Shane Baker | Oil on my sensor - my D800 sensor
Wind-blown grassesWind-blown grassesDry grass blowing in the wind near Canberra.

Oil on my sensor - my D800 sensor

December 10, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
Let me tell you a tale ...

I went out for a quick shoot earlier in the week. (You will not see any of these images as they were sharp, perfectly exposed, incredibly boring images. (But I digress.)

When I loaded them into Lightroom, I saw this stuff in the sky:

Weird, huh?

It had to be dust, so I tried blowing it away with my trusty rocket blower and did a test exposure (an f/20 shot of a blue sky). Nope, still there!

So I went to my Plan B: using a specialised electrostatically-charged brush which in the past, removed all but the most stuck-on muck. The streaks were made worse!

So I had to resort to Plan C: wet cleaning using some preprepared sensor swabs that I just happened to have ordered a few days previously. They just seemed to move the mess around.

I was stumped. It wasn't behaving like any dust, or any fibres I'd seen before (which in retrospect should have been a clue!) - so I fired up Google.

After quite a bit of trawling, I found a (very) few posts about oil on D800 sensors! Argh!! We've all heard about the problems with oil on the D600, but on an 800? This is a pro camera!!

The problem was that oil, wherever it had come from, made sense. The "smears" could have been a fluid. It also explained why the blower did nothing, a swipe with a swab didn't do much, and the brush made it worse. However, it didn't explain why a high-end, made in Japan Nikon had oil on its sensor.

So, I began by visiting  my local pharmacy and asking them for a high purity solvent. They sold me a tiny bottle of 99% pure isopropyl alcohol, which I was tempted to use on the sensor, but which I only used the wash my electrostatic brush.

After the brush dried, I used another swab on the sensor. The sensor looked better, but not great. So I used the brush - which actually improved the situation! The isopropyl alcohol had done the trick and the brush wasn't moving oil around.

With a few bits still on the sensor, I used the blower - and the sensor is now almost perfect. Good enough at least that hopefully, the camera's cleaning mode will shake off the last bits. If not, I can handle it in post.

I'm not thrilled - but at least I can use my camera.

It will be interesting to see what Nikon says about this.

in Canberra


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