GENERAL CLEANING FAQs
How can I tell if there is dirt on my sensor?
There are numerous ways to detect if you have debris on your sensor, but the easiest way is by using the Sensor Loupe® with magnification and LED technology. This will enable you clearly see any contamination on the sensor and within the chamber area itself. If you do not have a Sensor Loupe®, you can still check for debris by taking a test shot and examining it in Photoshop.
How can I tell if the contamination is dust or a stain?
Dust particles will come in many shapes and sizes such as specks and fibers. Stains will usually look fairly round and uniform, and sometimes cast a distinctive halo around the edges. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the two so the best course of action is to perform a dry cleaning. Best case scenario: clean, then you are finished. Worst case scenario: a smear is caused, a wet cleaning will need to be performed, followed by another dry cleaning (followed by cleaning your bristles).
How often should I clean my sensor?
Only when needed. Examining for debris with the Sensor Loupe® or by taking a test shot can be done as frequently as desired, but cleaning should only be done when necessary to reduce any chance of damage.
I have never removed the lens on my DSLR. How can I have dust on my sensor?
Unfortunately, even with great vigilance, it is possible to get contamination on your sensor. Pre-existing dust inside the camera may have been drawn to the sensor, or, more likely, the friction from the moving parts inside the camera may have generated some dust of their own, which in turn made its way to your sensor.
How dangerous is it to clean my sensor?
The first thing to understand about cleaning the DSLR sensor is that you are not actually cleaning the sensor but rather you are cleaning the low pass filter that covers the sensor. The filter and sensor are sealed by an O-ring, so the sensor itself is hermetically sealed. The low pass filter is made of silica (glass, quartz) and may have an Indium Tin Oxide coating (for anti-static purposes).
Whenever you get contamination on your sensor, 99 times out of 100 it is going to be dry dust contamination. These kinds of contaminations are easily removed using the Sensor Brush®/Arctic Butterfly® with their SCF technology and are very safe; The SCF technology lifts the debris from the sensor onto the bristles, unlike other brushes that just sweep the debris, dragging it across your filter with a potential for damage.
On the other hand, depending on the type of camera you have and your vigilance while changing lenses and cleaning, you may get a stain on your sensor. These stains require a different approach that has a higher potential for damaging your low pass filter. In these cases, we recommend that you use a swab and liquid combination to remove the stain and follow it up with a dry clean with a Sensor Brush®/Arctic Butterfly®. Unfortunately, because you are dragging the swab across the filter, if there is any debris that has a hardness factor higher than the low pass filter, there is a potential for scratching the glass. Caution should be heeded when dealing with ´welded´ dust, which is a piece of dust that has landed in a water/oil stain and adhered to the sensor when the stain has dried up. The best way to remove these stubborn contaminations is to moisten the debris, let it soak up, and loosen up, then try to remove it with a swab, followed by a dry cleaning pass.
I have a dust reduction system in my camera, why would I need your products?
While the new anti-static coatings will reduce the accumulation of dust on your sensor, they will not eliminate them all. The shaking action of the filter when it is turned on in some new cameras will shake away the dust, but will only effectively remove most (light dust), not all (heavy dust), and will not remove any stains that occur. Also when the dust is shaken off the sensor, it is put into a trough with an adhesive strip. Over time this strip will become saturated and the dust will remain loose inside the camera body. Thirdly, there is software that will remove dust from your pictures, but this is done by interpolation and is not a best-practices method as it may unnaturally alter your images.
DRY CLEANING FAQs
What is the difference between the Sensor Brush® and the Arctic Butterfly® (and the Arctic Butterfly® 724 or SL707 for that matter)?
All three brushes are built around the SCF technology and are related to each other in the fact that one was the predecessor of the other. The first version on the market from VisibleDust was the Sensor Brush® which was cleaned and recharged by blowing air (via canned air).
This posed two problems: a) canned air does not travel-friendly (cannot fly with it) and b) that moisture from the canned air would sometimes blow onto the bristles making them contaminated. After realizing that canned air was not such a good idea, the development team designed the spinning device (SD). The centrifugal force of the SD effectively recharged the bristles and kicked off any residual contaminants, but the Sensor Brush® needed adapters to fit into the device. This method worked great because it offered the convenience of quick cleaning with the ease of portability and the ability to travel anywhere.
