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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”

Jared said:

I use Nikon bodies and have the same problem with a D7000. With all the other similarities between both cameras, could they share the same flaws? Do you have recommendations for safe, constant cleaning?

I learned a great curve technique to make the sensor spots really stand out. Works great.
http://www.jaredschoenemann.com/blog/2012/3/the-state-of-your-sensor

Great write-up as usual!

n/a said:

can confirm - dust tends to gather left side more (sn 602xxxx europe). to be fair none was apparent in photos until after yours article I performed multiple shots in search of ones :D

Tim said:

Sounds like its not oil since it can be blown off. Hopefully not dust from outside the camera which probably would have more random and even distribution plus poor weather sealing would be far more problematic. Most likely in camera particulates and potentially related to damping system or materials used to damp either mirror or shutter? Shouldn't be an issue if it was designed for (i.e. they had to fire off some numerous test actuations and seen this phenomena prior to release...at least that is the assumption for any product with some qc behind it). If its something that shouldn't be happening at all like Canons itchy rubber grips then its a bit worrisome(i.e. damping material not holding up well or out of spec somehow...long term implications?). I think the size and shape of the sensor dust is interesting and see if you can take macro shots of it to really give more clues as to its source.

Rodney Campbell said:

I also noticed the same with my D600 (quite a few noticable spots mostly top left quadrant) - SN 80XXXXX in Australia.

adeline said:

I have excatly the same problem with my D 600 which is 3 weeks old (dust spots which keep reapearing after being blown off;I noticed this to Nikon Europe,they just propose me a free cleaning of my D600 ( serial number 600 xx xx);
régis ADELINE

Kevin Purcell said:

The D600 has a carbon fiber/kevlar shutter.

Are these little bits of shutter material being worn off?

They've been making carbon fiber/kevlar shutters since the D3 (at least) perhaps there is a slight mechanical difference with the D600 shutter. Or perhaps they changed the formulation or layup or bake of this design.

Does the D800 show this problem or not?

Marco said:

I have the same problem with my D600 which is 2 days old – SN 60XXXXX in Italy.

Alberto said:

Marco,

thinking to buy a new D600, here in Spain,
can you share more digits of the S/N ?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Alberto, that's all we have here, 3000xxx and 3001xxxx

iPrj said:

Were this batch of cameras intalled AF-D lenses? I found they easily get dust in.

Choo said:

I have similar issues, but instead of just dust, I have OIL SPOTS all over the left side of the sensor!! Here's a test pic taken.

http://imageshack.us/f/33/20121023134519.jpg/

I've tried using a blower and it would not come off. Nikon Malaysia told me to send it back and let their technician verify the problem.

Mourad said:

Same problem with mine.
Cleaned the sensor 3 times/weeks (bought D600 3 weeks ago) and dust is coming back.
SN 60xxxx France

Luke Ju said:

i think that was oil spot, cus i couldn't blow that off from the first day I bought D600!

Steven Lawrence said:

I had two large dust spots but they were on the right side. I turned the camera upside down and after a few tries with the dust blower they came off. I usually shoot below 5.6 so I did not notice the problem till it was brought up here.

Martin said:

Same problem with mine (in Denmark), SN 60XXXXXX.

Nikon Service wouldn't recognize the problem, but called it "internet rumors". I took a photo of the sky and sent it to them - the dust/oil/specks are clerarly visible on the photo - and Nikon told me to go and get the sensor cleaned, no charge. Quite a few others D600 owners in Denmark also have this problem....hopefully Nikon will make a statement soon.

Lin Sun said:

From China,eager to buy a D600 but hesitating now.We may consider this as a
design defect.Can it be corrected?
What if Nikon does not take this issue as a serious problem?

