A dusty sensor and a reasurring sunrise

In October of 2012 I purchased my first DSLR, a Nikon D600. From the moment I first used it I was sure that the research I had done had paid off and that the camera was the right one for me. That Honeymoon lasted nearly a year when I began to notice an alarming amount of dust in my images. An internet search revealed that, due to an oily residue which was being dispersed by the shutter, the sensor of the D600 had been plagued with problems from the day of its release. [For those with interest, the dust was settling on the low-pass filter which is part of the sensor. A low-pass filter, also known as an anti-aliasing filter, is intended to eliminate moiré, a pattern which occurs when a scene contains repetitive detail that exceeds the sensor resolution.] I had two options, I could send the camera to Nikon for repair or try and clean the thing myself. Given my fear of damaging the sensor, I posted the D600 to a Nikon repair facility. About a month later the camera returned, the dust was gone (Nikon had replaced the shutter and cleaned the sensor) and I was overjoyed. About two weeks ago (nearly a year after the repair) I noticed that my images were showing dust again.  Although I did not count, I would estimate that there were upwards of one hundred bits of oil and dust on the sensor, and every last one could be discerned, clearly, in a digital RAW file. Joanna and I were planning a bit of a road trip and I didn’t want to take the camera along with the sensor in the shape it was in. I didn’t have time to send the thing back to Nikon and I surely didn’t have the cash to purchase a new body (a Nikon D810, by the way, for those who might consider themselves benefactors). What was I to do? Joanna suggested I clean the sensor myself. This was the very thing I most feared. To make a long story short, we drove to a local camera shop and purchased cleaning materials made by Photographic Solutions. I am ashamed to admit that my hands shook so violently when preparing to clean the sensor that Joanna had to apply the cleaning solution to the wand which is drawn across the delicate low-pass filter. I took a pass to the right and across the sensor, flipped the wand, and took a return pass to the left. I took some test shots and discovered that I had not destroyed the sensor and that the cleaning had been effective. There was, however, a bit of dust remaining so I tried once more and was able to clean the sensor to my satisfaction. To say that I was relieved would surely be an understatement. Below is one of the first images I was able to capture with my newly cleaned sensor. There were just one or two spots which I was able to remove in post-processing, but nothing like the number that had been there before. The image is of a reflected sunrise. I hope you enjoy it … I absolutely guarantee it to be dust-free.


16 thoughts on “A dusty sensor and a reasurring sunrise

  1. THE perfect image! I spot something intriguing: I see a wavy background pattern, like blurry over-layed grey stripes – parallel to the long side. But this does not seem to be really in the image – it goes away when I download the image and zoom in. It is more like a Moiré pattern or some optical illusion. Actually it seems to be latter as this effect depends on what I have looked at immediately before. I am aware of such effects textbook-style (“focus on the red cross in the middle of the green square …” or something like this) but it never happened to me when I “just looked” at an image. Probably the eye/mind needs to insert some pattern into that perfect evenness.

    • Hmmm … I’ll go back and take a look. Post-processing can sometimes do some very funny, and unintended, things to images. I this case, and believe it or not, I did very, very little to the original RAW image. Thanks for being only one of two of my followers who would be thinking about such things. D

    • I see it too and it is amazing! It’s a trick of the eye, not a fault in the image. I did a quick search to see if this one had a name but was unable to find it. Aside from that, this is also absolutely stunning. I am glad to hear that the cleaning process worked. Funny – I could see the same thing happening to me. From time to time whenever I have to do something delicate, difficult and risky and it does not always end well 😦 so I am glad to see that this time all’s well. I imagine that is something you are going to have to do from time to time from now on. I am going to take a look at my Canon to see if the same thing is happening to it.

    • Thanks Audrey … I would be exaggerating if I said that I as still shaking from the experience, for I am NOT. But it was a very scarey thing to do. Now that I’ve done it once however, the second-time-around should be much easier. D

  2. Congrats on taking a chance and getting the job done! Looking forward to more dust-free photos from Scraggy! What a perfect week to be near the ocean! Enjoy!

  3. Beautiful image. I’d say you have passed Sensor Cleaning 101. As I continue to look at this image I am reminded of that most famous of lines … and there was light. This really is a beauty.

  4. I frequently use my camera’s built-in ultrasonic cleaning mechanism, which does some good but not as much as I’d like. I also occasionally use a little blower to blow dust off the sensor. I know the dread of cleaning the sensor with a moistened swab, so I hold off for as long as I can; if there are relatively few specks I just let them be and remove them in processing.

    I hadn’t heard about the Nikon D810, which I see replaces both the D800 and D800E. I’m getting sorrier and sorrier I didn’t switch over to Nikon two years ago, even though it would’ve meant splurging on several new lenses as well as a camera body. Will Canon finally get its act together and bring out a camera that can compete with the D810? We’ll find out soon enough, probably at Photokina.

    • Indeed. The dust issue with D600 has been a real headache and Nikon came to its corporate senses when it released the D610 (a true fix for the problem). The replacement shutter that I had installed does spew less oily stuff but I am glad, nonetheless, that I have now conquered my fears about sensor cleaning, for I believe I will have to do one regularly on the unit that I’ve got. The D810 is a real beauty. I’m saving my pennies and beginning to drop very large hints to Joanna! D

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