Keeping your sensor clear and dust free can be a somewhat daunting task. Fear of damaging your camera is always there, leading many photographers to send out their gear to be professionally cleaned or to resort to never changing their lens outdoors. I’m neither of these photographers. Too cheap to send my kit out to Canon (I’d rather spend my money on new lenses) and too worried about getting the shot (I’ve changed my lens in some less than ideally environments). With a sensor growing dirtier everyday, I’ve been seeking an affordable self-cleaning solution, first trying a fake Sensor Gel Stick and now the SensorKlear II by LensPen. So just how well does the SensorKlear II perform…
I knew this was going be a good test for the SensorKlear II, as after nearly three years of use and without a single cleaning my sensor looked as if someone with a nasty cold had sneezed on it. I was also optimistic about the product as it had received a number of positive reviews and personal endorsements from the KelbyTv crew.
Having had a bad experience with a fake sensor cleaning product, I was now beginning to get a little frustrated that I was still stuck with such a filthy sensor. I wanted to make sure I got a genuine product and my local camera store (which is actually more like a booth), had no sensor cleaning products. Living in a smaller city, in a country where I don’t speak the language can make little things, like finding a camera store, a challenging task so I resorted back to ebay. Stumbling across this article from LensPen, on how to spot fake versions of their product, I used their guide to place an order. When it arrived I w as relieved when it arrived that it passed all the checks. It was the genuine article.
The SensorKlear II by LensPen
The SensorKlear II by LensPen is available in a number of different kits:
- The SensorKlear II (includes only the cleaning stick) – $9.95 at B&H
- The SensorKlear II Plus (includes the cleaning stick and Hurricane Blower) – $19.99 at B&H
- The SensorKlear II Loupe Kit (includes the cleaning stick, Hurricane Blower, SensorKlear Loupe and a carrying pouch) – $49.99 at B&H
Personally, I went with the first option as I already own a blower and my eyes are pretty good, so I reckon I can get away with out the loupe. I’ll be sure to include how easy I found this process in my final verdict.
Packaging is simple, but sufficient, and sealed which will keep the SensorKlear II clean. The packaging also claims it is safe for all sensors which even the real Sensor Gel Stick isn’t (apparently it will adhere to the coating on some of the Sony cameras, although I have not confirmed this). I was also surprised by the claim that it was good for “up to 100 cleanings”. While this isn’t something I’ll be able to test, it does mean if the product performs well it is an exceptional value. Comparatively, the Sensor Gel Stick comes with seven sticky strips, of which one must be used at the end of each cleaning. Replacement strips are available, costing $12.99 for 20 strips (which is reasonable but still more expensive).
The SensorKlear II is the size and weight of a small pen. Built almost entirely of black plastic it has a slightly cheap feel to it, but appears solid enough. The hinged head is easily bent but has some resistance which I think will be ideal for cleaning something as delicate as a sensor. The company’s logo is printed on the back and product name appears on a silver sticker on the front.
The cleaning tip is small triangular piece mounted on a soft rubber nib. This give the tip some flex, which is probably meant to help to prevent damage to the sensor. Inside the cap their is a foam material, which according to LensPen is meant to clean the cleaning tip when the cap is replaced and rotated after each use.
To test how effective the SensorKlear II is I wanted to be sure I accounted for as many variables as possible and was able to document the results. I decided that I would check the progress in four stages by taking a test shot. This was done by photographing a clean A4 sheet paper at f32 (my lens’ smallest aperture). I than took the image into Lightroom and adjusted the exposure slider to try to make the dust as visible as possible. This was marginally successful.
As you can see I have a number of visible of dust spots on the sensor, but I really wanted to pull out the spots to really test the SensorKlear II and to make sure my sensor was clean. Remembering a tutorial from Matt K on bring out dust spots with curves, I applied a curves adjustment and got the image below. No other adjustments were made.
This really made the dust pop and become visible.
