Nikon D600 Spots Problem Fix

Nikon D600 : The Photo Enthusiast’s Dream DSLR
As an owner of several Nikon bodies and lenses, I was very excited when Nikon released the D600 camera.
Finally, an “affordable” full frame DSLR (assuming you consider $2,000 for just the body as “affordable”).
It’s somewhat of a hybrid in performance, features, and cost between it’s older brother, the D800, and it’s cousin the D7100.

The early reviews were very positive on image quality and features. See Popular Photo December 2012 issue for a detailed review, and a November 2012 DPREVIEW does a nice in depth review here. I waited a month or so for the early bugs to be discovered and then jumped in.

Spots Noticed
The buzz from the early birds was that there was a pattern of spots growing on the upper-left to center of the frame as more shots were taken. Some bloggers suggested it was from oil spots that were spattering from the back of the mirror. They suggested that as the mirror flies up to expose the image sensor, apparently some of the lubrication on the mirror was making it’s way to the sensor.

Meanwhile, Nikon hadn’t officially responded to these claims. Other owners were syaing that Nikon had resolved the issue and in updated versions of the camera, the problem had been fixed. This is very unlikely in such a short timeframe to engineer a fix and ramp up production with the fix, and ship all these fixed cameras around the world. I figured, more likely, that the problem was overstated and/or limited to specific uses – perhaps heavy zoom lens users that pump air in to the camera.

I Had Spots Too
My first images with the new camera were simply stunning. Nothing like slapping a super wide lens on a full frame DSLR. The landscapes were rich with color and the images were startling clean and beautiful. Then, the spots came… And, they came, and they came. And before I knew it, the images were filthy with spots just as the others had written about.

Nikon Official Announcement
On Mar 25, 2013 Nikon finally acknowledged that there was a problem here. The announcement goes like this:

Some users have indicated the appearance of multiple granular dust spots in images captured with the Nikon D600 digital-SLR camera. These granular dust spots are reflections of internal dust generated with camera operation, or external dust particles that have found their way into the camera, either, or both of which, have adhered to the camera’s low-pass filter.

The good news is that they also offer a resolution to the problem:

“As a first step, please follow the guidance from the User’s Manual (pages 301-305) related to the “Clean Image Sensor” function and manual cleaning using a blower. If these measures do not remove all dust particles and you are still experiencing problems, then please consult your nearest Nikon service center.” …

Actually, you can set your D600 to automatically clean the image sensor when you turn on and off the camera – however, that’s not likely going to solve this problem. By the way, here’s a link to the Nikon D600 manual in case you don’t have your’s handy.

Do What Nikon Says to Do!
First thing I noticed about the announcement: they do not mention oil ever. They said there may be “external dust particles”. I do not believe in conspiracy theories. With litteraly thousands of blog posts from users complaining about spots, I’m sure Nikon wouldn’t try to cover it up with lies. You can only fool the public for so long. If there is/was an oil spots problem, Nikon would have to fess up. At least as of now, they are not calling it oil, but dust. That’s good news for camera owners! Dust can be blown away, oil, not so much…

Here’s the Fix – It’s as Simple as 1-2-3
Who wants to deal with the hassle of getting an authorization from the service center, sending it back, and waiting for its return? Instead, just as Nikon suggested, I disbelievingly took out my blower and blew on the inside of the camera, first on the back of the mirror, and then by pressing the live view, which opens the mirror and locks it up, I blew into the sensor area and lightly on the sensor itself. I was not able to see any spots physically accumulating on the sensor before blowing, and didn’t notice any change afterwards. However, to my great surprise, the photos taken after the blower cleaning were spotless. Have a look at the before and after and let me know what you think.

1. Before With Spots – Photo untouched, cropped to enlarge the upper left portion of the frame.

Click on photo to see detail.
Nikon D600 With Spots

Nikon D600 With Spots
2. The Fix: Use Blower on Camera’s Image Sensor

3. After Without Spots – Photo untouched, cropped to enlarge the same area.

Click on photo to see detail.


Conclusion & Reccomendation
If you have spots accumulation problems, first check to see if Nikon has issued any new announcements on the D600. They may also release firmware updates, so it’s a good idea to check their website from time to time. Assuming there isn’t a recall, or some new information about these dreaded spots, simply pick up your blower (or buy one at your favorite camera store for about $8 — The Rocket Blower costs about $7.99 online). Clean the inside of the camera where the lens is mounted by pumping air in and around with the opening to the camera facing down so that the agitated dust particles can fall safely out of the camera. If that doesn’t do the trick, then call Nikon for a service authorization. From my experience though, the blower solution should work. Please let us know how it worked out for you.

