Sensor cleaning – A question and an answer

After the first time noticing spots of dust on the sensor of my D5100 I did a little research regarding sensor cleaning and came back with the following two statements

  1. Use a air blower to get rid of the loose bits of dust (In general don’t use bottled air)
  2. Welded on dust can only be removed via a wet clean. Learn how to do it well and you are good to go, but it can be tricky

Ok i thought, no problem, so I ran out and got a air-blower… this solved 90% of the problem, I also got a few sensor cleaning sticks, but the store that sold them to me (not mentioning any names for fear of incrimination) said

Well you can try and do it yourself but there is a layer of oil around the outside of the sensor and its difficult to clean the sensor without smearing it all over the sensor. A professional clean is better.

While I might agree that a professional clean might be better, after all, someone who has cleaned thousands of sensors is probably (definitely) better at it than someone who is going at it for the first time. The statement regarding an oil ring around the sensor simply doesn’t make any physical or mechanical sense to me. Why in gods name would you do it? wouldn’t it just suck up dust and grit like no tomorrow? Wouldn’t it generally make the inside of the camera dirty as it evaporates? I dismissed it and thought, well they are probably just trying to sell their own ‘repair/cleaning services’ since he was also rather fast to tell me that it isn’t covered under warranty.

Conspiracy? Well, no It cannot be that this store chain is giving wrong advice because they want to promote the use of their own repair services, scare customers into paying (a lot) for what can be a very simple maintenance routine when practiced.

I didn’t think much else about it and given that the air blower did solve my problems I still have my wet clean pack. It was during a trip with work that I dropped in at a store of the same chain in a different town. I talked with the sales rep regarding a D600 and he mentioned the whole apparent dust on sensor issue that has given some people problems. He was a little less paranoid regarding sensor cleaning saying that it was rather easy… but then bounced back saying that the D600 had a ring of oil around the sensor and cleaning was actually difficult/impossible.

The answer from Nikon.

They seemed just as confused as I, stating the only oil or grease that might be on the sensor could come from the action of the shutter, or any lenses that have a moving rear element that might be over oiled and ‘pump’ oil into the camera. All these examples would give speckles of oil similar to dust and not a ring around the sensor.

They also offered to clean my camera for a fee, but also said it should be a task that many products on the market can take care of.


OK so thats that, if anyone tries to put you off from cleaning your sensor (and possibly still making a mess) do not fear that there is a layer of oil on it around it or anywhere near the sensor.


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