Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dirty Sensor, No More.

February 23, 2010

After receiving, depositing, and saving all my Christmas, birthday, and holiday checks I placed my long-desired order for my first digital SLR camera.  The debate between new and used camera bodies and lenses required hours of online research, from professional guides to enthusiast forums, settling with the most weight on new.  The new vs.used price differences among entry level DSLRs was minimal at the time, whereas the technology advancements between emerging models was moving at a much quicker rate.  I decided to buy a new camera body and lens knowing I would likely not replace it for many years and wanting the longest life-span I could achieve.

I bought a new Canon 450D/XSi camera body literally the day before the 550D/T2i was released, hence getting a good price at $485.  Usually this camera body was sold in a set with a kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm IS f/3.5-5.6, but I decided against that option for two reasons; first, I saw how saturated the used lens market was with these kit lenses and assumed there was good reason; second, I vaguely knew what style of photography I was leaning toward and took my brother's lens advice.  The same day I ordered the camera body I also ordered the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, otherwise known as the "nifty-fifty", for $89.

March 29, 2014

Now, 24,969 shutter actuations later, I am still using the same camera body.  The 50mm lens is upgraded to the lovely f/1.4 USM version, with heart-warming gratitude towards my Canon brother.  I have two other lenses in the bullpen that fulfill specific needs (and a third I forget about) but the 50 is my favorite.

Now lets talk about the sensor, the four year-old, 12.2-megapixel, APS-C, CMOS sensor.  I will not write in detail about the sensor because I do not know all the technical details; but you can compare a digital camera's sensor to traditional film -- it collects image information.  I do know that I have a crop sensor, meaning it is smaller than the standard of 35mm, capturing less light and information than a full frame sensor.  That is also why is costs significantly less, but that is not my point.

My point is that everything, over time, gets dirty.  Just how dirty does a camera sensor get?  Well, I performed a test, provided by the Photography Club I belong to, and discovered.  Without even zooming in dark specks were plainly visible in the photo, specks not from a dusty lens either because I made sure to clean that beforehand.  My sensor needed a good scrub.

Regardless of how carefully you change lenses, when the camera body is open the sensor is exposed.  A sensor is, well, sensitive, and not something you simply wipe off with cloth.  It should be cared for in a cleanroom with no dust, a rare environment.  Members in the photography club, both Nikon and Canon users, knew the respective service centers that provided camera repairs and cleaning.  Living between Tokyo and Yokohama puts us right in the center of multiple locations, the most convenient being in Shinjuku.  I recall somebody saying it costs around ¥3500, or $35, and is done same day, within a few hours.  Sign me up.

Saturday was a beautiful spring day in the Kanto Plain, breezy, mostly sunny, and about 20° C (70°F) -- perfect for a day in the city.  We found our way to the Mitsui Building where the Canon Service Center is and received the efficient and professional attention Japanese businesses are known for.  The gentleman helping us knew enough English to give us the pertinent information and answer our questions.  My only disappointment was that they do not clean lens interiors, only the outer glass, but my sensor was really the priority anyway.  The great news: it only cost ¥1000!  With tax that comes to $10.50!  $3,390 less than the dreamy 5D MK3.

The only difficulty of filling hours in Shinjuku, or any other ward of Tokyo for that matter, is time management.  I prepared a short list of craft brewpubs in the area (thank you Craft Beer Japan!) and made it to two of them, Little Delirium and Watering Hole, sampling some great beer and tasty food.  In no time at all it was time to pick up my camera and head home.

Today I replicated the sensor test, using the same clean lens and settings.  Spotless.  I'm not sure if the clean sensor will make a noticeable difference in my photos but I am thrilled nonetheless.  I cannot afford to upgrade to a higher quality, full-frame camera but I can certainly continue to care for my Rebel, the Little Camera that Could.

~40% crop of upper right corner BEFORE:

~40% crop of upper right corner AFTER:

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