Some good friends of ours have been suffering with a problem in their 4- or 5-year old Canon DSLR. It developed black spots on the pictures. Now, most of you reading this will know immediately that the cause of the problem was dust on the sensor. But they didn't know, and they had had this problem for a couple of years! They were considering buying a new camera because of it. They were otherwise perfectly satisfied with the camera. (No NAS, or CAS, afflicts them. They just want to take photos.)
A couple of evenings ago I went over to their house with my whole sensor-cleaning kit: Quasar Sensor Loupe, Rocket Blower, Arctic Butterfly, and Sensor Swabs plus Eclipse solution. I figured that considering how long those dust blobs had been there, surely it would take a wet cleaning to remove them. Once I got the camera opened up and inspected the sensor, yeah, there was a lot of dust on it, as expected. So, I first used the Rocket Blower as stage one of the cleaning process. To my surprise, it removed all but a few tiny specks of dust. Those were removed using the Arctic Butterfly. I never had to break out the wet-cleaning materials. Really, if I had just come over with nothing but the Rocket Blower, I could have cleaned it well enough to make them happy. The few tiny specks remaining wouldn't have bothered them. (My friend does know how to use the clone tool in PS Elements.)
All of that is leading up to this: Camera manufacturers do explain in the manual about cleaning with a blower. (They generally recommend that cleaning that involves contact with the sensor be left to a service shop, even though most of us ignore that recommendation.) But of course, a lot of things are explained in the manual that the average user doesn't read, or doesn't remember. So, people who aren't avid photographers don't have the tools to do the job and are leery of doing it.
I have a simple fix to suggest: DSLR manufacturers should include a small Rocket Blower with each camera kit. Not with every body, but with those body-plus-lens kits that most people get when they buy their first DSLR. Having the tool in the kit should encourage people to think of sensor cleaning as a normal maintenance activity (which it is) rather than something exotic. And the blower will be sufficient for many users for the life of the camera.
I would worry that some people shouldn't even look inside with the lens off, and lots would be afraid to.
I guess part of the problem may be where you buy the camera? I got mine at a local and well-known camera store, and they said "if you start getting specs on your photos, bring the camera back we will clean the sensor while you wait -- for free".
But I guess if you buy via mail-order or at some non-camera discount store that is not an option.
Maybe the manufacturers should not just put it in the manual, but provide a sheet of red paper that says "read this!!!"??
I think the manufacturers won't do that, although it is a commendable idea. I believe that they wouldn't on strictly a cost basis.
I also think, for the casual photographer, there will be less and less need for them to buy a DSLR. I could see myself getting by for a lot of shooting with friends, vacation, etc, with a Canon G1-X and it's 28-112mm equivalent focal length.
"Sawed that board three times and it is still too short... "
Back in the days of film you could buy cameras in kits that included a blower brush - it was quite common; you would get camera + 50mm lens, blower brush, lens tissues and possibly a bag of some sort. My first Nikon (an FG) came like this with the MDE drive and SB-15 speedlight. SO including cleaning gear has been done - wonder why they don't change it now for a rocket blower...
I was trained by experts about 4 years ago how to dust and wet clean a sensor with Visible Dust, Arctic butterfly, wet cleaners and the illuminated loupe. I have cleaned dozens of folks cameras both for dust and more stubborn spots. All that said a dSLR is an expensive purchase and I agree more fuss should be made about "the best way to change a lens", "using a rocket blower" and most of all the "clean sensor on start up - shut down" or both on the menu option. Also and one thing that's often forgotten "regularly vacuum out the camera bags".
No manufacturer is going to go further for risk of users damaging a sensor.
I think Jon described a situation with which a number of us are quite familiar. If any friends and family regard us as technically qualified, we get the call. I personally like Jon's suggestion.
I think that the only problem might be that the same people who aren't motivated enough or comfortable enough with the idea of buying a Rocket Blower for themselves and poking around in the mirror box now, still won't be motivated to do so even if a Rocket Blower is included in the DSLR box. I think we'll still get the calls.
>Correct. It's a bit like my "management" won't >change a plug and never will, no confidence to do so
But if Nikon, at least, follows Jon's suggestion I'll at least get a free Rocket Blower out of my next DSLR purchase. And any DSLR sent to me for review will go back sans blower (unless some other reviewer has grabbed it first).
I'm sure you're right, Howard. The people who are afraid to move off of "scene" mode -- I expect we all know such people -- are never going to clean their own sensor. But I think my suggestion would at least nibble away at the problem. If nothing else, it would help educate people that this is a procedure that needs to be done. I don't change the oil in my car myself, but I at least understand that it has to be changed. If we could achieve that understanding about sensor cleaning, it would be progress!
>I don't change the >oil in my car myself, but I at least understand that it has to >be changed. If we could achieve that understanding about >sensor cleaning, it would be progress!
. . . and I want that 'free' Rocket Blower!
I have a friend who is basically hopeless. After he thoroughly researched sensor cleaning, he went out and purchased a Visible Dust system - Arctic Butterfly, sensor swabs, fluid, loupe, etc. He then asked me to drop by his house to help him figure out why his sensor always needed five to ten passes in order to get it clean.
So I went over to his place on a Saturday morning, used his illuminated loupe to examine the sensor and found it covered in what can only be described as splatter.
I asked him to go ahead and clean the sensor so I could see what he was doing.
He pulled out the Arctic Butterfly, and without charging it (running three times in a row for a few seconds each time) to build static, peered at it, knocked off a couple of bits in the bristles using his fingers, blew hard on the bristles to get a few stubborn bits off, and then started to lower it toward the mirror box. Needless to say, I leaped for the thing and stopped him. I explained the problem, cleaned the Arctic Butterfly bristles with 99% isopropyl alcohol (as recommended), spend a few minutes thoroughly drying the brush, charged it and did a dusting. It still needed a wet cleaning, which I did with two swabs.
Some people - many people - who aren't technically tuned in, don't understand the need to follow instruction precisely. Don't touch the sides of the mirror box with the brush, don't touch the brush with anything (least of all your fingers), don't blow (saliva/spit/whatever) at the brush of the mirror box, etc., etc., etc.
So I think the key in your suggestion is to raise awareness of the need for regular cleaning, without actually encouraging anyone to DIY except the typically qualified hobbyist or enthusiast or pro. I also think that retailers all over would be wise to offer a $15 over-the-counter cleaning service to all customers. Drop off the camera; pick it up an hour or two later (or something like that). The last thing I need is for some camera or lens of mine to be sitting in a long service queue behind a long list of DSLR bodies in line for sensor cleaning all because Nikon raised awareness of the need. Still has to be done I suppose.