DCS > Tips > How To Clean a Digital Cinema Camera Sensor?

How To Clean a Digital Cinema Camera Sensor?

by Toni Lucatorto, Courtesy of Vision Research

Sensor cleaning is a hot topic for digital camera users – Phantom and otherwise – and there are definite techniques on tackling it. Depending on your lighting situation, a tiny speck of dust on your sensor can lead to a big ugly spot on your images, which is a shame because it is usually avoidable. The longer the lens and smaller the aperture, the more pronounced the spots will appear on your image.

The #1 rule is that if the dust can be removed without using a solvent, you will save yourself a lot of headaches in getting rid of it! I have used the Sensor Sweep brush (link below) and I really like it, as it attracts the particles to the bristles. It really works when you follow the directions. You must clean the brush by blowing air on it and sweeping it across a vellum-like surface to charge the bristles before each sweep on the sensor glass. You can also use the brush to clean the area around the sensor as dust can settle there and then get attracted back onto the sensor glass. Make sure to always blow the bristles free of dust before storing it within its container.

Compressed air is OK as a quick solution, but always tests the spray first away from the sensor to make sure none of the fluid comes out. Use short bursts and hold the can upright. A better solution would be to use a blower that recycles air to force the dust off of and from around the sensor.

If there is a smudge or dust that won't go away, try a microfiber lens cleaning cloth to gently wipe the smudge away. Just like the brush, keep the cloth clean, if you reuse them they can build up residue which will end up back on the sensor glass. For very stubborn smudges, you might want to wrap the microfiber cloth or a piece of lens tissue around a pencil eraser or long swab for better control. If that doesn't work, a drop or spray of lens cleaning solution on the cloth will do the trick… make sure it isn't too wet before wiping it on the sensor glass. Lens tissue folded into a point with a drop of lens solution can help very concentrated spots as well.

Tips:

* Use a tiny flashlight to look at the sensor, its easier to spot the dust.

* Always have a clean microfiber cloth handy for more serious dirt.

* Cotton swabs aren't a good idea unless they are wrapped in a microfiber or lens tissue like material. They leave behind more than they remove.

* Never use your finger to get a speck of dust off; it’s going to make things much worse.

* Never blow on the sensor itself (as tempting as it is).

* Always keep the Phantom Body cap on the camera when there is no lens attached.

Copper Hill Images makes great sensor cleaning products. I started using them with my SLR but found they work great with Phantom cameras.

Lenses gather a lot of dust as well, which can also wreak havoc on your images. Always keep the rear and front elements protected with their lens caps. There are many products out there safe for cleaning lenses; I find that a microfiber cloth with one spray of Eclipse or Pan-cro solution (on the cloth) works the fastest with the best results.