Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning..................
Hello brother and sister Nikonians,
If you all remember, I posted some shots of my fabricated swab a while back. I have them at this pbase site along with a new collage which (hopefully) may help newbies get a better idea of swabbing. All of the photos have accompanying text.
#1. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 0
#2. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 1Sun 17-Nov-02 09:59 PM
Don't mention it!
I'll never forget how I kind of freaked out seeing all of the dust particles in my landscapes' skies, and that was only after the first week of using the D1X! I thought I had done my homework before I shelled out a small fortune, but apparently I didn't. Then, starting with Thom's method, swabbing became like an "AHA, SO THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT?" moment, and I guess that happened to you also.
One last thing. You've probably read my posts about zoom lenses allowing dust to enter through the seams. When I take a piece of plastic (bubble wrap is the best), wrap it and tape it around the barrel, I estimate I can stop about 95% of the dust that would penetrate without the plastic. It's actually a dust baffle. I can start with a 100% clean CCD, shoot 100 or 200 images outside with a zoom lens, and when I return home, I usually will see only 0 to 3 individual specks of dust. It really helps! The only drawback is how I look toting a million dollar camera around with this piece of plastic on it - kind of nerdy I guess.
But as Billy Crystal used to say on Saturday Night Live as Hernando:
"Dahling, it's more important how you look than how you feel!"
Thank YOU vis1, your post has made my day!
#3. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 2slow_driver Basic MemberMon 18-Nov-02 09:55 AM
Thanks very much for showing all of us newbies how to deal with the CCD. My 6 week old d100 looks like the gobi desert at the moment so I'll definitely refer back to your page when I manage to get some eclipse fluid here in Hong Kong.
#4. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 3Mon 18-Nov-02 07:51 PM
Thanks for the compliment.
I think it's kind of odd that the companies who sell these very expensive digital cameras wouldn't have come up with an illustration like mine. It took me 30 minutes to photograph the pill box and then about one hour to make the collage (photo #4).
Nikon's disclaimers about self-swabbing make it very unnerving when you finally realize that you can't keep sending it back to Nikon, and that the $4/Sensor Swab is a very expensive and inefficient way to proceed. Most newbies (myself included about a year ago) are frightened into believing that it is best to keep the chamber hermetically sealed, and don't even think about taking time to actually LOOK at it because you might contaminate it.
Photosol's Quick-Time movie showed me nothing I needed to know.
I must reiterate: *I AM NOT A NIKON OR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERT. But I did study one expert's wealth of information, namely, Thom Hogan. PLEASE, JB and all other Newbies, read everything he has written about swabbing and the D-series in general. You can't possibly go wrong.
#5. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 4krf Charter MemberTue 19-Nov-02 12:00 AM
Haven't you figured it out yet? Nikon wants you to buy two bodies, so you have one to use while the other is in the shop for cleaning. That way, if you normally work with two bodies, you have to buy four.
It's just Nikon economics
Visit my Nikonians gallery.
#6. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 5Tue 19-Nov-02 12:07 AM
Yes, I know it's true. It's a bloody insideous plot, I tell you.
However-(mums the word)-(don't let this get around), but the D2X WILL be equipped with a mini windshield wiper and a washer that shoots Eclipse. I can't wait!
#7. "Three cheers!" | In response to Reply # 0
After 6 months of dust-free shooting (don't know how I managed that) I finally had to face the dust-beast, as the all-too-familiar dark spots started showing up.
After trying the Nikon-users-are-too-stupid-to-clean-the-CCD method (a hand-blower) I found that I had more dust than I started with. In addition, each time I blew off the CCD it gained more and more dust, and that dust became more more difficult to move around. Arrrrrrrgh!
So off I went to hunt down Pec-Pads, Eclipse solution, and a suitable rubber spatula. After a half-hour, I had manufactured a suitable spatula-squeegee, 5/8" wide, more or less exactly as you had described. (I left of the chiseled edge in order to get the end perfectly straight.) After following your suggestions for attaching a Pec-Pad, I locked up the mirror and did two quick swipes, rolling over to a fresh edge on each swipe. Voila! Nary a speck of dust!
Thanks to you and Thom Hogan for braving your cameras and developing a workable method for CCD cleaning. I really like the spatula-squeegee idea more than the hard plastic knife. With the soft rubber it would be quite difficult to damage the CCD.
Based on my experience this whole CCD-cleaning phobia should be demystified by all Nikon Digital users. It's really quite easy, but I would strongly recommend getting the EH-5 AC adapter. With a $2000 camera hanging in the balance, do you want to trust your batteries and a $10 release cable to hold open the shutter? Maybe if you're desperate in the field, but certainly not at home.
Nicholas, if you're in my neighborhood I owe you a beer. Thanks for sharing.
#8. "RE: Three cheers!" | In response to Reply # 7Sat 23-Nov-02 07:31 PM
You sure know how to make my day! Thanks, and my pleasure.
You're right, the chiseled tip is probably not absolutely neccessary, but, it allows me to put a little more down pressure when I get really stuck dust particles.
