Magazine Article


Clean Sweep
As photographers warm up to the idea of cleaning their own sensors, retailers can clean up by selling the products that make this task possible


First, it's important to note that if you don't hawk these types of products, your customers will likely go elsewhere to get them. "Sales of sensor cleaning products are growing faster than any other part of the digital SLR market," says Fargo. "The consumer will mail-order the products if the local retailer isn't offering them."

Time-savings becomes a huge factor for many photographers. Before some of these do-it-yourself products came on the market, photographers would basically have to send their camera to the manufacturer. "Often this takes time (one to four weeks, depending)," explains Tycholaz. "Since most photographers can't operate a business with that kind of downtime, they would resort to digitally editing the images. Depending on the contamination and location, you could spend anywhere from five minutes to five hours trying to make the image look correct. For some people, this may come across as a sense of defeat, since the image isn't a true original. Our products save time. We also take the risk out of the equation for long photo shoots in remote locations, because finding a Canon cleaning center in the middle of Kenya isn't likely to happen. We've helped countless photographers spend less time in Photoshop and more time shooting. We have testimonials of photo expeditions that have been ‘saved' by using Sensor Brush."

Dust-Aid advocates using its product due to its ease of use ("it's easy for any level of shooter to use," says Wordhouse), its effectiveness, and how easily it passes through airport security (no liquids are involved, as it's an adhesive-based solution). "It's providing a solution to the customer that is going to save them time in Photoshop doing post work," adds Wordhouse. "I know-I've been there. As a shooter myself, I've spent hours upon hours cloning dust out of entire photo shoots.

I've tried all the gadgets and wasn't happy with any of them. I developed a product that worked at removing the dust that drove me nuts. By providing and promoting a solution that really works, you will strengthen the customer bond and their loyalty."

Lettner agrees with the repeat-customer hypothesis. "Our product is a method and technique that should be explained to the user," she says. "It is a well-appreciated service that increases the image of the retailer, plus it brings the customer back for the spare parts. If the customer buys a system, the dealer can do a demo cleaning on the customer's camera. This will then be the same or near the same value as a cleaning service."

The cost-savings for most customers is significant as well. To send the camera out to a manufacturer to be cleaned "costs anywhere from $50 to $100," says Tycholaz. "Pro sensor cleaning is expensive," Richter concurs. "Some photographers want to bring their cameras in once a week."

Instead, purchasing a kit or product up-front and using it over and over again will offer you excellent R.O.I. "When comparing the one-time payment of $90 for an Arctic Butterfly (or even $60 for the SL700) to the cost of cleaning your camera multiple times in one year, the Butterfly comes out on top," says Tycholaz.

Of course, it's always preferable if the user can just keep their sensor as clean as possible to begin with. "VisibleDust has come up with the hypothesis that keeping your chamber area clean greatly increases the time periods between cleaning," says Tycholaz. "It's really the secret. The more cleanings you do now, the less cleanings you'll need to do in the future."

Fargo Enterprises agrees with the chamber-cleaning assessment. The company features, an educational website that explains the preventative measure of cleaning the mirror cage/chamber known as chamber cleaning. It's advocated as a preventative measure to help keep dust down and help keep sensor cleaning brushes from becoming contaminated.

In the end, the retailer would be remiss to not at least explore the option of giving sensor-cleaning products a more prominent position on their shelves. "To quote Canon Europe, ‘Sensor cleaning swabs and sensor brushes are likely to have a place in the photographer's tool kit for some time to come,'" says Tycholaz.