Strange Exposure Differences Between the Nikon D600 and Other DSLRs

Gear reviewer Sohail Mamdani over at BorrowLenses was testing the Canon 6D and Nikon D600 last week by shooting nighttime photos of San Francisco Bay, when he discovered something strange: the DSLRs exposed the scene differently even when all the settings were identical in full manual. The photograph above was captured using the D600 at f/8, 30s, and ISO 100 (in JPEG mode).

Using the same exposure settings, this is the straight-out-of-camera JPEG the Canon 6D produced:

Mamdani found that the difference in exposure was about two stops. When he shot the same scene with the 6D set at f/4 (two stops faster), the resulting JPEG matched up with the D600’s shot.

At first Mamdani believed that the 6D was underexposing the scene, so he wrote a blog post over at the BorrowLenses blog titled “Is the Canon 6D Under-Exposing?

However, he soon did some followup tests using a larger set of DSLRs: the Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D800, and Nikon D600.

Here’s are some sample shots showing what the resulting JPEGs look like with all settings identical:

That over-exposed photograph was captured using the D600. The upper-left photo was shot using the D800, and the other 3 were shot using the Canons.

Mamdani notes that all optimization features offered by the cameras (e.g. D-Lighting, Auto Lighting Optimizer, Highlight Tone Priority) were turned off.

Mamdani is planning to do further tests to determine whether the Nikon D600 has an overexposure issue. You can follow along over in the blog post as he updates it with new findings.

If you have both the D600 and a different DSLR, try shooting the same scene with identical settings on both cameras, and let us know what you find!

Is the Canon 6D Under-Exposing? [BorrowLenses Blog]

Update: After further experiments, Mamdani has discovered that the faulty D600 wasn’t closing the aperture blades to the correct diameter. They’re continuing to investigate this issue.

Image credits: Photographs by Sohail Mamdani/BorrowLenses and used with permission

  • David

    sounds like he goes off half-cocked. first he thinks the canon is exposing incorrectly and now he blames the Nikon. At this point I wouldn’t ascribe ANY issues to either camera with regards to exposure accuracy unless many users report identical issues not explained by settings differences (I know I know–he CLAIMS the settings are identical)

  • Samcornwell

    Someone’s gonna to need to shoot a roll of film if you want some real answers!

  • Tim

    Has he tried shooting in RAW?

  • 9inchnail

    You propably believe in conspiracy theories, don’t you. He’s propably one of THEM. Just lying and deceiving to distract us from THEIR master plan. You’re on to something here.

  • Sohail Mamdani

    I tried fitting a roll of Tri-X into that D600, Sam, but I couldn’t find the eject lever to open the back up. :(

  • Sohail Mamdani

    David – I posed the article as a question because I wasn’t entirely certain of my results and the commenters on our blog and social media outlets are usually awesome at helping us get to the bottom of squirrelly stuff like this (and this time was no exception – 85 comments from others and counting).

    More testing to follow, with shots of what the camera settings look like, too. I made the in-camera JPEGs available with metadata specifically so people could look at them and tell me if/when/where I went wrong.

  • Mansgame

    Aside from the dust issue(which I solved on my own no thanks to Nikon), my D600 has performed flawlessly and exposures are about where I would expect them. Either he has a defective camera or he’s screwed something up.

  • Sohail Mamdani

    That’s totally possible – which is why I’m picking up a fresh D600 today for additional testing.

  • Sohail Mamdani

    I have, Tim, but the 6D’s RAW files aren’t supported in Lightroom or Aperture yet. I picked up the CD with Canon’s software on it, but it won’t install on my Mac. I’m setting it up on a PC now.

  • Samcornwell

    Haha, Sohail! If you want some help, perhaps we could collaborate in some way. Although I’m unsure how we’d achieve the same settings. I could shoot the same scene with a roll of film on a Canon SLR & Canon 5Dm2 and send you the results to examine, perhaps? Any ideas?

  • Dave

    Every lens has it’s difference in actual transmission value, along with different actual f-stops from what is set on camera. Try shooting them both with the very same lens, some m42, or nikon to canon adapter. If the results are different, You may blame each camera manufacturer for their cheating with actual iso values.

