5 Simple Steps to Camera Sensor Cleaning

5 Simple Steps to Camera Sensor Cleaning

Got a dusty sensor? Don’t despair. Follow these Five Simple Steps to clean your DSLR or mirrorless camera sensor to ensure your camera sensor stays clean and free of image-degrading dust. You’ll rarely need to go all the way to Step 5, but follow the steps in this order.

But first, a word about prevention. To avoid getting dust on your sensor when changing lenses always aim the camera down so that any dust falls out – not into the camera. It’s also a good idea to turn the camera off before changing lenses since an electrically charged sensor can attract dust.


If your digital camera has a sensor cleaning mode – and most do – try that before you do anything else. Remove the lens and aim the camera down so that any dust the cleaning mode dislodges falls out of the camera.

Sensor Cleaning Mode

With any luck this will do the job and you’re done. Sometimes this is enough to do the trick, yet while I’m at it I generally move on to Step 2.


Never, ever, ever use canned, compressed air to blow dust off your sensor. The cans will release fluid when they are tilted, and that’s the last thing you want to get on your sensor. Instead, I always use a Giottos Rocket Blaster ($18 from B&H Photo). There are lots of bulb blowers on the market but this large bulb blower from Giottos is hands down the best.

It’s great for getting rid of dust on your sensor. It uses a clean air path so that the dust that you are blowing away doesn’t get sucked back into the ball and re-deposited on your equipment the next time you use it. Always point your camera down toward the ground when blowing off the sensor. That way, any dust you dislodge falls out of the camera.

Giotto's Rocket Blaster
Giotto’s Rocket Blaster dust-removal tool ($17 from Amazon | B&H Photo)


One of the most effective yet overlooked tools in any sensor cleaning kit is a a sensor loupe. They allow you to clearly see the dust, grime or other smutz and make certain you’ve completely cleaned it away. Lenspen SensorKlear Loupe ($64.50 Kit from B&H Photo), VisibleDust Mini Quasar Sensor Loupe ($73.50 from B&H Photo) and VisibleDust Quasar Plus 7x Sensor Loupe ($114.50 from B&H Photo) are three great options.

Lenspen VisibleDust Sensor Loupes

Lenspen SensorKlear Loupe, VisibleDust Mini Quasar Sensor Loupe & VisibleDust Quasar Plus 7x Sensor Loupe

If you don’t have a sensor loupe you can also shoot a test frame check if this cleared the problem, shoot a frame at F16 of a perfectly blank subject like a pure blue sky or a sheet of clean white paper. Download the image and inspect at 100% for any dust specs. This is not my preferred method since it requires a more trial and error to get it right – but with time and patience it will work.


If the Rocket Blower can’t dislodge the dust, I move on to a VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724S Super Brite Sensor Brush ($125 from B&H Photo). This negatively charged brush helps pull dust particles off the sensor instead of just moving them around. Don’t press down – allow the negative charge to attract the dust as you pass over the sensor. This version includes an LED light so you can see what you’re doing.

VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724S Super Brite Sensor Brush
VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724S Super Brite Sensor Brush ($125 from B&H Photo)

While I prefer using a Sensor Brush, some readers commented that they prefer to use a Sensor Gel Stick. Both the sensor brush and gel stick do the same thing so you don’t need both unless you want to try them out to see which works best for you. These gel sticks both claim Sony-compatibility:

Eyelead Sensor Gel Stick ($55 from Amazon)

Special Note for Sony mirrorless cameras with IBIS:

When cleaning cameras with IBIS using a Gel Stick or Sensor Swab, I suggest locking your sensor in place. To do this, simply run a cleaning cycle on your camera:

Menu > Setup > Cleaning Mode > Enter

The Sony a7 Mark II image sensor will shake for about a second. Once it’s done you’ll see this message on the LCD: “Auto cleaning is finished. Turn the power off. You can also clean the image sensor manually if necessary.”

While this message is displayed the sensor is locked in place. This allows you to use a Sensor Gel Stick or Sensor Swab without moving the sensor. Once you’re finished, turn the camera off.

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: As I mentioned at the very start – only go as far into this process as you needed. THEN STOP! Wet cleaning should NOT be needed 99.9% of the time.



