Friday, February 1, 2008

Cleaning Dust Bunnies with a Butterfly

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the SensorA lot has been said about cleaning your sensor and I do not want to turn this article into another review of the best tools for the job nor get the attention to some particular tool for the job.

I do my own sensor, lens and camera cleaning with, so far, with great success and the tools I use for me are the best ones since they do a pretty fair job.

I say pretty fair since I do not believe that you can really clean, and when I say clean is CLEAN COMPLETELY the sensor from dust. I say this due to the long time experience I have on cleaning my own sensors.

I would dare to say that would be "almost" impossible to completely clean them because you will never know when you will have a "Bunny" after you have successfully clean it.

Sometimes I got them completely clean and when I attach the lens bangs some dirty Bunny enter somehow because of the zoom friction.

Oh well, I try my best to keep them clean, as much as possible, cause it sucks doing that on Photoshop, Lightroom or other software just when you need to rush for deliver the images to the clients.

For years I've been using some heavy blower, to scare the bunnies off the sensor, and afterwards use the Wet Sensor Cleaning system by Copper Hill Images with great results, but this lead me to having to carry a bottle of Eclise with me and this is no good for airplane travels because of the Methanol component :(

So I decided to do a Google quest search on Sensor Dry Cleaning products that could help me out and somehow complement the ones I already have.

The quest ended with acclaimed Arctic Butterfly 724 from VisibleDust.

So I posted a Kit order containing the Arctic Butterfly 724 and The Sensor Loupe and waited.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Opening the box you can find two black boxes, not the same ones you got on a commercial plane, but two very cool black boxes with a golden logo on them.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

The Arctic Butterfly arrived packaged in a swish black cardboard box, which opens to reveal a nice faux-leather travel case. This case has a carabiner for attachment to your luggage, as well as a zip which opens to reveal a rather nice looking, sturdy red plastic case. The hardcase is foam padded, moulded perfectly to fit the red sensor brush inside

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Opening the plastic zip pouches this is what you will find inside:

- Red Sleek Case containing the Arctic Butterfly 724
- 2x small batteries for the Sensor Loupe
- Sensor Loupe 5x
- Faux-leather travel case
- 2x carabiners for attachment to your luggage
- 1 blue loop attachment to put the Sensor Loupe around you neck
- 1 Cleaning cloth
- 1 cloth bag for Sensor Loupe protection

It lacked the 2 AAA batteries for it to work so I had to buy them extra.

Everything is very well packed and travel ready.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Let's take a look at the Sensor Loupe. You can see that it has 6 super bright lights all around and when you lighten it up you can see everything perfectly. On this one you can barely see the blue light it emits.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Here is a zoom view of it while making a test on the batteries pack. This loop has a magnification of 5x and I think now they haded another one with 7x. I find that the 5x are more than enought to see the Bunnies jumping :)

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Here is a look of the 6 lights.

Kit and tips for Cleaning the Sensor

Pick up the Arctic Butterfly 724 and you'll notice that the most important bit - the brush head - is cleverly protected by a removable, transparent plastic cap.

The brush head is detachable for cleaning by giving it a firm tug, which might also indicate that it can be replaced. The green handle is constructed of a nice matte plastic, with the company name very stylishly embossed on the front.

The side of the brush sports an on/off slide switch, and the back of the brush slides open to reveal a compartment for 2 AAA batteries (not included, unfortunately).

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Now you're probably wondering why a sensor brush would need batteries. One problem with traditional cleaning brushes is that sweeping dust simply slides the dust around, and there is a possibility of leaving some behind.

Some brushes overcome this by "charging" the bristles with static electricity prior to use, to allow them to literally attract and pick up dust particles. This usually requires the use of compressed air or special paper.

The Arctic Butterfly 724 achieves this effect through spinning the bristles at high speed using a built-in motor. As an added benefit, spinning the bristles also dislodges any residual dust trapped in the bristles.

Do this 3 times for 5 seconds, and your sensor will be completely charged.

Now you're ready to go.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

The Sensor Loupe is very useful so you can see inside of your camera. This will give you a perfect even illumination of the full sensor no matter what is the size of yours.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Simply brush the sensor carefully to pick up the Bunnies and debris. Do not make too much pressure on it or else you could end up getting more dust that actually removing it.

00-Sensor w Dust

Here is a sensor shot before using the Arctic Butterfly 724. It's not VERY dirt but it has some had black Bunnies on some places but it needs a clean.


After first Arctic Butterfly 724 pass. You can clearly see that it removed part of the Bunnies but is not a miracle worker ;)


Let's charge it and give it another try...

Now it's getting a little bit better on the second try.


Once again I did a 5 second spin to remove the debris it already caught and let's try it one more time.


Last spin and last cleaning for now. As you can see it did what it's announce it does. It removed the heaviest part of the sensor Bunnies and considering that I had my lens was at f22. Normally and on a regular basis I would not use this aperture except for some specific assignment works.

You can normally start seeing more specks or Bunnies at f8.0 and above this would give an increase of those terrible black dots on your pictures.

I would like to advise you that, unfortunately, I do not have any contract with this company nor have any commission on their products. I just wanted to express my feelings towards this great product that I think now is part of my cleaning pack.

Hopefully this could help you out to decided what will be your cleaning kit and if you choose the Arctic Butterfly 724 and Sensor Loupe as a complement you will be VERY, VERY happy with it.

Pay close attention to the following things to watch out, they are pretty much common sense:

Avoid touching the brush bristles with your fingers unless you want oil smears on your sensor. Keep the sensor brush dedicated to cleaning sensors only; I keep a separate brush for chamber cleaning, and brushing dirt off lenses and filters. Finally, they recommend cleaning the brush head every few cleanings with pure Isopropyl Alcohol, pure Ethanol, or their Sensor Brush Wash product.

DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT under any circumstances use your Arctic Butterfly 724 for any other thing like cleaning the chamber, playing with it over your hand or use it has a fan, DO NOT let your friends play with it because it an get some oil and instead of cleaning the sensor it could DAMAGE IT.

THINK OF Arctic Butterfly 724 AS A CIRURGIC TOOL

Digital SLR sensor cleaning is a straightforward activity which should be done regularly, to ensure clean, pleasing photos without unwanted blobs. Products such as the Arctic Butterfly 724 from VisibleDust make this process very much pain-free, with good results too.

I found that it worked as advertised, with no problems picking up dust and leaving the my sensor spot-free. The spinning mechanism is a very novel way of self-cleaning and charging up the bristles, without having to resort to compressed air. As a result, it is very quick to use and put away, with minimum fuss and mess. I was very impressed too by the sturdiness and quality of the construction, and the hardy protective cases supplied.

There aren't many negatives to point out - the most apparent would be the high price of the unit. Surveying the market, rival sensor brushes are retailing as low as a quarter of the price for a basic brush, or even in one case, a complete wet and dry cleaning kit for the equivalent money. This can be justified though, in that you are paying a premium for the patented spinning system, and one doesn't need to carry cans of compressed air, making it very travel friendly. There is also a slightly more affordable model, the SL-700, that spins at a slower speed.

All in all though, I was very pleased with the Arctic Butterfly 724 sensor brush from VisibleDust, and would definitely recommend it.

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