Derek said:

I was having dirty sensor issues with my new D600 (only a week old) so I took my camera into my dealer and they said that they would replace it... but I got their floor model and took a "dust shot" with it... and it was even _worse_ than my camera! So... no reason to replace (might just get one worse). They said they could send it in for cleaning... but it would be a month before I got it back. So, I told them I would use my Giottos Rocket Blower and see if it would do any good. I just got through cleaning the sensor with the rocket blower and thought I would share my results:

(all photos take using 24-70G at 70mm at f/22 focused near infinity on a piece of paper. Disregard the "yellowish splotch" it was some junk on the paper...)

First the "before" shot:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8047/8129213989_31d0230b70_o.jpg

Next, the "after" shot:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8474/8129240630_be4e27ba8b_o.jpg

This is after repeated (10+) mirror up cleaning sessions with the rocket blower. When I first took at look at the sensor I could visibly see the dust (mostly in the bottom left corner when looking at the sensor). I could see it getting blown away with the rocket blower. As you can see, there are still a few small spots... but they won't be visible at anything other than f/22 (where I don't shoot much). I could keep blowing, but it's just as likely that I will continue to blow around the dust instead of really getting it off. To get that last bit off I would need to either send it in or do a wet cleaning (which I'm NOT doing on a brand new $2100 piece of equipment. I understand that many people do... it's just not for me).

So the verdict? It is definitely _dust_. It is not oil (at least on my sensor) and it can be effectively dealt with in a "non-contact" way. I'm happy with the result and I'll just be diligent about blowing off my sensor every now and again. I hope that eventually it settles down a bit... but I can definitely live with this one "issue" for everything else that is awesome about this camera.

It is a huge relief to know that I can deal with this on my own and I don't need to send my camera anywhere....

Steve said:

Tried blowing mine off, unsuccessfully. I think the dust/oil originates inside the camera as I am very careful changing lenses and have never experienced this level of accumulation with any other DSLR.

Hope Nikon agree to a free clean because I can't afford to do it every week and I don't want to void the warranty either. Just hope it settles down, but not sure what to do if it doesn't.

Fongky said:

My D600 had encountered the same dust issues! Even after a clean by Nikon service center. I asked for a replacement unit. Tested it in front of the shop keeper. Damn! the second unit was having the same dust issue! I rejected it and asked for refund. The SN 800xxxxxx (Malaysia).

Paul said:

I had the same dust problem with my German D600 and I had my camera cleaned last week by the local Nikon Service Point, free of charge as a guarantee service. It seems that Nikon is recognizing the problem, since a sensor cleaning would normally not be free of charge.

tadäus said:

first 6 months after buying a new camera it is free of charge (in germany)

Janet said:

Tested two D6oo cameras from Future Shop and both had sensor dust in the upper left side of the photo. The dust on the second camera was very apparent in the video mode - taken on a overcast day. I Returned both cameras. I hope this problem gets fixed, as the D600 has lots going for it!

Ian Douglas said:

Nikon now need to sit up and take notice and come 'clean' (please excuse the pun). They denied any issue when I reported my D7000 getting oil spots repeatedly (and still do). This issue is enough to make me and many othesr jump ship and go to Canon.

Its as simple as that Nikon. Wassup?

cohioan said:

Do you have any updates to this information? Are the D600's continuing to show the same amount of dust? Is the problem seeming to get better/worse/same over time?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

We're still seeing dust, but most of the cameras have only gone out once since the article. We'll check again in a few weeks.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Fanboys -- it isn't about Nikon or Canon, it's about D600s. All cameras get dust. D600s seem to get quite a bit more and it's localized to one area.

Rich Taylor said:

I watched your "cleaning" video and your technicians are cleaning the sensor but NOT the mirror box!
Second, if your techinicians were cleaning the mirror box, mirror and above the focus screen, any supposed shutter related defect would not be able to "pull dust in" since there would not be any dust to PULL IN.
Third, there has been no reports from the National Association of Photographic Equipment Technicians (NAPET)describing any abnormal conditions in this model above what is standard failure percentage.
Our repair center has not seen any problems and conversations with other repair centers around the Country have reported no widespread problem.

