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Dust and D-SLR's.....My Nikon D40 Nightmare....

by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 11:17 AM PDT

This was a Nikon technician's (I will keep him nameless) "official" word on dust on the low pass filter/sensor, which I already have on my Nikon D40, after less than 2 weeks of ownership. My retailer, which will remain nameless, is exchanging it for a brand new one tomorrow. I love the camera, but, come on guys. And, have D-SLR's even been around for this long?


I've been using D-SLR cameras for almost 15 years and dust is always an issue. In most cases I never worry about cleaning dust from the cameras because usually the dust doesn't show up. If I am shooting a smooth toned subject (clear blue sky, gray background, etc.) I will clean the sensor with a bulb blower and it works fine. Keep the camera pointed down and use a few puffs from the blower. You can usually see the dust on the internal filter if you get the light just right so it may take a few puffs to clean it off, but it almost always works fine.

This is perfectly normal and after a few months will become routine. Even some of the newer cameras which purport to have "anti-dust" sensors and special devices require this cleaning and it shouldn't be feared. Thanks

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This was my response to the Nikon technician.....
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 11:33 AM PDT

Sorry, but that really is not very acceptable. I bought what I thought was a fine instrument. And as such, I was not in any way expecting to become a part-time camera technician. And, that D-SLR's have even been in production for 15 years is complete news to me. Believe me, I love the camera. But as this is being heavily promoted by Nikon as a beginner's D-SLR, and is marketed to people migrating from traditional point and shoot's, asking them to perform maintenance on delicate, expensive instruments in order to get original "out of the box" performance out of the camera, seems to be asking a lot. My own retailer is hesitant to do any cleaning such as you described, and all of the guys at this store are photographers by way of background. Even they have great reluctance to perform such maintenance on this camera.

Do you have any more detailed instructions on how to do this, other than the somewhat vague and ambiguous instructions in the owner's manual?



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Sensor dust cleaning
by hjfok / May 24, 2007 11:51 AM PDT

Here is a link discussing about this issue:
Hope this helps.

Usually you don't need to clean the sensor for quite some time even with moderate use. Just as suggested, most people keep the camera pointed down when they change the lens. Try to do it in a clean dust-free environment if possible. And turn off your camera before changing lens. Store the camera in a dust-free camera bag when not in use.
There is comercial sensor cleaning kit, some even comes with sensor scope to help you magnify and see the sensor as you inspect and clean it.
Professional sensor cleaning is available but is costly.

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Maybe badly worded...
by fionndruinne / May 24, 2007 11:53 AM PDT

I don't know about the 15 years thing (he must mean SLR cameras, not DSLRs), but it is true that, no matter whether you like it or not, you're going to get some dust in there, and once in a while will have to clean it. Now, unless you switch lenses a lot, your cleanings will be few and far between, but when you unpacked your camera you introduced some dust, however little, into the sensor area. Every few months? No. But once in a while yes, and you should familiarize yourself with using a bulb blower. It's totally simple, not a "technician's" process. Use mirror lock-up in the menu, take off the lens, tilt the camera facing down, and blow some air in there. As long as you don't do it in a dusty area or do something stupid with the tip of the blower, you're fine. It becomes dangerous only when you use swabs of any kind on the low-pass filter.

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Are you serious?
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 12:02 PM PDT
In reply to: Maybe badly worded...

Yes, I have researched this phenomenon extensively. I have to say, until they come up with some fundamental design modifications to minimize the dust issue, that these manufacturers, not just Nikon, are going to scare off a lot of novices. I mean, a $600 camera, and here I am faced with having to open it up, awkwardly hold it upside down, and blast air from a bulb blower into the low pass filter, after forcing it open through the menu? Come on, guys. I just thank goodness I didn't spend more money on it, like I almost did. I'd face the same potential problems, and put even more expensive optics at risk.


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A $600 camera is a Chevy Nova in the DSLR world.
by Desperado JC / May 24, 2007 12:24 PM PDT
In reply to: Are you serious?

If you want a Mercedes complete with moisture and dust seals, Canon has a new one called the EOS-1D Mark III. The camera body (without lense) will sell for about $4,500. It has a sibling, with much higher resolution, that goes for around $8,000.

There is an answer however. Never change the lense, and you will probably not get dust inside the camera.


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These are not automobiles.....
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 12:31 PM PDT

I understand. And thanks, but I do not need to be lectured. And, that same EOS-1D Mark III is as suceptable to dust as my $600 Nikon, acording to the techs at Nikon. Sorry, but I'd rather risk 600 than 8 grand, by blowing air into the silly thing. I mean, come on, this is 2007, not 1950. And the car analogy is a poor one. D-SLR concepts are pretty consistant amongst brands, and price points.


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I don't think I would get my information about a cutting
by Desperado JC / May 24, 2007 2:05 PM PDT

edge, pro-level Canon camera from Nikon techs. It's kind of a poor source of information if you know what I mean.

Actually, my understanding is that the Mark III will have a feature which shakes dust off the camera's sensor.

Cars, like other metaphors, help communicate with people who may not otherwise understand.

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OK, makes sense....
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 6:10 PM PDT

Ok, now I get it. Thanks.

There is a whole cottage industry out there surrounding D-SLR's and dust.

