Cool Photo Accessory Alert: Dexter’s Clever New Vac-O-Matic Sensor Cleaning Vacuum

Photographers are an inventive lot. Most have of us have improvised one thing or another in pursuit of our obsession, be it a soft-focus diffuser made from a discarded nylon stocking, studio lamp handcrafted from a Home Depot shop light, or a gadget bag recycled from an army surplus gas mask pack. But here’s a bonafide useful tool that Greg Montano, owner of Dexter’s Camera in Ventura, California, created more-or-less out of necessity, and has been using professionally since.

Here’s the story in Greg’s words.

“Like most camera shops we clean camera sensors. We get two or three camera bodies a week. For a long time we’ve used the traditional methods: blower ball, sensor pen, spec grabber and wet swab. Each has its strength and weakness.

“A couple of years ago I came up with the idea to combine a bored-out sensor pen tip on a small portable vacuum, giving birth to what we came to call the Dexter’s Vac-o-matic. The idea didn’t seem that unique, but on further research and patent searching, I realized that no one had done anything quite like this before. We tested it on scrap cameras to make sure it didn’t scratch, and then used it on my Canon 5D; the results were encouraging.

Greg Montano, owner of Dexter’s Camera in Ventura, California.

“Like other sensor products, it has its strengths and weaknesses. I cannot clean every sensor perfectly with it.  But, in its own right, it has performed extremely well for me and colleagues that have used it.

“I have a 2.5 minute YouTube video that explains this,” he concluded.

Greg has gone through the steps of a Nonprovisional Utility Patent application for the product and his invention has Patent Pending status. Nonprovisional Patent applications are examined by a patent examiner whereas Provisional Patent applications automatically expire after 12 months without examination by any government officer. Like all well-informed inventors, he’s pursued the USPTO with the help of a patent attorney.

Growing up in his step-dad’s camera shop in Ventura, Greg has always loved taking pictures. His first camera was a Kodak 110. He reverted Dexter’s Camera into a film camera shop a few years back when he foresaw film making a comeback.  Most requested camera services these days are digital, he explained. And that's where the sensor cleaning comes invention came in. 

One word of caution—if you decide to touch the imaging sensor of your camera with anything, make sure you know what you’re doing and follow Greg’s advice by practicing a bit with a camera you no longer love. If you have any anxiety about performing the cleanup, contact your local camera shop or the camera manufacturer. Or if you live near Ventura, California, stop in and say hello to Greg.

—Jon Sienkiewicz