One Little Item Has Been Saving My Camera Sensors for Over a Decade

Essentials is a series featuring products we’re currently lusting over in quick, bite-sized posts.

Around the time that I started The Phoblographer, I reviewed an essential piece of kit. It’s called the Arctic Butterfly. And without it, I’d be lost as a photojournalist. This little tool is no larger than a high-end pen. It even feels right at home nestled in the pages of a journal. But most importantly, it cleans your camera sensor. If you do the job correctly, you’ll get great results. And if you exercise a bit of common sense, the Arctic Butterfly will be an essential tool in your camera bag. I’ve had mine for over a decade.

“If you’re totally new to the world of DSLRs and interchangeable lens compacts, then you’ll perhaps be wondering what those weird specks are in your photos. Chances are that you’ve got a dirty sensor.”

A quote from our post, How to Check for Sensor Dust.

The Arctic Butterfly comes in a variety of options. The best one has a rotating head. When activated, it rids itself of any dust and debris. This way, you can save money and not buy sensor swabs. If your sensor isn’t the problem, it will also clean your lens. I like to think of it as a fine brush that an archeologist would use to uncover an artifact. Luckily, the Arctic Butterfly is also very simple to use. Here are a few tips:

  • Hold your camera above you with the exposed sensor facing down to the ground.
  • Activate the Arctic Butterfly to spin. This will clean it. Then turn it off.
  • Do not ever have the Arctic Butterfly activated and touch the sensor on your camera. You’ll damage it.
  • With your camera still above you and the sensor still facing downward, gently brush the sensor.
  • Start with the edges and go towards the sensor. Use incredibly gentle brushes.
  • Every now and again, pull the Arctic Butterfly away from the sensor and activate it to clean it.
  • When the sensor looks clean to you, cover the camera back up.
  • Put the cap on the Arctic Butterfly and activate it. This will straighten all the hairs.

In this video, you’ll find an approximated way of how to clean your sensor. We demonstrate how to use the Arctic Butterfly here.

So who needs the Arctic Butterfly? Here’s a list of the photographers it will help:

  • Portrait photographers can use it to keep their sensors clean. It will mean you do a lot less retouching.
  • Landscape photographers can use it to keep their sensors clean. But you can also clean off your lenses with it.
  • Photojournalists have huge problems keeping their sensors clean. But this is the solution for you.
  • Travel photographers will inevitably get their sensors dirty. So this will help.
  • Any photographer who doesn’t use a weather-sealed lens on a weather-sealed camera should pick one of these up. Specifically, look for a rubber seal at the lens mount.
  • If you’re using an older Sony camera, grab the Arctic Butterfly. Those cameras are prone to sensor dust.
  • If you use lenses with an adapter, get one of these. Your sensor is usually not well protected.

This little tool has helped me so much over the years. And without it, I’d be slowed down tremendously. The Arctic Butterfly can be bought very cheaply on Amazon.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.