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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”

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,

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:

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 $$

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

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.

Chris said:

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

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

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

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!".

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.

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 ?

fotograf ślubny trójmiasto said:

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

Alfian Effendy said:

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

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.

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 Irvine said:

Any update on this issue?

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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