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D610 Initial Dust Assessment

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Way back when, I wrote about the dust problems we were seeing in Nikon D600 cameras.  There was enough of a furor about it that when the Nikon D610 was released I assumed that the dust problem would be fixed. But I'm rather the paranoid type, and I never like assumptions, so as soon as the first D610s were delivered I thought it worthwhile to just double check that assumption.

I set up a fairly simple protocol for the first twenty-five D610 bodies delivered:

  1. The first image taken with each camera was our standard f/16, white-wall shot with contrast enhancement to check for sensor dust.
  2. The cameras then went to a tech for testing and checkout, which involves about 20-30 shots being taken, then back to me for a second sensor dust image.
  3. The cameras then went out on their first rental and when they returned I took yet another sensor dust image.
  4. Just like I did in the first article, I then stacked the images for each stage in Photoshop using the 'darken if' action to make a single image of the dust on all the cameras.

 

The results are pretty clear, and for those of you who hate to read, they indicate the sensor dust issues have, indeed, cleared up (I love puns) in the D610.

Remember, when you look at the images below, this is not the dust on one sensor; it's the total of all the dust on 25 sensors. 

New - Out of the Box

For those of you who think a camera is always going to arrive with a dust-free sensor, let me assure you this is a really good result. One camera had a big chunk, 6 others had a small dust spot, the rest were clean to the limits of the test. That's an excellent result; as good as any camera we inspect.

After In-House Testing

We expect the 20 or 30 shots we do with initial testing to jar loose some more dust that's in the mirror box or around the shutter or sensor edges. That's the case here as you can see, but again, this is a good result. There is more dust now, but most of it is small, as opposed to the large chunks we often saw with the D600. This is about what we see with any other camera and no single camera had more than a couple of specs.

After Rental

So we cleaned all those sensors and sent them out on rental, then took another image when they came back. I've only had 10 cameras come back from rental, so this composite is for 10 sensors, not 25 as above. But things looked so good I thought I'd go ahead and post now. Obviously rental conditions vary - we don't know who was in studio and who went to the beach, but with D600s we definitely would see the pattern of large chunks in the left upper corner no matter where it went on rental.

With the D610 we just see a bit of scattered dust and one fiber. There's nothing of note in the left upper corner.  If anything, this is a bit better than most cameras, but certainly no worse.

We'll keep an eye out, of course, for problems in the future, but as best I can tell (and as we all expected) the D610 does not appear to have any sensor dust problems.

I'll also note that when I evaluated the D600s I thought perhaps the shutter design, with its wider slot, was the problem. I was apparently wrong about that, since the D610 has what appears to be exactly the same shutter design. Since we saw the dust problem disappearing after 5,000 shots or so, it may be simply that there was a lot of dust inside the D600s that worked its way out early on. Perhaps the 'cure' was simply keeping dust out in the first place. Or maybe there's something inside the camera (I haven't had a chance to open one up yet) to prevent dust getting out to the sensor.

Of course, figuring out why it's better is just to satisfy my curiosity. It doesn't really matter what's different as long as the problem is fixed, and it certainly does appear to be fixed.

Roger Cicala

Lensrentals.com

November, 2013

49 Responses to “D610 Initial Dust Assessment”

derek said:

thanks for the hard work, appreciate it.

RSK said:

How does the dust removal function work? To be honest, some of those spots are the size of small farm animals, and would potentially damage an otherwise clean image.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

RSK - we don't ever check the automated dust function, assuming it's done what it can do when the camera was turned on and off. Automated dust removal helps, but it certainly isn't enough on any camera to keep it dust free. The images in this article are just typical SLR images if I stacked them like that. All cameras get dust on the sensor.

Rick said:

So none of your D600 rental gear had dust issues after about 5000 shots? If so, picking up a D600 now may be a good idea if you're willing to do some major clean-up work upfront. Very tempting..

Stu said:

Thanks for the report. Would u care to share how u clean the d600 before 5k shots. Does standard wet clean work? I heard others tried all different types of clean but in the end had to send it back to Nikon.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Stu, we have a video up on Youtube somewhere about it. But we tend to wet clean as a last resort, especially since the price of sensor scratches has sckyrocketed lately. Blow, Brush, blow, brush, Sensor pen, blow, brush, Sensor stamp, blow, brush, wet clean is kind of our pattern.

Not necessarily right or wrong: for every person the best way to clean a sensor is the way they're most experienced in using.

Edna said:

Roger,

You have a great 'dry cleaning' video but how about when it's time to go wet and wild ?

Any chance you can help with that ?

