Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

by ceinmart

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I have a Nikon D300 and in the past couple years I've found that it seems to require sensor cleaning very frequently, something like once a week or more. I've been dry cleaning with a combination of ultrasonic cleaning and a lens pen quite successfully on each occasion, but then the dust comes right back within a few days. It shows up in pretty much any image with bright uniform surfaces like the sky, small dark dots or threads. The mirror seems to have a way of finding new dust just as frequently, making the viewfinder preview quite dirty. I'm reasonably careful about never leaving the cap off, changing lenses quickly while orienting the camera upright or face down, but it doesn't help.

I suspect what happened is that for a couple years it was stored in open air (no bag/case) in my bedroom, which tends to get quite dusty, and dust got inside the body during that period and is just shifting around as the camera is moved. But I don't have any idea how to clean that dust away - it seems to be inaccessible without completely disassembling the device.

Also, I just upgraded to a D800 and would prefer to avoid this happening again if I can. Would appreciate any tips on either topic. Thanks!

Edit: In case it's relevant, my lens set is all Nikon circa 2009, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, a 105mm f/2.8G macro, and a 50mm f/1.4D.

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What lenses do you typically use? Those without internal focus and zooming tend to behave as a bellows, and not all are airtight at the rear element. –  Blrfl Jul 12 '12 at 19:52
    
Added my lenses to the question. I'm pretty sure my 50mm f/1.4D is the only one without internal focus and zooming. I might consider an upgrade to the 50mm f/1.4G. However it would surprise me if this is the cause because I don't use my 50mm very often. –  Derrick Coetzee Jul 12 '12 at 23:04
    
Primes don't tend to contribute to that problem since they don't move very far. (BTW, I've compared the D and G versions of the 50 and like the D better.) –  Blrfl Jul 13 '12 at 10:53
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would assume that you are correct in that dust has "worked its way in" to the camera and is now dispersing itself around the innards!.

You might consider having it professionally cleaned out.

I have a D300 and use it regularly semi-professionally, several times a week, regularly changing lenses - it is usually kept in a bag. I have never needed to clean the sensor in 3 years of ownership. I don't "baby" the thing, just keep it clean.

I do, however regularly clean the camera - i use an air duster, always try to keep the outside of the body spotless. and remove any particles from the area inside the mirror area.

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I think you're right that professional cleaning is the way to go, but it's fairly expensive and I'm right about to sell this camera. Should a camera be cleaned before reselling? Or should I just mention in the description that cleaning is needed? Also, for my new camera, is an air duster needed for cleaning the exterior or will a microfiber cloth work fine? Thank you! –  Derrick Coetzee Jul 13 '12 at 21:36
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TBH I wouldnt mention it - a buyer has to expect a camera in "used condition" to have an amount of dust in/around it. you'll risk signifficantly lowering its value if you state it needs cleaning. As it happens I just traded my D300 in for a D800 - its EPIC!!!! I use canned air dusters to clean the exterior of mine, and microfibre cloths for the screens. –  Darkcat Studios Jul 14 '12 at 12:32
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There are many nooks and crannies in a modern dslr mirror box to hold (and hide) dust. If it's just dust - not fluid - I use a strong blower (like the VisibleDust Hurricane Blower) with the body held lens mount down. As I compress the blower with a quick, strong squeeze, I quickly (but carefully) move the body up, away from the blower in as smooth a motion as I can.

This usually gets rid of the larger bits, but it also can send the dust into other spaces within the mirror box, so it usually takes a few hits before I'm satisfied. Make sure the blower isn't too far into the mirror box that it comes in contact with the sensor.

I also do this with my lenses, mount-side down, cause there are lots of nooks and crannies in them as well.

Static is the primary culprit - every dslr sensor is electrostatically charged. Even though most bodies have an anti-static coating, there is always static present. Dust can adhere any time the mirror box is open to the air. In my experience, lens type has no impact. Once the mirror starts slapping around during capture, it all gets rattled loose, and goes straight for the sensor.

If the material on the sensor is fluid-based, there are other tools available - a blower is basically useless - but the process for remoal is much more daunting, involving contact with the sensor. As such, I recommend seeking professional assistance.

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