Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

March 2005

Question of the Month

Does the 'Visible Dust' Cleaning System Really Work?

The short answer, but it is definitive, is YES. As I write this I just returned from 6 weeks in Africa -- Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya, and dust was no longer an issue.

Previously I tried to solve the dust problem with a digital sensor by keeping a 1.4X tele-converter mounted on my cameras, and simply exchanging my 600mm with my Sigma 120-300mm so that the sensor would stay protected. Occasionally, however, I had to remove the converter as the added magnification of either lens was simply too much. In every case I'd turn off the camera (which should have removed any charge from the sensor) before changing the lens, and I'd always aim the camera downward so that any particles would settle down and out, and not settle inside the camera. Nonetheless, after almost two weeks in Tanzania, on our first trip, I was simply shocked when I shot a scene that included a lot of open sky. There was dust everywhere! Where did it come from?

That afternoon I used the Visible Dust sensor for the first time on the trip. Waiting that long was simply stupid because the process of cleaning the sensor is quick and easy, but I was still misguidely hesitant and reluctant to mess with the sensor. But seeing what was happening to my images when I didn't clean it was too much -- it was time to clean.

From that point on, whenever I changed lenses I made it a point to clean the sensor that evening. At home, you can use canned CO2 to prime the brush -- per the instructions for visible dust, but I didn't pack a CO2 can with me. Instead, I used my usual large air blower (actually an enema bulb purchased at a drug store -- but never used for that!) to prime the brush. This creates an electro-static charge that particles attach to. After cleaning the sensor I again blow on the brush, hopefully removing any attached particles, and recharging the brush at the same time if I decide to do more than one pass of sweeping.

Using the Visible Dust system my images stayed clean. I had carried along the Sensor Swabs, and the cleaning solution for both the Swabs and also the cleaning system I had from Visible Dust (the sensor clean and chamber clean solutions and packages) but I didn't need to use either. The brush alone kept the sensor clean. It works, mighty fine.

Check out their website for ordering the visible dust cleaning system and for detailed instructions on how to clean the sensor at


Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day?

Who should go Digital,
and when?

  What do we really think about digital photography?

 Can you match the Histograms?
 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?

  How long will film be around?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

 What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

 How would you meter these images?

 Why should you know Manual Mode? 

  The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?


How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

 What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

Which Mountain Park is better for wildlife - Denali or Torres del Paine?

What is the best Car Window Mount? 

  How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?

 What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?

 What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 Which binoculars do we just love to use?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?

 How Easy is Whale Photography?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?

What Film Lab do we use, and why? 

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites? 


 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?


 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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