Thanks

Edna

Ryan said:

Hi Rodger et al., What will LensRentals be doing with its stock of D600s? Did you ever have to send them back to Nikon for repair or did you just wet-clean in house and call it a day? I am trying to decide if it is worth a trip to Melville or if I should just buy a wet cleaning kit since my warranty is almost up. Thanks so much for all the good reads and information!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Edna, there are a number of good wet cleaning videos already out there, so we didn't think there was any need for those.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Ryan, we never sent them to Nikon because Nikon never acknowledged there was a problem to fix. Just that they would clean the sensors and we can do that here without a 3 week turnaround.

They'll be sold through LensAuthority.com when their rental time is up.

Markus said:

Hi Roger, my question goes a little bit in a different direction:
What about cleaning a camera with IBIS (i.e. moving/'loose' sensor)?
My question especially circles around the Olympus E-M5. There are reports out there that its sensor's mount/bearing might be especially delicate. Did you have any problems so far?

Tobi said:

Indeed the problem has been fixed -- but I, as a Nikon user and owner of their gear, hate to see that they decided to fix it by offering an incremental updated successor to the D600. They should've stood up to it and fixed it by doing a recall or a definitive repair once the camera was in-house.

AS it is, especially after having seen the same behavior twice (SB910 and D610), I lost all faith in Nikon products.

Tobi

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Markus, we haven't, but we tend to try to avoid touching as much as possible. The vast majority our cleanings are just brush and blow. Most of the rest are a touch in one spot with a sensor pen or a sensor stamp. Maybe one out of 50 cleanings actually gets swiped with a wet swab.

The m4/3 cameras are even less likely to get wet cleaned simply because the sensor is so close - it makes it much easier to blow and brush stuff off. On the other hand, we have a couple of dozen m4/3 cameras compared to hundreds of Canon, so I'd be less likely to see a pattern with them.

Roger

cody said:

Hey Roger, this is off topic but probably gonna rent a couple different street photography setups from you soon

1st: Lumix gx7 with lumix/leica 25mm
2nd: Fuji XM1 with Zeiss 32mm

In your professional opinion, which camera combo is the better urban camera?

ps: live here in Nashville-love that you guys opened a store in maryland farms in brentwood :)

PJLeahy said:

Roger,

Thanks you for the excellent article along with the cleaning methodology. Looks like a static brush and loupe will be on my Christmas list to lessen the wet cleans on my D600. I have only cleaned it a few times in 5k shutter snaps..

Since I don’t have an oil issue and dust isn’t too bad either after about 5k snaps, is it correct to assume that you would not recommend sending it in for a cleaning with the hope/risk of a shutter replacement? I was leaning towards sending it in until your article mentioned that the shutters “seem” to be the same design.
Patrick

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

PJ, if they'll give you a new shutter, I'd be all for it. But I'm hearing no guarantees that is the case - although I wouldn't necessarily know since we don't get warranty repairs.

Andrew Wells said:

Roger,

Could the D600 problem have been to an excess tribocharge on the sensor itself? AKA, could static have been building up over the face of the sensor, or even over a section of the sensor, that was attracting more dust to that location than another camera's sensor would?

After 5000 exposures, this electric effect may taper off or may be neutralized from weatherization by way of extensive humidity exposure (not high humidity exposure, just general humidity exposure over the time of 5000 exposures) or the wiping off of the image static from the 5000 exposures could clear this buildup over the life of 5000 exposures. Just ideas I was wondering if you have thought of.

AJ

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

AJ, that's certainly possible, but I don't know that it explains the preponderance of particles in the upper left hand (shutter side) area of the sensor. But I guess it could be that there was more charge in that location.
Roger

Diego said:

Thank You Roger for this! This certainly helps new owners.

BUT...does not really give much to existing d600 owners...

I challenge you to open a D600 and FIND the determining the source of the problem...could you do that? I hope so...:)

Thanks
JDF

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Diego, we've opened them up and I had thought the rather large opening around the shutter was the culprit, but the 610 has the same opening. When we have enough 610 stock I'll open one up and see what the difference seems to be if it's visible. My assumption at this point, though, is there was lots of dust inside the body during manufacturing that worked it's way out, and they'd cleaned up the assembly process -- in which case I won't see anything.

DUX said:

Roger,
Well done for your tests!
I have been considering to purchase a D610 for sometime now so, your inquiry on the dust accumulating censor was just what I have been expecting. Yet, there has been another issue with the D600 - the oil spraying.
Can you please enlighten us on wether the D610 deals with that problem?

Thanks in advance!

