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Follow the instructions in "The Low-Pass Filter" section of the manual (page 125 in my copy).Despite the warning never to touch or wipe the filter, if you're feeling brave you can use a good sensor-cleaning kit to remove stubborn matter. Any good camera store should be able to sell you a proper sensor-cleaning kit. (By "proper" I mean something better than Windex and a cotton swab.)
Your CCD sensor is going bad, I assume this is an a-75 or one of the many others that have a bad Sony part. They will warranty this issue for free even if you didn't buy it new. You must contact Canon in Japan.
You will probably do more damge to the sensor if you try cleaning it yourself. I would return it to a professional camera store and have them do it. The sensor is very delicate and should not be messed with unless you knoiw what you're doing. Who pays for it, I have no idea. It's usually caused by dust when you remove the lens. That's a user problem, not a camera problem.
You were hearing extra clicking or noise on long exposures right? I thought it was a dirty shutter so cleaning is what I thought should help. If your shop thinks it needs a repair that is a bit more pricey than thorough cleaning. If you suggest to them to consider cleaning the shutter mechanism so the parts move smoothly instead of repair / replacing how much less would that cost? Also would they think that would be enough, they may have seen some corrosion or misalignment that is snagging or hanging the shutter up, so it may need the extreme solution. If they don't recommend it or are insulted by your desire to think about another solution seek a second opinion, there's nothing wrong with trying to save some money esp. if you don't need that type of surgery, you know what I mean. If the other shop says yes that shutter is damaged and needs it. You know you have to do it eventually. Just find the best price wiht the shop that you like. As far as the normal wear & tear not really, we are shooting a D80 purchased in Dec 2006 at an average of 1,000 shots a month sometimes more. My wife is a photographer as has really used it constantly, it has been very reliable. Since your camera is more than 2 years old it is out of warranty. I will check Nikon for any sort of recall or issue with the shutter and get back to you.
You could bring your camera to any Best Buy™ store to have it serviced under the service plan you purchased for the camera, but if this is a Best Buy™ service plan it does not cover cleanings. I will say that camera cleanings are usually pretty reasonable in price, but make sure it is done by an authorized service technician or you run the risk of voiding any warranty or service plan on the camera. I hope this helps!
It might be caused by some dirt on your lens (either front or rear element) but is more likely to be dust on the cameras sensor.
There are a couple of sample images of what this looks like here and here.
Dust spots typically have a softish edge to them and affect more than 1 pixel. (if it is just the 1 pixel affected, which a very sharp edge, this could be a defective sensor).
Following the instructions in the manual for cleaning the sensor. Avoid touching the sensor (unless it is with a specialist sensor cleaning brush) and avoid cans of compressed air; use a hand-blower brush instead.