The first four steps will do the trick 99% of the time. But for really persistent sensor gunk that I can”™t get off any other way Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs (Type 3 for fullframe sensors) (Amazon | B&H) or (Type 2 for APS-C sensors) (Amazon | B&H) slightly moistened with Aeroclipse Digital Sensor Cleaning Fluid (Amazon | B&H) will do the trick. These swabs are clean room manufactured and sealed for the ultimate in purity. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Brush across the sensor in one fluid motion using light even pressure. Then turn the swab over and brush across the sensor in the opposite direction.

Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs (Amazon | B&H) + Aeroclipse Sensor Cleaning Fluid (Amazon | B&H)

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128 thoughts on “5 Simple Steps to Camera Sensor Cleaning”

  1. A question more than a comment, what about using a swab on an image stabilising sensor such as the A7II, is there a risk of causing a misalignment to the sensor?

  2. I found the LensPen worked for my problem – I had something that could be moved around but it must have been sticky. I didn’t have the Articbrush in hand – that might have work as well.

    1. Thanks Mitchell. I tried lens pen but Arctic Butterfly sensor brush works better for me.

      As for sensor swabs, that’s my rarely used Defcon Five, so I’m willing to spend a couple extra dollars for top quality swabs.

  3. Is there a danger of damaging the sensor? I would be nervous at the idea of touching it at all. How much does it cost to send off the camera to be cleaned by comparison?

    1. Hello Brida, the first 3 steps are really a must before considering sending a camera off. Steps 4 & 5 are perectly safe if you follow the manufacturers instructions. Professional cleanings generally run $50-$75 if you prefer.

  4. All this stuff is like catnip for photographers. Unfortunately having just spent over an hour cleaning dust spots off an image it is very necessary. My A7r just seems to collect dust spots so easily. Before I had the A7r I had the EM5 and EM1 which I never had to clean once. I am hopeful that the A7ii with similar ibis which allows for a serious shake of the sensor will prevent sensor spots far more effectively.

  5. For using the rocket blower, I recommend that it be done as often as possible, dust is much easier to dislodge if it’s new, if you leave it there it’s more likely to become adhered and require more than a blow…. Job.

    Rather than getting an expensive sensor swab, I just use a rolled up PecPad with Eclipse cleaning fluid, and paint away the dust, I find it less risky than dragging the dust across the clean parts of the sensor, and for most jobs, there is no risk of fluid getting under the cover glass.

  6. I have been reading up on the products recommended here. FYI. The Eyelead SensorGel Stick i read this: … ‘According to a recent review, this item may not be for Sony Mirrorless Cameras. Apparently the sensors of those cameras are treated with a product that is not 100% for the stick and there may be some marks left behind.’

    1. Not certain where that review came from – but posting the comment. One of the guys who recommended gel sticks to me knows far more about Sony’s sensor than I do and he’s never steered me wrong. I believe there are two versions of gel sticks – the link provided should go to one that mentions Sony in the description.

      1. I love my eyelead for my canons but when I used it on my A7rII I was extremely worried when it grabbed the sensor pretty good and was moving the sensor around. It doesn’t seem to of messed with the image quality but i’ll take your suggestion for the butterfly to ease my mind haha… Also the link you provided is the same one I got for my canon, I don’t know if there are brand specific models…

  7. Hi Brian,
    I just bought the new Sony A7R II and I can’t wait to get your book on the A7R. I’ve just migrated from Canon and the on board controls are very unfamiliar. Guess I’ll have to do some speed reading until I get your book here downunder. Best wishes.

  8. Pingback: Save $50 on VisibleDust Quasar Sensor Loupe 7x

  9. Hi Brian,

    I have used the eye gel stick (sony version) on my a7s and it is very sticky. It almost seemed like it pulled up the high pass filter but when I look at I can see any evidence so I think it ws paranoia.

    Still there is a lot of stick to it. I am not sure it would be suitable for a floating sensor, I could see the whole thing getting miscalibrated or coming right off. Sony really needs to provide correct instructions and product types for this.

    1. The earlier steps should take care of 99.9% of the dust which I why I suggest them in order. Personally, I’m more into sensor swabs as a last recourse than gel sticks – but some users swear by them…

  10. Been using cheap CO2 cartridges to air blow with no issues. Suddenly today, it spews spots on my A7S sensor!!! I am absolutely sick. Please tell me a professional cleaning will fix it!