The next stage I would use Giottos Rocket Air to blow any loose dust away from the sensor. This isn’t the recommend LensPen branded blower but that shouldn’t matter as long the blower you’re using has a valve to prevent dust from be sucked into the blower and back in to your camera. As this step is suppose to help clean the sensor and is unrelated to the effectiveness of the SensorKlear II, I was sure to document the improvements after this stage as well.
In the last phase I decided to follow the SensorKlear II instructions, take a test photo and if spots persisted use the product for a second time. I have read some reports on forums that the SensorKlear II can smudge at this stage of the process but it was questionable as to if the person making these were using a genuine product.
In Lightroom, I used the original untouched raw images and created a virtual of copy and synced all the images with my ‘before cleaning’ test images.
The SensorKlear II Instructions
The following instructions appear on the back of the SensorKlear II packaging:
- Set the camera to “Sensor Clean” mode; remove the main lens unit and carefully put it to one side.
- Locate any dust on the sensor surface with the SensorKlear Loupe.
- Use the LensPen blower to blow dry easy-to-remove dust out of the camera chamber.
- Inspect the sensor again with the SensorKlear Loupe to locate any remaining “sticky” dust. If the surface is clean, stop cleaning: if some particles persit remain continue to the next step.
- Adjust SensorKlear II Cleaning Tip to the desired position.
- Use the SensorKlear Loupe and the SensorKlear II Cleaning Tip together to target dust particles and remove them easily and safely.
- Use the LensPen Blower again to remove any dust particles in the camera chamber.
- Inspect the sensor surface again with the SensorKlear Loupe to confirm everything is clean.
- Put the main lens unit back into the camera mount.
- Give the SensorKlear II Cap a couple of twists after putting the cap back on.
- For further details, visit the “How to Use” page on www.lenspen.com and watch our online demonstration (this didn’t exist at time of writing this review).
Using the SensorKlear II for the First Time
Following the instructions was quite easy and I felt comfortable removing my lens and using the blower. My first visual inspection, with the aid of a small light provide difficult and I could see why a sensor loop kit is also available. I was slightly nervous using the pen at first as I wasn’t sure exactly how much of a bend to put in the hinge or how much pressure to apply to the tip of the sensor. Simply by starting out cautiously and applying very soft pressure, I became quite comfortable within a few seconds. The triangular tip made it easier to get to the corners of the sensors, although this was probably the most difficult portion of the task. Overall, I had a good feeling here and believe most people would find the use of this product very easy.
Below are some sample images from each stage of the cleaning process. You can click any of thumbs to view a larger image.
Very, very dirty…
The blower has had some effect here, but as I’ve only used the blower to clean in the past I was expecting what I saw; a lot of visible sticky dust.
This was shocking! My sensor really looked a mess after the first cleaning, showing far more dust spots and I began to worry. However, I had forgotten to use the blower again on the sensor, as stated in the instructions and decided to repeat the cleaning process again.
A much better result! There are still a few small visible spots along the edges in the image with the curves layer (which I could have tried to clean again but didn’t) and one or two in the center. It’s difficult to say if these spot are on the sensor or the couple bits of dust I can see in my lens. Either way an impressive showing.[easyrotator]erc_95_1398696581[/easyrotator]
The Final Verdict
Overall, I was quite impressed with the results. When the instructions are followed, the SensorKlear II was able to remove most of the dust spots from my sensor. Those few remaining in the test images may or may not actually be on the sensor. I do believe those spots along the edge are on the sensor, while most of the spots in the center are from particles in the lens. I can’t however be certain of this and this may be a reason to buy the SensorKlear II Loupe Kit, particularly for those looking for the absolute best results. For myself, these few spots are not enough to justify the cost of the loupe but this really comes down to personal preference and budget.
In terms of easy of use, the SensorKlear II is a no-brainier and I’d definitely recommend this product to all but the most apprehensive or dust-spot-conscientious photographers.
Though their may be other cleaning solutions on the market which are more effective then the SensorKlear II, the fact that the product is: easy to use, doesn’t include any liquids, is portable and affordable makes it something I would recommend every photographer carry in their bag.