Walter said:

I think that touching the E-M5 sensor is an absolute no-no. Good thing is, you don't need to. Olympus' dust protection system is brutally effective. I changed lenses with abandon on an E-510 out in the Arizona desert for years, and had no dust problems at all, while my dad's Canons were a mess. Olympus has some special magic in their dust-off system; it's more intricate than any of the others, and it works awfully well.

Mad said:

Hi Roger,

Thanks soooo much for doing this work. Well thought out, and well-executed. This is a huge stress reliever for those of us considering the D610. Would you consider doing this same test on, say, a sample of Canon 6D's to show the results of a comparable camera?

AJ said:

Hi Roger,

Great work. You really provide an excellent service to the photographic community above and beyond the bounds of rentals for which I thank you.
My D600 was 'clean' up to 800 shots then I found the dust/oil issue.
In my case it's definitely lubricant (grease - oil is used for lubrication by circulation - not 'static' parts) as the 'spots' smear when cleaned.
I think Nikon changed the grease to a Molybdenum disulphide base (which is dark grey) in an attempt to increase the shutter life.
So if you do dismantle a shutter mechanism at some time, please have a look at this aspect (grease colour) if you would :-)

Cheers!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Mad, I can tell you from the experience of our guys examining and cleaning several hundred camera sensors a week that they're all pretty much just like the 610 images. The only two notable exceptions we've ever seen are the D600 and D3x/s cameras and the D3x/s weren't nearly as dramatic as the D600.

That's as far (unless we note another problem) as I'm interested in going - this kind of thing takes hours and hours and I can see no purpose in it unless there's a problem. Plus, if I did compare the 610 and the 6D one would have 24 spots total and the other 25 and Fanboys would start threads saying "Roger found this camera had way more dust than that camera".

Roger

Jan Fialkowski said:

I'm sorry .. I was horrified to see those marks on the sensor. I have a four year old Canon 5D Mk2 which has had 4 x sensor cleans in it's life, all nowhere near those marks, even with 100,000 shutter actuations. MY 5D Mk3 has 80,000 actuations and there is nothing on the sensor, doing the sky or white wall background f16 test .. The folk who hire this stuff must be amazingly careless, or Nikon has a disturbing design/QC issue .. On a typical rock music gig I swop lenses many many times, including my landscape photo shoot stuff .. :-( I love Nikon gear, and if Nikon cameras were in the price range when I started my photography (1965 at Art College) I would have gone with that brand ..

David Ziff said:

There seems to be contradictory data and I would like you to address it. There are repeated reports that the problem with the D600 sensor was oil splatters, etc. not dust yet you've stated that it was dust and don't touch the issue of oil splattering or smearing. It would be much appreciated if you would address this issue. It's central to the whole issue of the D600 and D610 in this one respect.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

David, there are reports from a number of people that they had oil on their sensor like the D3x had. We didn't see oil on our 60 copies of the D600, we saw dust - or at least dry particles - the majority of the time since we could blow or brush them off. We very rarely had to resort to a wet clean, which oil would have required.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Matt, they have permission to use my content as long as they link back, which they always do.

Roger

Michael said:

Thanks to Roger for doing these tests. However I am surprised, that you after your testing already have dust spots on the sensor. I got a D600 just after the release last October 2012, and quickly afterwards I noticed the problem - however not with dust but with what looks like "oil" spots. The spots could not be dusted away with the blower, but I could remove with the wet cleaning (Visible Dust).
So I delivered the camera to the Nikon repair team, and it was cleaned, but soon afterwards the spots came back. Now it has been cleaned by NIKON 3 times, and I have demanded a replacement,since I have not got the time to fool around with a faulty camera. I have been told that I will get a new camera - I reckon it will be the D610.
I have been a Nikon user since 1967, and I have never had a problem before. I have had all their digital cameras, and never a problem with spots on the sensor. And when my D600 was in for cleaning I got my 5 year old D90 out again, and tested that, and not a single spot and neither in all the years I have had it. Quite frankly - Nikon have handled this issue in a very irresponsible manner, despite their stated CSR policy of quality, consumer dialoque etc. etc.
So I really hope that the spot issue is completely solved with the D610, so I can get back to work, because the camera itself is a great camera.

Cody said:

Roger, Could you do a comparison test between the *new Olympus E-M1 with the Leica 25mm and Leica M-E with the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. I am interested in this comparison to show how serious Micro Four Thirds has come in the image quality department & wallet department against bigger sensors like the M-E & APSC. Thanks

Michel Lamy said:

I think the owner of the D600 should get lawyer and get a refund from Nikon!
We get f--ed by nikon and bought defect cameras that is worth peanut now because of Nikon.

