Has the Nikon D600 dust issue gone away?

Nikon D600 sensor

Reports of D600 dust issues have dogged Nikon’s affordable full-frame DSLR almost from day one, but just how much of a problem is it really? Our friends at N-Photo asked the question. Here’s what they found.

Nikon D600 sensor

It seems every camera launch has to be accompanied by some sort of scandal, oversight, omission or issue, and with the Nikon D600 it was sensor dust.

For weeks the forums were filled with complaints about D600 dust spots – or, more often, complaints about the possibility of dust spots, as reported by others. Then stories began to appear that the problem went away after a couple of thousand exposures, and that maybe the spots were not dust, but oil spatter from the camera’s mirror or shutter mechanism.

D600 dust

So what do we think? N-Photo has used the D600 extensively, the N-Photo test team has a D600 of its own for shooting videos, and regular N-Photo contributor and pro photographer Chris Rutter has taken thousands of shots with his own D600.

Our N-Photo D600 certainly had a ‘spot’ issue. We don’t think it was dust since it didn’t respond to ‘dry’ cleaning or the camera’s own dust-removal process, only wet cleaning with a sensor swab and cleaning fluid.

To us, that indicates sticky deposits rather than dust, lending weight to the idea it might be oil spatter. That would also explain cases where the problem goes away after a couple of thousand exposures. This wouldn’t be the first time oil spatter has caused problems in a digital SLR, we’re not just talking about Nikon.

The N-Photo test team hasn’t reported any problems with its own D600, but they use DSLRs day in and day out, but sensor cleaning is a matter of routine. Chris Rutter says the same thing. He doesn’t feel his D600’s sensor has proved any ‘dirtier’ than any other full-frame D-SLRs, but he’s used to cleaning sensors routinely too, so for him it’s not a big deal.

Chris Rutter and N-Photo’s editor Chris George point out that full-frame DSLRs do attract more dust than APS-C DSLRs – primarily as the sensor is over twice the size. The wider area at the back of the mirror box also means the sensor is more difficult to clean than on DX DSLRs. It’s something that most pros take for granted, but which can be a bit of a shock for anyone upgrading from a consumer camera – and the D600 is aimed at first-time full-frame SLR buyers, who might be more sensitive to dust issues than old hands.

Our conclusion? We think that the D600 maybe has an oil-spatter problem when new, and that it does go away after it’s been used for a while. We also think that the whole issue has been blown up into something bigger than it really is.

DSLR sensors do get dirty. If you don’t take a lot of photos, rarely change lenses and only shoot in clean environments, it might take a very long time. But if you take a lot of shots with lots of different lenses in a wide variety of challenging conditions, your sensor will need a periodic clean.

It looks like the D600 might be dirtier than most in its early days, but in the long run there’s no reason to imagine it’s any better or worse than any digital SLR.

If you have a D600, why not share your experiences on our special Facebook post at http://www.facebook.com

If you are having problems with spots on your pictures, why not watch the N-Photo guide to cleaning your sensor on YouTube, or read our step by step guide to cleaning your sensor?


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