A tale of woe

I have decided that those who read this blog are being way too polite! Why did no one comment on the artifacts so obviously visible in the image taken from the Hyner overlook? And what about those in the photo of the Piper Cub? Either no one saw them, which is hard to believe, or you’re all afraid of hurting my feelings. Come on people, look at all of those spots! It all began a few months ago when I began noticing what looked like dust in a number of my images. The spots were small enough but numerous in views which included large expanses of sky and taken with small apertures. Post processing provided a quick fix but didn’t isolate or solve the problem. I was convinced that my 14-24 mm lens was the culprit, for I read that its massive (and convex) front element was notorious for attracting dust.  I cleaned obsessively … with little effect, the spots remained. So, I did what any other connected person would do and scanned the internet to see what I could discover about this issue. It didn’t take long (thanks Google for providing 282,000 hits on this topic in just 0.38 seconds). It seems that many who use Nikon’s D600 DSLR already knew what I did not – that the image sensor was particularly efficient at attracting and holding on to both dust (from the environment) and oil (from the camera itself, the shutter, in fact). I proceeded to spend my evenings watching YouTube videos which described how to clean the image sensor of a DSLR. I learned about dry techniques, wet techniques, techniques which use puffs of air, techniques that use fancy brushes, wands, swabs, and Q-tips, and techniques that employed fluids to dissolve away the offending detritus. I spent nearly $100 on a viewing loupe which allowed me to visualize the nasty accumulations. Just as I was about to try and clean the thing myself I learned that doing so would have voided my Nikon warranty. What should I have done? Deal with the dust and rely on processing to remove it … for as long as I continued to use the camera? [Sure, why not? That only takes hours for each image.] Attempt to clean the sensor myself? [Ya, right.] Send the camera to Nikon to be professionally cleaned? [This would have, I’m sure, been akin to launching the thing into a Black Hole.] To make a long story short … my D600 is now at a Nikon service facility in New York. To my surprise, Nikon recognized the problem and agreed to clean the sensor and to replace the shutter mechanism, under warranty. So, I am without my D600 for perhaps 10 -14 days. What am I going to do? I don’t suppose it’s really all that bad for I do have the Sony HX9V as a fall back and that is what I used to capture the image below. [Sony just announced the release of its RX100, by all measures an even more exceptional compact camera than the HX9V.] The image isn’t too bad even in the light of limitations imposed by its JPEG format (you can click the image for a slightly larger view). It’s gonna be a long ten days … I WANT MY BABY BACK.


25 thoughts on “A tale of woe

  1. Many years ago – at the university – I had to clean the optical components of my setup in the lab, in particular the lenses of the laser emitting short 248nm UV light pulses (after dismantling the resonator). I thought that this cleaning procedure was tricky and sophisticated … but reading about your adventure and advice given by experts in internet discussion groups it seems a modern camera is even more sensitive than a high-tech laser!

    • This ‘sensor thing’ has been a real headache Elke. The camera still isn’t back! I did call Nikon two days ago and they say that’ll the thing is scheduled to be on the table on Monday. I’m hoping to have it back by the end of next week. I noted, in one of your comments to Maurice’s most recent post, that you’ve submitted your thesis – congratulations! Good for you! D

  2. I have a constant problem with dust on my sensor – I don’t know if its because of where we live or I don’t clean house often enough. I cannot afford to have in professionally cleaned that often so I have a blower I use that I have been pretty much success with.

    • Which camera are you using? Does it have an on-board (firmware) routine to clean the sensor at start up? The D600 has this – but its problem was due to the shutter. If you are able to eliminate the dust with a few puffs from a blower, you are lucky indeed. Thanks for checking on Maralee. D

    • Don’t tell your husband, but every time I see ‘Mitzi’ in the comments section … my heart skips a beat. Thanks so much for taking the time to write a few words. I am feeling quite guilty about not responding to your very informative letter of several weeks ago. Can you forgive me? It sounds as if you and Josh have really settled in – I am so glad. I do promise to write as soon as we get a thoroughly rainy day and I am forced to play the role of ‘shut in.’ Thanks again … lovely to hear from you. D PS: Was weed whacking the fencelines the other day and thought of you and Josh when I hit that north-east corner! Your influence lives on at the farm.

  3. Robb and I just exclaimed “WOW!” at the same time 🙂 Sorry to hear about your camera woes, but a camera is just a tool right, you have the eye …

    • You must be channeling my Mother. I’m soooo bad … your nice email is STILL waiting to be responded to … what’s my problem? Say ‘Hi’ to everyone! D

  4. Your ‘second’ camera is clearly better than my ‘first.’ Too bad; it’s not a bad one, a Canon EOS. The truth is, though, that my camera phone is good enough for most of my needs so I’ve gotten lazy and tend to just leave the good one home. Yes, spots, on the sensor are generally the culprit for localized degradation. Flaws, on the lens itself, tend to cause a more general degradation of the whole image; not just bits of it. Typically what you’ll notice is that the f-stops will have to be a bit more open because the scratch affects light-gathering more than resolution. Second, you may see a bit more lens flare. The thing is that light hitting most all parts of the front element is redirected to most all parts of the sensor, depending on the angle at which it hits the element, and not the actual position on which it strikes the element. Notice I’m saying ‘most’ because there is a small positional effect, depending on how far the image is from the lens; it’s all about the angle of the field of view that is being used. The closer in you get to the sensor the more pronounced this effect will be. This means that the same flaw or scratch on the inside-most lens element may have a more noticeable effect if it’s big enough. Mind you the scratch would likely have to be pretty big to be noticed – one of the benefits of SLRs having nice big lenses. You can even take a decent enough picture if the front element is cracked through and most viewers including most definitely me would not notice it–assuming, of course, that the impact that produced the crack did not throw the rest of the elements out of alignment (which it probably would). As I write this it’s striking me that knowledge of how things work (I’m a physics major) and the ability to use them well are two different things. I wish I could take pictures like you. You do realize you could sell those, if you chose, right? 🙂

