Sensor cleaning needn't be that frightening.
Dust on the sensor is an annoying thing. And what makes the situation even worse: most cam manufacturer warn you of cleaning the sensor by yourself and oraculate of destroyed or at least damaged CCDs...
1) Your manufacturer offers cleaning to you just to earn money. Conclusion: There is a way to get the dust off the chip without damaging it. And your cam manufacturer doesn't have sophisticated alien techniques for that.
2) Keep in mind on what kind of material you'll be working with the cleaning utilities of your choice: There is usually (depending on your cam of course) a filter infront of the sensor - and this filter doesn't just break by a soft touch! Maybe this helps to calm you down a bit... probably you won't be touching the sensor itself.
3) There are quite a lot of cleaning utilities on the market. You should look around, read some usage instructions and decide for a system by yourself.
Things that look good at first but are actually quite bad (in my opinion) is for example:
- using compressed air from a spray can. Could be quite good, but maybe you're blowing the dust from the sensor (and the surrounding areas) right down into the deepest corners of your cam: on the prism, on the viewfinder etc. It'll be off the sensor but will be anywhere else.
- using an air compressor: see upper entry AND don't forget that a standard air compressor does not provide clean air: the air might be contaminated by small oil drops - and you don't want to have them on your sensor, do you?!
- using Q-tips: may work, but how do you find the dust you want to remove? You won't see the dust on the sensor with your bare eye! So getting it off by a q-tip seems quite impossible to me. And the cotton may contain some hard contaminations that might scratch the low pass filter when you try to sweep the dust off.
I have favoured the SensorWand/PEC-PAD/Eclipse way of cleaning. The SensorWand is a plastic stick with a rubber head. PEC-Pads are very soft and lint-free cleaning wipes. Eclipse is a cleaning solution that evaporates quite fast with a minimum of residues. What else do you need: vacuum cleaner, fresh battery/power supply for your camera, some light, a white, bright surface (I've used my laptop's display and OpenOffice Presenter's white screen mode: open a presentation of your choice and press the "w" button) and some sticky tape.
4) Preparing and cleaning:
- Make sure you're working on a clean surface. Clean it before you start!
- Clean your lense (best is: long focal length and high apperture number, f/22 or so) before you start! It's very important to have a clean lense and clean it after every sensor cleaning. Dust on the lense will look very much like dust on the sensor - and you don't want to care about fake sensor dust!
Use your white, bright surface, defocus your cam completely and shoot a reference image. Once again: dust is more likely to be visible with f/22 or higher! You won't see any dust with f/2.8 ;)
Open it in an image editing program of your choice and do a auto levels correction. Now all the dust should become visible (horrific moment).
- Prepare your SensorWand as described here: www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com/howto.html. You will have to learn the wrapping process and try it a few times. Don't care too much about the 30° angle they're talking about... find an angle that works for you. The important things here are: You may touch the head of the SensorWand. You may not touch the PEC-Pad on the edge that will get in contact with the sensor. It'll be a good idea to get two PEC-Pads and have one laying on your working surface and using the upper one for the folding process (just to minimize the dirt that the pad would carry away from your working surface.
- Switch your camera into inspection mode (mirror locked in up position). DO NOT TRY to hold the mirror up by using your camera's bulb mode! This is just too risky: a mirror that snaps down while you are cleaning the sensor is dangerous! It certainly will destroy something!, unmount the lense and put its caps on it (remember: reduce the dust on the lense!)
- Use the vacuum cleaner to get the dust out of the camera. Don't lower it under the lense mount level (just a security precausion if the mirror comes down - what shouldn't happen as you have used a proper charged battery). Depending on how strong your vacuum cleaner is: be careful not to damage anything by too much suction!
- Add the Eclipse cleaning solution on your SensorWand/PEC-Pad construction: two drops per side. Drop right down there on the edge that will get in contact with the sensor. Maybe add another drop if you want, but dont use too much! Just a few drops! (I've used 4 to 5)
- Sweep the dust off: just follow the instructions from the link provided above. It is indeed a good idea to get used to the handling by some test runs (outside the camera, of course). Don't apply too much preasure - careful writing preasure is best, I guess (imagine you're writing with a very sharp and brittle pencil).
- Mount the lense, clean the lense and take a test shot like in #3 and compare the two. If too much dust is left: redo the procedure until you're happy with it. And don't be too perfectionistic! There will soon be new dust on the sensor, so what is the benefit of this fight? ;)
Still be aware of this: sensor cleaning IS risky - you could damage your camera very badly. But it's not that hard as some people (especially the manufacturers) try to make us think. Don't clean the sensor yourself if you have doubts on your abilities. Check some online resouces and tutorials on sensor cleaning, talk to people and then decide what you want to do. Use proper tools! Work clean and careful! Take the time for this and read your cleaning instructions before you start. Do not keep the camera open longer than necessary! Use some common sense!
P.S.: The bright spots (eg lower right corner) arn't really a hot pixel. It isn't dead either. And, yes, I've had them before te cleaning (I checked that, because I didn't know of them before ;) )! 1 is before the cleaning, 2 is after: