Sensor Cleaning by Visible Dust

Andy Rouse Reviews VisibleDust

I have always had severe reservations about cleaning my own DSLR sensor and have usually just resorted to a large blower brush. If the sensor was particularly dirty then I’d stump up the cash and have Canon clean it properly. I continued working like this until my last trip to Antarctica, when all my best plans came crashing down. My gear took a real pounding and over the period I was away the sensor got dirtier and dirtier. The final straw came when it came to cleanup the images in Photoshop, one set of images took over 20 laborious minutes each and I clearly had to find a better solution.

The Arctic Butterfly

Andy Rouses Arctic Butterfly

The solution came from a German professional photographer (Hi Tomas!!) that Tracey and I met whilst photographing polar bears; he had an ingenious little device that had a rotating head that used a static charge to remove dust safely from the sensor. This was called the Arctic Butterfly by Visible Dust.

The unit uses specially manufactured micro brush hairs and to activate it you give the brush several quick spins (it is powered by two AAA batteries). Then, after opening the DSLR sensor to the outside world (I suggest that you point it downwards), the brush is very gently moved across the sensor to attract any dust from it. Care must be taken not to get the brush on any of the surrounding chamber as this may put grease on it. The results are spectacular. I have just completed cleaning up all my latest Puffin shots and most had no trace of dust at all; this is unusual as I have the habit of leaving lenses without caps on lying on the ground everywhere. Thus my sensors are more prone to dust than most, so to have them absolutely clean is amazing. I use the Arctic Butterfly now every week or so and it has saved me so much time; it is also small and tough enough to be taken around the world with me, a vital consideration.

Andy Rouses SwabsAndy Rouses Swabs

Andy Rouses FluidEven more alien to me has been the thought of putting any fluid on my sensor, but there have been occasions when a stubborn mark has refused to budge. I can usually tolerate it if the mark is on the periphery of the sensor, but if in the centre it will cover up subject detail. Of course if you are close to a camera service centre then you can get it professionally cleaned, but most of us are not.

A good solution is to` use a Visible Dust Swab and VDust formula cleaning fluid. Extreme care must be taken when using this and I suggest that you look at the usage videos available on both the Wex Photographic and Visible Dust websites. The swabs are very well designed though, with non abrasive fabric and streak resistant heads (several clever features help achieve this).


Of the two my tool of choice is the Arctic Butterfly, in my opinion it has made an enormous difference to my productivity and is now a vital piece of my kit. I travel with the swabs and cleaning fluid as an emergency backup as well, in this game you never know, and the DSLR sensor is prone to attracting anything and everything!