Update August 2013:

As others have commented, this issue is not going away. I’ve personally cleaned my D600 Sensor 3 more times since first writing about this problem. Fortunately, I haven’t had to send it in for servicing yet. I am using the Digital Survival Kit with Type 3 swabs (24.0 mm) that I purchased on Amazon for about $22. It is a bit tedious, but it does work if you follow the directions.

Although the images are stunning when the sensor is clean, the concern is how to maintain this $2,000 camera body going forward. Having to clean sensors every 1,000 or so images is a lot of work. I also have a lot invested in Nikon glass, so I’m not running to another system just yet. However, I can’t in good conscience recommend others to purchase the Nikon D600 until the spots on sensor problem is confirmed fixed by the user community.

Have a look at the photos below. Wallace Falls National Park near Seattle WA. The falls shots got spotted up, which is clearly seen in the middle photo, as I didn’t check it that morning before heading out. I cleaned the sensor and the bird shots near Tacoma the next day came out fine.

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Recommendation: At this point, I would suggest anyone considering purchasing a Nikon D600 body, or any advanced DSLR for that matter, to make sure that these spotting issues have been resolved before you chunk down your wad of money. Try to get a range of serial numbers or manufacture after date that is known to be good. It’s not always feasible to know what serial number you’re getting – especially from mail order. If you want to be sure, go to your favorite local camera store and purchase one there, having inspected the box before pulling out your credit card. It may cost you a few extra dollars (everyone pays taxes, even Amazon customers, right…), but at least you’ll have some peace of mind. Please let us know your experiences…

28 thoughts on “Nikon D600 Spots Problem Fix”

  1. How often did you have to clean your camera? From what I’ve read, some users who didn’t even change their lens experienced spots on their picture, which suggest it may be oil from the camera.

  2. If they’re using a zoom lens, it pumps air into the back of the camera when you zoom in and out. That could be enough to cause the dust spots we’re seeing. I’ve cleaned mine once so far and haven’t soon new spots yet.

  3. Thank you so much! I thought I was going crazy and sooo many things online said it was oil. I saved and saved to buy the Nikon D600 -upgrade from the Olympus E420. I brought it on my vacation to Florida and my sunset over the ocean I have been dying to try were RUINED! All with SPOTS!! I found that they seem to show up at F22 and other higher Fstops. But still can faintly be seen in others if I look really hard. It is probably sad but I have never cleaned the inside of a camera and I’m afraid to try, but like you said I would hate to have to wait and send it out and all that hassle if it is a simple fix. I did get a rocket blower when I bought the kit so I guess I should bite the bullet and just try. If all I have to do is lightly blow in the upside down camera, I can’t do any real damage can I? Thank so much for your advice!!

  4. Thanks for the tip. My 2 month old D600 with about 2000 shutter activations developed what looked like oil spots on the upper left centre of the frame last weekend when I shot a few brightly lit coastal landscapes. I just used your blower suggestion with mirror down then up. I took the camera outside and took a series of shots of the sky at varying apertures – spots are gone. I heard that they don’t reappear after about 3000 shots. If they come back I will use the blower again rather than get the sensor cleaned.

  5. I suspect that some of the spots are lubricant, which makes cleaning the sensor slightly more involved (ie. you might need a sensor cleaning fluid which is specifically intended to remove lubricant, and you might need to make a number of passes with a clean swab to remove the lubricant…which mightn’t be as easy to remove as dust). The first time I cleaned the sensor on my D600 it had hundreds of spots which showed up in test conditions at f/11 and beyond, mainly in a pattern down the left side of an image. Two or three spots were even visible at f/8. Needless to say I went thru almost 2 packets of very expensive(!) sensor cleaning swabs (using each swab for 2 passes) before I successfully removed the spots and then the smears which appeared on the sensor during the first few passes. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the spots return, and I’m well past the magic 3,000 shots figure which one source suggested was the point at which the spots ceased appearing, or started to appear in fewer numbers. If it weren’t for the spots, the D600 would have my praises. But as things stand, I’d advise would be purchasers to avoid the D600 like the plague and either go for a D800 (provided it’s QC issues have been fixed) or consider Canon’s offerings. In all this the two things that have vexed me slightly are Nikon’s reluctance to deal with the spots issue in a manner which builds consumer trust, and I’ve also been dismayed to read the various comments on web-sites, etc which would have me believe that there’s no issue at all, and that having hundreds of spots on the sensor is normal. But life goes on and there are bigger problems in the world to get concerned about. I’ll probably hang on to my D600 for a few years, cleaning the sensor every 1,000 or so shots. But I’m not investing in any more Nikon glass, given I might move over to Canon down the track. Bit of a shame, as I tend to prefer Nikon’s lens line up above Canon’s (with the exception of the 70-200 zooms). In addition to everything else, the spots issue has revealed to me quite clearly that so called warranties are worth nothing in a situation like this, where (presumably) every D600 from the initial production run/s is defective.

