About 5 years ago I bought jst's Nikon D100 when he was upgrading to something better. It's been a great camera and while I would definitely like something with a more contemporary sensor, the D100 is a solid body and worth more to me than I could sell it for.
There was just one major problem I'd been having with it. Over the years, I've done lots of lens swapping outside and in windy and dusty conditions. I've always pointed the body down when swapping lenses but the sensor (actually the sensor filter) has been no match for dust and pollen and other little nasties which have accumulated over time.
I was spending an increasing amount of time PhotoShopping out the various black dots and smudges that peppered my shots and so I finally opened up the camera, lifted the mirror and tried to blow out some of the dust with a nice little Giottos Rocket blower. That moved one or two specs and some larger pollen bits but didn't really do much to improve the situation.
Here's a shot of blue sky that I tuned up in PhotoShop to show the mess.
That's actually before I took the blower to it but the picture right after the blower really wasn't noticeably better. It was still bad enough that I didn't bother to even save the after shot so I could compare more closely.
I took to the Internets and read around about cleaning Nikon sensors and there were a number of success stories using dry and wet cleaning methods and a quite a few warnings about scratching or otherwise damaging sensors and shutters and whatnot. Nikon doesn't recommend user cleaning and doesn't even recommend letting a local camera shop mess about with the sensor.
So, I did what I do when I'm feeling helpless and frustrated and considering just buying something new to get around a problem. I consulted Twitter. I'm lucky that I've got decent number of photog friends and colleagues and within hours I had several suggestions for cleaning kits.
I went with a VisibleDust kit that has four swabs and a cleaning solution that's meant for both water and grease cleaning (not knowing what precisely was welding these nasties onto my sensor.) Adorama has a good variety of these and other kits.
When the kit arrived, I did another round of rocket-blowing the sensor and then under good light I wet the swab, wiped across the sensor with medium pressure, flipped over the swab and wiped across it a second time. In just seconds the remaining cleaning fluid had evaporated and I could see that most of the naked-eye-visible particles were gone. Looking a bit closer though, I could still see several large particles near the top and bottom of the sensor so I repeated the cleaning with a new swab. With that cleaning, there were no more naked-eye-visible particles so I closed up the camera, went outside, and took a few f/22 sky shots.
Here's another shot tuned in PhotoShop to show the progress.
There are still a dozen flecks there of varying sizes. Comparing the photos, I think about half the flecks are new or moved ones, and so I suspect they're not "welded" to the sensor but there's one in the bottom left that's clearly the same spot and a few others that are suspiciously close. I suspect those are tough ones that just didn't move during both cleaning attempts. I'm actually OK with these results and I'll wait until it gets dusty again (but not nearly as bad as I let it get this time) before I try to get those tough spots.
Thanks again to my friends and colleagues who gave me the courage to take this on myself. I'm very pleased with the results I got -- especially that it cost only about $25 and I didn't break or scratch or otherwise ruin my sensor :)
Here's a quick APNG I put together to show you the before and after. The purple circles show the dust that survived the cleanings and the green circles show dust that's new or moved since the first test image.