Ok, after using my Lenspen I was ready for the really scary one: the Sensor Klear CCD cleaning pen. Did I buy both at the same time ? Yes. Without knowing if the Lenspen would work ? Yup. That’s because 7 Day Shop were having a sale and the Sensor Klear itself was less than the cost of the P&P for the order…
Ok, so I’m about to put something that’s cheaper than the stamps and envelopes for the whole order onto the most delicate portion of my DSLR, and not only expect no damage to result, but expect it to clean as well as a cleaning system costing 15 times as much ? Well, when it’s put like that it all seems rather far fetched doesn’t it ?
The system is identical to the bigger Lenspen, but with a much smaller triangular head that is totally flat, rather than concave, and the sponge in the end cap is rather longer although that’s the end of the physical differences. To be fair, I also bought a Kenro Hurricane dual valve blower at the same time as the pens (so it’s only 7 times cheaper than the brushes), as the recommended cleaning instructions suggest not using the Sensor Klear brush on the CCD but to reserve that for the chamber and mirror.
Using the blower first didn’t really change the dirt on my sensor: I had previously tried an Arctic Butterfly a couple of weeks ago (thanks Ben), and whilst it had removed at least half of the dirt, the remaining portion had merely been redistributed so I was looking at a wet cleaner to get the last of the marks off. The first pass of the pen managed to create a smudge in the very centre of the image area that ran for half the height of the screen… Not a good start. Back to the blower, and another pass with the pen didn’t make any difference.
After that, I paused for a while, and in doing so put the lid back on the pen. In hindsight, I think it’s important to put the cap back (with a quarter turn) much more frequently when cleaning the sensor compared with a lens or filter, and to keep the head as flat as possible relative to the sensor. The third pass did the trick, and after a final blow to make sure the last of the particles were removed I had a nicely clean image at f/32. There are still a couple of spots, but they’re pale grey rather than black at f/32, and given that I normally shoot no lower than f/16 I’m happy with that level of cleaning: I’d rather do some retouch (and batch apply it to a whole day of images) than risk scratching anything.
So is the current CCD cleaning ethos wrong ? Well, I have no idea: I’ve only used the pen three times, and have not taken anything except test shots in order to prove that the dust spots have been reduced. I am, however, beginning to think that the ‘delicate and easily damaged’ line is pretty much the same as the warning about re-flashing BIOS images: if you’re careful then there’s no need for excessive panic, and having read of some of the things people have been using (off the shelf makeup brushes; cotton buds; etc.) then this pen is really rather tame.
I may also end up with a wet cleaning kit at some stage – the instructions for the pen do say that stubborn marks may require that, as degrees of delicacy aside, scrubbing with anything at a stubborn spot will cause permanent damage, but for the moment I’ll happily use this pen and have no problems at all if I need to discard it 6 or even 3 months from now.