photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Dust Free Scans

We seek the Grail

in Film , Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dust, hair, particles of whatever. They’re the slide scanner’s nightmare. Although fixing all the various blotches in Photoshop can at times be a relaxing activity, it’s still one in all honesty I could do without. And sometimes there’s no real fix.

So the ideal solution would be to get rid of the dust BEFORE it gets scanned. Simple, eh ? Well, not so much. Maybe if you live in a clean room and handle everything with surgical precision, but even then you’d better hope the film was processed in a similar setting.

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried scanning straight from the box. I’ve tried air blowers in a hundred shapes and sizes. Nothing really works.  Until now. I may have found the solution, or at least something close to one. It isn’t really my idea, I’m sure I read somewhere else that somebody suggested it, but anyway here it is: the Arctic Butterfly digital camera sensor brush.

I actually needed a solution to clean my Olympus E-3’s sensor (yeah, that SSWF, well it does work, but it isn’t infallible), so I decided to take a chance and ordered an Arctic Butterfly 724 from Visible Dust.

And it works.  Both for the intended task, cleaning the sensor, but far better than this, also for putting dust free films into the scanner.

Of course, it isn’t 100% effective: I’m sure there’s plenty of dust swirling about in the scanner itself, and when you’re magnifying a 35mm film strip to 4800dpi, stuff which is totally invisible under the loupe sticks out like a sore thumb in Actual Pixels view in Photoshop.

But it makes a big, big difference, and if you’re having similar problems I strongly recommend giving it a try.



I share your dust pain - especially when scanning Kodachrome, for which ICE isn’t nice. Thanks for the Arctic Butterfly tip. I think I need to catch one soon ....

By Project Hyakumeizan, on February 10, 2011

David, have you tried this:
Never tried for slides, but for a D700 sensor it does work.

I read that the Arctic Butterfly tends to get “fluffy” over time, with a higher risk of touching the chamber and smearing grease or dirty stuff onto the sensor. What is your experience so far?

By Bernard, on February 10, 2011


I imagine it could get a bit out of shape over time - but the brush is replaceable.

For the “proper” use, i.e sensor cleaning, even though I do heretically say that the Olympus SSWF is not foolproof, it does the job 95% of the time, so I’ve never seen horrors such as those in the article you link to.  I’ll read it again when I have more time, but he does seem to be pretty much advocating the same approach as Visible Dust, albeit in a more DIY way.  VD’s prices are in my opinion quite reasonable, and their products are tried & tested and seem generally approved of….


By david mantripp, on February 10, 2011

Apart from building this

I also use both a Kinetronics brush () and the butterfly. My process goes - brush with the kinetronics, almost ‘dabbing’ on the film to loosen small dust that gets stuck in the anti-halation layer. Then wipe down with pec-pads and pec film cleaner and then finally pick off any strays with the butterfly.

I was still getting some dust in my scans until I found out that most mylar (i’m wet mounting) isn’t clean enough for scanning and has dust in the plastic itself (and horrible coatings and rough surfaces). Aztek do a mylar specifically for scan mounting.. Mylar.html

I’m at the point now where if I get more than about 10 small pieces of dust on a 4x5 at 3,000 then I’m unhappy. Well worth the extra cost if you wet mount a lot..

By Tim Parkin, on February 11, 2011

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