Not Surprisingly, D600 Dust Issue Gets Better Over Time

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A while back, I started an article on this topic with the sentence "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."

Unfortunately, it seems that everybody else did get excited. Some people freaked out and ran screaming to the hills. Fanboys (including some with Nikon Authorized Service Center email addresses) went in full-attack mode, claiming we just don't know how to clean sensors. I'm not sure that explains why we manage to keep the other 600 cameras clean, and only struggle with the 60 D600s we have, though.

At the end of the article I said I thought over time the dust would work it's way out and the problem would lessen, and that we'd take another look in a couple of months to see. Which we just finished doing.

In the first post, we looked at 20 consecutive copies of the D600 getting inspected for rental. Routinely we need to clean 1 in 4 cameras, but all 20 copies of the D600  we looked at needed cleaning. This week we pulled another 20 copies and repeated inspection including  f/16 blank wall photographs. We have about 60 of these cameras so these aren't necessarily the same 20, but all 60 were delivered within a week of each other and all are from SNs SN 300xxxx or 301xxxx.

At the time of the first article, the cameras tested had all been rented once or twice, now they've been rented 4 or 5 times. If we were right, and the dust was something that was going to clear up with time and use, we hoped the difference would be showing up by now.

The Verdict

Things are definitely better. Where 20 of 20 cameras required cleaning 6 weeks ago, only 11 of 20 did this time (our average for all SLRs would be about 5 of 20).

The location of dust also is looking more normal. When we took all 20 photos and stacked them up in the last article, virtually all of the dust was in the upper left 1/3 of the image, and they were large round specs. While there was still some upper left tendency this time, it wasn't nearly as pronounced and dust was more evenly distributed around the sensor. And instead of big round chunks, the dust was much smaller in general. In other words, the D600s look more like other camera's dust after a couple of months of use.

Like we did in the first article, I took all 20 images, stacked them in Photoshop using "darken if" to give you a summary of all the dust on all 20 cameras.  Again, 20 cameras, not one single sensor. (Now when some Fanboy reposts this picture and says it's a single D600 sensor, we will have documented that they can't read.)



As you can see, the dust particles are smaller (except for a couple of threads that were from one camera) and more evenly distributed, as they are on other cameras. There's still more in the upper left portion, but not nearly so concentrated as we saw two months ago.

So it looks like the problem is going to be something you see early in ownership that clears up over time. For our renters, we'll keep the warning up for another couple of months since they still have a bit more dust than most. It's always a good idea to double check before you go out and shoot those irreplaceable shots.


Roger Cicala


November 29, 2012

51 Responses to “Not Surprisingly, D600 Dust Issue Gets Better Over Time”

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Chris, I'm guesstimating 4,000 or so.

Chris said:

Hi Roger, more or less to that number of shots dissapears the spots? which for me are oil, thanks

Chris said:

I could tell you much about shooting spots stop appearing in the sensor and if doing time lapse speeds up the process?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

We don't pretend to know for certain.

It seems to us the opening around the shutter is a bit larger than other Nikon cameras. Maybe that lets the dust inside the body come out more quickly.

I've seen posts about an area where it looks like some of the anodized material has come off, but we've only seen that on a couple of copies, while all of the copies have dust initially.

Obviously Nikon's not going to tell us, so all I can say is I'm glad it seems a temporary issue, because it's really a nice camera.

fierlingd said:

Hey guys, any comment on what the cause of the dust was from though? I'm concerned that if the dust is comming from material scraping loose from an internal surface like the shutter door... that still may not be a good thing in the long run.

Clement Chan said:

I have this Nikon D600 for 2 months. I have no problems with dust, Dust can be blown away. However I can see oil specs on picture if I am shooting landscape.. When sky is the background. There are quite a few guys on you tube showing how they clean the sensor. Is it safe??? Any experience from anyone???

Joe Cosentino said:

I still think that a year from now there will be a lot of shutte calories in the D600 as the area of the shutter producing the specks malfunctions. Only time will tell. And the photo at he top of this article only shows here is a problem, my D90 has only needed a couple of cleaning, I haven't had to clean m D 7000 yet and when I had a D600 it would have needed a scrubbing after the first day. I decided to return it and try again well I did and the second camera aw the same, sent it back. Now waiyng for my third one.

Scott Kahoun said:

Well the evidence is certainly supporting your original hypothesis that the "dust" issue would diminish with break in. So I now wonder, did Nikon back off on the amount of "break in" on the D600 as compared to what they said they were doing on the D300?

From Nikon D300 site.

"Nikon D300 Integrated Dust Reduction System

Nikon goes beyond the cleaning function of the Self-cleaning Sensor Unit to implement a comprehensive system that helps reduce dust, from minimizing dust generated from within the camera through the removal process. (1) Internal mechanisms that generate as little dust as possible in operation. The shutter unit and all moving parts are designed to minimize dust generation, and are operated adequately before mounting within the camera so that they do not disperse dust following camera assembly. The mechanisms are then operated again after assembly to further ensure that they do not generate dust. (2) Dust doesn't easily adhere to internal surfaces. Anti-static finishing is used around the image sensor and optical low-pass filter (OLPF), while surrounding areas are specially treated such that dirt particles adhere to them easily. In addition, the space between the OLPF and image sensor is sealed to prevent dust particles from entering the assembly. (3) Dust doesn't easily appear in images. Enough distance is left between the OLPF and image sensor that dust is less likely to affect the final image. (4) Dust reduction in software. The effects of dust can be reduced for images shot in NEF (RAW) format by using the Dust Off feature in Capture NX, Nikon's optional photofinishing software."

