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Antarctic dust bunnies

If you shoot with a DSLR or any interchangeable lens setup, you will have to deal with dirt/dust on your image sensor. Photoshop's ACR has a tool for this, and both Photoshop and Lightroom have clone/healing brushes, but this process can be quite time consuming and when shooting videos is almost impossible to clean in post-processing. Sending your camera in to get cleaned and serviced is always an option, but several options exist to clean this off yourself - and done correctly are just as safe.

-A typical Antarctic bluebird sky ruined by dust bunnies.

Personally, I use a combination of a Sensor Gel Stick and a small handheld blower. First I'll put the camera in mirror lockup mode, and squeeze the blower to dispense air over the sensor and mirror box. It goes without saying that this should be done inside, and away from sources of dust.

If this proves futile (which it does often), I then move to the step involving the sensor gel stick. It's difficult to show the dust, but check out some visible dust spots on my sensor:

(for a closer view, try picking up a magnified loupe like this)


The process is simple:

  1. Clean the sensor gel stick by dabbing it on a clean section of the provided sticky paper.

  2. Lightly press the gel stick down onto your sensor and then pull straight upward.

  3. Clean the gel stick by dabbing it again onto a new clean section of sticky paper.

  4. Repeat.

(for a more detailed explanation, visit the vendor page.)


Apparently, a lot of knockoff brands produce this gel stick, so it's best to stick with a reputable source or you risk damaging your sensor. This is advertised to work with almost all interchangeable lens cameras, but be sure to check the product disclaimer from the vendor's website:

Supported Cameras: With the exception of Sony and Fuji mirrorless cameras listed below, the Sensor Gel Stick is known to work with all other brand digital interchangeable lens cameras, including: Nikon, Canon, Pentax/Ricoh, Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung. Some of our customers also reported successful use with medium format cameras from Hasselblad, Mamiya and Phase One.

Product Advisory: Sony’s, Fuji’s and Leica’s (latest versions) proprietary coating technologies on their mirrorless cameras might cause the Sensor Gel Stick to leave some residue on the surface of the sensor filter, which will require thorough wet cleaning. Please make sure to use the Sony version of the Sensor Gel Stick on these cameras, which works perfectly well on those. Below are the mirrorless cameras that should ONLY be used with the Sony version of the Sensor Gel Stick, not the regular version:

All Sony A7-series cameras (all models), A5xxx / A6xxx series, Sony NEX-series cameras (all models), Fuji X-series cameras (all models), Leica M9, Typ 240.


Of course, with everything else in the photography world, you have choices when cleaning your sensor and this is merely one option. I avoid using any wet cleaning solutions because I fear they will leave streaks on the sensor, which are difficult to remove. The beliefs expressed within this short review are what works for me, and might not work for you. It goes without saying that I am not responsible for any damage done do your gear while following this guide. Proceed with caution!

I hope this review was helpful. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

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