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Visible Dust adds Arctic Butterfly to sensor cleaning line  
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 | by Rob Galbraith

The Arctic Butterfly is poised to take flight at Visible Dust.

The new digital SLR sensor cleaning tool is designed to combine the cleaning prowess of the company's Sensor Brush - our hands-down favourite sensor dust remover for over a year now - with the ability to rid itself of any accumulated guck between swipes of the imager cover glass. To do this with the Sensor Brush, a can of compressed air is required to blow out the bristles and charge them for next use; the Arctic Butterfly accomplishes the same thing by rapidly twirling its built-in brush.

Visible Dust's Fariborz Degan, the inventor of both Sensor Brush and Arctic Butterfly, says that while the new product's spinning action cleans and charges its bristles slightly more effectively than the canned air approach, the main reason for the Arctic Butterfly's development was to give travelling photographers a sensor cleaning option that didn't require compressed air to be toted along in addition to a brush.

The Arctic Butterfly

The Arctic Butterfly combines a 16mm brush (constructed from the same fine-filament material as the Sensor Brush), a rotating DC motor and two AAA batteries in a plastic housing with a non-conductive metal brush ferrule and plastic protective cap.

The different shades of the Arctic Butterfly (Photo courtesy Visible Dust)

We've not yet cleaned a sensor with this device, so we can't speak to its effectiveness (though given that the brush portion is roughly the same as a 16mm Sensor Brush, it should share that product's strong sensor cleaning abilities). Based on a brief session with a prototype model late last month, however, we could see where the Arctic Butterfly got its name: when the on-switch in the handle is pressed, the head spins so rapidly that the centrifugal force causes the brush fibres to lay out flat. You know, like a butterfly opening its wings. The Arctic half of the name comes not from the device having special cold-weather capabilities but from the fact that Visible Dust is based in Edmonton, Canada.

Sensor Brush SD

For existing Sensor Brush owners, the company has developed a companion product to Arctic Butterfly. Called Sensor Brush SD, it's essentially an Arctic Butterfly without the brush. In its place is an adapter to firmly hold a Sensor Brush while it spins its bristles free of sensor detritus. We also had a brief hands-on session with a prototype of Sensor Brush SD recently, and it appears to be equal in effectiveness to the Arctic Butterfly at spinning the brush clean, even with a large 24mm Sensor Brush installed. Inserting (for self-cleaning) and removing (for use) a brush from the adapter is simple, and the bristles spread out flat during the spin, just like the Arctic Butterfly.

Sensor Brush SD showing different colours and different adapter sizes (Photo courtesy Visible Dust)

While the Arctic Butterfly is the new star at Visible Dust, we're actually more interested in getting our cleaning kits outfitted with its sidekick, Sensor Brush SD. There are three reasons for that:

  • We already have the right combination of Sensor Brush models for the variety of different sensor size cameras we use.

  • The lighter, smaller Sensor Brush handle is almost certainly a better match for our fumble-fingeredness when navigating inside the chamber of the camera than the somewhat larger Arctic Butterfly's plastic body.

  • The Arctic Butterfly's 16mm brush width (no other sizes are planned) should be just about ideal for Canon's 1-series digital SLRs, or any other 35mm-style digital SLR with a 1.3x to 1.0x (i.e. full-frame) sensor size. That's because we established early on that using a Sensor Brush whose width is narrower than the sensor's width simply works better than matching the brush width to the sensor width exactly. This has less to do with the product's design and more to do with our clumsiness, but is true nonetheless. Therefore, the Arctic Butterfly's brush may be wider than is optimum for us when cleaning Canon's 1.6x sensor cameras and all DX-sensor Nikons.

So, we'll happily ditch the oversized cans of compressed air littering our gear bags in favour of a Sensor Brush SD. But the Arctic Butterfly holds less appeal, for the reasons mentioned above. That said, the Arctic Butterfly will be a more economical choice for photographers who are buying into Visible Dust's sensor cleaning system for the first time, and is likely to be a fine choice for photographers who are more nimble-fingered than we are.


Both the Arctic Butterfly and Sensor Brush SD are additions to Visible Dust's catalog, and do not replace any existing products. All sizes of Sensor Brush, as well as the company's various liquid cleaning packages, will continue to be manufactured and sold, says Degan.

The Arctic Butterfly in action (Photo courtesy Visible Dust)

The Arctic Butterfly is expected to ship by the middle of October 2005, both direct from Visible Dust and through its growing list of retailers. The price direct from Visible Dust will be CDN$83.95 (about US$70 at current exchange rates).

The Sensor Brush SD is to ship at about the same time, and will be available direct for CDN$41.95 (about US$35) as well as from Visible Dust retailers.

Visible Dust plans 5 different Sensor Brush adapter sizes for Sensor Brush SD: 8mm, 16mm, 20mm, 24mm and 24mm (thin-handle). Degan expects that this will cover the vast majority of Sensor Brush units they've sold to date, though no adapters are planned for the 36mm and 40mm offerings. In addition, some of the earliest Sensor Brush models in the supported sizes will not fit in one of the five adapters, owing to a different handle diameter. Visible Dust is evaluating several different solutions for photographers with an incompatible Sensor Brush, though no decision has been made. Degan says that they expect to communicate directly with affected customers before settling on an approach.

Though both products will come available next month, Rola Hamad, Operations Director at Visible Dust, expects supply to be constrained until November 2005. The company has set up an email notification system for those who want to receive a message when these products are released. To be notified, complete the brief form on the Arctic Butterfly/Sensor Brush SD product page. For those who want a sneak peek before they ship, Visible Dust will have a presence at the following trade shows in September 2005:

Note that because of the travel schedules of key company staff this month, Hamad indicates that they may not be able to quickly respond to all inquiries about the new products in the short term.

Visible Dust will also be in booth #1204 at PhotoPlus Expo in New York, NY from October 20 - 22, 2005. For more information on Sensor Brush, see our October 3, 2004 article Sensor Brush, Sensor Clean help keep your pictures dust-free.

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