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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”

Bruce Wells said:

Like others, my D600 has sensor spots with about 1100 shutter clicks (purchased 10/17/2012). The User Guide warns that the camera needs to be sent to Nikon if the in-menu sensor cleaning doesn't remove the spots. So, I called and spoke with one of their reps who was very cordial/professional. She set me up with a warranty repair ticket and when I had opportunity, I posed my major concern by asking if I was going to have to send the camera to Nikon for this service every other month, and advised her that I had never had to have the sensor cleaned on my D90 in the years I owned it. She replied by telling me that I would not have the problem any more after this service event.

Well, if this is believable, then perhaps Nikon already knows what's causing the problem, and presumably knows how to fix it. Let's hope so!!

I pointedly asked her if it would void the camera's warranty if I cleaned the sensor myself, to which she replied with an immediate "Yes!".

Rich said:

Here is a list of sensor dust/no dust and serial numbers. Looks like the 305XXXX ( USA )range is starting to look good:

SN Dust?

3003402 yes
3008261 yes
3009000 no
3009205 yes
3009205 yes
3010000 yes
3011000 yes
3014806 yes
3020000 yes
3022512 yes
3025891 yes
3030000 yes
3034000 yes
3034000 yes
3045266 no
3050000 no
3051900 no - ?
3055000 no
3057000 no

5603563 no
6029600 yes
8016885 yes

Data aquired from D600 owners on Nikonians forum

Rich said:

SN Dust?
3003402 yes
3008261 yes
3009000 no
3009205 yes
3009205 yes
3010000 yes
3011000 yes
3014806 yes
3020000 yes
3022512 yes
3025891 yes
3030000 yes
3034000 yes
3034000 yes
3045266 no
3050000 no
3051900 no - ?
3055000 no
3057000 no

5603563 no
6029600 yes
8016885 yes

Chris said:

hi guys, anyone to have seen after some improvements in sensor cleaning, without sending a service technician?????

Bill said:

I have to ask, have there been any updates to the dust/debris issue with the aforementioned serial numbers? Does the problem really get better? Any updates would be great.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Bill, there's another article following up after 2 months and the problem is much less noticeable then.

Bill said:

I appreciate the update, but I was actually wondering if it was safe to buy a D600. I understand that all DSLRs get dust, however, it seems as though the d600s to date are spewing. I noted the serial numbers posted here, but it would be great if we actually had an idea as to whether Nikon did the honorable thing and fixed the problem. It would also be nice if they issued some sort of a statement. Thank you for the update though. I have seen postings from different sites still noting abnormal dust issues well over 9000 shutter activations.

I do find it almost laughable that a hack like Ken Rockwell says his sensor is clean, and this guy mansurov states that he cleaned his sensor once. Of course they have links all over their sites that probably generate revenue right back to them when people go there, feel good about the purchase, and click on that B&H link, Adorama link, or Nikon link. That kind of deflates their credibility.

Thank you again.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Bill,

If the D600 is the right camera for you, I wouldn't let the dust keep you from buying it. I don't know if it goes away entirely but it certainly gets better over time. You may have to clean the D600 more often, but there's some negative thing with every camera.

That being said, the way prices have been dropping on Nikon SLRs, I'd really try to wait a month or so before pulling the trigger. Might well save you a couple of $$

Doug said:

Roger,

I am really interested in moving up to a D600 when the prices come down, but am wondering how often the body would need a sensor cleaning under normal usage? Also, do you think that Nikon will fix the problem by redesigning the D600's sensor? I have a D90 and have never had an issue with dust on the sensor. If I had to clean it even once a month, I would not be recommending it to others. Thanks.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Doug,

It depends on how often you shoot stopped down, but I'd say ever month for a couple of months for certain, then less frequently. I don't see any redesign coming but perhaps there's some other dust control measure they can do. I'm just guessing of course.

Doug said:

Roger,

Thanks so much for the quick response, I really appreciate your expert advice. I think I will rent one from you sometime next spring when the weather is better and see how I like the camera (I'm sure it's great) and then wait for the prices to come down even more! Maybe by then, we'll know more about how the dust issue resolves itself over time. Thanks again and Happy Holidays to you and your family. Best regards,

Doug.

Peter said:

Just wondering, when did the sensor dust/oil start appearing? I bought a D600 from Amazon and after about 500 shots, everything still looks perfect, and there's no sign of wear when the mirror is down or when the shutter is up (opened it today and checked with LED flashlight).

I heard that it may be around 1000-2000 shots where the dust/oil starts accumulating. Any detailed tracking of when it started occurring in your D600s?

Serial 3014xxx.

Thanks.

Peter said:

Same Peter as the one on 12/27/2012.

After about 1100 actuations, the dust is already showing on the mirror, just tiny miniscue dust on the sensor. Will return to Amazon and just opt for the D800.

Josh SZ said:

Please use self-contamination instead of dust for describing this problem because what you see is produced by the D600 itself. It is amazing we have not heard a single word from Nikon about this.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Very good point, Josh. The specs seem larger than 'normal' dust and are obviously coming from inside the camera.

Peter said:

Just got my replacement D600 with only 1 shutter actuation on it. Serial # is 3043xxx. Will update you all on how it is after about 1000 actuations.

Alejandro said:

Good Afternoon
Mr Roger
I would like to ask you:
I´m a Dentist and i use DSLR with a Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens and I take Pictures with a F32 F36 constantly, do you think its a good decision to buy a D600 for me? i would like to upgrade from a Nikon D80
thanks for your answer

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Alehandro,

I think the D600 is a much better camera, although I'd encourage you, if at all possible in your work, to drop down to f/16 if you can. It may not be necessary but the images will be much better.

Alejandro said:

Roger, thanks for your quick answer!!
My question is because in all forums photographers talk about the presence o that they notice the dust or spots in high f/ and they talk about f/11 f/16 but in my job i took pictures of teeth very close with relation 1:1 1:2, with R1C1 twin Flash so I need real deep of field and close the aperture to f/32 and in this aperture Sopts Dust everything will be notice!!!!!!

But i did never try to decrease the intensity of the flash until the point of using the aperture in f/16, could be a good idea...........but in some pictures i really need aperture of f/25 minimum and it will be disastrous if the D600 suffer of DUST don't you think?

Joe Cantrell said:

My original D600, #30045XX, purchased from Pro Photo Supply in Portland, Oregon, began to show the spots early. I'm stacking up to 40 micro images, often shot against light backgrounds, and the spots quickly became a real problem, requiring way too much Photoshop time to retouch.
I called Pro Photo professional support and they told me the Nikon rep had said it is a known problem, bring in the dirty camera and they'd replace it. I did, they did, and #30512XX has no problem so far.
It's a great camera, I plan to buy another, maybe two more.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

I have to agree Alejandro - I wouldn't want to see big dust spots on pictures of my teeth, and I would assume it could also interfere with your evaluation at times. And with a pixel-dense camera f/25, even f16 will show them. Perhaps picking up a nice D300s would be a better choice.

Alejandro said:

Wow, thank you both!!!!
Roger that was the one i was thinking! but since wen it`s in the market? they are expensive cameras if you consider that I´m not a Photographer and I´m in COLOMBIA, so i would like to buy a real New Camera....maybe waiting for the D7100? D400?mmmm could be to much time?.........

Joe, how many pictures have you taken with the camera?????? could be a light at the end of my Tunnel, because that SERIAL is one of those on the Rich list that no show problems.............AND I REALLY WANT A NIKON D600!!!!!!!! jaajjajajjajajja

Brenno said:

I'm also curious to hear how well the D600 with newer serial numbers are performing with regard to the dust/oil spots issue. Joe: could you let us know if the problem recurs in your most recent D600 after a certain number of shots? I visited my local store and they told me at some point Nikon asked them to send all the cameras in stock back, which they replaced by supposedly a newer batch. (A sort of unofficial recall, maybe?) Roger, have you heard of anything similar? And has this newer batch shown any improvement?

JB said:

I'm in the market for a new camera, but I don't want to deal with the dust issues of the d600. I don't mind to pay more and get the d800.... Does anyone know if the d800 has similar issues? I realize a certain amount of dust is normal, however my, heavily used, d80 doesn't seem to have any visible dust issues (even at small apertures).

