Nikon D600 | Dust and diesel, dead in the water

Thinking of buying a Nikon D600…..hold that thought. You may want to read the following before jumping in.

Whilst some may argue that the overall performance of the camera weighs in against the inconvenience of the dust and oil issue, I’d have to counter-argue, that there’s nothing worse than coming back with a swag of useful shots and suddenly finding them loaded with lots of visible spots out of the blue and (not even as in my case) be able to palm it off to a lens change gone horribly wrong. And if that’s not enough, conventional cleaning fails to remove the junk from the sensor so the camera has to lay idle until the sensor can undergo a wet clean. Which has in my case now been something like three weeks. That’s clearly not what you buy a camera for. i.e., you don’t go out and buy a good camera just to have a part time relationship with it.

All might be well in the ideal world if the ‘free clean’ offered by Nikon staved off the wolves, but apparently it doesn’t and you can, by all accounts, expect the issue to re-appear in the not too distant future. And then, hi-ho it’s off to another round of clean’n’go.

This is the first time that I’ve experienced visible particles at open apertures. I had a little dust on a Canon 50D which took two rounds of cleaning at Canon in Sydney, but in this instance the particles were sparsely scattered and visible only on shots taken with a Pinhole Cap (f/166) and a f/45 Zone Plate. However on the D600 the particles are visible on conventional lenses at apertures down to f/1.8 on both stills and video.

These two shots are about 30 min apart and the increase in what appears to be both oil and dust is clearly visible. Both crops are from the top left of the frame and are consistent with most other reports. They were visible under magnification in the preview and the lens filter was cleaned between shots to eliminate the possibility of anything foreign on the filter itself.

Also read the most recent post on this here

D600 oil

D600a oil

Cropped from the original images


I had to eventually shut the Nikon down and go out with a Canon G1x which returned some good shots of the same environs as shown below.



15 thoughts

  1. Hello Gary.

    How long have you owned your D600, I have read that this improves after the first few hundred to a thousand frames or so…….

    To be honest almost every dslr I have had gets dust build up and needs cleaning,

    sometimes for a dry clean a very soft watercolour rigger brush (Sable hair) and your blower can do wonders, they (the brushes) come in a plastic sleeve and if you always put this back + blow the brush before and after use …

    The brush frees the dust then the blower works …..

    I remember all the way back getting my first D1x and it was back to Nikon twice before I gave in and just had to learn how to clean it…

    I also remember saying to Nikon that at least film defects moved on from frame to frame, but have you ever scanned negatives even ones just back from a lab, my god you still need photoshop healing tools!!!

    I have a felling its something you will notice gets better and you get better dealing with.

    Honest question, Don’t you just think its the marketing people who kid everyone that they will get a camera that will stay dust free?

    Dust will always be around?

    • Hi Nigel.
      A valid comment. The issue with dust on DSLR sensors is a given. It’s a natural consequence of daily usage and I think it’s correct to say that to expect to have dust free operation is somewhat unreal. The problem here seems to be more of an issue with the manufacturing process. If you look at the first image on this post (at full resolution) you’ll see that these are not dust but some sort of fluid, possibly oil, that appears to be spraying from the upper right or lower left, as there is a noticeable slant to the mark. The shot underneath seems to indicate a sudden accumulation of some substance (possibly dust) on the sensor. The lens had not been changed, so whatever it is, is being generated from within the camera body. The issue is, if its material already in the camera body, how is it getting to the sensor? Apparently there is a gap between the sensor and the body of the camera. if this is the case the sensor will require constant cleaning until any material in the body cavity that’s making its way to the sensor is gone. The issue with oil has been documented as resolving itself with a thousand or so shots, so if that’s a problem for me I’ll probably just run a time lapse sequence to facilitate that.
      The D600 that I have is only a few months old and is going in for a clean today. Fortunately I’m only an hour and a half away from the NIkon center here in Sydney. So OK for me.
      Will update on this issue in a bit over a week when the camera comes back.

  2. Hi Gary

    How has your D600 performed since it went back to Nikon in Sydney? I too have a D600, bought new in late February and it has been back to Nikon in Sydney twice so far.

    The first time they just cleaned the sensor. The second time they say they have replaced part of the shutter plate. I only got it back a week ago and haven’t a chance to use it much, but I have already got a little more dust/oil on the sensor! My camera has had 2000 actuations so far.

    I’d be veryinterested to hear what your experience has been with Nikon Sydney.

    • The service at NIkon in Sydney was better than hoped for, so no problems there, friendly, courteous, and prompt. They replaced the shutter mechanism and a seal.
      So what I’m doing now, is to continue shooting without changing the lens. If the problem re-appears it will be a completely internal issue with no chance of any environmental contribution on my part. At some stage I may run off a time lapse to pull up a thousand or so shots to see if the problem replicates in a shorter time frame. I’m hoping for the best and that the work done by the Nikon service people has nipped it in the bud.

      • As an update, I took my camera back to the store again today, as I used it over the weekend extensively (400+ shots) and the sensor was filthy and this is only two weeks since the shutter plate was replaced. Even after using a blower multiple times, a lot of marks would not budge. Anyway, at the shop (Harvey Norman in Martin Place in the city), they contacted Nikon and they agreed to either refund the purchase price or replace the camera with a new one – but not a D600! They said about 30% of them seem to be affected by this problem, so they wont replace them, which is interesting. I opted to replace it with a D800, which I will pick up in a couple of days when it comes in. It is a real shame, as the D600 for me was perfect – except for one obvious problem!

