I have two camera bodies to get the best from my manual lenses: a Sony A7ii for landscape and general purpose photography, making the most of old zooms or primes at their correct focal lengths; and a Sony an older Sony A6000 for wildlife shots, taking advantage of the added reach offered by the smaller sensor – which effectively adds 1.5x the reach to the lens.

Recently I took my A6000 – which has had a hard life of constant lens switches, a replacement Tough Mount that I somewhat botched, leaving the new mount one screw short for the last year and a fair bit of wiggle when lenses were attached and probably more ways for dust to get in. As an aside, I’ve used the A6000 for many shots in that time with what must have been a significant sensor shift going on as the body would wiggle quite substantially in my hand due to the loose mount and never noticed anything adverse with images during this period. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, I was out recently with the A6000 and using an old and reasonably rare Canon New FD 200mm f4 Macro lens (which, irrelevently, also has a slightly loose and wobbly focus ring) and for the first time in my life I was actually carrying a tripod. This meant I was actually able to take a proper, stable, stopped-down macro shot. And the results were… unusable.

Stopped down to f22 at just about 1:1 macro the image shows just how dirty the sensor is.

I had to finally accept that after a few years of ownership it was time to finally clean my sensor – and to finally fix the mount by finding the right screw. So, here we are, new screw fitted and a cleaning kit – my first ever – in front of me, an Eyelead gel cleaning kit from Germany – £29.99 from Amazon (beware cheap copies apparently as they can ruin sensors, I didn’t risk it). This is basically a lump of hard jelly on the end of a plastic stick that you press against the sensor and dust sticks to it. You lift it off, remove the dust from the gel head by using the included sticky paper and then repeat until you’ve cleaned all of the sensor. The gel stick will last a long, long time if cared for properly.

Anyway, it is easy to use but I noticed a real difference between sensors. With the A6000, it was really sticking and had to be almost peeled off each time, whereas with the A7ii, it was dabbing and lifting without any issue. The results after an initial clean are certainly better, but I think the A6000 is beyond saving by a gel stick, I think a wet clean is needed before I can really judge the gel stick.

After an initial clean, things have improved, but a lot of dirt remains. f22 @ nr 1:1 macro.

Against a white sheet @ f22, you can see a lot of dirt remains, however, bear in mind this image has been adjusted in Lightroom to show as much dirt as possible, real life shots would not be as bad.

However, my A7ii sensor, which has had a much easier life, looked visibly much better after cleaning – normally in real life images I had 5 or 6 spots to remove in lightroom, including larger smears which were more difficult. These are now all gone and shooting a white sheet reveals very little dust – and indeed what is there could easily have gone back on whilst I switched lenses to take these images.

Again, contrast, exposure and blacks and whites played with to reveal every speck of dirt as brutally as possible. f22 again.

I look forward to using my A7ii in real life as I think it’ll be a while now before I have to worry about spots in landscape shots again. I’ll update this post as and when. As for the A6000, well, the mount is now properly secure and it is definitely cleaner, but I think I’ll be buying a wet cleaning kit now or sending it off for a professional clean, then maintain it with the gel stick.