The most likely cause of any individual abnormal dirt/dust condition is more likely attributable to dirty manufacturing conditions. The solution to this type of problem is proper and thorough cleaning of the mirror box assy and not just one componnent of it.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Rich,

If we make a video about cleaning a lens front element, we don't show taking off the rear element to get out dust beneath it either. The video is about cleaning the sensor, not an entire camera cleanup. That would take about 30 minutes, not 3. I'd also mention that the video is a couple of years old now.

If our technique was the problem (and I'm not saying it's the only way to clean a sensor), then we should also see it on our hundreds of other SLRs, which we don't.

I would also suggest you read the article before commenting on it. I said fairly clearly that I was speculating about that part, my only factual information was that the dust occurred in the location it occurred in, and that didn't happen with other cameras. I don't know if the shutter assembly slot has anything to do with it. It simply looks different than their other cameras that we don't see this with and is located near the area we observe it in. If for some reason I didn't make that clear in the article I'll gladly accept your suggestions on how to reword that part. But I'm not responsible for some other sites reposting the article and slapping a sensationalist headline on it.

Finally, lets assume, because it's reality, that anyone who cleans a sensor knows to clean the mirror box. Are you saying then, that dust doesn't come back into the mirror box when we change lenses? If that was the case, we'd be cleaning them all once and be done with it, right?

As to NAPET reports, uhm, didn't you guys just honor Nikon for commitment to the camera repair industry? Right before they stopped selling parts?

But I would like to know what NAPET considers "the standard failure percentage". Care to share?

Roger

Joe Cosentino said:

On my second D600 dust lots of it on both after 800 shots both times using only one lens, vendor will replace it again but I don't want a third one with dust. Any way I have been writing Nikon then got a canned response back to 2 of my letters saying it needs to be cleaned. Well I blasted them in the next letter that was Friday today I get a letter saying they looked at the photo I submitted and my camera needs to be sent in for REPAIR not a cleaning. So maybe they are seeing the light and admitting there is an issue.

Problem is I paid for a new camera and not a broken one. I don't know if I want one that has been repaired I want a D 600 that is good out of the box like my D90, D7000, and v1 no dust on the v1 and the sensor is right there looking at you when you change the lens.

Nikonshooter said:

What bothers me a lot after spending a lot of money on D600 and lenses is the lack of any official Nikon response. I just bought a Sony RX100 as well and to be frank, that camera takes fantastic pictures as well without all that dirt/oil to worry about. Since it's a hobby for me I'm seriously considering selling all my DSLR stuff. Mirorless is the future for me, less stuff to carry around.

Rich Taylor said:

Roger,

Let me start by saying I am no fan of Nikon.
They have sunk to new levels over the last couple of years, not the least of which was denying repair parts to customers and non-authorized service centers.
Their customer service is some of the worst in the industry and many of their products suffer from poor construction.

So, you say your cleaning video is "a couple of years old now".
What does that have to do with proper cleaning?
Perhaps you would like to expound on what has changed?
You seem pretty assured your technique(s) are flawless on this model and yet you are seeing repeated problems??

I never made a video or published a blog but If I did I would certainly mention that there are additional steps to cleaning a camera properly or else you may see dust and dirt back on your CCD in a very short time. Further, your video made absolutely no mention that the technique described is only good on non-organic particulate and not organic matter such as pollen and mold which is sticky and must be removed with a liquid solution.
But you already knew this too, right?

And maybe, just maybe, you should come off your high horse and entertain the idea of re-wording, amending or even removing your article as many are taking it as gospel and absolute proof of some widespread problem.
I have seen reference on no less than 5 different camera user websites now by a very small, yet vocal group, as proof of some sort of major problem that by all industry reports simply does not exist to any considerable degree.

Bryan Cady said:

I posted a survey on this problem. If you want to see results go to this page, http://www.listentothewindmedia.com/nikon-d600-oil-and-dust-sensor-poll/ then go to the bottom next to the word, submit and click on "view results". It's non scientific but it will give you some serial numbers and ranges of who is having problems. The survey was originally posted on dpreview.com

Bryan

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Rich,

I'm sorry if I appear to be on a high horse. And I apologize for assuming you were here defending Nikon's practices. That is my bad, but the NAPET mention got me thinking that way. That award left a bad taste in my mouth when it happened. That and the fact that your shop is a Nikon ASC led me to that conclusion. So I do apologize for the assumption.