    1. Yes a pro cleaning should clear off that goop. You could likely get it off yourself with a sensor swab and sensor fluid – but PLEASE throw out that CO2, okay?

  11. Total rookie move, I used a cotton swab on my sensor to remove a dust particle. Then realizing how sensitive the sensor was looked up this article. Should I be worried?

  12. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the detailed guide!

    Have you ever tried the sensor swabs technique on the A7Rii ?

    Some people seem to be having issues with the IBIS sensor.


    1. It works absolutely fine 0n a7 Mark II cameras. You simply want to apply light an even pressure just like every other camera. But to be honest you should rarely have to go beyond a bulb blower or sensor brush.

      1. Thanks!
        There is one spot left that does not want to go even with the Butterfly brush… Quite surprised as the camera is quite new and only changed lenses like 5 times!

    1. No. Sony wet cleans sensors whenever it’s required. Eclipse fluid works fine. Just follow the directions. The swab should be moist – not dripping wet.

  13. Thank you ! I asked, because Sony Europe didn’t recommend it !

    Dear Mr …

    Thank you for your recent email.

    In regards to your enquiry, kindly be advised that we don’t recommend to perform a wet cleaning of the sensor.

    Please follow the link below, for the cleaning mode of the image sensor :


    Should you have any further questions, please feel free to reply to this email.

    Thank you for your enquiry.

    Yours sincerely,
    Sony customer support
    Sony Europe Limited

    1. I would only recommend wet cleaning as a last resort and only using products made for sensor cleaning.

      I’m guessing Sony Europe warns against it because some people don’t read the directions. (I’ve had reader’s write they tried using lens cleaner instead and it left streaks. No kidding. Lens cleaner isn’t made for sensors.)

      1. Brian, I did exactly that with the corner of a ZIESS lens cleaning wipe in desperation to pick up a stubborn hunk o’ dust, and it unfortunately streaked the sensor of my a6000. Will the Eclipse remove the streak left in its wake, or am I doomed to just bring it to the Sony service center for sensor cleaning/replacement? FYI I’m in Bangkok for a few months so can’t take it to B&H in NYC where it was bought… and will have to try and track down Eclipse in a camera shop here. Thanks in advance!

        1. Try Eclipse on a sensor swab. It may take a couple passes but you should be able to remove the streaks. Be certain the sensor swab is moist – not dripping wet – and allow the sensor to dry between passes (it will only take a few seconds)

  14. Hello Brian, I could not find the Sony version of Eyelead’s sensor gel stick. It should be orange,right? Can you share a link for us? The one you shared here does not work well with Sony e-mount sensors as far as I know.

  15. I find that even after cleaning my Arctic Butterfly, that its leaving some residue of some type behind. When I try using the pre-moistened Sensor Swap, I just move whatever dust from one spot to another.

  16. Hi Brian

    I’ve got an A600 that has a faint grey spot in the image. I would imagine that dust on the sensor would be a sharp shadow, but not faint and diffuse, so I’m not sure if cleaning is the path I need to take. I’ve tried steps 1 & 2 without any luck. Any suggestions?

    1. That’s exactly the way dust spots appear. The sensor loupe should hopefully help you locate it and once you do with any luck the bulb blower should be enough to blow it away.

  17. YIKES! I cleaned the sensor of my Sony A7R2 using steps for Cleaning #5 above for a particularly stubborn piece of something. I turned on the sensor cleaning, waited for the message, using the same product as above, I swabbed across the sensor. I got wavy lines on my sensor and they are not going away! I’m so bummed. Is there anything I can do or does the camera now have to go in for service. 🙁

    1. An update to my panicked comment. I figure things couldn’t get much worse, e.g. wavy lines, so I did another pass through with the swab and no liquid. Lines started to fade. Threw the swab away and used a clean one 3 more times and my wavy lines disappeared. Did a test shot of blue sky and confirmed with LR de-haze to max that sensor lines gone. (where as before the “dry clean”, they showed up like waves on a beach). Everything I have read seemed to say “no” to dry swab cleaning and I can only think that I got too much liquid on the initial cleaning and that it provided a cushion for the dry swabs without damaging the sensor. Good ending to my sensor cleaning cry for help. I enjoy and learn a lot from this blog from Brian and all his commentors. Thank you.

