Getting dust on your sensor can ruin your pictures, or entail hours of retouching. Matt looks at how manufacturers aim to solve the problem at the source by implementing dust removal systems...

When Olympus introduced the E-1 in 2003, it carried the honour of being the first DSLR to feature a dust removal mechanism. Today, almost every DSLR manufacturer has developed their own system for combatting dust. However, unlike a technology such as lens-based image stabilisation – which follows a similar principle across the various manufacturers – dust removal solutions have resulted in a variety of systems.

Olympus’s original dust removal system involves a Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) which uses ultrasonic force to generate 35,000 vibrations of the filter per second. Dust then falls onto a reflective-free adhesive strip at the bottom of the filter, while rubber seals between the sensor, low-pass filter and SSWF prohibit dust from reaching the sensor. This technology reappeared in the company’s subsequent DSLR releases, being revised along the way to improve its effectiveness, Olympus claims.

Sony’s A100 followed in 2006, with a similar idea for dust removal. As well as employing a vibrating sensor, an indium tin oxide coating was used on the low-pass filter to avoid static, which would attract dust. Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning system, meanwhile, which first made an appearance in the EOS 400D, also utilised an anti-static coating on one of the two low-pass filters, in addition to a vibrating mechanism. This was complemented by a Dust Delete Data function, which worked with the bundled software to remove shadows of dust that may have formed before dust was initially removed.

The D300 was Nikon’s first model to sport dust removal, in the form of a self-cleaning sensor unit and software-based removal, with the bundled Capture NX. Its D60 looked at the problem in a new light, though. As well as the sensor-based vibration system of the D300, the D60 uses an Airflow Control system. This directs the air moved by the mirror downwards, Nikon claims, directing dust towards ducts in the base of the camera (away from the sensor) where it collects on to an adhesive strip.