On the other hand, I think it inappropriate for you to say, on the basis of watching a 3 minute video a couple of our cleaning crew made a couple of years ago, that you know our cleaning techniques are flawed. That's a really large assumption. The video was made at a time when people were still very nervous about doing a routine sensor cleaning at home. The intention was simply to demonstrate basic cleaning, which is generally sufficient most of the time for people cleaning their own sensors at home.

The video doesn't go into using binocular scopes for difficult cleanings, nor various techniques for wet cleanings (which we of course do, but also prefer not to do unless absolutely necessary, and they usually aren't necessary), how to clean the mirror, clean the mirror box, remove the focusing screen, etc. Do we do those things? Yes, whenever necessary. Do I think a 3 minute video is appropriate to show someone how to clean a mirror box, remove a focusing screen, etc? No, I don't.

Despite that, I'm happy to assume that your techniques are better than ours; after all you run a large repair shop with a national customer base, while we have only 2.5 repair technicians (I'm only worth half of one) who just work on our own equipment. But that doesn't explain why the cleaning techniques we use on every camera would cause dust spots to recur on the D600 and no other. We have around 600 SLRs and a couple of hundred other cameras (mirrorless, video, etc.) How would a flaw in our technique only cause problems with the D600?

If you would like to explain how it could be so, I truly will listen. I'm always up for improving our technique. If you can provide me a logical reason that our technique would cause this problem on our 60 D600s but not on the other 500+ SLRs, I'd be interested and grateful to hear about it. And I will certainly write a follow up article about a better way to do it.

The reason we put up this post is to alert our renters we were doing the best we can but dust seemed to recur. I want them to check during their shoot and not have ruined shots. We've never put such a warning up about any camera in 7 years because it's never been an issue. But I don't want someone to come back from a special shoot and have to clone out spots on 800 images.

If you can show me how to clean them so the dust doesn't recur I would be truly appreciative. And so would a lot of other people who seem to be having the same issue (and were talking about it long before my article came out).

Roger

BTW - you must be as old as me. You said CCD.

Rick said:

Roger, thanks for your article on this dust problem with the D600. I've been shooting with my old Nikon D70s for quite a few years now. Ever since I started reading about the new full frame, lower cost Nikon on Nikon Rumors early this year, I've wanted one. A lot. Yet, $2,100 is still a stretch for my budget. So I'll be waiting for your all clear before buying one. I'm sure there are a lot more people like me out here. And we won't wait for Nikon forever. Let's hope this issue is putting a dent in their first quarter sales of D600s that they'll pay attention to.

Yong said:

I bought it in the early November, has the same problem on the upleft of photos. So far there are not any solutions for this issue and official response from Nikon either!

Ashley Irvine said:

Any update on this issue?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Ashley,

No update. I had planned on waiting a good 6 weeks and see if after a couple of cleanings it went away. Since we're entering slow season we aren't buying more cameras so I can't compare against other SN runs, all 60 of ours came from those two runs I mentioned in the article.

Ashley said:

Thanks for the update. It'd be interesting to know of the dust is from the manufacturing environment, and perhaps the dust is being sucked from inside the camera. So perhaps it'll become less of an issue once a good amount of dust is removed via wet cleaning.

Alfian Effendy said:

is there any suggestion to prevent this issue? Because I have one, please tell me. Thanks.

fotograf ślubny trójmiasto said:

My friend has this same problem in D600. I think it's constructors setback :(

Dude77 said:

My body is only 10 days old, I had the same problem. Dust is on top left side to middle of the left.
Any help or suggestion ? should I request for refund ?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Dude,

I'll have the follow up article on this posted tomorrow. Bottom line is they get better after a month or two. I wouldn't send it back over some dust.

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