      1. Yes, you want the sensor swab to be moist – NOT dripping wet.

        Wet cleaning should be the FINAL step – you shouldn’t need to go that far 99.9% of the time.

  18. Hi. Brian.

    I just came to your blog due to my sensor issue on my a7.

    I’ve tried initial steps to clean but it looks like there is dappled water mark on sensor.

    Does cleaning fluid can clean this dappled water on sensor or should I send it Sony customer in USA?


    1. Yes. That’s one time you’ll need to wet clean. Nothing else will remove water drops.

      See my recommendation of compatible sensor fluid in this post.

      The swab should only be slightly moist – not dripping wet.

  19. Hello Brian,
    About to leave town for a few days of photography in the Smoky Mountains so I decided to do a wet clean (Aero-clipse fluid) on my Sony A7rii, due to some persistent dust being left on the sensor after blowing. This was my first time to wet clean the sensor on my Sony A7rii so I was not too concerned about doing it. I have performed this with no issues on my backup A7r using the regular Eclipse fluid. After doing the wet clean I noticed streaking, which covered a great deal of the sensor. I tried it again and the results were similar. Anybody else have issues with this? I am using the Sensorswab Ultra Type 3. It did seem to me that applying the fluid to the sensor that it seems thinner (more watery) and that it was so slick that it almost seemed there was a lubricant in it.

    I have a support ticket in with Sony Pro support but I thought I would check in with you

      1. Thanks Brian, but it’s not working at all for me. Frankly don’t know what to do at this point. I am betting the previous Eclipse would remove the streaks but don’t want to damage the sensor.

  20. The gel stick looked like a good solution but the manufacturer hasn’t had any in a while. I wonder if this is because of a manufacturing problem.

    1. I’m not an advocate of gel sticks, but a lot of readers really like them. I’ve never run into a single situation that wasn’t clean before that step on Sony mirrorless cameras.

  21. Brian, you might wanna update your page again regarding eclipse cleaning solution. Check photosol’s website, they actually released a letter saying that it is indeed safe for all sony cameras. Unfortunately aeroeclipse is harder to come by in camera stores, so it would be good news for many.

    1. Too many people don’t follow the directions and Eclipse CAN cause problems IF users over-soak the swab. While I agree that’s user-error – it happens too often and Aeroclipse eliminates that possibility.

  22. Trying to clean my sensor on my Sony camera. Using the sensor cleaning menu (manufacturers instructions) and blowing with a Giotto’s Rocket Blaster didn’t cut it. Just ordered a Eyelead Sensor Gel Stick (Sony version) from Amazon,. If this doesn’t do the job, I will send my camera into cleaning at Sony “Professional cleaning”. Thanks for the article and info.

  23. Hi Brian,
    I used the Sensorswab ultra with the aeroclipse (after blowing with the Rocket-Air) and found that the sensor got very badly streaked. I tried cleaning that, again with the fluid, but it just streaked again. I followed Kirschbaum’s follow up suggestion, and I did indeed use three completely dry swabs, which seemed to do the trick, but only after numerous sweeps. Are you sure the streaks are only caused by over wetting? I thought I had just a couple of drops when I started, but it really left the whole sensor streaked.

    1. The avoid “over-wetting” refers specifically to Eclipse fluid which can begin to strip the coatings off the sensor glass if too much solution or pressure is applied.

      Is everybody jumping straight to Step 5??? 99.9% of the time, your sensor should be clean before that.

    2. I had no luck with Aeroclipse. Could not get rid of streaking. I went back to Eclipse fluid (which has been determined to be safe for Sony sensors) and it cleaned my sensor perfectly the first time. Just my 2 cents worth. I realize others may have a different experience.

      1. Was forced to to a wet clean on my A7R2 after using a static cleaning brush caused a steak on one of the sensor spots. So far only blower and a sensor brush was veer needed in two years of use. Found the Aeroclips fluid with the Sensorswab Ultra 3 also leaving streaks for me, that come out a plain test shot, but aren’t visible when looking at the sensor with a plain eye. It sounds so easy to do, but obviously isn’t. The Aeroclips bottle doesn’t drip that nicely and it is hard to tell when the swab has wicked the fluid evenly across its edge.

