Have I damaged my sensor?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Grasher, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. Grasher macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2009
    I'm worried. The sensor on my DSLR had a few dust spots so I finally got round to getting a blower brush to clean it (I've had the camera just over a year). After watching some YouTube videos (probably not the best place to learn in hindsight) I decided to have a go at cleaning it myself.

    So, following the instructions from the video, I switched the camera to cleaning mode, removed the lens and gave it a few blasts with the blower. In the video they had an arctic butterfly which they then swept over the lens. So I did the same, although the brush that I had was probably of a somewhat cheaper quality (it was a free gift with a subscription to a photography magazine). I now seem to have made the dust spots worse and when I look at the sensor I see what looks like streaks.

    Have I scratched the sensor filter or is this probably just grease of some sort? Would a cleaning swab be a better option or is this likely to make things worse? Am I totally screwed? :(

  2. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    It is impossible to know exactly what you have on your sensor now, especially without having it in hand and looking it over. If you are that concerned, spend the money to have it professionally cleaned by a reputable camera shop.

    Are you seeing specs or streaks in your shots before or after the cleaning?
  3. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Some camera shops charge $40 for cleaning while you wait. Start there and see if the situation improves. Lesson learned for the next time.
  4. davegregory macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2009
    Burlington, Ontario
    It might be damaged, and it might not. I'm not sure what liquid you used to clean the sensor with. Cheap cleaning liquids will streak the sensor. So, it's a possibility. If you just went over the sensor with a dry brush, yeah, it's possible you've scratched it. Just take it in and get it cleaned again properly and see if it goes away. $40 is cheap compared to a damaged sensor.
  5. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    you could've also blown more dust onto the sensor.
  6. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    It's probable you just blew more dust onto the sensor. Was the brush you used clean? It's likely if it was dirty that you just brushed more dust onto it than you brushed off. Not sure about the streaks, unless you used some kind of liquid to clean with. If so, what did you use?

    Unless your brush is exceptionally hard, and you used a lot of pressure, it is unlikely you have scratched the sensor (or more accurately, the IR filter in front of the sensor). A professional cleaning is a good place to start, as others have mentioned.

  7. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    You mention streaks, so it's most likely sticky* dust has been moved across the sensor.

    You may be better off doing a wet clean or using something like the Sensor Klear pen (from the people that sell Lens-Pen).

    *sticky oily bits may come from lube in the mirror or shutter assy. The Canon 5D has some easy to access oily bits as I found out! Sensor Klear came to the rescue.
  8. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    While scratching the AA filter or hot mirror is certainly doable, it's unlikely that a simple and careful brushing would do so. You should get some Eclipse pads and sensor cleaner (or a similar product) and carefully wet clean the area, or take it somewhere that can do so.

  9. Grasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2009
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm going to take it in to a camera shop on Monday and get them to clean the sensor. From now on, I'm not touching it!

    Fingers crossed...
  10. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    Honestly cleaning the sensor isn't that scary once you do it a few times.

    1. Don't use a blower bulb! These are terrible. Let me explain why:

    Not only can they blow more dust around inside, but they can also blow dust where you can't get to it (like up into the viewfinder).

    2. A brush is good for picking up some of the hard particles, but they can also get into the grease on the sides of the image sensor and smear it all over the place.

    What I use is a brush if there are a lot of hard particles, followed by a sensor swab with a bit of solution on it. The solution dries almost instantly and the swabs are fairly inexpensive. They are made of lint free cloth which is nice.

    I will use a swab on the sensor and then use a lighted loupe to make sure no dust is present, then I will also clean the focusing screen.

    I usually have to do this once a month or so on my 5D Mark II. I've had great results.

    I buy my stuff from the arctic butterfly site although people like eclipse and copperhill as well. They all appear to do about the same.
  11. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    My usual routine is to swab the sensor before any big shoot. I also have the Arctic Butterfly, but I don't use it that often. The swabs seem to get the job done fairly well.
  12. Grasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2009
    Just thought I'd post an update. I managed to get the time to take the camera into a shop today and they had a look at it and reckoned that it was just more dust causing the problem. They also reassured me that the sensor swabs were pretty straightforward to use so I bought a pack.

    After a deep breath, I just cleaned the sensor with the swab and it's as good as new!:D:D

    Very relieved! Hopefully this post might reassure others who are nervous about the cleaning process.

    Thanks again everyone for the help.

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