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Zen and the Art of Digital Sensor Maintenance

DigitalDarrell

Knoxville, US
5987 posts

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"RE: Zen and the Art of Digital Sensor Maintenance"

DigitalDarrell Team Member Founding Member of the Nikonians writer Guild. Author of most of the NikoniansPress books. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Charter Member
Sun 09-Dec-12 02:51 PM | edited Sun 09-Dec-12 03:20 PM by DigitalDarrell

Excellent information, Mark! To support your hard work, here is an unedited excerpt from Mastering the Nikon D600 that describes both methods of preparing the camera for cleaning the sensor.

To readers: You may want to hold your D600 while reading this because it presents graphical menu screens you can step through to familiarize yourself with the processes:

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Clean Image Sensor

Clean image sensor is Nikon’s helpful answer to dust spots on your images from a dirty imaging sensor. Dust is everywhere and will eventually get on your camera’s sensor. In some cases there may be a little dust on the sensor from the factory.

Dust does not really get on the sensor itself since there are filters in front of the sensor, such as the low-pass filter. The D600 cleans the sensor by vibrating the entire sensor unit, which includes the filters in front of the sensor. These high-frequency vibrations will often dislodge dust and make it fall off the low-pass filter so you won’t see it as spots on your pictures.

The vibration cleaning method seems to work pretty well. Of course, if any pollen or other sticky dust gets into the camera, the vibration system won’t be able to remove it. Then it may be time for a brush or wet cleaning.


Clean Now

This option allows you to clean the sensor at any time. If you detect a dust spot, or just get nervous because you are in a dusty environment with your D600, you can simply select Clean now, and the camera will execute a cleaning cycle.


Click on image to view larger version

Figure 5.7 – Clean now screens


Use the following steps to immediately clean the camera’s sensor (figure 5.7):


  1. Select Clean image sensor from the Setup Menu and scroll to the right (figure 5.7, screen 1).

  2. Select Clean now from the menu and press the OK Button (figure 5.7, screen 2).

  3. Step 2 starts the automatic cleaning process. A screen will appear that says Cleaning image sensor (figure 5.7, screen 3). When the process is complete another screen will appear that says Done (figure 5.7, screen 4). Then the camera switches back to the Setup Menu.


Now, let’s look at how to select an active method for regular sensor cleaning.


Clean at Startup/Shutdown

For preventive dust control, many people set their cameras to clean the sensor at startup, shutdown, or both. There are four selections for startup/shutdown cleaning:


  • Clean at startup

  • Clean at shutdown

  • Clean at startup & shutdown

  • Cleaning off


These settings are self-explanatory. I find it interesting that I don’t detect any startup or shutdown delay when using the startup/shutdown cleaning modes. I can turn my camera on and immediately take a picture. The cleaning cycle seems to be very brief in this mode.


Click on image to view larger version

Figure 5.8 – Clean at startup/shutdown screens


Use the following steps to choose a Clean at startup/shutdown method:


  1. Select Clean image sensor from the Setup Menu and then scroll to the right (figure 5.8, screen 1).

  2. Choose Clean at startup/shutdown from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 5.8, screen 2).

  3. Select one of the four methods shown in figure 5.8, screen 3. I chose Clean at startup & shutdown.

  4. Press the OK button to lock in your choice.


Settings Recommendation: Nikon suggests that you hold the camera at the same angle as when you are taking pictures (bottom down) when you use these modes to clean the sensor.

I leave my camera set to Clean at startup & shutdown so that it cleans itself each time I turn the camera on or off. If I am in a dusty environment, I usually turn my camera off and back on from time to time so that it can clean the sensor.

I rarely use the Clean now method but like knowing it’s there when I need it. I suspect that Clean now may have a longer cleaning cycle since it seems to take at least two or three seconds. I don’t detect a several-second delay when I use the Clean at startup & shutdown method. I can shoot immediately upon turning on the camera. Of course, taking a picture may just cancel the startup cleaning.


Lock Mirror Up for Cleaning

Lock mirror up for cleaning is for those times when the high-frequency vibration method of cleaning your D600’s sensor does not dislodge some stickier-than-normal dust. You may have to clean your sensor more aggressively.

In many cases, all that’s needed is to remove the dust with a puff of air from a dust blower. I remember having to do this with my Nikon D100 in 2002, and I was always afraid I might ruin the shutter if I did it incorrectly. With the D100, I had to hold the shutter open in bulb mode with one hand while I blew off the sensor with the other hand.

The D600 helps out by providing the Lock mirror up for cleaning mode so you can more safely blow a stubborn piece of dust off the low-pass filter. Using this function is much safer for blowing off the sensor; you can use both hands while the battery power holds the reflex mirror up and the shutter open.


Click on image to view larger version

Figure 5.9 – Lock mirror up for cleaning


Use the following steps to select this mode for manual sensor cleaning:


  1. Select Lock mirror up for cleaning from the Setup Menu and then scroll to the right (figure 5.9, screen 1).

  2. Press the OK button on Start (figure 5.9, screen 2).

  3. You’ll see a message screen that says as soon as you press the Shutter-release button the camera will raise the mirror and open the shutter (figure 5.9, screen 3).

  4. Remove the lens and press the Shutter-release button once. The sensor will now be exposed and ready for cleaning. Be careful not to let new dirt in while the sensor is open to air.

  5. Clean the sensor by using a blower bulb to blow dust off (figure 5.11), or use proper fluids and pads, (i.e., Eclipse fluid and Pec pads).

  6. Turn the camera off and put the lens back on.


Make sure you have a fresh battery in the camera because that’s what holds the shutter open for cleaning. The battery must have at least a 60 percent charge or the camera will refuse to allow you to start the process. With a battery lower than 60 percent charge the Lock mirror up for cleaning selection will be grayed out. If you try to force the issue and use it anyway, the camera will pop open a window that tersely informs you, This option is not available at current settings or in the camera’s current state. Use a fresh battery!

Settings Recommendation: You’ll need a good professional sensor-cleaning blower, such as my favorite, the Giotto’s Rocket-air blower with a long tip for easy insertion (figure 5.10).


Click on image to view larger version

Figure 5.10 – Giotto’s Rocket-air blower


I bought mine from the Nikonians PhotoProShop at this web address:

http://www.PhotoProShop.com

Settings Recommendation: If even an air blower fails to remove stubborn dust or pollen, you will have to either have your sensor professionally cleaned or do it yourself. Nikon states that you will void your warranty if you touch the low-pass filter in front of the sensor. However, many people still wet or brush clean their D600’s sensor. I’ve done it myself, although I’ll never admit it! (Oops!)

If all of this makes you nervous, then send your camera off to Nikon for approved cleaning, or use a professional service. Fortunately, a few puffs of air will often remove dust too stubborn for the high-frequency vibration methods. It helps to have the proper tools, such as the Giotto’s Rocket-air blower from the Nikonians PhotoProShop. This deluxe blower pulls air in from an opening in the bulb end of the blower instead of from the red tip of the blower. This prevents you from blowing dust you have removed back onto the low-pass filter.

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I hope this is helpful!
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Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell) www.pictureandpen.com
"Better too many words than not enough understanding."
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