You absolutely nailed it - it is such an easy task once you get in there several times, then have perfect results as you have indicated.
And you are right in sync with me as to the FIRM but YIELDING nature of the rubber compared to the plastic knife. All in all, it takes me maybe 5 minutes to set everything up, then about 15 to 20 seconds to apply the Eclipse and then swab.
I'd like to know if you (or anyone else) feels like I do, that there is a lot of "piece of mind" knowing we can shoot away with a 100% clean CCD and not have to rely on (1)a limited range of aperture, (2)a limited range of subject matter, and (3)the clone/healing brushes in Photoshop?
#9. "RE: Thanks to all" | In response to Reply # 8justinb Basic MemberMon 30-Dec-02 12:57 AM
Just wanted to thank those on this posting as well as a couple of other posts that I found on a search thru here for all of the good information on CCD cleaning. This advice, as well as the link to Thom Hogan's site kept me from sending off my camera to be cleaned. I really did not want to be without my camera for 4-6 weeks, but I had a couple of large specks that showed up on most every photo that were resistant to just about every form of blowing air that I could throw at it. The modified spatula with a lint free cloth was just what it took.
#13. "RE: Three cheers!" | In response to Reply # 8Sun 09-Feb-03 07:39 AM
Hey Nicholas, as you know from our email conversations, the articles I've written and my post on your web site, I feel much, much better having "mastered" your technique. But even before I tried it, just knowing that your procedure was available let me shoot with no concern of CCD filter dirt.
#15. "RE: Three cheers!" | In response to Reply # 13Sun 09-Feb-03 10:42 AM
I wish you and I could collect $1.00 for every post that expressed exasperation with the pre-made swabs. As you know, for a time, they were the ony option availavble to us. Just the thought of major dust accumulation with the only redress being sending it to Nikon, or trying blowers and vacuums that have NO effect on stuck particles, was enough to give us dust angst. I have also noticed that if the camera is idle for several days, any dust on the CCD will tend to become MORE stuck, which warrants an even closer monitoring.
Nikonians, may I recommend http://www.meszar.us/photography
(keep up the good work, Oscar)
#21. "RE: Three cheers!" | In response to Reply # 15Mon 10-Feb-03 01:07 PM
Thank you for the kind words.
I've had not noticed the bit about leaving the camera idle for a few days, I guess the most mine has been sitting there is 1 day and then I get the terrible itch and go shoot something, just something, I don't care what it is, but I always try something new, different setting here and there. My latest attempt being trying the internal flash as a master to the external SB-80DX in wireless mode. And what did I shoot with that? my kid's toys, nothing that I want to publish but it was just a learning experience.
That is one thing I recommend highly, get out there, even if out there is to your kid's playroom, and shoot. In digital, it is easly to learn. You don't like it, delete it. I'm not a professional, but I shoot no less than 200 pictures a week, and many times I shoot over 100 per day.
Finally, don't worry about that dust in the CCD filter. It is a fact of life with the Nikon digital cameras of today. Just shoot and when you get the dirt, go to Nicholas page and clean away.
#11. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 0
High on the real thing; powerful gasoline, a clean CCD and a shoe shine. There's no muck on my CCD! Just cleaned it and wanted to say Thank you very much Nicholas for your excellant guidance and instruction. Just like you said, the hardest part is getting your mind around doing it.
#12. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 11Sat 08-Feb-03 07:28 PM
I'm extremely happy your swabbing was successful. Thank you for taking the time to let me know about it.
Great thanks have to go, also, to everyone else who has given me such positive feedback and reports of their success with the
Spat-U-Swab and my method.
There must be a tremendous number of D-SLR Newbies out there as evidenced by the THOUSANDS of hits on my site. Out of that number, there are probably a lot of veteran photographers who have known no other option than the pre-made SensorSwabs (until now).
As you experienced, David, there is the moment when you get in there and do the nasty deed, and then, after checking your results, realize that you have actually REMOVED DUST PARTICLES and HAVE LEFT THE CCD IN PERFECT WORKING ORDER!
"WOW! Is that all there is to this?" Yep!
Thanks again to all,
#14. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 0
Hello Nicholas, and thank you for posting this helpful procedure. I am expecting my D100 within a few days and am already starting to obsess over dirt on the CCD even before I receive it!
Can you give us an idea of what the pads and cleaning materials are and where one could buy them? I am not familiar with them.
#16. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 14Sun 09-Feb-03 11:29 AM
Hi Mr. Thornton,
A bottle of "Eclipse" (methanol) and a hundred pack of "Lint-Free
PecPads" can be purchased online at
For those people outside of the U.S., the site has a listing of dealers who sell their products.
#18. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 0
I have a question,
I looked at my CCD and it looks perfectly clean. I have, however noticed some spots on my pictures. Is it possible to have dirt on the CCD so small that I can't see it?
Thanks for any help,
#19. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning" | In response to Reply # 18Sun 09-Feb-03 06:51 PM
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I rarely SEE any particles on the CCD at all. Just run your surefire test to know exactly how much dust is there and proceed accordingly.
