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by Bart Arondson

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Possible Duplicate:
Best way to clean the sensor on a digital SLR?

Can anyone offer me advice on how to clean my camera's sensor?

  • Should I do this myself, or take the camera to a professional?
  • Is it precarious, or easy with the right amount of care?

I have a Nikon D3000 that has a small dot off-center of the sensor. I believe it is dirt, and I would like to remove it. I'm tempted to use a cotton-bud, but I'm afraid that I might damage the sensor.

The dot appeared after a trip to a tropical area where the camera became wet. I took the lens off and a lot of moisture, and possibly some dirt, went into the camera. The lens became fogged-up.

When I returned from my trip I ran a hair dryer for (air only, without heat) 10 minutes through the battery compartment, believing this would circulate around and dry the camera. Consequently, I noticed many speckled dots around the sensor. I also believe there's a subtle but persistent haze when I look through the lens, but I could be wrong.

It's worth noting that the photos are fine, with no evidence of distortion or blurring. The camera is now dry and it's been months since this happened. But the dot on the sensor has been there since, like an itch I can't rub.

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Looks to be a duplicate of photo.stackexchange.com/questions/12/… –  Craig Walker Mar 7 '11 at 20:08
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I don't think this is a duplicate, because it asking whether he should clean the sensor himself or get it professional cleaned, a debate I am dealing with now. The other question only deals with how to clean the sensor yourself. The answers in the other question do address this debate, even if it wasn't asked, though. I personally would like to see this question answered as-is in more detail. –  rm999 Mar 7 '11 at 22:34
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Not an exact duplicate because the other question is regarding a Canon, where the camera in this question has a self-cleaning function, and my answer below links to an article specifically on cleaning Nikon sensors. Also the Canon question starts from the point where a rocket blower hasn't dislodged the dust, where it's not clear in this question if the OP has tried anything yet. –  MikeW Mar 8 '11 at 0:05
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I've moved the self/pro question to the subject, so it's more clearly separate from the existing question (question number twelve on the site!). I've also removed the Nikon and model-specific tags, since the answer is similar across many models and brands. (@MikeW, it's useful to know that this model has a self-cleaning function, but most cameras do these days.) –  mattdm Mar 8 '11 at 12:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Take your camera to an authorized repair center and have it thoroughly cleaned. Sounds to me you've more than a small mote of dust in there, given where you've been and what happened I'd be worried about mold too.

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Given the history of your camera, I would agree with jwenting. –  labnut Mar 8 '11 at 13:30

The D3000 has a sensor cleaning function. If that isn't working, you can use mirror lock-up, take off your lens, hold the camera pointing down and use a rocket blower to blow some air. Nine times out of ten that will dislodge a speck of dust in my experience. If not, read up on sensor cleaning in Thom Hogan's site

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Since it's your first time with sensor dust, have it cleaned professionally to start.

Then I consider it an issue of frequency:

  • If you get dust only occasionally (every couple of months), go back to the pros. The job will be well done and the cost to you will be low.
  • If you see dust more often or you happen to travel for extended periods away from a service center you trust, learn to clean it yourself. It is not difficult but is rather delicate, I've made it more dirty many times!

For self cleaning, there are a bunch of methods. I use Visible Dust swabs and liquid.

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How much do professional cleanings generally cost (in the USA)? I'd like to weigh the option of self-cleaning against professional cleaning. At some point, spending a significant % of the value of a 250 dollar camera on regular professional cleanings may not be worth it to me. –  rm999 Mar 8 '11 at 17:49
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I'm in Canada where its free or about $25, depending where go. The Canon service center does it for free (officially not covered by warranty but done as a courtesy) and some stores if you bought your camera there (maybe there is a limit). Otherwise, they charge a flat fee. ...Then again, you can buy a new camera each time you reach 10 dust spots ;) –  Itai Mar 8 '11 at 19:40

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