To be quite honest I had almost forgotten about the problem of sensor dust and dirt until recently. Since I began using the Olympus EM5 in April 2013, I have cleaned my camera sensor a grand total of 0 times. Yes that’s ZERO times. It has never shown a single spot on any of the images. I don’t know how Olympus has managed to create such wizardry but they I wish they would sell the secret to some of the other camera manufacturers. Allow me to share some of my other experiences in trying to keep my camera sensors clean.
If I go back to my main camera prior to the EM5, it was a Canon 5D MKII. This did suffer from a few dust spots and required a clean every few months. The method I used at the time was a sensor pen that was very similar to the lens pens you see on sale now. It was sold for a few pounds from 7 day shop and was good for multiple cleans. This was an incredibly effective cleaning method and I always ended up with a spotless sensor that seemed to hold off becoming dirty for a reasonable duration.
Unfortunately these pens went out of production and I needed something else. I turned to the Arctic Butterfly brush. This seemed quite effective when used with the Canon and life seemed simple. Shoot for a few months watching out for the return of dust spots then clean with the Arctic Butterfly and start shooting again.
But life became frustrating again when I bought the Nikon D800. This seemed to be prone to a rapid build-up of spots on the sensor that seemed very stubborn. The once effective Arctic Butterfly seemed shift only about half of the spots. After only a few weeks with that camera I decided I needed to use a different cleaning method and turned to VisibleDust green sensor swabs. The swabs came with different cleaning fluids for different forms of sensor dirt. I chose a cleaner called Smear Away that was supposed to clean any oil spots that might have been created by the mirror mechanism. I have to say that these worked well for the short time I had the camera but they are possibly the least economical solution I have ever used, especially given how quickly the sensor became dirty.
Now I have moved on to the Sony A7R and I am finding the sensor also accumulates dirt quite quickly. After a few outings I have seen the return of the sensor spots. My solution was to turn to the Arctic Butterfly again. All seemed well until I returned from my last trip to find some very strange marks on my images. You can see an example below.
On closer inspection I have found this to be oil. My suspicion is that its oil left over from cleaning the Nikon D800.
It’s a little annoying as I now have quite a few images from my last trip to clean up. I also needed to return to the Green sensor swabs to clean off the oil, which they did very effectively although I have noticed a further problem with the Green swabs. They don’t clean around the edges of the sensor very well. My suspicion is that the ends of the swab are actually quite soft and this prevents you being able to clean the edges well.
But fear not I have found a new alternative on Amazon
This is the “XCSOURCE 10pcs Sensor Cleaner Cleaning Swab Kit”. Given I was paying £16 for 4 green swabs, 10 swabs for £9 seems like a bargain. I can still use the sensor cleaning fluid I used before but it’s the construction of the swabs that I like most. The cleaning material is pulled tight over the swab which means it’s quite ridged on the corners allowing you to clean right up to the edges of the sensor. You can see a picture of the two swabs side by side below.
I’m impressed and my sensor is now spotless.
And one added bonus is that the full frame swabs that I’m using are also compatible with Micro 43. If the Olympus EM5 ever dust get a dust spot on it I now have the means to clean it.