I recently received a sample of the newly introduced, patent pending, Dust-Aid sensor cleaning system. If you own a Digital SLR and you change your lens often, you have probably encountered dust. While many recent Digital SLR introductions include some type of dust reduction system - usually a combination of mechanical vibration and anti-static coatings - there are still a lot of SLRs out there with sensors that need a cleaning once in a while.
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Dust introduced into body of the camera will rear its ugly head as spots on your photos, something especially annoying for professionals whose images may end up on a magazine cover. Having some sort of sensor cleaning system can save a lot of time during post-processing when dust spots can be removed.
Sensor cleaning has always kind of been a touchy issue. Removing dust requires that you stick a foreign object into your camera and physically touch the sensor of the camera. The possibility of damaging the sensor scares some people, but others consider it critical to their photographic results.
What Makes Dust-Aid Different
With the increase in airline security, it has become difficult and at times impossible to take some cleaning systems with you. Liquid cleaners and cans of compressed air will quickly be spotted (hopefully) by airline security screeners. The creator of Dust-Aid, Ross Wordhouse, wanted a cleaning system that was easy to toss in bag and wouldn't cause any delays at security checkpoints.
Wordhouse started experimenting with adhesives as a method of removing dust. There are many DIY methods of using adhesive items, like Post-It notes and Scotch tape, but Wordhouse found a very low-tack adhesive that leaves no residue yet removes dust. The makers of Dust-Aid have used a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer to test whether their adhesive leaves any residue on a KBr (potassium bromide) crystal. After 100 applications, the spectroscopy results show that there is no residue or other contamination left on the crystal.
What You Get
Dust-Aid comes packaged in a tin, reminiscent of a popular brand of bandages. The tin serves as a nice way to carry and protect the Dust-Aid kit. The kit includes a reusable plastic wand, 12 sterile adhesive foam tapes, and an instruction manual.
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How to Use
The Dust-Aid system is straightforward to use. The foam cleaning pads have two sides covered with adhesive. The one side attaches to the applicator wand and the other one is for cleaning your sensor. The foam ensures a gentle touch and helps make full contact of the adhesive on the sensor. You start with exposing the adhesive that sticks the foam to the applicator - it's clearly marked which side to use. Once the foam tape is applied to the wand, you can peel the sensor-cleaning side off of it's backing.
Partially done mounting the foam tape onto the wand (view large image)
The instructions recommend that you start with the upper left corner of your sensor and move clockwise around the sensor, making four applications. You lower the wand straight down on to the sensor with not twisting. To pick up the wand for the next application, just tip the wand to peel off the adhesive in contact with the sensor.
Cleaning pad mounted on wand (view large image)
Unfortunately, I didn't have a dirty sensor to truly test the Dust-Aid system so I don't have any sample images. However, I used it to successfully remove dust from some lenses I had around. While the low-tack adhesive that comes in contact with the sensor doesn't feel very sticky to the touch, it's more than sufficient to remove dust particles.
The entire system is well thought out. The applicator is shaped so that it's still easy to see down inside your camera while you line the foam pad up with your sensor. The little "flag" on top provides a nice hand-hold and makes it easy to tilt the wand to remove it from your sensor.
Where to Buy
The folks behind Dust-Aid are planning for the Dust-Aid package be be available to retail and online ordering in mid-March. They've set an MSRP of $39.99. They have a web page set up on their www.dust-aid.com site where you can enter your e-mail address to be notified when it comes available.
Overall, I was very impressed. In addition to being able to effectively remove dust from your sensor, Dust-Aid does it in such a way that I would not worry about damaging the sensor. There are no brushes or liquids to deal with. The low-tack adhesive used to remove dust has been proven not to leave residue and the foam pads that the adhesive is mounted to provides a gentle touch on your sensor. The added benefit of being able to easily throw Dust-Aid into your bag without having to worry about airline security is another plus.
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