But not to be caught asleep at the wheel, the development team improved on their last creation by inventing the Arctic Butterfly®. With its solid body design, the Arctic Butterfly® encompasses everything that the Sensor Brush® with SD provided without the need for adapters and for that matter the Sensor Brush® itself.
Today VisibleDust offers two models of the Arctic Butterfly®: the 724 and the SL707. The SL707 is designed as an entry-level DSLR cleaning tool for the budget-orientated consumer, while the 724 is the standard model that offers a little more bang for your buck.
How does the Sensor Brush®/Arctic Butterfly® work?
Both the Sensor Brush® and the Arctic Butterfly® are built upon the SCF technology. To summarize, the bristles are constructed to hold a positive charge. The spinning action casts off any neutralizing water particles that have adhered to the bristles, reestablishing the positive charge across the bristles. When the brush is drawn over the sensor, the dust particles are drawn to the positive charges on the bristle, effectively lifting the dust off the sensor onto the brush leaving the sensor dust-free.
Do I spin the Sensor Brush®/Arctic Butterfly® on the sensor?
No. The brush should never be spun on the sensor. The reason for spinning the brush is to re-establish the charge over the bristles and to clean off any residual debris that may have been left after the last cleaning.
How do I clean the brush head when it becomes dirty?
There are two methods to clean the SCF bristles. VisibleDust has developed the Sensor Brush Wash™ which is specially ph buffered to avoid extreme acidity or alkalinity while cleaning contaminants from the bristles. Another way to clean the bristles is by using isopropyl alcohol (70-90%).
When the bristles start to fan out or kink, is there a way to straighten them?
Yes. Heat distilled water to around 50 degrees Celsius, 120 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into a clean cup. Dip the bristles into the water for a few seconds and remove. Let it air dry (if you spin it at this moment, the bristles will fan out and you will need to start all over).
Can I use the Sensor Brush®/Arctic Butterfly® to clean my lenses?
Yes. But there is a down side. You will find that you will be cleaning your brush heads more frequently because of a higher contamination rate (i.e. oils from fingers on the lens that get onto the bristles). It is recommended to use a micro-fiber cloth to clean your lens instead.
WET CLEANING FAQs
What is a stain?
A stain is a build-up of liquid that has accumulated on your sensor and usually comes in two variant types: water and oil. Water can build up from humidity, rain, spittle (it happens), etc, while oil or any type of lubricant is usually the result of spatter from the shutter or mirror mechanisms inside the chamber area.
What is a smear?
The short answer is that a smear is a stain that has been spread across the sensor.
What liquid should I use for cleaning my sensor?
Our liquids are specifically tailored toward the type of stain that you have on your sensor. So logically that next question is “how can I tell what kind of stain I have on my sensor?” to which the roundabout answer is you can´t. We, therefore, recommend using VDust Plus™ because it will remove any water-based stains and will remove light oil-based stains. If VDust Plus™ does not remove the stain, then you know you have a stubborn oil-based stain to which we recommend using Smear Away™. Unfortunately what happens when a tough oil stain is encountered is that residual streaking will be left behind after cleaning. We then recommend using Sensor Clean™ which will effectively remove any streaking and also provide an anti-static and anti-fogging barrier. We recommend that if you, as a photographer, know the type of environment you are going to be in whether it is extremely arid or extremely humid, that you give a quick coating with Sensor Clean™, even if you don´t necessarily need to do a cleaning. Over time you will get to know your camera and the environments that you are shooting in, which will help you determine what type of stain may have developed.
What type of swab should I use?
VisibleDust created two types of swabs for the two different types of stains that may occur, but after time we realized that our green series (MXD-100) will work with all of our sensor cleaning liquids while the orange series (DHAP) work best with VDust Plus™ and will work well with Smear Away™.
Why do you not recommend using products with a methanol base?
Products that have a methanol base should not be used for sensor cleaning for many reasons. A) Methanol is very corrosive and may deteriorate the O-ring that separates and seals the sensor from the low pass filter. B) Methanol is very hygroscopic, meaning that it readily absorbs water. If you clean with methanol the debris on your sensor may dig into the glass because the water, which usually provides a buffer, has been removed. C) Methanol-based products are not travel-friendly meaning you can not fly on an airplane with them.
Are your products safe to travel with?
Yes. All of our products are travel friendly, meaning that you can readily travel on an airplane to any country with them.
Won´t the liquid damage my sensor?
No. The sensor is hermetically sealed by an O-ring. You are actually cleaning the glass that rests atop the sensor.
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