  24. Hi Brian – Thanks for this article! My A7ii was showing spots. I followed every step you laid out. I was surprised the Artic Butterfly did not do the trick as the spots were caused by loose dust on the sensor. The Butterfly actual left MORE dust on the sensor?!?!? I had to go in a do a wet cleaning with Aeroclipse wiping left-to-right twice. I still saw a small area where the dust would not clear. I then went top-to-bottom (once on the left, once on the right). Only then did the dust clear off the sensor. The swab had 3 drops of solution. Sensor is clean as a whistle now but it was a bit strange that only the top-to-bottom movement did the trick. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. 🙂

  25. Hello, Brian — I have a question related to the use of the sensor loupes. When I visualize my A7rii with a sensor loupe (have tried several), all I see is a mass of rainbow colors on my sensor making it impossible to see dust spots. Am I doing something wrong?

    1. I generally look at a slight angle – not straight on. I don’t find the rainbow reflections from the sensor a “bad thing” since dust is very evident when it breaks up the pattern.

        1. The loupe lens has certain focus (and is likely designed for DSLRs), raise the loupe a little bit until the sensor is crisp through the lens.

  26. If I used the lens spray on the sensor at one point and overused it by mistake and it left a streak mark on the the sensor does that effect the quality of the picture your taking or is it just cosmetic ? I am now using sensor swipes and doing it correctly but it still seems like there is a light streak that kind of annoys me when you tilt the camera at an angle. Should I ignore it or try to replace the sensor?


    1. Nooooooo! Don’t do that!!!

      Ouch! If a sensor swab + Sensor cleaning solution won’t get it off, you could send it in for professional cleaning to a Sony Authorized Service Facility with the request that if that doesn’t clean the streaks – then please change the sensor cover glass.

      You don’t have to replace the sensor – just the glass covering it.

      1. Thanks for your help and advice. Because of my lack of patience and knowledge at the time I made some rash decisions in my cleaning and it’s definitely been a learning experience. Since I’m going on a trip soon I’m not sure if I’ll have time to send it to Sony to replace the glass. Do you think either a local shop can do that or if I decided not to change the sensor cover glass and deal with it until I get back will it visibly effect the quality/sharpness of my images. I tried to do some test shots but I haven’t been able to tell the discrepancies.

        1. Do NOT allow anyone except an authorized Sony Service Facility change your sensor glass as it will void your warranty.

          Better to shoot with it as it is if you don’t see any problems (they’ll most likely show up when shooting into the sun or a bright lights source or in heavy backlight)

          1. Christopher Rivero

            I had a quick question. Do you ever use the peck pad no-abrasive wipes for your sensor and attached them to the swabs and clip them on so you can re-use the swabs but with new non-abrasive wipes? I find it to be a bit expensive to keep buying sensor cleaning kits.


  27. Brian, I generally follow your advice, but Arctic Butterfly was a really bad one. The construction is flimsy and not worth three figures price. The brush is flying off across the room after three uses and already see the cracks at the base of the tip. Inserting one of the batteries took me several tries. Cannot believe I wasted 100 bucks on this.

    1. Hey Stan, my Arctic Butterfly is probably 3-4 years old and showing no signs of wear or weakness – though to be honest, I usually clear the issue before this step. If yours fell apart after three uses – that’s definitely NOT normal. I’d return it.

      1. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I cannot return it, but superglue to brush head did the trick. It does clean sensor really well, had plenty of specks that wouldn’t come out with Giotto and they’re gone now. Thanks.

        1. Keeping the brush clean and occasionally using the proper cleaning solution is helpful too. There have been times when my brush wasn’t clean and it smeared some type of oil or residue and made an even bigger problem than when I started.

  28. Hi Brian!
    Thank you for your advice on sensor cleaning!
    I have bought an Arctic Butterfly. If I push the slide contact forward, the LEDs are shining. If I push it backward, the brush rotates at high speed- and falls off! Is it at all the meaning to use this rotation? It looks rather violent. Or is it just the meaning to move the brush lightly over the sensor? The brush can be put back on to the pin that holds it, but is only sitting very loosely. No wonder that it falls off.
    Kind regards- Hening Bettermann

    1. If you read the direction that came with it, you see that the spinning is done to give the brush a static charge BEFORE you clean the sensor. If the brush flies out you just need to push it into place better.