Scott Kahoun said:

Oops, just saw the "sensor loupe" comment above.

Scott Kahoun said:

Question. How is the sensor cleanliness of your fleet of D600 cameras being compared to that of othe cameras? By images from the cameras or do you flip the mirror out of the way and do a visual inspect with magnification?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Tom and Peter,

We put a video up some years ago describing basic lens cleaning. It's easy to find on YouTube.
FWIW - our protocol is blow out the mirror box, then inspection with Sensor Loupe and f/16 shots, blowing with rocket blower if there's dust. Much of the time that's it.
If it's not we use an electrostatic brush.
If that doesn't do it, we move to either a sensor pen or silicon stamp and see if that gets things. Usually it does.
If it doesn't then wet cleaning. If needed we'll move over to a microscope rather than using a loupe so we can do it in real time, but that's not necessary.
95% of the time wet cleaning isn't needed, but when it is, well, there's just no other option.

TomT said:

Thanks for this update, Roger! I have a related question: Can you tell me the best way to clean the sensor in my dSLR? Or perhaps point me to a reliable description of the procedure on the web, or suggest a product? Thanks!

Markus said:

Hey Roger, thanks for calming down the crowd ;-)

(btw., I love your comment on the usage of facts in internet forums, over there in the Darwin article)

What are your observations regarding sensor dust building up on the sensors of mirrorless cameras? Lack of mirror means less air being pumped around means less dust? How many of those do need your routinely cleaning?



Peter K Burian said:

All very interesting but here's a question: What sensor cleaning product do you find to be the most effective? I use the VisibleDust swabs and liquids (there's one for oily spots) but what does Lens Rentals use?

kentak said:

Thanks for the encouraging update. Please continue to follow this issue with your cameras and report back when more time has elapse. I'm sure it would be appreciated by current and prospective D600 users.

Dr Croubie said:

Now that I think about it, for the first few months of having a 7D I had to clean the sensor fairly regularly, bought a kit of Visible Dust Swabs (they're great, btw).
I didn't think much of it at the time, as it was my first real dslr I just thought that's what came with the territory. That, and I was doing a lot of Pinhole, and nothing shows up the dust more than f/177.
Flash forward a few years, and I only clean my sensor every 6 months or so. I still check it every month or so, it just doesn't need it as often. (and paradoxically, while I was cleaning it regularly I was living in The Netherlands, a moist but relatively dust-less place. Now I'm in South Australia, and we got dust here, lots of it).

So maybe there is a problem (like Roger mentioned, the shutter 'sucking' dust out of a crevice which will depplete itself in time), but maybe that problem could happen to any new hardware. Or i'm probably agreeing with David, "welcome to the internet, we got whingers".

Bryan Cady said:

Please report back in another few weeks to let us know if your dust to none dust cameras continue to decrease to what is normal for your other cameras.

Thanks for the report

Mark said:

I think I'm more amazed that you have so many camera's.

David Burckhard said:

As far as I'm concerned, this is just another over-blown "problem" that proliferates mostly by folks who are only echoing buzz rather than actually working or testing the gear themselves. I don't know how many pieces of hardware, both video and still cams, I've used with "critical" issues and calls for heads to roll. In the meantime, my crew and I went on, used the gear like crazy, made money while others spent time throwing rocks.

Q said:

This is very helpful to know, Roger. Thanks so much for the response. It appears that there may not be a need to hold off buying this camera, knowing this and the fact that frequency of oil spots dissipates as the actuations increase.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Q, I've seen those photos, but when we looked at our cameras we only saw the scratches on a couple, but the dust was on all of them, so we don't particularly think that's the problem.

Q said:

Did you see the images on DPReview of paint scratches near where the mirror slaps, just on the edge, which would correspond to the accumulation of oil/dust on the image sensor? Is this something you're seeing in your cameras?

Jacob delaRosa said:

This was never really a true issue for me. Shot a wedding with this camera (courtesy of lensrentals.com) and my biggest complaint was the AF point placement...total buzzkill. I looked high and low for dustspots and couldn't find jack.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Ben,
Yes, I totally agree - that's like what we saw too, dust coming out steadily for the first few weeks of use. The difference is we repetetively cleaned it. Like BJ said, I think if he cleans the sensor and redoes the timelapse, there would be lest dust, etc.

YN said:

BenC, Roger means that the issue clears up over time, because the owner should be cleaning the sensor periodically. Kyle Clements' video and blog simply shows that the dust accumulates on the sensor over 1000 shots WITHOUT cleaning. That is normal, because the camera seems to ship with a finite amount of dust in the body. Over those 1000 shots, the movement of the mirror will throw that dust around, and more and more of it will stick to the sensor. But if the owner cleans that dust off, and if reasonable care is used to avoid excessive new dust entering the camera, then the D600 should have no more dust problems than any other DSLR.

BJ Nicholls said:

From Imaging Resource, Roger's quite familiar with the timelapse. If oil on the sensor is involved and it's concentrated on one side, then you'd expect dust to build up on a sticky surface. I'd like to see the time lapse done again after a good sensor cleaning. And I'd expect to see dust, but less of it and randomly over the entire sensor.

Tom A said:

I think most dust that gets into a camera, or lens, comes from the photographer putting the lens end cap in their pocket. The d600 issue is obviously self induced by the camera. Its good to hear things will clear up for people. I have a 7d with 100K shots and a 5dmkIII with 20K shots on it and I have not had to clean either yet. Even after the white wall f22 test. I think I might have used a rocket blower once or twice on the 7d. Not saying canon is better than Nikon. I'm sure there are a lot of Nikon models with similar results to mine. Interesting articles, thanks for the follow up.


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