Repair alerts

D600 Sensor Dust Issues

Published October 22, 2012

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

October 2012

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Repair alerts
  • Roger Cicala

    Fanboys — it isn’t about Nikon or Canon, it’s about D600s. All cameras get dust. D600s seem to get quite a bit more and it’s localized to one area.

  • Roger Cicala

    We’re still seeing dust, but most of the cameras have only gone out once since the article. We’ll check again in a few weeks.

  • cohioan

    Do you have any updates to this information? Are the D600’s continuing to show the same amount of dust? Is the problem seeming to get better/worse/same over time?

  • Nikonshooter
  • Ian Douglas

    Nikon now need to sit up and take notice and come ‘clean’ (please excuse the pun). They denied any issue when I reported my D7000 getting oil spots repeatedly (and still do). This issue is enough to make me and many othesr jump ship and go to Canon.

    Its as simple as that Nikon. Wassup?

  • Janet

    Tested two D6oo cameras from Future Shop and both had sensor dust in the upper left side of the photo. The dust on the second camera was very apparent in the video mode – taken on a overcast day. I Returned both cameras. I hope this problem gets fixed, as the D600 has lots going for it!

  • tadäus

    first 6 months after buying a new camera it is free of charge (in germany)

  • I had the same dust problem with my German D600 and I had my camera cleaned last week by the local Nikon Service Point, free of charge as a guarantee service. It seems that Nikon is recognizing the problem, since a sensor cleaning would normally not be free of charge.

  • Roger – Have you examined the foam that is next to the lens contacts for possible damage? There was a report on Nikonians about damage to the foam in the D800 – likely through cleaning. Deteriorating foam creates dust like particles. Here’s a link to that post with photos.

  • Fongky

    My D600 had encountered the same dust issues! Even after a clean by Nikon service center. I asked for a replacement unit. Tested it in front of the shop keeper. Damn! the second unit was having the same dust issue! I rejected it and asked for refund. The SN 800xxxxxx (Malaysia).

  • Steve

    Tried blowing mine off, unsuccessfully. I think the dust/oil originates inside the camera as I am very careful changing lenses and have never experienced this level of accumulation with any other DSLR.

    Hope Nikon agree to a free clean because I can’t afford to do it every week and I don’t want to void the warranty either. Just hope it settles down, but not sure what to do if it doesn’t.

  • I was having dirty sensor issues with my new D600 (only a week old) so I took my camera into my dealer and they said that they would replace it… but I got their floor model and took a “dust shot” with it… and it was even _worse_ than my camera! So… no reason to replace (might just get one worse). They said they could send it in for cleaning… but it would be a month before I got it back. So, I told them I would use my Giottos Rocket Blower and see if it would do any good. I just got through cleaning the sensor with the rocket blower and thought I would share my results:

    (all photos take using 24-70G at 70mm at f/22 focused near infinity on a piece of paper. Disregard the “yellowish splotch” it was some junk on the paper…)

    First the “before” shot:

    Next, the “after” shot:

    This is after repeated (10+) mirror up cleaning sessions with the rocket blower. When I first took at look at the sensor I could visibly see the dust (mostly in the bottom left corner when looking at the sensor). I could see it getting blown away with the rocket blower. As you can see, there are still a few small spots… but they won’t be visible at anything other than f/22 (where I don’t shoot much). I could keep blowing, but it’s just as likely that I will continue to blow around the dust instead of really getting it off. To get that last bit off I would need to either send it in or do a wet cleaning (which I’m NOT doing on a brand new $2100 piece of equipment. I understand that many people do… it’s just not for me).

    So the verdict? It is definitely _dust_. It is not oil (at least on my sensor) and it can be effectively dealt with in a “non-contact” way. I’m happy with the result and I’ll just be diligent about blowing off my sensor every now and again. I hope that eventually it settles down a bit… but I can definitely live with this one “issue” for everything else that is awesome about this camera.

