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Dust on Sensor and How to Avoid it

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by goldenlight, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Micro Four Thirds cameras protect the sensor with an anti-dust mechanism that was originally developed and patented by Olympus for use in their Four Thirds DSLR range. It has a proven track record and is widely acknowledged as being the best and most effective dust reduction system, bar none. However, even this system is not 100% infallible and there is a fair chance that most users will encounter a stubborn spot of foreign matter that refuses to budge from the sensor at some point during prolonged use.

    There are, however, a number of ways to minimize this risk.

    Firstly, always turn the camera off when changing lenses. This will help reduce any static charge on the sensor, which attracts dust in the first place. Also, it means that when you switch the camera back on the Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) will activate, shaking any newly acquired dust from the sensor (or, more accurately, from the filter in front of the sensor).

    When removing a lens always use your body to shield the camera from the wind and keep the lens throat pointing down for the whole time that the lens is removed. Have the replacement lens ready with rear cap loosened to minimize the time that the sensor is exposed. Keep the rear elements of your lenses clean to avoid transporting dust into the camera body. If a stubborn spec becomes apparent after changing lenses, turn the camera off and on several times to activate the SSWF – it might just do the job.

    With care, your sensor can remain effectively dust free for a very long time. Doubters will always say there is probably dust present but you just can’t see it. My reaction is, if I can’t see it I don’t care! I’ve used an Olympus E-3 regularly and with constant lens changing for over 4 years; before that an E-500 and an E-510. More recently I’ve used an E-PL1, E-P3 and E-M5. I can’t really count the E-PL1, however, as I used it with a kit zoom and never changed lenses. The others, however, have all had regular lens changes, particularly the E-3 over an extended period of time. I’ve never, ever, been aware of dust on a sensor or had any cause to clean one.
    • Like Like x 11
  2. akkers

    akkers Mu-43 Regular

    May 25, 2012
    I didn't know that my Panasonic gx1 had an anti dust mechanism. Thanks for the info!
  3. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Yes, it uses the same SSWF as Olympus. :smile:
    • Like Like x 1
  4. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    This is an important point. Most of the dust on the sensor is irrelevant as it's invisible on most images. The extra-thick AA filter glass on 4/3 sensors helps with that too, as do the reasons to avoid going past f/8 in most cases.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. apbtlvr

    apbtlvr Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 10, 2012
    I would also add that exposing one's camera to sudden changes in temperature or humidity can cause existing dust to become "welded" to the sensor and making it MUCH harder to remove. You will know this has happened when the dust specs on your images have faint rings around them.

    Walking outside of a dry air conditioned house into wet rainy conditions is one way to make this happen. Having cleaned sensors on Nikon DX & FX bodies, I know what laborious and expensive PITA it is. The materials are costly, the workflow painstaking and there's no guarantee that you won't simply rearrange that accumulated crap from one side of the sensor to the other. Seriously
    I have not had reason to clean the sensor on my GX1 yet, thank God.

    A good method of determining how much crud has accumulated on one's camera sensor is to take a photo of a white background using a wide angle lens, small aperture (f/22) and manual focus. A tripod is also a must. Open the image in Photoshop and examine the results after running "Auto Levels". Expect to be shocked.

    The smaller m43s bodies and the GX1 in particular have some advantage over larger cameras in that they will fit into a 2-3 gallon zip lock bag with ease. Found in most grocery stores, I keep a fresh one of these bags with my camera gear and they make for a cheap and effective way to change lenses in dusty or sandy environments. Not a perfect solution but it does help.

    There's a wealth of of products and info on cleaning sensors online. If you fancy building ships in a bottle, then you'll probably enjoy cleaning your own sensor. Otherwise, it might be better to have it done professionally.
    • Like Like x 5
  6. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    I have some personal long-term experience on this from my Nikon side. :eek:  :redface: :wink: I used a D200 for years and never had to clean the sensor and never had any discernable dust. The D200 did not have a sensor-shaker. The D200 finally moved on earlier this year, but it had quite a run in my bag. The D300 that joined it when it was introduced, and which does have a sensor shaker, has no dust.

