Theory: Nikon D600 Sensor Dust Problem Caused by Scratches in the Mirror Box?

It has been widely reported that the new Nikon D600 full-frame DSLR suffers from a higher-than-normal amount of dark spots appearing on the sensor. Yesterday we shared one photographer’s time-lapse video that demonstrates that the issue occurs right out of the box without any lens swaps.

Photographer Daniel Gaworski has been experiencing the same problem, and decided to take a closer look at his D600. He discovered that his camera’s shutter curtain contains scratch marks on the bottom flap (see above), particularly in one corner of the camera.

Here’s a closer look at the curtain and its scratches:

Gaworski wonders whether the spots could simply be the scratched-off coating of the curtain:

Just found another potential reason of the “oil/dust” problems. The coating on the lower part of the shutter courtain gets scratched off as it moves […] it’s only noticable if I look at a right angle. There are shiny(-er), curved stripes on the matte coating. [#]

When we first reported on this problem last month, we shared the following image by Roger Cicala of LensRentals, who overlaid photos from 20 different D600 DSLRs. The image shows that the specks seem to plague one corner of the sensor in particular:

Nikon has yet to issue an official statement regarding this issue, but Gaworski’s theory seems like it has some merit. It would explain why the specks seem to be localized to one area of the sensor, and why the problem appears without doing any lens swaps on a brand new D600.

A second “scratch theory” has been floating around as well. Photographers over in Taiwan are wondering whether the specks could be due to scratches directly under the mirror:

If you’ve been having dust issues with your D600, take a peek inside your mirror box (and behind the mirror). Let us know in the comments whether you see any of the scratches seen above!

P.S. The examples we’ve shared of this dust issue have all been shot using high f-stops in order to exaggerate the specks. They may not show up at all in most of your ordinary photographs, and the D600 has otherwise been scoring very high marks from reviewers.

Update: Nikon has indeed released an initial official response. The company recommends getting your response cleaned if you’re bothered by the specks.

Image credits: Photographs by Daniel Gaworski and used with permission

  • Dikaiosune01

    I always get the details mixed up. When a camera takes a picture, the image gets inverted. (i am not sure of the orientation). If the image has been inverted horizontal or vertically, wouldn’t that change the localization of dust particles?

  • Craig Dickson

    The image coming out of the back of the lens is rotated 180 degrees, that is, it’s reversed side to side and upside down as well. So if the dust seems to appear on the left side in the digital image, it’s actually on the side of the sensor nearest the camera’s hand grip — which seems to agree with the scratch images in this article.

  • mmmarc

    What’s funny is that users and camera experts have been forced to figure this one out because Nikon has yet to issue a statement or a recall.

  • Jacob1

    I have Nikon D7000 and I brought it to the professional Nikon specialist to be clean with the same black spots but less compared to the D600 but at least I don’t have the problem to clean every month like the D600

  • jasper122

    nikon acts like apple.. it´s a user problem.

  • Jordan

    That’s hardly the case – they’ve not issued a statement yet.

  • kileak

    i think its better for you take some photos instead of doing those stupid things… do you think robert capa look into his camera for dust when he was in normandia?

  • Niall O Hara

    I am not buying a NIKON till this is cleared up. I decided to finaly buy a 600D. Abandoning all my CANON gear. It is disgraceful that NIKON don’t have a recall OR a free repair service to sort this out.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    As designed, just like the green tint LCD issue.

  • reader

    Dust particle make more problem than you think
    Can you tell your client “Just cool guy that just a small black dot in you photo”
    Post process for remove dust from photo is wasted time work

    Sorry for my bad english

  • miki

    whats wrong with 5d mkII?

  • Csaba

    The “green tint” was an improvement as the new displays are way more accurate showing the colors close to the real sRGB colorspace. You are only saying this because you got used to the older/less accurate technology. I suppose Nikon did not design a dust issue on purpose…

  • Gus

    It is an “issue” because it fails to be a problem I suppose, unless people want to stop shooting and continue making posts online. Dust happens on all sensors, this is more than usual, and you had better learn how to clean it up anyway. This is hysteria.

  • Craig Dickson

    The difference is that Robert Capa was working with film, where you don’t get buildup over time because every frame of film is effectively a new sensor.

  • dickhead

    So what blow out the dust and wipe the sensor, takes a whole 2 minutes……babies !

  • Shakya

    “The company recommends getting your response cleaned if you’re bothered by the specks” – I’m sure they would like us to get our responses cleaned!!

  • Jeff

    I’ve been reading a lot on this problem. I was about to buy the D600, But I believe I will wait now.

  • Simeon

    Yes, this scratch mark does indeed appear on my copy of the D600 (after about 1000 shots). I took several white test images and used the dark pixel algorithm in ImageJ to find dark pixels (ie. occluded by oil/dust specks). I found none.