      • Hi Martin. Envious indeed. Harvey Norman at Penrith wouldn’t even acknowledge there was a problem. Tried to palm me off with some story about how if it was a genuine issue Nikon would issue a recall. Well I had to laugh; it’s not a safety issue. When I recounted the experience to the guy at Nikon he just shook his head.

      • Martin.
        I’m glad you got a good outcome in the end. Most people I know with D800’s have nothing but the best to say about them. I’m wishing I had gone that way in the first place. However it’s now a wait and see. I’ll run off a time lapse today and see if the repair from Nikon holds. If not, I’ll have a good case with Harvey Norman at Penrith to make good on doing something about replacing the camera.
        Initially when I went there before going to Nikon they made all sorts of promises about getting in touch with Nikon and getting back to me. No such thing. However one nice thing amongst others from Nikon Sydney, they turned the repair around in 7 days.

  3. Hey Gary,
    you are 100% right. I should have read your article three weeks ago. Now I have a brand new D600 at the Nikon service. I used the time to study user ratings and forums. More than 50% talk about this issues. I guess the other 50% are ratings written straight after opening the box (or by Nikon vendors). I’ve never paid that much for two weeks of frustrations.

  4. I bought my d600 4 months ago I noticed the oil spots after I did some macro shooting ,which required higher f stop and that was one month after I bought it.
    I had around 1000 shots at the time and noticed a lot of oil spots on the top left side of my pictures.
    I sent it to Nikon and they cleaned it for me but after i got it back I took less then 100 shots to see spots appearing again. I sent it to Nikon again and they changed the shutter mechanism and cleaned the sensor as well.
    Unfortunately I got the spots back again in no time so I went to their office here in BC Canada and they told me they will send it to Toronto and most probably they will give me a new one. I am pretty stressed
    that the new one might have the same problem which in that case I will just pay the extra and ask them to give me d800 instead

    • Well I’m experiencing the same. After replacing the shutter mechanism and a seal, along with cleaning the sensor, the problem is back again. I ran a series of time lapse to pull the shutter count up to about 1000 and then ran stills after that and there has been a pretty big increase in oil spots on the sensor. I’m hoping to crossover to a D800 and pay the difference if I can get these guys to honour their warranty. Hope everything works out for you. It’s such a hassle for a significant percentage of what is primarily a good camera to be plagued with this issue.

  5. Having the same issue on my D600 purchased back in December. Until now, blowing the dust was enough (albeit irritating) but some dark spots have appeared that cannot be removed even by a wet sensor cleaning and there’s white dust appearing on the sensor even after just 2 shots. I have hundreds of landscape shots with over 50 spots each (not just dust spots), some requiring 1+ hour in photoshop to fix. The camera was sent to the service centre in Toronto last week and I’m waiting for the diagnosis – it takes 2-3 weeks to get it back. I hope they can either fix the issue or give me a new camera. I sold all my older gear to go with Nikon FX but now I’m not so sure I made the right choice. A D800 is too much camera for me so apart from selling my FF lenses and getting a D7100 I’m not certain I can continue the Nikon FX way. I love this camera but this is unacceptable.

    • Hi Dave. My sympathies. I hope the guys at the Toronto service center can deliver a good outcome for you. As frustrating as this experience has been I’ve learned a lot, particularly the value of providing reference images to the team who are servicing your camera. I’m not sure what kind of profile the sensor detection software Nikon uses has. But I know there have been times when it has not been able to read all the contamination on my camera’s sensor and the reference images I provided were able to give them a much better picture (pardon the pun) of what I’ve been dealing with. My camera is now with Nikon in Sydney for the third time and I’m feeling quite positive that they will replace the body. The retailer from whom I purchased the camera simply couldn’t get it together to do the basics when it came to the warranty. I think it’s worth going the distance with the D600 and I’m kind of glad that I stuck it out. I had a look at your site, very impressive, great photography.

      • Hi Gary. Thanks for the compliments, it reminds me I should contribute more to my own blog instead of just dumping pics on flickr 🙂 I just discovered your site, excellent stuff.

        Thanks for the insight into Nikon’s servicing gaps, it’s the first digital camera I have a problem with since I switched about ten years ago. My previous camera (Olympus) never, ever had any dust in seven years of regular shooting. Then again, it only had the equivalent pixel density of a 15Mpix full-frame sensor. That said, aside from the multitude of small, round-ish dark stains you’ve shown, I got a few relatively large, irregular very dark spots that don’t look like dust or oil, which prompted the guy at the camera store (Merkle Camera) to send it for warranty after 3 wet sensor cleanings. As for keeping and providing reference images, I guess I’ll know better next time (if there’s a next time). I have tons of evidence if needed, if Nikon or the store want to play hard ball.

        My main concern is that, as a hobbyist, I tend to keep my gear a relatively long time (I kept my Oly E-330 almost seven years) and if the issue repeats itself, I’m not sure I want to find myself with a defective body once the warranty is over. I really, really like the D600 – it’s a fantastic camera – but if it comes to a refund, I’ll have to reconsider my choices.

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