    I assume that with reasonable use (such as not leaving the lens mount uncovered at the beach in a strong wind :wink: ) the Olympus and Panasonic cameras are not likely to need cleaning (which is a good thing, in the OM-D's case).
    • Like Like x 1
  7. arad85

    arad85 Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 16, 2012
    I've never had a camera with interchangeable lenses that doesn't get dust on the sensor at some time or other. The G5 is no exception. It just depends how much it worries you. Me: if I get a single speck, I'm sensor cleaning, but that's just me.
  8. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Thanks for this suggestion! I will start keeping a spare zip lock bag or 2 in my camera bag from now on! :thumbup:
  9. rossi46

    rossi46 Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 1, 2012
    i think i have plenty of dust on my sensor, do i need to send it back to panasonic for cleaning?
  10. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    That's one option, or if you feel confident you can buy a cleaning kit and attempt it yourself or if you have a good local camera store they may be able to do it for you or arrange for it to be done.

    Personally, I've never cleaned a sensor (never needed to) and I wouldn't feel confident. I certainly couldn't advise you how to do it but some of the Canon and Nikon users on here could probably help.

    If you do send it to Panasonic it might be worth enquiring the price of a full service.
  11. RDM

    RDM Mu-43 All-Pro

    So will you let us know what you decided to do?
    I am interested in knowing if you sent it in to Panasonic.
  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    I do everything mentioned in the first post when changing lenses. If you have some small particles around the lens mount area you might not want to blow them with a blower or it might become attached to the sensor. When I had my problems with the super tight 20mm that left metal shards laying around the mount, I used a canister vacuum with plastic crevice too to suck it out. Make sure the fan of the vacuum is far away to keep the dust out. The kid at work has a camera and had dust on his sensor. He doesn't really care so he cleaned it with some iPhone screen wipes after I told him not to. Not recommended but after he got all the smudges and skin oil off of it the pics look good as new! :eek: 
  13. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Great point about particles around the lens mount and using a vacuum, thanks. :smile:
  14. spacedogg79

    spacedogg79 Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 9, 2013
    Vancouver, Canada
    I read somewhere on the forums here that if you have a Olympus with IBIS...you should not attempt to clean dust off the sensor yourself as you may damage the IBIS system. Does anyone know how much the going rate (roughly) to have Olympus clean the sensor? Would be great to have this info stickied.
  15. chonbhoy

    chonbhoy Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 23, 2013
    Scottish Highlands
    Good question, I have read about the IBIS possibly being damaged too, which makes sense.
    If Olympus was charging an awful lot of money and there was a comprehensive guide specific to it and i was out of warranty I'd do it myself as I've done with a lot of fiddly electrical gear in the past, some of it not for the faint hearted but not being afraid of it is just arming yourself with the right knowledge, best practices and tools for the job.
  16. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro

    Don't put rear lens caps in your linty pocket as I used to do.

  17. chonbhoy

    chonbhoy Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 23, 2013
    Scottish Highlands
    I accidentally changed a lens without realising I hadn't switched my camera off today for the first time and then I read this post earlier "panic stations" but it's ok i wasn't in a dusty environment......pheeew!
  18. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Sure, but you are describing cameras that [a] have a mirror in front of the sensor, and have a normally closed shutter. µ4/3 cameras have none of that.

    I once had a major blob of 'something' on the sensor of my Canon G7, a fixed-lens point and shoot! I think I may have contributed by taking a few shots with the camera held outside the window of a moving car. But it does illustrate that we can't assume it's 'not a problem'.

    And I don't know about Boston, but in my corner of the world the air can get dusty and quite pollen-filled at times, as evinced by the prevalence of hay fever allergies.
  19. chonbhoy

    chonbhoy Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 23, 2013
    Scottish Highlands
    A great feature of ILC's in the future would be some kind of mechanical iris that would protect the sensor from foreign particles.
  20. Surely that shouldn't be too hard to do, wonder why they haven't? It just needs to engage when you unlock the lens...
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