    It is a huge relief to know that I can deal with this on my own and I don’t need to send my camera anywhere….

  • Mr.M

    A new thread was started on Dpreview title:

    The scratch right below the reflecting mirror on D600.

    Could you guys read this and also check your units for this problem.


  • Lin Sun

    From China?eager to buy a D600 but hesitating now.We may consider this as a
    design defect.Can it be corrected?
    What if Nikon does not take this issue as a serious problem?

  • Martin

    Same problem with mine (in Denmark), SN 60XXXXXX.

    Nikon Service wouldn’t recognize the problem, but called it “internet rumors”. I took a photo of the sky and sent it to them – the dust/oil/specks are clerarly visible on the photo – and Nikon told me to go and get the sensor cleaned, no charge. Quite a few others D600 owners in Denmark also have this problem….hopefully Nikon will make a statement soon.

  • Steven Lawrence

    I had two large dust spots but they were on the right side. I turned the camera upside down and after a few tries with the dust blower they came off. I usually shoot below 5.6 so I did not notice the problem till it was brought up here.

  • Luke Ju

    i think that was oil spot, cus i couldn’t blow that off from the first day I bought D600!

  • Mourad

    Same problem with mine.
    Cleaned the sensor 3 times/weeks (bought D600 3 weeks ago) and dust is coming back.
    SN 60xxxx France

  • Choo

    I have similar issues, but instead of just dust, I have OIL SPOTS all over the left side of the sensor!! Here’s a test pic taken.

    I’ve tried using a blower and it would not come off. Nikon Malaysia told me to send it back and let their technician verify the problem.

  • iPrj

    Were this batch of cameras intalled AF-D lenses? I found they easily get dust in.

  • Roger Cicala

    Alberto, that’s all we have here, 3000xxx and 3001xxxx

  • Marco,

    thinking to buy a new D600, here in Spain,
    can you share more digits of the S/N ?

  • Marco

    I have the same problem with my D600 which is 2 days old – SN 60XXXXX in Italy.

  • The D600 has a carbon fiber/kevlar shutter.

    Are these little bits of shutter material being worn off?

    They’ve been making carbon fiber/kevlar shutters since the D3 (at least) perhaps there is a slight mechanical difference with the D600 shutter. Or perhaps they changed the formulation or layup or bake of this design.

    Does the D800 show this problem or not?

  • adeline

    I have excatly the same problem with my D 600 which is 3 weeks old (dust spots which keep reapearing after being blown off;I noticed this to Nikon Europe,they just propose me a free cleaning of my D600 ( serial number 600 xx xx);
    régis ADELINE

  • I also noticed the same with my D600 (quite a few noticable spots mostly top left quadrant) – SN 80XXXXX in Australia.

  • Tim

    Sounds like its not oil since it can be blown off. Hopefully not dust from outside the camera which probably would have more random and even distribution plus poor weather sealing would be far more problematic. Most likely in camera particulates and potentially related to damping system or materials used to damp either mirror or shutter? Shouldn’t be an issue if it was designed for (i.e. they had to fire off some numerous test actuations and seen this phenomena prior to release…at least that is the assumption for any product with some qc behind it). If its something that shouldn’t be happening at all like Canons itchy rubber grips then its a bit worrisome(i.e. damping material not holding up well or out of spec somehow…long term implications?). I think the size and shape of the sensor dust is interesting and see if you can take macro shots of it to really give more clues as to its source.

  • Roger Cicala


    We put out a sensor cleaning video a year or two ago:

    We haven’t changed since then, that’s still the way we do it.


  • n/a

    can confirm – dust tends to gather left side more (sn 602xxxx europe). to be fair none was apparent in photos until after yours article I performed multiple shots in search of ones 😀

  • I use Nikon bodies and have the same problem with a D7000. With all the other similarities between both cameras, could they share the same flaws? Do you have recommendations for safe, constant cleaning?

    I learned a great curve technique to make the sensor spots really stand out. Works great.

    Great write-up as usual!

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