A botched blow job

full frame sensor.jpg

Canon’s 35mm full frame sensor, found in the EOS 5D dSLR. Scratching it is like taking a sledgehammer to a Ferrari engine.

Pardon the raunchy headline but that sums up pretty well what happened to my Canon 5D camera on the morning of Fri the 13th, 2006.

Digital SLRs need to have their image sensors cleaned every once in a while because they tend to collect dirt and other gunk, which in turn show up as blotches on your digital photograph. To clean the ultra-expensive sensor, you need to use an air blower (a rubber ball with a tube to expel air when you squeeze the former) to blow away any dirt without any physical contact.

I was doing a very routine maintainence on the 5D with the blower. In fact, it was the first time since I bought it that I was cleaning the sensor. I flipped open the camera’s internal mirror, and saw a fine hairline thingy. I thought it was a stray hair, and squeezed the blower several times to remove it.

Suddenly the removable tip of the blower ejected from its base and shot right into the camera sensor chamber. There was a “KE-KLUNK” sound, which is what it sounds like when $6,000 suddenly disappears. I saw two horrific marks on the sensor, which resulted in equally ugly blotches on the lower left portion of all the photographs taken. If the sensor was permanently damaged, it meant I could either pay a few grand to replace the one-piece sensor, or just buy a new camera altogether.

I was miserable for a few hours that day in San Fran, but there was nothing I could do till I returned home and went to Canon. Today when I went to the Canon office, the girl at the service counter looked equally horrified when I told her my sorry story. That is what I consider great service, when the company employee actually feels for your damaged product.

Anyway, the marks were not permanent scratches, but just oily streaks as I had hoped it would be. Amazing, since the blower tip had hit the sensor with some force. A quick wipe by the technician removed the marks, but the mysterious hairline scratch remained. The latter is insignificant, since it does not affect images one bit anyway.

Lesson learnt? Be careful when blowing your digicam.

Thankfully, Canon gear is as tough internally as they are externally.

4 Replies to “A botched blow job”

  1. Oh man…what a horrible feeling that must have been! I have yet to try cleaning my sensor in the Rebel XT…needless to say I shall read the instructions V-E-R-Y carefully.

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