Leif Goodwin said:

Did you take a look at the D610 shutter, and see if there were any obvious differences from the D600 one? I ask as there are so many possible causes of the D600 issues e.g. poor assembly, poor lubricant, poorly applied lubricant etc.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Leif, I did. It looks exactly like the D600 shutter. There could be some changes in materials that aren't visually apparent, of course.

Leif Goodwin said:

Thanks

Michael said:

YES, as Leif says: ... there are so many possible causes of the D600 issues e.g. poor assembly, poor lubricant, poorly applied lubricant etc.
Only NIKON knows, what has gone wrong, but they haven't got the guts to be open about it - not even to a big customer like Roger. Nikon could start with learning from their own CSR policies: http://nikon.com/about/csr/nikon-csr/index.htm
Any lawsuit should be organized collectively by a group of D600 owners in USA, as there are traditions for such lawsuits against manufacturers. Just ask Toyota. They learned the lesson many years ago - as far as I remember it did cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Steve said:

I have sent my D600 to Nikon 3 times because of the "dust" problem. The last time, Nikon replaced the entire shutter mechanism. They never explained why or described what it was supposed to fix. But, they did replaced the shutter. Previously, all I got was a good cleaning and more dust.

I don't really know if the problem has be fixed or not. Instead, I have modified the way I take photos, and I avoid higher F-stops except when I really want to enhance depth of field.

I've taken several thousand images since I got the camera back. I will have to do a dust test image and see how bad (or good) it is.

Joe said:

Is there a vacuum procedure for dust cleaning .. brush and blow and brush and blow .. isn't just spreading the dust around ? did see a GEL Stick process video on Photography Life that is kind of a true removal method, just wondering with all the sensors that need cleaning on all the dslrs in the world brush and blow is the main style?

Larry said:

Michael, your suggestion of a class action by D600 owners is a good one. We need a way to gather class members. Any ideas?

Michael said:

Larry: Unfortunately I am not familiar with the procedures, since I live in Denmark. But I know there are many lawyers in USA specialized in this.
Today I have just got my D610 as substitute for the D600. I will now test it.
Good luck.
Michael

Mark S. said:

Thanks for the good reporting! I tried to find in this blog what you use for the sensor brush. Can you make a recommendation?

I also saw a mention of the Dust-Aid. Is that compressed air? I thought that using compressed air was a no-no, because of the dangers of blowing liquid propellant onto the sensor or anywhere inside the camera body for that matter.

I just ordered a large Rocket Blower and hope to get it today.

-- D600 owner

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Mark, there's a youtube video up somewhere about our sensor cleaning. It's a couple of years old but we haven't changed much. Dust Aid is a sensor stamp - flat soft silicone that picks up dust. Visible dust and several others make good sensor brushes, but any soft nylon brush works fine.

Graham said:

Tañí for the woork you MADE for all os us Nikon user

Graham said:

Thank for the hard woork you had made

Andy said:

Roger,
I was torn between purchasing a refurbished d600 for $1500 and purchasing a new D610 for $1995. Based on your blog, and comments from the users, I have decided to go with the D610. Having peace of mind, and saving countless hours researching blogs about the D600's oil/dust issue, are well worth the few hundred $$$ difference - for me anyway.

Many thanks for this post!
Andy

Reg said:

Joe said: And Now Reg asks also
Is there a vacuum procedure for dust cleaning .. brush and blow and brush and blow .. isn’t just spreading the dust around ? did see a GEL Stick process video on Photography Life that is kind of a true removal method, just wondering with all the sensors that need cleaning on all the dslrs in the world brush and blow is the main style?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

REg, there are some vacuums, we've never found one that worked. There are silicone gel sticks that do work sometimes.

The reason for brush and blow is simple - you can't scratch a sensor that way. Scratching a sensor is rare. But scratching a sensor costs $700 to $1,600 to replace. Even if it's rare, that's a big expense. So we reserve things that could scratch a sensor for when they're absolutely necessary.

I know 15 people are going to jump on with "I've never scratched my sensor cleaning". Good for you. We clean dozens a day, using the best equipment and trained technicians. Once every couple of hundred sensor cleanings one gets scratched. Never with a blower, though, and never with a brush. Wet cleaning, stamp cleaning, sensor pen cleaning, though, it becomes possible.

BTW - blowing, done correctly does move the dust around. It moves it out of the sensor box into the air outside the camera.

David said:

I'm afraid I'm one of the rare ones. Although I have cleaner my sensor a few times before, there was a slight earth tremor (talk about doing the wrong thing at the wrong time!), camera moved and my reflex action was to stop it, hitting the sensor with the blower. Fortunately it's down at the left corner and can be easily touched up on processing. Taking into account the expense of getting it replaced I've decided to wait and upgrade at a later date. But, as you say, rare.

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