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

JB, we havne't noticed any problems with dust in the D800 and we've well over 100 copies.

Brett said:

DO not Buy this camera.. Came from a d300S this is a step down in every way from the cheap controls to the body build. Nikon should take a good look at what they are releasing.. Have a SN 3063XXX and the dust destroys evey image with a blue sky.... USELESS..

MIKE said:

I inquired at the official local Nikon repair place. They tell me the problem has been resolved. Anything new you know?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Mike,

A dozen people have gotten a dozen different answers lately. Since Nikon hasn't officially recognized there was a problem, I'm not certain I believe they've officially fixed it.

roger

Jon said:

Thanks for this article ! I've the same problem !
After 550 shots without changing lense :
http://jonathanpoirier.com/data/capteur/evolution/01_avant_nettoyage.png
I clean it.
After 1000 shots (never changing lense) it was dirty once again ...
http://jonathanpoirier.com/data/capteur/evolution/04_1000_clics_plus_tard.png
I need to pay 25€ to have it clean, there was a mixt of dust and oil :/
I'm at more than 3000 clic now.

I sent a mail to Nikon but they said "we not are aware of this problem..."

Steve Bingham said:

Not one single dust or lubricant spot in the first 250 shots. Serial number 3060xxx from B&H photo 4 days ago. Please keep us posted on your info, Roger. I hear from a few fellow pros that Nikon has fixed the problem. Who knows. Any news on your part?

Bill said:

Well Steve, you are fortunate that you are not seeing any dust/debris or spots, however, I have been through three separate units in differing runs since October. My last one was in the 3056XXX range. I noted my problems started and escalated around 350 to 550 shutter activations and also with the use of continuous low and high burst mode. I am not sure if anybody has seen any definitive statements from Nikon. I doubt they will.

I gave up and just picked up a D800. I liked the D600 except for the dust, and I really liked the low light performance. I just did not like the abnormal and I emphasize abnormal dust production/collection. I like my D800 much more.

I was fortunate that Best Buy was so decent to me about the D600s. They never once gave me grief.

I really hope that the camera lives up to your expectations. it is a pain in the tail otherwise. There are also a ton of apologists running around talking about how it is normal, when it clearly is not not normal.

You are already likely beyond the typical 200 shot limit that I have heard that B&H has on their cameras. As for whether the problem gets better, I cannot say. Roger may have much better information.

Good luck and thanks for reporting.

Steve Bingham said:

I like the camera for many reasons and I am committed to dust removal when, and if, it becomes a problem. The D800e is a better camera, of course, but I can cure dust a lot easier than focus problems. Between my Rocket Blower, Pec Pads, and PS CS6 I feel it really won't be a problem. All 200 shots were at 5 fps and f16. Maybe I got lucky. Time will tell.

I remember many folks complaining about the D7000 yet mine had none of the problems. I am hoping Nikon has found the source of the problem, as they have for the left focus problem on the D800 and D800e. One of the problems is that warranty work doesn't transfer to a second owner. I almost bought a used (256 clicks) D800e before I asked myself, "what if"?

M42 said:

Steve,

Stop your lens down to f22 and go outside and take a couple of shots at a part of the sky that's blue, not cloud covered and away from the sun. I guarantee you'll see spots when you look at the pictures. You're not going to notice them shooting at normal apertures.

Paul Murphy said:

Roger Cicala said:

"... You may have to clean the D600 more often, but there’s some negative thing with every camera". Yes, in the pre-digital days there WAS a negative thing with every camera!!

Steve Bingham said:

D M42

With a MS in photography and 50 years as a pro I am pretty sure I know how to test for dust and oil spots. My test was done at f16 with a new Sigma 35mm f1.4 and a clear blue sky - and the final file pushed with PS CS6 using levels and curves. A month later it is still clean. Will dust show up eventually? Of course. And I will clean it, just like Roger does.

John Watson said:

I just ordered a refurb D600 from B&H. Will be interesting to see how the issue presents itself, or of it has been solved by the factory.