#26. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning" | In response to Reply # 19jet_avi8tor Registered since 06th Dec 2002Wed 16-Jan-08 12:01 PM
>Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I rarely SEE any particles
>on the CCD at all. Just run your surefire test to know
>exactly how much dust is there and proceed accordingly.
I ran the rest you recommend on your website and am stunned at the results. I'm attaching the results I got. Are all those black specks dust on the CCD? And what about the larger "globs" toward the right 1/3 of the image?
I just ordered the Pec Pads and the Eclipse solution from my local camera shop!
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
#20. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning" | In response to Reply # 26Sun 09-Feb-03 07:51 PM
Yes, that is dust. The "globs" you see are probably the extremes of the histogram which are being magnified by the auto-levels.
Most people just shoot the sky at any aperture and do not see
(or don't want to see)what you have seen.
If it makes you feel any better, Thom Hogan posted his experience a while back of being approached by Canonites and being told that the CMOS has little to no problem with dust. He told them to perform the surefire test and, of course, they also were shocked at the deluge of dust they saw on their sensors.
OKay. You've got dust. No big deal. Go for it!
#22. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 0
I think your CCD cleaning method should be anchored to the top of the forum, just like the custom curves. We all have CCD dust, those who say they don't just haven't noticed it yet or are in denial.
When I first discovered dust specs on my D1x CCD I used sensor swabs to remove them. I think I used at least 6 or 7 the first time. Later I read Thom Hogans Wendy's knive method, tried it and it worked.
Then I saw your spatula suggestion and tried it. It works great and gets the really tuff "fried on" dust specs.
Thanks again for sharing.
#23. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 22
#24. "RE: Photos & illustration of CCD cleaning.............." | In response to Reply # 23Mon 10-Feb-03 07:52 PM
Bill and Oscar,
Thank you, guys.
I consider my little web-site my "tithe" to digital phography. I get such gratification helping people out in
"dust maintenance 101", that I feel rewarded 10 fold!
When I first put up my tutorial, I said that once you do a successful self-swabbing, you'll never have to visit the site again. I believe that to be the case for most people.
One last thing. I LOVE photography, and especially digital photography. The give and take I've had on this topic has intoduced me to a great number of people I might not have known otherwise. There are some extremely talented photographers out there as well as many who show tremendous potential. They (you) are also, without a doubt, very nice people. Nuff sed.
#25. "Alternate cleaning technique: hemostat and lens tissue" | In response to Reply # 0
Many people seem to be alarmed at the idea of metal going near the CCD filter. This would be a bad idea if you were clumsy, but the standard technique we use at work for cleaning optics on $100,000 lasers is to take a sheet of standard Kodak lens tissue and a stainless steel hemostat. See the instructions for cleaning the Brewster windows on a $50,000 argon-ion plasma tube at Coherent lasers. This is the lens-cleaning technique that all scientific optics manufacturers recommend.
Most of the instructions are the same as you and others have posted here, the big difference being the use of standard lens tissues rather than pek-pads and the use of a metal hemostat forceps instead of a plastic spatula. Haemostats can be had for about $2.00 each from biological or medical supply companies. I like a 15-cm Kelly model with straight jaws.
In a clean, dust-free room, begin by cleaning the surface you will work on and washing your hands with soap and water. Then lay down a large lint-free tissue, such as a Kimwipe on the surface. Then lay down a clean lens tissue on top of the Kimwipe.
Have ready a clean stainless steel hemostat, a dropper bottle with spectrophotometric grade methanol (available from chemical supply houses, or use Eclipse fluid. Don't use ACS reagent grade methanol, as it's not pure enough), and a pack of lens tissues (I prefer Kodak).
Take a fresh lens tissue, touching it only at the corners with your fingers, and using the hemostat to touch anywhere else. Lay it down on the other lens tissue and fold it up, first along one axis and then along the other until you have a nicely shaped pad with about 20 layers in it.
I like to fold it in half repeatedly parallel to one of the long sides until it is about the same width as the vertical axis of the D-100 CCD (the tissue, which started out about 3x5 inches is now about 1x5). Then I repeatedly fold it in half along the other axis twice, so it's about 1.25 inches long. Now I grab the folded lens tissue in the hemostat so a smooth fold is pointing outward (there's a nice picture of this sort of thing here. The accompanying text is here). The hemostat is nice because the jaws lock shut, so your fingers are nice and relaxed but you have a firm grip on the lens tissue. The tissue should be quite firm and should protrude about 1-2 mm from the end of the hemostat jaws, so there is really no danger of the metal scratching the filter. The folded tissue is firm enough that you don't need a form, such as a Wendy's knife, to keep it stiff.
Then put 2-3 drops of methanol (or Eclipse) on the tissue and wipe once across the CCD. Then discard the tissue and repeat with a fresh one if the CCD is not clean enough. If you wipe a second time with the same tissue, you will either smear the dirt you got the first time back on the CCD, or, if you're really unlucky, scratch the anti-aliasing filter with a piece of grit that you picked up on the first swipe. A second swipe with a lens tissue can only make things worse.
Not to take pictures of one's children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference --- Susan Sontag
Visit my Nikonians gallery.