        1. They used to include a one-sheet directions in the box, but it’s possible they’ve gone to video instructions. Once you get the hang of it it’s pretty simple. You spin the brush first to give it a charge. Once you done that you lightly sweep the brush over the sensor allowing static charge to grab the dust – not pressure from the brush.

          1. I have an unrelated question regarding ND filters. I’m purchasing a Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art DC HSM Lens for Sony and not sure what ND filter i need to buy exactly for this lens. Any help would be greatly appreciated

  29. Robert Peticolas

    Neither the Eyelead Gel Stick for Sony nor the Photography Life Gel Stick are available any longer. The link in this article actually loads the Nikon/Canon version of the Gel Stick, which is still available, but inappropriate for Sony.

    1. Whenever they run out of stock of Sony-specific Gel Stick, the seller rolls the URL over to their other Gel Sticks.

      Did I mention that I’m NOT a fan of gel sticks???

      I don’t understand the allure of pressing a gooey blob into your sensor. I prefer using the sensor brush which uses static electricity to pull the dust away.

  30. Hello Bryan, I am from Mexico City, unfortunately here only the eclipse product arrives, how many drops do you consider correct that you place on the swaps?

  31. Hi, thanks for sharing knowledge and experiences, the blog is great!
    I was wondering if there is any trusted option to the Artic Butterfly, i would try a sensor brush since the blower hasn’t work (seeing a dozen of very little spots at f22) but that product is a way out of budget for me…

  32. FYI Sony’ own service department uses Eclipse® (Methanol) for cleaning sensors. They tested the Aeroclipse and found it to not work as good. On another note the Original Sensor Swabs® (Red and Blue box) were great and made in the USA. These were discontinued in 2015 and replaced with the made in China Sensor Swab® Ultra (Red and Black box).

    There never was any problems reported using the original Sensor Swab® with Eclipse®. The problem was reported after Ultra Swab was introduced. If you run your finger across the corner of the Ultra Swab you may find that they can be sharp.

    1. I haven’t actually tried them as I resort to wet cleaning so rarely that my bottle of Eclipse will likely last for years – but I trust Visible Dust products.

  33. Hi Brian…I just read this entire thread. Just got back from long road trip through Arizona and sensor on my Sony A7ii picked up a lot of dust along the way. Unfortunately did not have anything but the in-camera sensor function and a Giotto “rocket” with me. Neither did the trick and the only camera shop in Sedona would not sell me sensor cleaner for a Sony. Can you give an update on the next choices for me> Are we back to Eclipse if I am not travelling with it or should I stick with Aeroclipse? I have no issue with buying an artic butterfly but not sure that will help based on the other two attempts failing. Thoughts???

    1. I never had any problem with Eclipse (aside from not being able to get on a plane with it). As long as you follow the instructions and ‘lightly moisten’ the swab (rather than dripping wet) you should be fine.

      That said, I’d give a sensor brush a go at it first. That will quite likely scoop up the dust without the need to wet-clean…

  34. Gosh, I am really enjoying this thread and love your kind responses. Of all the things I’ve read about sensor cleaning, yours makes the most sense! I like your thinking quite a bit. Take it one step at a time, and usually by Step 4, the problem should be resolved. If not, go for a wet cleaning approach, which shouldn’t be that often. I saw a video on Vimeo (the Gel Stick people link to it) and it shows a Leica technician using an orange gel stick to clean a Leica M9’s sensor.. However, it doesn’t get all the dust off and she uses a wet swab in the end. It defies belief that sticking something sticky to your sensor doesn’t leave something behind. And then if you clean the gel sticks with sticky paper and re-apply the gel stick to your sensor, it is even harder to believe that wouldn’t leave something else behind. Your approach seems solid. Thanks for keeping this thread current.

    1. Thanks Kevin. As I mention in the post, I’m not a fan of gel sticks, but I included it on my list because others are. Feel free to skip that one…

  35. Alicia Johnstone

    Thanks VERY much for this very helpful article. In my brand new Sony A7RII, after only a week of shooting in good conditions, and only changing lenses the proper way, a dust spot appeared. What was weird is that it did not appear after changing lenses, as I would have expected, but between shots that were only 45 seconds apart where I had changed nothing in the hardware setup. Can you explain how that happens?

