Dust to dust


in Geek stuff, Photography

Back on the 6th of February, I first noted the presence of some kind of opaque foreign matter on the sensor of my Canon Powershot A510 digital camera. Today, I examined what has taken place since.

The state of the sensor:

Note: the colour cast on the original is just because I shot it using auto white balance and tungsten illumination. The second was taken using sunlight. The general speckle pattern all over it is from the wall, not the sensor.

Both shots were taken at the smallest aperture allowed by the A510 at the shortest focal length (f/8). To me, the comparison indicates a worsening situation. There has been speculation that the foreign substance is not dust, but mold. That would be consistent with the fact that it seems to be worsening, as well as to how the problem first emerged after a period of particularly dismal and rainy weather.

Why it matters, and what to do

Shots that involve areas of solid colour as well as small apertures frequently require touching up in Photoshop to remove the blotches. Sometimes, that isn’t even possible for me. (Look near the ground, to the left of the chapel.) Cleaning the sensor would require paying a technician rather more than the value of the camera. I bought it in North Vancouver for C$273.55 (£132), which included a 512 meg SD card that can be used with a new camera. Replacing it with a comparable camera would cost less (because this model has been replaced by newer ones) and more (because everything costs more in England). The big choice is whether to replace the thing, or start putting money into a digital SLR fund.

Having a camera small enough that I literally carry it everywhere has quite a bit of value to it. Having a DSLR would probably improve the quality of photos that I put on here, but it would definitely be more of a conspicuous item to carry and use. It would also further stress iPhoto, with larger image files…

…wanders back to his reading, pondering…

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 19, 2006 at 5:56 pm

Adorama has the Canon Digital Rebel XT along with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for US$779 new. That comes with a battery pack and charger.

Note: you did just get an unexpected £500… did you not?

Milan July 19, 2006 at 6:11 pm

I really love the look of 28mm. I’d hate to sacrifice that part of the range on my zoom to 1.6x multiplication.

As for the£500: I have 2,200 Pounds in college fees and more than 10,400 Pounds in university fees to pay next year.

Milan July 19, 2006 at 6:12 pm


In a friend’s considered opinion: “It’s definately dust…
fungus is softer and spreads slowly…
this is new dots appearing…”

Tristan Laing July 19, 2006 at 7:20 pm

I’m a little confused. 18mm times 1.6 gives you the “look” of 28mm.

If you are very concerned about vignetting and distortion there are ways around it. Such as, you could get the body only kit and a 5 year old sigma 18-35 zoom (as I have), which is very low in distortion (but not likely any sharper than the kit lens). If you have photoshop CS2, the distortion from the kit lens is likely entirely correctable.

Milan July 19, 2006 at 7:24 pm


I was referring to the use of my existing zoom with a DSLR body. The kit lens, as you say, would offer a comparable field of view.

On the dust issue, I have taken Neal’s suggestion and sent an email to Canon asking if it might be covered under the warranty. If the cause is a faulty seal, then you could say it’s a manufacturer’s defect.

R.K. July 19, 2006 at 10:56 pm

“As for the £500: I have 2,200 Pounds in college fees and more than 10,400 Pounds in university fees to pay next year.”

You can turn that argument on it’s head. If you are spending £12,600 on tuition, does it matter so much if you spend £400 on something you will make good use of, and use for years?

Milan July 20, 2006 at 5:04 pm

Provided I can find both the receipt for the original camera (which I exchanged because it had a defective flash) and the receipt for the exchange, this A510 will be going to meet its maker. I don’t know which of these service centres is closest, but one should carry out the replacement or repair: Colchester or Stoke-on-Trent.

Milan July 20, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Colchester seems to be closer to Oxford than Stoke-on-Trent, though it is probably equally expensive to ship things to either.

Milan April 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Dust on my 5D Mk II sensor

It will need to go back to Canon for cleaning soon.

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