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Advice for cleaning the CCD image sensor

Advice for cleaning the CCD image sensor on Nikon digital SLR cameras. Doesn’t look that scary….does anyone have any experience doing this? My D70 needs a little TLC in this area.

Reader comments

Richard EarneyJul 06, 2006 at 1:01PM

I use the Sensor Brush - it works a treat.

Remember you are actually cleaning the Anti-alias filter rather than the Sensor itself, so that might make it seem less scary!!

TroyJul 06, 2006 at 1:05PM

I've used Thom's sensor cleaning technique on my D70, and it worked perfectly for me. Just remember to work slowly and carefully -- and above all, be gentle! Remember that you're dealing with tiny bits of dust, so you don't need to apply very much pressure.

But warnings aside, it's a pretty quick and easy cleaning process.

Alexander MicekJul 06, 2006 at 1:14PM

I've cleaned the sensor (well, the cover that sits over the sensor ... on earlier models, you may very well be cleaning the actual CCD) on my Canon 300D once or twice - the internal components are surprisingly robust: they withstood my learning process of how to best clean. I found the method of using Kim wipes around a modified wooden boiling stick dipped in a little reagent grade ethanol works well for stubborn stains. For more frequent cleaning, up-ending the camera (so that the displaced dust falls out of the camera) and using a puffer bulb (supplied with most lens cleaning kits) works great.

I was hesitant to do this at first ... but a cleaner sensor sure beats all the clone tool work in Photoshop to clean up pictures shot at big F stops. Hope it goes well for you!

Terence PatrickJul 06, 2006 at 1:32PM

If you can avoid touching the sensor, even using Thom's technique, it'd be better for the camera. If you go to a camera shop, look for a tool called a Rocket Blower. Try this first as it should get out little bits of dust without leaving streaks or faint marks on the sensor's cover.

Whatever you do, DO NOT use compressed air in a can. Those things typically create more dust problems.

timJul 06, 2006 at 1:44PM

Hey Jason- I do this all the time, or at least as much as I need to-- and even in the field on my expensive D2Hs and D2x bodies. You'll never get everything, but you can clean up quite a bit.

ArminJul 06, 2006 at 1:53PM

I have to agree with Terence, I had a fairly big speck of dust on my D70 sensor and managed to blow it away with the the Rocket Blower.

If that does the job why even touch the sensor?

NickSJul 06, 2006 at 2:00PM

Green Clean has an awesome 'touchless' system that I've tried. I LOVE it. It uses a vacuum action to remove the dust/debris, then there's also a wet and try swab to give it the entire once-over.

The suck system is preferable to the blow system (easy on the jokes people) because with too much force, the debris can be blown inside the camera's body, and then you've got a much bigger problem. It's probably not that common, but I wouldn't want to find out...

WaltJul 06, 2006 at 2:05PM

Jason, I've cleaned the sensor on my D70 using a cloth-on-a-stick solution I came across somewhere. (Can't find the URL at the moment.) It was stressful but it worked as advertised and my shots have been spot-free ever since.

DarrenJul 06, 2006 at 3:24PM

MacWorld just had a great howto on cleaning a digital SLR. The example they used was D70. Here's a link to the online version of the tutorial: I just used a bulb-blower (sans the brush) and it did the trick.

PhotoplasiaJul 06, 2006 at 4:18PM

Call me crazy, but I use 100% isopropyl alcohol (not 'rubbing alcohol', which is 70% and denatured) and a cotton swab to clean my 20D - works like a charm.

If it was good enough for the optics in the laser lab, it's good enough for me.

elliottJul 06, 2006 at 5:49PM

q-tip and isopropil alcohol works for me. easy peasy.

OyvindJul 06, 2006 at 6:07PM

There's lots of good advice - and discussion - in the D70 Flickr group:

TommyJul 06, 2006 at 6:39PM

I've cleaned my D70's CCD a few times now using everything from a QTip dipped in Alcohol to monitor screen wipes. It's a pretty scary procedure the first time you do it but after you've done it a few times it's a doddle. Of course you could just bin it and get a D200.

Doug MacyJul 07, 2006 at 1:45AM

I second the Green Clean system mentioned by NickS. I have used the sensor vacuum on my D70. Works nice and a did a good job of grabbing a couple persistent visible dust spots.

q80_demonJul 13, 2006 at 4:52AM

Recently I wrote about this subject:

Flickr set:

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.