Does HD Video in A Full Frame Dust Magnet Make Sense?

February 24th, 2009

Dan Achatz’s  recent discussion thread in the PFRE discussion group was very insightful for me. Dan sounds like he is struggling to keep the sensor of his new Canon 5D Mk II free of dust. I feel his pain. I’ve fought the “dust on the sensor” battle since 2003 when I got my 1Ds.  For the first couple of years I got really worked up about keeping the sensor dust free. I hardly ever changed lenses. Now I’ve gotten to the point that I just live with a little dust on the sensor and spot the images unless it gets really obnoxious.

For those you that haven’t struggled with the full frame dust problem, full frame sensors are famous for being dust magnets. You have to clean them regularly. The only way you keep dust off the sensor is don’t remove the lens. Of course the 5D Mk II has a bunch of new features to reduce, repel and remove dust. I assumed that all this wizzy new technology on new full frame cameras had the dust problem under control- Apparently not.

When I gave Dan my “live with it” philosophy he pointed out that when you are shooting HD video, like the 5D Mk II does, you can’t live with it! How do you spot a HD video? HD video is notorious for showing every little detail, like dust spots. Wow, this rattled my cage. I was really warming up to the new 5D. Mostly to be able to shoot HD video with high quality interchangeable lenses. I’d never thought about the implications of shooting HD video, that shows every spec of dust, with a sensor that’s hard to clean.

Don’t get me wrong, the 5D Mk II has some great new technology. Even without the HD video feature, it’s well worth the money as a still camera. But I think if you are getting it to shoot HD video it sounds like you should be prepared to spend some serious time sensor cleaning or just put a lens on it and keep it on.

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10 Responses to “Does HD Video in A Full Frame Dust Magnet Make Sense?”

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  • Hello,
    is this a Canon issue or also on Nikon FF cameras ?


  • One reason for buying the Canon 5DII was for the video, I needed a new video and this was I thought the cheapest way to go and of course the stats looked good as well. I am happy with the camera as a camera and as a video so much that I am buying another.

    As far as dust is concerned I have yet to have this problem with this camera, I do change lens a lot doing video, and I must agree having dust on the sensor would be a big problem. With my 20D I had big dust problems, with my 40D I had very little problems and in 12 months of shooting every day, changing lens many times a day I only ever had 2 dust spots that I never worried about.

    I am sure because I use the 5DII for video I will run into this problem, but it is the tool I use every day for work, that puts bread and butter on my table, but in the end I need to share my love with 2 Canon 5DII’s or maybe even three – We need to think that this is a growing technology and this model will quickly need to be upgraded, it is a tool that will be worked much harder than before, it is now doing 2 jobs and I am sure it will run it’s life much quicker.

    Dan, would any other camera be any different as far as dust is concerned, and to Canon & Nixon you both made wonderful cameras but we do need NOT to have this sort of problem!


  • Paul- It’s encouraging that you report “…I have yet to have this problem with this camera.” I’d love to hear that dust is not a significant problem shooting HD with the 5D.

  • @Mike- There is only one other DSLR that has video, the Nikon D90 which is not a full frame camera. My general impression is that DX sized sensors have less of a problem with dust although I don’t know that for a fact.

    Nikon FF bodies can’t shoot HD video. The issue I’m raising is just FF DSLRs that shoot HD so right now 5D Mk II is the only one.

    Dust on FF sensors is a well known issue but with still photos the problem is manageable because you can remove the dust in images.

    Perhaps this issue is why Nikon decided to not put HD video in the D700 and D3 and D3X.

  • What techniques are people using to clean? I recently tried to just blowing some air in there, but I’m a bit afraid to try anything much more than that. I know there are a ton of third-party solutions out there — anyone have any experience with any of them?

  • @Lewis- See the discussion thread:

    They talk about the various dust removal techniques.

  • I realize that just about everyone here uses Canon or Nikon, but my current camera is an Olympus E-500. I bought it three years ago, before I had any idea that I would someday be doing real estate photography, and, to be honest, if I had known, I probably would have gotten a Canon or Nikon. One feature of the E-500, though–and a big reason I bought it–is that it automatically blows dust off the sensor everytime you turn it on. I have never had a problem with dust. I’m surprised that Canon or Nikon hasn’t come up with something similar…

  • @Bill- As I point out in this post the Canon 5D Mk II and other newer Canon cameras have a significant number of features to “reduce, repel and remove dust”. The point I was making is that all these built-in dust removal features don’t completely remove the dust issue.

    The E-500 isn’t a full frame camera. Dust problems seem to be worse on full frame cameras.

    I have no experience with Nikon DSLRs so I don’t know how they are for attracting dust.

  • There is one thing to be careful of with the “keep one lens on the camera” plan. For telescoping lenses like the Canon 28-135, it can still suck dust in around the barrel as it moves air in and out. So it is better to use lenses that don’t change length as you zoom, such as the 10-22 and 17-40 and 70-200.

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