  • Matt

    Gama? Color space? ICC profile? Once you get into digital it is not always an apples to apples comparison. I’d be looking at my work flow way before looking at the cameras for the discrepancy.

  • muddyclouds

    Maybe by accident nikon happened to put their new secret prototype sensor in this camera with low light performance beyond our imagination..

  • Dave

    Perhaps he can get in his horse and buggy and go down to the local 5&dime and get a roll of film? If he has enough gold pieces that is.

  • Dave

    Is there any chance he accidentally had the D600 meter set to ‘spot’ or some other function than the other cameras?

  • Dave

    Forget I said that, just read that it was full manual. Any chance the exposure comp was set differently?

  • Mark Jones

    I just tried this with my D300 and D600, both on manual with identical settings. The exposure looked pretty close between the two. Having said that, I do typically shoot my D600 at -0.3 EV since it does seem to meter things a bit over exposed, but nothing like the 2 stops claimed by the guy in the article.

  • JosephRT

    What about the lenses used, I know that on my 5D Mark II the EF 70-200 2.8 consistently produces an image that is about 1/3 of a stop underexposed, and the 16-35 2.8 looks a touch overexposed (to my liking anyway) I am sure there are some variances from 6D to D600 but there shouldn’t be as much as in your test shots…Maybe you are on to something

  • David

    you are a wacko. seek treatment. (and next time, STAY ON TOPIC)

  • David

    one of the cameras you used is defective–otherwise you somehow missed a setting. I’m betting its the former. repost when you get a replacement

  • Ted Marlow

    that is my first question too. what lens was used on all cameras??????

  • Eduardo Suastegui

    I have 2 D700s that I routinely shoot alongside the D600 (over the last week). When set to the same exposure values in manual mode, using the same lens (you do know lenses have T values, right? — though 2 stops is a bit much), I get the same exposures.

  • Eduardo Suastegui

    Another thought… you don’t have the D600 in bracketting mode, do you?

  • Sohail Mamdani

    For anyone interested, we found the issue. It’s weird, and was replicated on two D600 copies. More info on the article linked above.

  • shoot_ric

    If you read the blog an update has been published describing the cause.

  • Sohail Mamdani

    Ran out of gold pieces – I had three coppers and a silver shilling, but the merchant wanted two more silver shillings for a single sheet of 4×5, which I couldn’t use anyway cause everyone knows that the 5D Mark III uses 120 film.


  • Sohail Mamdani

    Sam, as it turns out, the issue was kind of mechanical – I’ve updated the blog with more info. We did replicate it on two bodies, and have pulled it, but it looks like we just had a couple of bad copies. Our warehouse is testing our entire D600 inventory.

  • Abby Normal

    If you’re going to test exposures you should be shooting in RAW, not JPEG.

  • branden rio

    VMWare Fusion solved that problem for me

  • modernyeti

    why would he lie?

  • Stephen

    As a full manual shooter who rarely has to meter anything, this sort of thing would drive me mad. haha… though the Fuji Xe-1 I have does it too (iso is 1/2- 2/3 a stop less sensitive than the indicated setting)

  • phil

    Strange test and proves nothing to buyers. I could care less as we know every system is different and those discrepancies are known for a long time. So you stick to one system and learn how to adjust exposure accordingly.

  • Rusty

    I have talked about exposure issues with the D600 for some time. I was looking to buy one and ran some tests…. I found the NEW camera that I was testing not only had the dust issue, but also an exposure issue. Shooting the same scene in manual mode (same settings), one image was correctly exposed and two were over-exposed.

    I bought a 6D instead ;)

  • Sigint17

    So, after all that mental rumination we find it is the lens that was the villain. Another example of not looking before you leap. That’s a crime I am prone to commit :-(

  • ED

    Has this guy ever heard of the need to test and calibrate cameras. Back to basics fellow!

  • Juan Alvarez

    have you check the T-stops of the different canon and nikon lenses???.. some of them can get to 1,5 EV difference

  • SLODave

    My brand new D600 was driving me nuts with random over-exposure of about two stops. But not consistent enough to adjust exposure compensation. I was convenced it was just me getting used to a new camera. Then I compared actual apertures with my other bodies. Sure enough, I have the same issue. The D600 isn’t closing the diaphragm down correctly. It’s going back tomorrow.

