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D600 Sensor Dust Issues

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We tend not to get too excited about sensor dust problems here; we clean sensors on every camera after every rental, so it’s just routine. When we started carrying the Nikon D600 they all arrived with a fair amount of dust, but that’s pretty routine, too. Manufacturing and shipping can be a dusty experience.

When our techs started complaining that D600s were all coming back from their first rental with a lot more dust (despite being freshly cleaned before leaving) we didn’t pay much attention to that either. We all remember the oil / dust issues the D3x and D3s had. Those mostly cleared up after a few cleanings.

The dust kept reappearing with every rental, and more impressively – it was generally in the same location (upper left 1/3 of the image). That did get our attention, so we started looking into the matter a bit. We kept dust pictures for 20 consecutive D600s returning from rental and saw the problem was very real.

In general, about 1 out of 4 cameras requires sensor cleaning after a rental. All 20 of the D600s did.

Here are a couple of typical examples (f/16 blank wall photos, contrast and exposure increased). I would point out that these are downsized to 800-pixel wide images. What is barely visible dust on this is quite obvious on a full-size image. The large specs on this are quite huge at full size.

 

It’s probably pretty apparent that the dust is mostly on the left side of the image. I took all 20 images and layered them onto one in Photoshop, using ‘darken if’ to show the pattern of dust from 20 cameras.

 

Photoshop summary of large dust particles from 20 D600 sensors. The left and upper side tendency is clear. 

 

Again, with these downsized images, only the really large dust specs are showing up, but then, those are the ones most likely to show up in a photo. I would also add these almost all seem to be dust specs, not oil, since most of them can be blown off or stamped off using a Dust-Aid. They don’t require wet cleaning to remove as oil spots do.

There are, however, a number of comments from experienced photographers that are having oil spots on D600s. I’m not certain if they’re seeing the same, or a different phenomenon.

We aren’t absolutely certain about the cause, but when we have to look at the sensors for all this cleaning one thing is quite apparent. The D600′s shutter curtain opening seems a bit larger than the other Nikon cameras with a bit of a gap around the shutter curtain. It may well be the shutter movement is pulling dust onto the sensor.

 

D600 shutter curtain, recessed, showing fairly large gap around the shutter. Image Aaron Closz.

 

The real question is: Will the dust eventually stop accumulating on the sensor? I think probably so. There’s some dust inside the camera that is getting blown out during early use through the shutter opening. But that’s just an educated guess; only time will tell.

For now, though, if you rent a D600 we suggest looking fairly frequently for dust accumulation. We clean each one before it leaves, but given the amount of dust they return with it’s fairly obvious there could be dust dots on some of your shots if you stop down to f/8 or more.

 

NOTE: I know someone will want to know. All of these cameras were from SN 300xxxx or 301xxxx. We have another 40 D600s but since they, too, are from these SN runs I don’t plan any further comparisons. We’ll check again when we get higher SNs.

 

Addendum July, 2013: I tire of being misquoted by fanboys on various forums, so please, if you want to quote me, copy paste instead of putting words in my mouth. 

1) We found, over time, the dust issues decreased. Somewhere around 5,000 to 10,000 shots the D600s stopped having megadust. 

2) When D600s do have dusty sensors, as all cameras do, it still seems to congregate in the upper left side of the image, but it’s more normal dust and fewer huge chunks. 

3) We have NOT. I repeat, we have NOT ever said newer bodies don’t have the problem. We have no idea. Nikon demand is down hugely this year and we simply haven’t had to buy any more D600s or D800s (or anything else Nikon, really). I would assume Nikon has figured out a fix by now, but that’s just an assumption with no data to back it up. 

Roger Cicala

 

Roger Cicala, sensor images courtesy Adam Remsen and Scott Rambin

Lensrentals.com

October 2012

111 Responses to “D600 Sensor Dust Issues”

JaketheSnake said:

Roger, any news on the fix for the D600? Is the dirt and oil still a problem?

Rui said:

In Portugal the company managing the NIKON warranty (Nikon representative), is actually CHARGING for the cleaning service full-stop! “If you don’t agree please file a complaint”…. Nikon release should be read “The technicians will examine the camera thoroughly, and service it as needed. CHARGING YOU FOR OUR MISTAKES!!” Outrageous!

Let’s all

Alexey said:

Gebuesch,

I just got my D600 body (serial number starting with 303) back from Nikon in Melville, NY after cleaning and AF accuracy verification. The invoice I received states that the entire shutter mechanism has been replaced, the low-pass filter got cleaned, and the whole camera, including the viewfinder, got cleaned as well. I haven’t used the camera enough since then so it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the procedure. I’ll report back as soon as I have more information. Although I had about 10 spots on the sensor before I sent the camera in, they never bothered me — I am a low-light shooter primarily, and usually use apertures below f/2.0. The spots are not visible at such wide apertures.
What bothers me big time about the camera is that I am having backfocusing issues with my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens, which has already been back to Sigma for re-calibration, to no avail. But that’s a different story.

Mary Lee Dereske said:

Has Lens Rentals been tracking this issue any more? What is the status of the D600s that you have been renting – do they still require excessive cleaning, or is the issue resolving? Have you rec’d newer D600s that no longer have the problem?

I returned my D600 for repair; the shutter mechanism was replaced by Nikon. The second time they graciously refunded my money. I am now in need of a full frame camera…but am shy about buying a newer D600 if it is still having the same issues.

Mark Winter said:

Yes, if you have any additional results, it would be interesting to hear.

Mary,
Did you have to send the camera back a second time and they offered to refund money? I have had my shutter replaced and am now seeing spots again after a few hundred pictures. Wondering whether to change to a D800 but was ot sure if Nikon would offer a refund.

Fabrizio said:

Anyone with serial 608xxxx in Europe (that should be last serial sold here in Europe on July 2013) have oil/dust issue with D600 ?

Tom Peters said:

Roger:

Could you please state the average click number of the examined cameras: This would help new buyers a lot.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,
Tom

Guillaume said:

Just to give some feedback on a recently purchased body with serial 608xxxx. Jut tried some sky test pictures at f/22 and high ISO after one month use (and approx. 1000 pictures): At least 15/20 dust spots well visible, again in the upper and left part of the picture …

Regds

Guillaume

MIKE said:

With the incoming D610, we all hope the issue has been resolved, at least for potential buyers.

Carlos said:

Mike, the launch of a new model do get rid of problem is absurd! It’s a shame for Nikon as a worldwide Enterprise!! They should make a recall of ALL D600 models to fix the shutter issue. How the costumers are being treated? Do they trust Nikon from now?

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