glass surfaces to make sure no residue remained (I’ve read that’s the main concern with tape). I tried it when all hope was lost and I was thinking of giving up on the Canon but short on funds for another camera switch.

Now I’m gloriously dust free, and enjoying my 5D more than ever (besides still being nervous in the rain).

(I do not recommend that you try this on your sensor. In fact anyone with half a legal mind will tell you not to come within 10 feet of your sensor because you might ruin it.)

My 5D after many attempts at sensor cleaning. No, those are not birds or bugs.


My 5D after scotch tape. Exactly the same develop settings in Lightroom. Similar aperture.

2 thoughts on “My Camera History as a Function of Dust”

  1. Yikes, glad it worked for you. I’ve had great luck with the brushes made by Calgary-based company Visible Dust (http://www.visibledust.com ). I also bought a lens that covers the entire focal range that I commonly use, and try hard to limit the number of times I change it, especially when I’m out in the field.

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