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Canon 5D MK I and II Sensor Cleaning Problems... Please Help ! :)

Bill Johnson , Feb 02, 2010; 12:26 p.m.

I have the Canon 5D Mark I and Mark II, and have read just about everything in here and on the web about Sensor cleaning, yet am having a horrible time with keeping my sensor clean enough to not have welded on spots that are visible when I shoot with the aperture stopped up to increase depth of field. I often shoot at 16 or higher. I shoot full time, and run my own photography business in the Seattle area.
I have tried eclipse fluid and sensor swabs, but that actually makes the problem worse, as noticeable residue streaking is left behind that is also just as noticeable.
I have tried the Dust Aid system, which works well for loose dust particles, but it has no effect on the welded on "dark circles" that appear on the sensor. I also have a rocket blower which can work for the loose particles too, but doesn't help with the welded on dark spots either.
I'm assuming that these are micro water spots that adhere to the sensor and accumulate from moisture in the air?, but I'm not sure. I live in Seattle, and it is often pretty humid here, especially in the winter months.
I am extremely careful about how I handle and store my cameras and lenses, and only keep them in closed a camera bag when not in use, and I only change lenses when it is necessary. When changing lenses, I always point the camera downwards, to minimize dust going into the sensor, and I make the lens change as fast as possible. The camera body is NEVER left without either a lens or a body cap on it.
I have also tried the speckgrabber system, and that doesn't seem to do much either.
Yesterday I took my 1 month old 5D Mark II into a very reputable camera store to have the sensor cleaned, since my attempt to clean several welded on spots with Eclipse fluid and sensor swabs only made it worse, didn't remove the spots, and created nasty streaks of residue on the sensor. They usually do a great job, and I can often go 6 months to a year before a I need another cleaning. Yesterday after driving 20 miles, and 60.00 later they cleaned the sensor extremely well, except for when I got it home, put on a lens and tried out a test shot, there was already one welded on spot in the center ! My guess is they missed it, but it may have naturally gone onto the sensor. The body cap was on the whole time from when they cleaned it too.
I would like to be able to clean my own sensors well enough to get these welded on spots removed, but so far have been unable to find out how to do it effectively, since the eclipse fluid method does not work, and I would highly recommend that you DO NOT use it on your sensors....
I would like to know if anyone here has experienced similar problems, and how you have overcome them without having to pay a technician 60 dollars each and everytime you want to remove these welded on sensor spots.
Does anyone clean their sensors effectively on their own, and if so, what are you using, and how do you do it?
Any help or info would be much appreciated.


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John A , Feb 02, 2010; 01:13 p.m.

I had some issues with my camera and it took about 3 cleanings with the eclipse fluid and swabs to get rid of them. If you have the ring issue, I wonder if you are getting mirror oil flying around in there--apparently an issue with some 1dsmkIII's. The rocket blower can also create issues if not kept securely in a baggy to keep the dust out--ends up ballistically putting dust onto the sensor!

Anyway, I fixed my seemingly welded on spots by cleaning, blowing and cleaning 3 times before they were gone--takes some patience.

Bill Johnson , Feb 02, 2010; 01:24 p.m.

Thanks John, I find that the eclipse fluid leaves a residue on the sensor that is as bad or worse than the actual spots.... I only use one drop..... I also keep my rocket blower in a sealed bag as well....

John A , Feb 02, 2010; 02:28 p.m.

Maybe use some more than one drop? I put about 3 or 4 or so, so that the entire thing wet--no dry spots. I don't get any residue, so it does make me wonder if you aren't getting mirror oil in there--which might not wipe up very well! I tested mine thoroughly after cleaning and saw no indication of residue or streaking of any kind.

Bill Johnson , Feb 02, 2010; 02:35 p.m.

I was told by the tech that cleans the sensors here in Seattle that eclipse fluid is the worst thing you can put on your sensor, because it leaves a residue on the sensor. I don't know why you're not having that same problem.... I highly doubt it is oil, as the 5D MK I and II had not had that issue before, and since mine is only a month old I'm sure if there was an issue with that it would have been cleared up by now....

Geoff Sobering , Feb 02, 2010; 02:43 p.m.

I'd suggest finding out what system the techs you like use and get some of that!

G Dan Mitchell , Feb 02, 2010; 02:57 p.m.

Some parts of your experience mirror mine, while other are diametrically opposed.

I've had my 5D2 for a year and I have yet to need to clean the sensor glass. I do shoot at f/16 and it isn't unusual to see a small spot or two if I look closely at the image - but most of the spots disappear after a few on/off cycles and those that remain longer are easy to deal with in post. (It crossed my mind to wonder if your built-in dust reduction "shaker" system is working correctly.)

Before I owned the 5D2 I owned (and still own) a 5D. The dust issue was much more of a concern with the 5D, and I went through quite a learning curve figuring out the most effective way to deal with it. I began with the Eclipse Fluid and PecPad system and discovered several things:

  • It can effectively remove some of the "sticky" materials and also deal with "smears" on the glass.
  • It often takes more than one cleaning to get it right.
  • It is very easy to create smears on the sensor glass when using this method. You are not the only person to have to deal with this.
  • For most typical cleaning the liquid system is overkill. A brush and blower should do the trick 9 times out of 10. I keep the liquid system on hand but reserve it for rare occasions when something is stuck on the glass.

Assuming that your "dust shaker" system is engaged and working correctly, it sounds to me like you may need to send your camera out for a better initial cleaning - better to do that than to damage the glass or other camera internals by overdoing it. Once you get it cleaned correctly - and it might even take a trip to Canon - you should be able to keep it clean with a brush.

You also need to verify that the "welded spot" is actually that and not a nick or scratch on the sensor glass.

Good luck,


Brian Ellis , Feb 02, 2010; 03:21 p.m.

I've read about oil from the mirror being a possible cause of sensor issues 5D Mark II. Given your lack of problems with your other cameras, and especially your story about having it cleaned, making a test shot, and seeing a spot or ring on the sensor immediately after the test shot, I'd guess that's your problem.

Bill Johnson , Feb 02, 2010; 04:17 p.m.

To Brian: Actually, my 5D Mark I has the same exact issues.... I'm only mentioning the Mark II because I'm using it primarily now, with the Mark I as a backup.... Most people who shoot stopped down will never notice these spots at all, but since I often shoot stopped higher to achieve greater depth of field, it is a major problem for me.
To Dan, I'm 100 percent sure it is not a nick or scratch, since it wasn't there before the sensor clean, and I know the tech wouldn't have damaged it, they are ridiculously careful and I trust them without question.
To Geoff: I wish they would tell me how they do it, but like Kentucky Fried Chicken, they're keeping the recipe a secret... I know they're using a microscope to view the sensor, but that's all I can tell....
I wish someone out there knew how to effectively clean these smudges or spots off of the sensor without leaving even more problems with a residue. The PEC pads and Eclipse fluid just doesn't work for me without leaving the residue. I tried going to just one drop on the edge of the pad before I made 1 or 2 passes over the sensor, but the residue smears are still there.... Definitely a frustrating situation, as a 30 minute drive and 60.00 per professional cleaning is a real drain on time and money.

Peter Langfelder , Feb 02, 2010; 04:39 p.m.

Bill, you may want to try the Visible Dust pads and cleaning fluids. In my experience they don't leave streaking, although they sometimes do leave loose dust particles that can be picked up with a dry sensor brush. My experience with the Visible Dust products isn't entirely positive, but after a few tries and repeated cleanings they did get the sensor clean.

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