    • Yes. Given what you have pointed out, I don’t know why I still obsessively clean my lenses. I suppose it’s simply out of habit. I haven’t really investigated this topic in very much depth but, apparently the sensor generates a static charge that attracts dust particles. I wonder why the thing can’t ground itself each time it either turns on or turns off? Wouldn’t that allow whatever was adhering to fall under the influence of gravity? Seems like a simple thing. Anyway the most recent cameras have cleaning routines (which, I think, involve vibrating the sensor or a filter which is positioned in front of it) as part of the firmware … but these don’t seem to do much. But dust on the sensor, as opposed to dust on the lens, is a really big deal. It was one I tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore. Thanks for providing a bit of a ‘pill’ that might help me get over the need to continually clean my lenses though. Nothing like a bit of reason to, perhaps, allow me to change my ways. D

      • I just dug around a bit and found this article. It can also help you take heart. He includes some examples of pictures taken from an increasingly obstructed/destroyed front lens element (http://kurtmunger.com/dirty_lens_articleid35.html). Now, greasy streaks are a different matter altogether. They alter the refractive properties by (a) making parts of the lens have a slightly different refractive index (b) slightly altering the lens shape as the grease has a slight bulge (c) causing random effects resulting in lens flare, owing to the uneven shape of the grease stain. So cleaning the lens is not a totally bad idea but not for the dust.

        • Where in the world did you come up with that piece? Very useful … thanks very much … I did indeed learn something today. PLEASE KEEP OFF THE ROOF! I once used a ladder to get myself on top of a relatively small garden shed. Going up was easy, but getting down was another matter. For some reason I could not get up the nerve to walk on to the ladder backwards (facing the shed … the way I came up) … I thought Joanna was going to have to call the fire company! The only way I could manage to get down was to mount the ladder in reverse, facing away from the shed – go figure! In my defense, I ain’t afraid of snakes, spiders, ticks, the dark, or thunder! D

  5. I agree with Eleanore! Wow, that’s a superb image! I like it very much. I don’t usually salivate over a picture of a cornfield, but this is something else! 🙂 Should I try to refrain from my usual cornfield humor? Nah … why not! “Out! Damned spot!” 😉

    • I can always depend upon you for support and a laugh George. Sounds like you are well … I’m glad. We’re hot, hot, hot here in PA. Don’t know how you put up with life down south. D

  6. This is such a delicious photo … so the back up camera is clearly reasonable, and deserves a wee chance to play while your favourite baby gets fixed. I didn’t really notice your dust spots … but I begin to suspect that you’re something if a perfectionist David!
    Is this one of your own fields? What plants are we looking at here?

    • OCD is my middle name. Well, not really but if it could be, it would be. Guilty as charged. How did you know? It’s kind of funny (or sad … I don’t know which) that you picked up on that particular personality flaw! The corn field is not ours but is down by the Susquehanna along a road I travel often on my trips to town. I liked your characterization of this image as ‘delicious.’ I’ve been enjoying all of the beautiful images which have appeared at breathofgreenair recently – keep it up. D

  7. This is a beautiful, but I understand your attachment to the Nikon. It will return … and this camera truly has a place in your portfolio!

    • Thanks Audrey (?). I do like the Sony very much, it is an amazing camera and I relied on it absolutely before I purchased the D600. Now that I have the Nikon however I find it’s FX sensor, wide array of lenses, and seemingly limitless capacities attractive to say the least. The Sony is at my side when when I don’t fancy dragging 15 pounds of equipment along – so it continues to play an important role for me. It has been really frustrating, however, to be out and about and happen upon an interesting subject or shot and to ONLY have the Sony with me … and kick myself for not bringing along the Nikon. Thanks for your interest and for taking the time to respond. D

      • I understand completely. I have both my Nikon and my little SONY HX300 with me whenever I am at the rescue. I find the later is great for quick zooms and dog action shots in less than ideal light. But I would be lost without my Nikon. Ogee (yes … Audrey) 🙂

  8. Looks pretty nice to me! Smart to stick with the warranty vs trying to clean the thing yourself! I assume this is all corn. Must be a tough task keeping them well watered in this heat!

    • This is field corn. Farmers don’t usually irrigate unless conditions turn for the worst … like no rain for several weeks. And only the Big Boys have irrigation equipment. So, you see, farming is quite a gamble … if the rains should stop a guy could watch his entire investment of seed, fertilizer, fuel, and time dry and wither. This has happened several seasons since we’ve been here. It’s why the government offers these guys crop insurance. Aren’t you glad you’re not a farmer?

      • Farmer? I can barely keep the herb pot on my back porch alive! Too much time and effort to keep everything weeded, watered, mulched and away from the animals. AND, when it’s been as hot as it’s been, who wants to be outside to tend to these jobs? Not me! Have to admire those who do venture down that path and take the leap of faith that all will work out in the end!

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