Arek said:

Can anyone explain me, why you have to stop down to f16 or more to see the dust? If the dust would be on the lens, yes... but it's on the sensor, right?

EricD said:

@ Arek:
The sensor is not a simple surface. There is a 'window' in front of it, like glass in front of a picture-frame.

The window is not just to protect the sensor, it has a coating that reflects infra-red light, so that IR doesn't affect the colour - only visible light is detected. It is sometimes referred to as a 'hot mirror', although we're dealing more with near-infra-red <1um not thermal-imaging far-infra-red <10um.

It also blurs the image slightly, known as anti-aliasing or Low-Pass-Filtering (LPF). 'Low' refers to 'Spatial Frequency'. This reduces 'moire' or 'aliasing' patterns on surfaces with repetitive fine patterns, such as the colour bands seen if a TV presenter wears a fine-striped shirt. It can be achieved with micro-textured glass, but is usually done more precisely with special crystalline plates that split each light ray into 4 directions, so that each hits the 4 coloured sub-pixels equally. Look up 'Anti-aliasing filter' and 'Color filter array' on Wikipedia if you want to see how this works.

Interestingly, the crystal material mentioned there is Lithium Niobate - it expands and contracts in electric fields, which may be how the self-cleaning function works (Surface Acoustic Waves - also used in focussing!). It also generates voltages with vibration or temperature, which might attract dust - so it probably has a conductive coating, too, to prevent this.

EricD said:

See http://photographylife.com/what-is-low-pass-filter
Note the beam-splitter separates different polarisations of light,
which is why we use CPL circular polarising filters, not linear polarisers.
Well, that and exposure, auto-focus and wide-angle effects.

JaketheSnake said:

Hi Roger. Have you guys bought any new D600 lately? If you guys did, have you noticed if the problem has been relatively fixed? Thanks a lot and more power to your business.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Jakethe, we haven't in quite a while. Winter is slow and we don't start up purchasing until mid March.

Arek said:

@EricD thanks for detailed explanation.

I'm one of these waiting for the problem to get resolved, happy to hear any news on D600. I know for some people this is an over exagerated problem, but I have D90 with 18K shots made, never cleaned the sensor and I cannot find any single dust particle when making the test. Thus not happy with new camera bringing me more trouble..

In the meantime the price of D600 goes down down down

JaketheSnake said:

Roger, thanks a lot for your response. I guess, Nikon has acknowledge it in some ways. I think they are doing something to fix it but would not admit it as those people who have bought it might start sending it back for a newer one. Please update us with your findings once you have bought newer ones. More power to you and your company.

Paris said:

Nice article for the topic. I'd appreciate to know more within the topic. Anyway to subscribe your blog site?

KK said:

Jakethe, I bought my D600 28 days ago from B&H. It's serial number starts is 306XXXX. I'm afraid the "dust" is there and very visible. It may go back to B&A. I have two more days to decide. Other than the dust issue, I love this camera. The pictures coming out of it are simply quite extraordinary.

KK

Mike said:

I bought two D600's in the last week. One was from Costco and it had a lot of artifacts on the sensor. Unfortunately, I did not document the serial number since I returned it. Scanning Adorama I bought one refurbished because it saved me some serious bucks and I figured if it was refurbished, surely they must have addressed these issues. No luck, even a D600 refurbished camera with the serial 304xxxx has the issue, although not nearly as bad as a new one. I upgraded from a D90 but what a shame I have to worry about this. I love the camera so far but this is crazy. I feel like I paid more and have less. I know that's dumb because it buries my D90 but at least with my D90 I wasn't hunting for crazy artifacts in post. I wrote Nikon to see what they say. Luckily for me I live near a huge Nikon repair facility so i am hoping they tell me to just drive it over for a cleaning.

François said:

Any news about the problem ? Do these D600 still get dust at the same rate after many cleanings ? Did you get new D600 ? If yes, do they have the same problem, or is it fixed ? Many thanks

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Francois, we don't have new stock (Winter is slow in the rental business) but the ones we have, after a few months use, seem to have normal dust much like other cameras.

Lottel said:

Has the oil and dust settled yet on the d600?

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