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Customer Review

on 20 August 2016
REVIEW OF THE CARSON SM-99 SENSOR CLEANING KIT

I'm going to consider the two main components of this kit separately, for reasons that will hopefully become clear later on.

1) THE SENSORMAG ILLUMINATED LOUPE

Pros:
+ Although it's constructed entirely from plastic (including the optics, most probably), the unit appears well made and generally robust - the only slight concerns being the switches and battery compartment cover, which hopefully prove to be much sturdier and resilient than they look

+ You focus by twisting the knurled ring of a monutube, which screws upwards (and outwards) via a rather basic helicoid arrangement (the monutube assembly can be completely removed from the base unit, to assist with cleaning the lenses' outer surfaces.) The enlarged image provided by the loupe is clear and sharp, with its 4.5 x magnification being perfectly adequate for the full-frame sensor I used it on - although of course, it might not prove quite so good with smaller sensor formats

+ The upper part of the base unit holding the optics can be swung clockwise/horizontally away from the lens throat to a maximum limit of 45 degrees, although it doesn't perhaps move far enough to grant unrestricted access to the sensor for cleaning purposes. I find it easier to remove the unit altogether once I've thoroughly checked the sensor, then replace it after cleaning for a final inspection

+ The six small LED bulbs located in a collar around the unit's underside (controlled by a small sliding on/off switch) provide a bright and even illumination of the sensor (the SensorMAG is supplied with 2 x CR2032 batteries, already pre-installed)

+ Another small sliding switch (this time, located to the side of the SensorMAG's pedestal section) somewhat bizarrely extends/retracts three curved and narrow 'feet' from underneath the base, which I understand are intended to stabilise the unit on Nikon DSLRs...

+ The SensorMAG comes handily supplied with its own semi-rigid zippered travel/storage case

Cons:
- The SensorMAG has been designed for use on DSLRs - NOT mirrorless cameras, where the flange-to-sensor distance is much shallower. If you want to use it on a mirrorless camera, I recommend that you buy a cheap Nikon to (your camera) adapter to act as stand and spacer - increasing the distance to the sensor and so allowing you to focus the SensorMAG properly

- The unit can feel a little unstable (wobbly) on some camera mounts

2) THE DUSTBLASTER BLOWER

Pros:
+ The blower's generous silicon rubber bulb is 90mm long, with a maximum diameter of 210mm - so there is certainly the promise of some decent puff!

+ Its nozzle has a soft tip (to avoid contact damage...?) and is finished in a very conspicuous fluorescent orange colour (to aid with proximity awareness, when positioning the tip within the camera compartment...?)

+ It includes a fixed but rather basic plastic side clip - as I understand, for conveniently attaching the blower to a belt or strap

+ It might have been coincidental, but the styling makes this blower look for all the world like a hand grenade - waiting for the pin to be pulled! Well, it amused me...but it could prove problematic the next time my camera bag is being searched at the airport!

Cons:
- That fluorescent orange tip. According to Carson, it's been designed to prevent dust from being drawn back inside the tip - and from there, being transferred on to the sensor. In reality, the tip (a pointed piece of silicon rubber, cross-cut to create four flapped sections that theoretically close off the nozzle when the bulb has been released) manages to impede the peak airflow quite significantly without actually delivering too much of a benefit in any meaningful way. In other words, it' a gimmick. If dust acquisition/accumulation within the blower were to be a problem, surely a few preparatory puffs would disperse it..as it would with any blower? In truth, the real cause of dust being blown on to the sensor comes from the intake valve in the base of this and every other blower, by which the blower sucks air in and re-inflates: as far as I can tell, the DustBlaster doesn't seem to feature any kind of special filtration in this area to prevent it

- The DustBlaster is surprisingly noisy in operation - producing a sort of gasping whine that not only distracts but occasionally embarasses, too

- At 75mm (including the tip), the nozzle is unhelpfully long - ironically, making it difficult to judge just how close the tip is getting to the camera's sensor, despite its lurid colouration!

- I don't know whether it's the materials from which it's made or whether it's the adhesives that hold it all together, but the DustBlaster certainly gives off a noticeably pungent smell - though it's sweet rather than acrid in nature

In summary:
The SensorMAG loupe works well and is sensibly priced. The DustBlaster doesn't work very well and is over-priced. The obvious conclusion...? Ignore the SM-99 Sensor Cleaning Kit and only buy the SensorMAG loupe as a lone purchase. If you need a decent and properly filtered blower but resent paying the asking price for Visible Dust's Zeeion or Zee Pro blowers (and who could blame you?), you might want to consider a JJC CL-DF1 Professional Dust-free Air Blower for Removing Dirt and Dusts on Camera Lens, LCD, Sensor Keyboard Laptop etc. (Yellow) instead.
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