The Search for a Good Dust Blower
Photographers have been blowing dust off their lenses for as long as lenses and dust have existed. After all this time though, we're still trying to find a good way to do it. Now that digital photographers are being forced to deal with dust on their CCD or CMOS sensors, the need to cleanly and effectively deal with dust has become even more important.
Everyone is familiar with the standard photo blower brush with a bulb on one end and camel hair bristles on the other. Not very effective, is it? Canned air, the most common alternative isn't any better though since the propellant it contains can be spit out along with the compressed air inside.
A company called Read Right makes a unique twist on canned air that uses no propellant. Instead, ReAir has a valve on the bottom of it similar to that found on a bicycle tire. Using the included mini hand pump, you pressurize the can yourself before using it. Performance is quite good but it does take a lot of work to pump it up, something that has to be done frequently. ReAir is marketed mainly through office supply stores rather than camera stores.
There's also the Leland CO2 PowerClean system that uses compressed cylinders of carbon dioxide with no propellant. I have not used it, but it reportedly works well, but you are forced into buying CO2 cylinders on an ongoing basis in order to keep cleaning.
Available at any drug store, a standard ear syringe can produce more air pressure than the blower brush sold by every camera store, but I have not found it to be much more effective at dislodging stubborn dust. For a better hand-powered blower, check out Giottos Rocket (no URL but available from B&H and others). Made of natural rubber and shaped like a rocket ship with fins and everything, this funky blower is actually a cleverly designed dust cleaning solution. It has a powerful air tube for a nose cone and an inlet valve in its tail to prevent you from sucking dust back in the front. This thing moves air as well as any compressed canned air product, yet has no propellant and no consumable supplies to continually replace. Squeezing the body of the Rocket is also far easier than pumping up the ReAir can, the only other truly environmentally friendly solution I know of.
For my money, Giottos Rocket is a great solution. I do wonder what airport security would make of it in this day and age though.