  36. Alicia, I had this same problem with my a7rM2. No lens change, but several frames perfectly ok, then next frames had several big smears. Rocket blower and artic brush did not remove them. It looks more like a smudge of some kind rather than dust. I’m getting my nerve up to do a wet clean, but curious as to how this could happen.

  37. I bought the A7R III with one lens which I unboxed & put on the first day. So no lens changes. My sensor shows multiple dust spots. How the heck?

    It seems unreasonable on a new camera with no dusty lens changes. I have used a bulb/puff blower several times. No luck. I’m going to try and blow it again and have a vacuum setup nearby to suck any floating particles. I even have an old/original arctic butterfly left over from my Canon MK 2 days (it wasn’t necessary on my MK3 as it kept itself clean automatically). I spun the brush and dragged it one way , flipped it over and dragged the other way. Still no luck.
    Feeling disappointed and frustrated with my new camera.

    1. As you can imagine, I’ve unboxed a lot of Sony cameras over the years and never received one with dust on the sensor, but I feel your pain.

      Was the box sealed? If not, it’s possible it was opened at the retailer. Either way, you shouldn’t have to clean someone else’s dust. I’d suggest contacting the retailer for an exchange.

      There is of course a Cleaning Mode on a7R III. I suggest pointing the camera down toward the ground and removing the lens (in a controlled indoor environment) when running Cleaning Mode so any dust falls out of – not into the camera.

  38. I tried menu cleaning it as you describe, in fact several times. Also with a vacuum setup nearby to suck any airborne dust particles.

    I have placed an order for the cleaning gel you mentioned above. It’s a bit scary to lift the gel stick which is ‘stuck’ on the sensor, but I’ll give it a go.

    I don’t recall the box being sealed, or even that there was evidence of a seal having been broken. Sneaky of the retailer to not mention it, if it was a demo.

    1. Not necessarily a demo. I’ve seen people ask to see a camera before they buy then change their mind and hand it back. If a blower isn’t getting the dust off, you might be wise to simply exchange the camera since it’s new. I’m not a fan of gel sticks. I only include it because some readers are.

  39. I was thinking of buying a Sony a7, in whichever version, but the dust issue has really put me off.

    1. It’s truly not a big deal. Just point the camera down toward the ground when changing lenses and dust is rarely an issue. If it is, mirrorless cameras are much easier to clean than DSLR.

  40. Hi, local sony customer service (here in Europe, Finland) says that cleaning the sensor self (with sensor swab) will void the warranty of my Sony mirrorless! …Frightening, but is this really true? What you say Brian? You have given good cleaning instructions here, and I really appreciate that, but what about this warranty thing?! My local sony customer service says that only authorized Sony service must do that cleaning if you want to keep the warranty valid.

    1. Essentially what they mean is that you’re not covered for IMPROPER Sensor Cleaning. In other words if you don’t know what you’re doing and you scratch the sensor glass – you shouldn’t be muckin’ around in there.

      You honestly should NEVER need to get to the wet cleaning stage. You should be clean by the sensor brush at most.

      1. Thank you for reply…Anyway this is somewhat confusing. The local sony customer support said that if you touch the sensor in any way, the warranty will expire. Just a blower cleaning is allowed… I understand that if you do the sensor cleaning improperly and scratch the sensor etc. that will void the warranty…BUT if you do that properly without harm, but my camera stops working a month later (IBIS failure etc.) What if Sony warranty service will tell you then that they found that the sensor is cleaned (some microscopic traces of cleaning, for example), and the warranty has expired because of this?! https://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/support/articles/00110439

        “…Sony is not liable for any incidental or consequential damage due to mishandling at non-Sony service locations or otherwise…”

        how they interpret that “mishandling”? Anyway, you think that the warranty will not expire if you do wet cleaning well and properly without harm, even you had to touch the sensor with swab?

          1. I meant “Mishandling” that you even touched sensor with swab, although Sony prohibit to do that self, at the risk of voiding your warranty. I meant that even I know what I’m doing and sensor cleaning went well and camera worked well after cleaning. But for some other reason, camera IBIS doesn’t work after a month, and then the Sony warranty Service says that the warranty is not valid because they discovered with the microscope that someone has touched the sensor with swab… I don’t want to be cheeky at all now, but the main problem is that Sony specifically prohibits cleaning the sensor self, no matter how skilled you are! …Don’t you see any contradiction between Sony warranty policy and sensor DIY cleaning?