  • madmax

    but the difference between T and f numbers is never so big. Here we are speaking of two f stops… Impossible.

  • Donald Ward

    Hi, i have similar inconsistent exposures and overexposure on d600 on jpegs.
    Just did my beach tests and waveaction detail blownout. Sony almost perfect out of camera

  • JRP

    The problem with the NIkon D600 is *REAL*……*VERY REAL*

    Today’s date is February 14, 2013 and I’ve just logged the *FIRST* customer complaint of this kind with Nikon. In fact, the tech I spoke with could not believe what I was telling her and told me that mine was the first issue to be logged for this “overexposure” problem. She had me on the phone for over 45 minutes; trying this and trying that; resetting everything that could be reset on the camera…and nothing
    worked. The camera overexposes.

    If you’re concerned whether you’re hitting this problem, the easiest way to test is to use your DOF(depth of field) button:

    Test #1: Choose a lens with at MOST an f2.8 aperture(not an f1.4 since it will make the test more difficult…an f3.5 is OK). Set your camera to Aperture priority mode(A on your dial), then choose f4. Take a picture using whatever shutter speed the camera
    decides per its metering system. The image should be expose correctly.

    Test #2: Set your camera to Aperture priority mode(A on your dial), then choose
    f11. Take a picture using whatever shutter speed the camera decides per
    its metering system. The image should be overexposed by TWO stops. Want to
    prove that it’s two stops? Use the exposure compensation button and hit “-” several
    times until you’re at -2.0. Retake your picture at f11. This picture should now look like that taken in Test#1.

    Test #3: This is the most convincing test. Use a lens where you can manually set your aperture(f-stop) and with the lens UNMOUNTED from the D600 choose the smallest aperture, f22(if available). Move the aperture blade on the back of the lens and observe the size of the aperture. It should be the size of a pea. Now, mount your lens on the D600 and set your aperture to f22 in Aperture mode(A on your dial). Set your controls to use your Fn button for DOF(depth of field preview). Once you have it set, press the Fn button and look through the FRONT of the lens and observe its aperture. If you’re hitting this problem, the aperture should be TWO STOPS larger than f22!

    Now, is this is a mechanical or firmware problem? I will soon find out when I send my D600 to Nikon. If this is an engineering/design issue for which they have no solution, then the can of worms opens.

  • Mehdi

    what my observation tells me is that the d600 overexposes the shot by almost 2 stops when the metering mode other than matrix… try it n tel me if u face the same.. i dunno wats wrong.. i got it yesterday n today its makin me sad already :(

  • jmco

    Bent prong. Not a defect. See update.

  • Andrea

    Hi everyone. I know this is an old thread. I got here because I was curious about what looks to me like frequent overexposure with my D600. After reading your test I tried setting the camera on manual mode, adjusted settings and took a number of photos in sequence. The D600 exposed the first shot as set (according to camera meter in matrix mode), underexposed the second shot by -2/3EV, then exposed the third set as set, then underexposed again.

    The settings were ISO 400, 1/80 f/4. In the second shot, the camera changed the shutter to 1/125, then went back to original settings. This is in complete manual mode, including ISO. No other camera I have does this.

    I tried again indoors, and it did it again. The first shot, the one adjusted on the basis of the camera meter, looks slightly overexposed, the second shot is automatically adjusted to compensate by -2/3EV.

    So “manual” is not really “manual” if the camera can change shutter speed of its own accord.

    Any thoughts?


  • Andrea

    Please ignore my last post. I am an idiot. I had bracketing enabled. I must have engaged it while fumbling to adjust flash power. Duh.

  • Berlinck

    Sohail I do not know why people here repondem without showing things. I realized two weeks ago the same problem with my d600. Tests performed with the D700 and D5100 are other cameras I own and then did a test with another D600. result. My d600 besides coming with the problem of dust on the sensor, this came with another problem of overexposure.

  • Miyuki

    I’m having the same issue, but I think it’s more like 4 stops when using matrix metering & it’s completely blown out…maybe less in centre weighted … It was perfectly fine when I first got it.