  • Steffen

    NIkon should update the feature list of D600: internal dust supply

  • Lynn Wheeler

    i have had spots on my pictures, and I’ve easily got over 5,000 pics on my camera. I sent it to nikon to have it cleaned, which I paid for. i think I’m getting more spots again

  • tskono

    As a D600 owner, I have to confirm the same findings when I peered into the mirror box area and saw the same scratches as shown in the pics in this blog post. It is almost eerily similar to what the photographers in Taiwan are getting.

  • prphoto

    My D600 has this problem and it showed up after 200 shots. It will be most visible when you shoot at f22 and have a lot of sky in the frame. (I am currently shooting oceanscapes with long shutter speeds) I have wet cleaned the sensor (7 times) w/Visible Dust V swabs and the specks wont go away. I have been wet cleaning sensors for years with good results. So I think this is oil and needs stronger cleaning solution. I did fire off a few hundred shots w/camera pointing downward and this seem to help along with multiple camera sensor cleanings. Unfortunately I am on an island and going to have to deal with it later. Thanks Nikon by the way the camera is great except for this.

  • haugi

    I have around 800 shots and had a number of larger and smaller spots. Rocket blower didn’t do anything – but using a brush (several times) did the trick (didn’t need to resort to wet cleaning)

  • BruceWells

    Like others, my D600 has sensor spots with about 1100 shutter clicks (purchased 10/17/2012). The User Guide warns that the camera needs to be sent to Nikon if the in-menu sensor cleaning doesn’t remove the spots. So, I called and spoke with one of their reps who was very cordial/professional. She set me up with a warranty repair ticket and when I had opportunity, I posed my major concern by asking if I was going to have to send the camera to Nikon for this service every other month, and advised her that I had never had to have the sensor cleaned on my D90 in the years I owned it. She replied by telling me that I would not have the problem any more after this service event.

    Well, if this is believable, then perhaps Nikon already knows what’s causing the problem, and presumably knows how to fix it. Let’s hope so!!

    I pointedly asked her if it would void the camera’s warranty if I cleaned the sensor myself, to which she replied with an immediate “Yes!”.

  • Joe

    nothing.. just buy a flashlight along with it so can use it when you autofocus..

  • prphoto

    you should of asked her how would she know that, if the sensor was still dirty or became dirty again after you cleaned it? Hypothetically of course.

  • Fred

    Yes, i got my d600 last week…and today i learned about this issue after checking on my fresh picture today…very visible on the left at small apertures…i also check the mirror box and i can also see the tiny scratches

  • filmrules

    Emulsion still gets caught in the gate resulting in a dirty frame.

  • Lawrence Lam

    My Nikon D600 does not suffer from this problem at all. Not a single dot of dust. It was reported that those having problems have body serial numbers between 2 to 3 million. Mine is 8 million, purchased in Malaysia.

  • guyjones

    This sensor problem is a widespread issue that is totally inexcusable in any DSLR, much less a high-end one costing $2,000. Nikon needs to address this head-on and with an honest and contrite attitude, but has pointedly and shamefully failed to do so. And it’s a damn shame, not only because the camera has received stellar reviews, but because customers deserve to be treated better. Consequently, they’ve lost me as a potential D600 buyer. I’m not going to spend two grand on a full-frame camera with such a glaring, unresolved issue. I guess I’ll be looking at the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I’d rather spend an extra grand for a problem-free camera, then save a grand on a camera that doesn’t work properly.

  • Craig

    I just checked mine, and yes what looked like hair line scratches on the front right hand side, I decided to use a ear bud to see if it was easily removable and it smudged away, confirming to me it was in fact oil and not scratches. Not happy but it seems Nikon even though they are not openly admitting a design flaw or problem are honouring their warranty and fixing the issue, or at least from what I am reading. I guess in this day and age even a giant like Nikon can’t afford the financial loss of what a recall would cost them.

  • Daniel R. Chang Acat

    Does anyone can confirm this?

  • Bill C.

    I just checked my D600 and it has a similar wear but very very slight and so far not affected any of my pics after 4,000+ actuatations. I also for fun checked my 3 year old D7000 for the same. It has the “brush” marks on the baffle just like my D600, again just very slight so this may be normal. I have 10,000+ actuations on my D7000. Thank for now my D600 is OK in my opinion. Good luck!!

  • jt

    if you’re an NPS (Nikon Professional Services) member your camera will be cleaned for free by sending it to them. Mine was. Although i did I have to pay the shipping/insurance to get it to them. BTW, I was told the issue was “flocking”. What the flock is that?

  • Telectroboy

    Hello, I’ve a D600 and the same issue. I leave in France. I’ve noticed scratch on the shutter.

  • HaydenB

    Ive had my D600 8 months, had four professional wet cleans two ‘different’ repairs from Nikon (to fix the dust problem). Am up to about 6000 shutter actuations, taking reference shots and counting the spots I estimate I am getting a new spot every 2 frames (roughly). Nikon customer support just keep asking me to send the camera back for cleaning – after sales support and ability to deal with the problem is atrocious. Nikon you have really screwed up on this one and you continue to screw over your loyal users