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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

Lensrentals.com

November 29, 2012

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

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.

Tom

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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:

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.

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.

Mark said:

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

Bryan Cady said:

Lensrental:
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
Bryan

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”.

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.

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?

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?

Cheeers,

Markus

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!

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.

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?

Scott Kahoun said:

Oops, just saw the “sensor loupe” comment above.

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.”

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.

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???

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.

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.

Chris said:

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

Chris said:

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

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Chris, I’m guesstimating 4,000 or so.

Chris said:

thanks Roger, has around 6000 shots and still continue with the stains, I hope this ends soon, in video is a real problem!

Jose said:

Hi Roger,

It’s been a while sine you last updated us with this information. I’m just about to buy a d600 but would like to know whether you maintain your thoughts about this dust/oil issue. On the bodies you rent, did you keep finding less and less dust with more and more shots?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Jose,

We haven’t done any further checks – rental business is so slow in December that many of the cameras have only rented once since the last update.

Jose said:

Thanks a lot for your quick response ;) … I’ll keep watching how this situation keeps ongoing in the near future ;)

D600-owner said:

Roger, do you have a recommended silicone stamp? I couldn’t find much info out there. Many thanks for your advice, many of us D600 owners need help with this issue.

Lou said:

Great work, Roger! Your posts are the most reliable information to me about the D600 oil/dust issue. I’ve never thought that I would have spent so much time on a camera rental blog. Since I started looking for a good camera at this price range, I’ve been closely checking the status of your posts. Keep going, Roger. Although it’s your routine work to clean cameras, I’ve saved myself just $2000 by reading your posts. I’ve bookmarked your blog and will keep checking for updates. Thanks so much!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

We use Dust Aid stamps.

Eduardo Suastegui said:

Hey, guys. Thanks for posting this. Since you have a large enough number of cameras, Nikon should be deemed crazy not to give you a call and use your statistically significant sample size to isolate the problem. I have 2 D600 bodies myself, and they are more or less following the same pattern. For me it also appears to be predominantly a dust (not lubricant) issue, mostly resolved with a blower.

Rick said:

I’m curious. You state that you clean the sensor on all cameras when returned. Does this mean inspect and then clean or just clean regardless? In particular I would be interested to know how the various brands and models stack up. For example oly fan boys tout the mirical abilities of the oly dust reduction system. Is it really better?

Oh, and yes I own an oly OMD EM5, EPM1 and E30 and E1 before that. Don’t know if that makes me a fan boy or just susceptible to oly marketing.

Thanks
Rick

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Rick,

We inspect under a sensor loop and take a shot at f/16+ every time, but don’t necessarily clean every time.

I’ve never noticed a dust free camera. There have been a couple that had a tendency to have more dust than others — we’ve always just felt that was some electromagnetic charge thing.

There have been a couple that were always a PIA: Nikon D3x and all IR modified cameras, for example. But the D600 is the only one with dust localized to a specific region like this.

All of the mirrorless seem to be just simple: because the sensor is up front like it is, simply blowing dust off is usually the only thing necessary.

Andrea Magugliani said:

Hi Roger, you are becoming an authority on this oil issue for the D600 on the net. I was wondering if you could give us a follow up on this regard. I guess now toy have cameras that took at least 8/9000 pictures. Did the spots come back?
I bought a D600 in Decemberb and got a lot of spots after . I cleaned it once and I am now wondering for how ofte will have to do this procedure. Thanks.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Andrea,

We’re not seeing nearly as many spots on older cameras, although they do still have the tendency to to stay in the upper left corner. I assume the location is because of the design, but that the initial ‘burst’ of dust over the first couple of months was from either debrit in the camera during assembly or perhaps coming off of some part that had friction. These latter two things seem like things that could be fixed in production, so I assume that’s why some people with newer serial number D600s aren’t seeing much dust.

Roger

Steve Bingham said:

Hi Roger,

Well something might have changed! I took one shot when the D600 arrived. I couldn’t find a single speck, in spite of shooting blue sky at f16. So I pushed levels and curves HARD and still no spot. So, for grins, I cranked off another 200 shots at 5 fps. Still not one speck of dust. This is the 1st Nikon I have ever had that was this clean (over a dozen). Really puzzled. Have they changed their assembly and cleaning procedure? Maybe found the problem? #3060xxx from B&H arrived on January 22. I am amazed that Nikon USA wouldn’t offer your company some explanation. Oh well, that’s Nikon.

Lou said:

Hi Steve,

Good find. I suddenly realized that you’ve become a voluntary quality tester for both Nikon and waiters like me. LOL. I’m going to wait more time to see. Thanks for your testing!

JR said:

Hi Roger,

I was surprised when you said that you’ve not seen other cameras with this “upper left” sensor dust/oil problem. My D7000 had oil accumulation on the “upper left” and it was a relatively well-documented issue on the net. I was able to remove the oil after a wet cleaning; which was pretty easy, though nerve-racking.

Have you seen this problem with the D7K, too?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

JR, we did see it some, and we saw the D3x edges problem. We’ve never mentioned it because it never was this dramatic before.

Fred Mueller said:

Hi Rog,

Just a question – just wonder if you could elucidate LR cleaning protocol; especially how do you “blow” (yuk yuk). No seriously … I actually use a can of duster (Bessler DustGun 100); I know this is supposedly verboten, but I am quite careful – empty new cans to about 50%, do a couple of test blasts to check for liquid in the nozzle/wand, hold the can still, bring the body to the can, just do a few short bursts. Point being, WAY stronger than the typical rocket/doggie chewy toy. (I’ve only had to retrieve the mirror twice so far …. just kidding !!!).

My 600 started with “some” dust right away – if it had not been for all the internet chatter, I think I would not have even thought twice about it. As it was, just cleaned mine a few times in the first months and kept an eagle eye out when I realized “this was an issue”. There were a few suspiciously large “chunks” from time to time – so I am prepared to believe something wacky happened to these cameras, design, mfg, tsunami, whatever. But now I am about to cross 20,000 clicks and this camera seems normal – (well, except for the Sony sensor which is just superb).

In a way its been good for me, as I have developed better hygiene (camera that is), where previously I would let the D700 (now backup) practically choke before I’d get the swabs out …

ps – Have rented three lenses from you so far – great hassle free service – if you are successful, you guys deserve it from my p.o.v.

thanks

Fred Mueller

Southborough, MA

C Velo said:

@Roger – was curious to see if LensRentals had purchased any new D600′s and if those newly purchased ones are still showing the “dust issue”? (if not, would be curious to know the Serial Number range of the new ones).

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

WE haven’t purchased any new ones yet. Demand for Nikon FF bodies has slacked off a lot compared to last year.

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