          2. Nope. I see no contradiction at all.

            If you don’t know what you’re doing or can’t follow directions (such as putting the camera into Sensor Cleaning Mode BEFORE cleaning) – that’s absolutely mishandling.

  41. Well, I see. And it confuses me 😉 …If Sony tells and commands (in their cleaning instructions): Do not touch the sensor in any way….That is not unclear. Sony prohibits sensor DIY wet cleaning! I know – it doesn’t make sense, but so Sony does. Maybe Sony should do better instructions then? Now, there is a risk that people will lose the warranty, for no good reason….

  42. Jonathan Radin

    Thanks for the great info, some of the reviews of the VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724 are not very flattering for build quality. What is your thoughts on that?

    1. You rarely need a swab. A blower should be your main tool. If that doesn’t get it, a sensor brush should do the trick. The loupe says you lots of time by showing you where the problem is an when you got it clean.

  43. Hi Brian,
    I had purchased the Sensor Swab Ultra Type 3 24mm to clean my Sony A7Riii camera. I am noticing on all 12 swabs that the edges of the swab are pointy creating, in fact, a straight valley edge to edge. I am wondering if this is by design as other swabs are completely flat, edge to edge.

  44. Brian I cleaned my sensor without a hitch but I did not lock my sensor as I didn’t realise I needed to – would this cause me issues in the future?

  45. Brian, thank you for all the effort you had put into this article, and the rest of the information regarding the A7’s.

    Just wanted to chime in and share some of my experience. After cleaning my sensor with Aeroclipse I had horrible streaks, to the point where I thought I had damaged my sensor. I spent the whole afternoon researching and came across a thread on Dpreview where a letter from Photographic Solutions was shared, explaining that due to the new design of the Ultra Swabs, they recommend using 8-10 drops of Aeroclipse. That, along with passing the dry side of the swab 4 times (one wet pass going left to right, and then 4 dry passes going right to left) saved the day for me.
    link to the thread can be found here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4144199

  46. Hi in terms of the artic butterfly, you recommend the model with the led. I thought I read somewhere that the led light can damage the sensor is this not the case?

  47. Nice article. I remember the first time I put a swab onto my lens … I was literally shaking with fear! The thought in my head was that I was going to scratch the sensor at least. But in the end it went all okay and was very easy. These days I don’t worry about doing it at all. If people are worried about following the directions from a piece of paper there are plenty of videos on Youtube showing how to do it in detail!

  48. Brian, since you probably have connections with Sony, maybe you can ask them about my following comment, which is about the possible confusion on whether to do manual sensor clean after turning the camera off, or before. If it is like you say (clean before turning off), then the last two sentences of the notice on the camera screen (after Cleaning Mode) should be reversed and it should say, “Auto cleaning is finished. You can also clean the image sensor manually if necessary. Turn the power off when finished.” But it doesn’t say that.

    Instead, when we go to the help guide, https://helpguide.sony.net/ilc/1710/v1/en/contents/TP0001629771.html , it clearly says, Run Cleaning Mode => turn camera off => remove lens => do manual cleaning if needed (it shows a blower clean) => put lens back on.

    I have seen the response, “oh that’s because blower clean is gentle, but a sensor wipe is different.” Not IMHO: blower puffs can impart quite a shock force: at least as much as a gentle sensor wipe.

    In fact, the above link clearly warns not to blow too hard, or damage may result. This is because puffing is not as gentle as you think. Yet Sony clearly say to turn camera off before doing it. So, honestly: if the sensor is locked when the camera is powered on but unlocked when the camera is turned off, then Sony would be crazy not to instruct us to blow clean when the camera is powered on. But they don’t, do they?

    Everything in the Sony manual makes more sense if the sensor is in its ready-for-cleaning position when the camera is turned off (after Cleaning Mode).

    So, if your Sony contacts confirm that manual cleaning is ill advised after powering off (after Cleaning Mode), then tell them that the manual needs to be changed so that blow cleaning is done while powered on (after Cleaning Mode). After all, the manual says that blow cleaning can do damage. So it is obvious that it has to be done at the safest time.


    1. I would agree with those who say that a bulb blower is 100% safe whether the camera is in cleaning mode or off.

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