Nikon CCD Cleaning Guide

Nikon CCD Cleaning

There comes a time when your Nikon will need a CCD cleaning. If you keep your CCD clean you won’t have to worry about dirty photos. Here’s what I mean: Look at the 2 images below (Sorry – I’ve lost the larger images for now, i switching servers, but I will get them up here as soon as I find them).

sensorgrungemore grunge on the sensor

See the spots? That’s sensor grunge! Yep, bits of almost microscopic gunk that get stuck on the CCD surface.

These are most visible when you use a small aperture, and can be quite intrusive. Sure you can get rid of them using your image editing software but what a time killer that is. I don’t know about you but I want to spend more time OUTDOORS, not more time on the computer!

Unlike film cameras, where your image is made on a unique segment of film that is exposed once, digital SLRs, make images on a sensor fixed inside the body. Dust and gunk can actually accumulate. So when you remove your lens, it’s like open season for all the particles in the air, to glom on to your CCD!

According to some sources, a zoom lens also increases the amount of dust on the sensor and thus the frequency of Nikon CCD cleaning.

This is a critical considerationwhen you are outdoors in hostile or less than heavenly environments. So many of our great images are the result of environmental anomalies, like grain dust in the air – red sunsets; or moisture – those idyllic dewy summer sunrises – that we’re exposing the most critical part of our camera to these “invaders, every time we change a lens!”

natue photography central divider

Fuji offers a very good Sensor Cleaning Guide (PDF file) for cleaning the sensors on their cameras, however, if you are the owner of a Nikon, you may be less inclined to try Nikon CCD Cleaning since Nikon doesn’t recommend this procedure as a “do it yourself” project – at least for North Americans!

But having done CCD cleaning myself, I can say, as intimidating as it sounds in some ways, it’s not difficult, expensive or time consuming. And in many cases it is very neccessary!

What helped me: I read Thom Hogan’s excellent article about Nikon CCD Cleaning several times, over a few weeks before I had bolstered my courage enough to give it a try.

The thought of damaging my D70, or worse (horrors) my D300; AND theeven more worse thought of having to do without it while it go repaired were soon diminished by the sight of the crud on all my images. I took the plunge, swabed it clean – and it was FINE!


If you are inclined to clean your sensor, the first thing to do is to see if you really have bad dust on the CCD. First, clean your lens, and your camera filters. Then…

Take a photo of a clear blue sky, or a plain painted wall, at f22 or so. Open it in Photoshop, and click on Image>Adjust>Autolevels.

Do you see spots before your eyes? I like to zoom in a little but I was still shocked at my results.

sensor grunge up close

autolevels test

If your CCD test image looks this bad read Thom’s article before you do any Nikon CCD cleaning.

Here’s the link again. Then get the Fuji Guide (PDF file)


Then get the right stuff:

Where to get the Right Nikon CCD Cleaning Supplies.

sensorswabs I use Sensor Swabs – a highly reputable CCD cleaning tool, and Eclipse Optic Cleaning fluid. The Swabs are like jumbo q-tips on steroids!

There is also specific model of swabs for Nikons. Make sure you get the right size for your Camera – they have been designed to fit exactly in the sensor chamber, so you don’t need to make multiple passes accross the sensitive sensor surface (saying that is more difficult then the cleaining itself!). Nikon, Canon, it doesn’t matter, just get the kind designated for your camera.

I’m in Canada and when I searched on-line for suppliers most US companies won’t ship the fluid out of the country, so you should look locally for suppliers. It’s probably cheaper too.

I got my stuff at Technicare. They don’t have a very helpful Web site but you can call and find out if the products are in stock. The staff are amazing! AND they serve all of Western Canada.

Do your Nikon D300 a big favor. Keep it away from the elements as much as you can. The fewer times you subject your Nikon to CCD cleaning the better. Use a high quality gadget bag for lugging your gear, and if you’re only taking your camera, keep it protected in a well designed case.

And now the Mandatory Disclaimer: I have to repeat that Nikon doesn’t recommend North Americans and probably Europeans do this procedure. Only in Japan is it recommended! So clean at your own risk.

Despite the simplicity of the Nikon CCD cleaning process, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. If the dirt is really bad or you just don’t want to take the risk, you can send your D70 to Nikon for service. They’ll clean it and make sure it gets back to normal.