Many theories, few clear answers.


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You are all proving my point, already.....
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 12:27 PM PDT
In reply to: Maybe badly worded...

And, there is no consensus in what clearly is a hobby dominated by "zealots". Just in this thread alone I have seen suggestions to use air, swabs, not use swabs, brushes, not use brushes, you get the idea. Clearly there is no "right" way. Nor does there seem to be a very good way. So, you guys are already validating my utter frustration with this situation.


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Yet, they won't cover a simple cleaning.....
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 12:41 PM PDT


No anti dust system. Nikon were actually a little defensive on this one. It's easy to see why. All the entry level offerings from other manufacturers include some form of anti dust system and a common fear from first time DSLR buyers is that they will damage their camera trying to clean it or run up huge bills having it cleaned professionally. Nikon did explain why they believe they don't need an anti dust system though - the whole camera is designed not to create dust in the first place - a common misconception is that dust in a DSLR come from the outside. In fact it's often left over from manufacturing or created as the parts inside grind against each other. Nikon have designed the shutter mechanism so that it produces very little dust (actually they said ?no dust?) and the whole mechanism is ?run in? before assembly. Various parts are designed with an anti static coating and finally the low pass filter (which sits over the CCD and is where dust would collect) has a gap behind it. Any dust on the filter will be out of focus and so much less noticeable. Whether this stands up in the real world remains to be seen but it's much easier for Canon and Sony to explain why users don't need to worry about dust in their cameras.

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by fionndruinne / May 24, 2007 3:31 PM PDT

You're overreacting a little here. First off, if you listened to salesmen instead of experienced camera owners before you bought your camera, that was a misstep. The fact of the matter is that dust comes with the DSLR sensor territory. Cleaning the low-pass filter is not as daunting a process as you are making it out to be, and the mirror lock-up was designed just for doing so. Blowing some air is utterly safe unless you do something stupid. And let me repeat, NO DSLR is untouchable by dust. It's just something to consider. If you didn't think that your $600 camera wouldn't take a little more effort to maintain, one would wonder how much you knew about these things.

And as to dust reduction systems, they continually show themselves to be largely gimmicks. Canon's and Sony's are both very ineffectual, and the fact of the matter is, you can have either five dust specks or ten - they'll still blot your pictures, making cleaning still a necessity. Olympus has the best system, where instead of vibrating the sensor, they vibrate a foil strip in front of the sensor, and an adhesive strip picks up the dust. Is that brilliant, or are the others just stupid, with the idea of shaking off dust which then does - what? Remains in the sensor area just waiting to reassume its place on the sensor itself.

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by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 6:08 PM PDT
In reply to: .

I am going to start by cleaning with a blower, and following Nikon's mirror lock up procedure detailed in the book. But, I am taking advantage of my retailer's generous offer initially, to have the camera replaced today. And then, not do anything until I notice the 1st dust bunny.

I agree that the internal dust cleaning systems out there on cameras seem to largely be gimmicks.

Sorry, but as a novice, I just find this to be rather frustrating, and a rather daunting task. There are camera veterans out there who have expressed their intimidation with doing this, Clearly, I am not alone.

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Nikon's Latest Response
by ArthurJS / May 24, 2007 11:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks....

OK, I found this response to be somewhat reasonable. And, check out the link to some ancient D-SLR's!


I am sorry that my answer was somehow offensive to you, I certainly did not mean it to be. I was simply trying to remove some of the stigma that many users have towards routine camera maintenance. While the D40 is a high quality instrument this does not mean that routine maintenance and cleaning can be prevented. Just like cleaning your car can protect the surface and make it easier to use (a clean windshield is easier to see through than a dirty one) cleaning the camera's filter (or the lens' front and rear element) is a normal part of camera operation.

To clean the filter simple lock the mirror up using the setup menu option, turn the camera over, insert the tip of a bulb blower a bit inside the lens mount (not too far, and certainly not pushing on or resting on any parts) and squeeze to blow a burst of air into the camera. This burst of air will dislodge any dust stuck to the sensor and gravity will pull it out (or it will land somewhere harmless). I hope this helps.

P.S. While consumer level D-SLR's have only been available for the last five or so years, the technology is not new. Kodak released a Nikon F3 based D-SLR in 1991 and then in 1992 the follow on DCS-200 (based on a Nikon 8008 body). These were generally pro level cameras that we used in the newspaper and journalism fields. These were the first two mass production units but led to a whole line of other models DCS-420, DCS-460, NC-2000, etc. If you are interested there is more information here:

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Dust problem
by hjfok / May 25, 2007 12:55 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks....

For any hobby involving high tech equipment, it is always an advantage to learn how to take care of the equipment. The dust problem is universal to all D-SLR, even the $30,000 Hassalblad will face the same problem if you change the lens. Don't let this make you paranoid. Most of the time this won't affect you photos. And if it does, the cleaning process is quite easy, as outlined above. Taking care of equipment is part of the hobby, and is not unique to photography. I have to learn how to assemble my scuba diving equipment correctly, and how to maintain it. My life is dependent on good maintainance and precise operation of my diving equipment, a much bigger potential problem than just some dust. So relax, and enjoy photography, a really harmless hobby.

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