  6. Nikon just finished cleaning my D600 low pass filter and replaced the shutter assy and another component to fix the dust issue. Very rapid turnaround.

  7. in taiwan, nikon had asked users to send their d600 to service center to replace the shutter module to solve this problem.

  8. Received my brand new unopened Nikon D600 today. Removed the body cap and quickly put a clean new Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens on the camera. Took twenty test photos and then I checked for dust. Upper left corner has many many spots and the spots are in other places too. The sensor really looks like it was used intensively for months. And this is a brand new 2000 dollar camera! I’m not sure what to do. I’ll try cleaning it with a blower first, but I don’t think this will help at all. Then I’ll contact the shop. This is unacceptable.

  9. Bought mine from a Hong Kong dealer. Specifically asked for serial 607xxxx. NO ISSUES. Not a spot. It’s been a month and 1600 shots. Great camera.

  10. Like Ali, I have been saving for the D600 and getting everyone I know to give me gift cards so that I can buy it. But I have been waiting for months to get a sense of whether this is getting resolved. I am moving up from a D90 and I have wanted to go FF for awhile. It is disheartening as a long time Nikon shooter to have such a great piece of equipment and the reputation of a company like Nikon ruined because of this problem which is not being corrected, just dealt with by having owners send it to Nikon for cleaning and/or repair and the problem persists. Is Nikon ever going to make good on this or do we all have to switch over to Canon for them to understand the severity of the issue.

  11. It is June 1 2013 and I’m done with cleaning D600. The fix is temporary, and as you would expect, the fix has to be performed more and more regularly. You clean it more and more, but as time goes on, it gets dirtier at a faster rate. It goes from spotless after a cleaning, and then all at once to just complete dirt. The Nikon D600 is defective by design!

  12. Spots I am getting are ALL in top left hand corner. I find the spots go/ become less noticeable if I do a camera clean sensor, but then come back within a few shots. More noticable on skies or light subjects.

    I have done a series of rapid shots after a sensor clean (all within seconds NO lens change) and found first shot or two OK and the later shots have black dots over them, that resemble a splash pattern. Very odd.
    I have never had this problem before, had D300 before D600.

    Tried cleaning as suggested but spots returned.
    Not happy.

  13. Admin – do you have any other information as to whether this issue is still showing up in D600 bodies? I’m very interested in the D600 for low light theatrical work. As you can imagine, I only get one (or at MOST two) chance(s) to capture important scenes. I can’t risk that they’d be riddled with dust spots.

    Just curious if the later builds have had the same issue across the board…

    Appreciate any input.

  14. So, I went back and noted exactly when I got the problems with particles. It started exactly when I started using the HDR feature, which notable was associated with a much harsher mechanical sound, presumably the mirror locking up for a longer period of time. Does that suggest oil or dust? It doesn’t go away with cleaning the sensor. . .

  15. Thanks – really helped – I bought my D600 a couple of months ago but only just started using it ~1700 shots. As Ali said went on some decent hikes with my camera only to return back home and find the dreaded spots – I had reviewed the camera before buying and had read about the dust/oil spots before purchasing but bit the bullet regardless and purchased it anyway.
    Tried the menu clean sensor application repeatedly without clearing the problem spots away – after starting to feel pretty daft for dismissing the well blogged dust/oil problem before buying, and the words “oil” filling me with dread I found your article and tried it – hey it worked – fantastic. Thanks

  16. Works like charm on my D7100! I’m just about to send my camera to the service center and luckily bump into your website.. Tried it out and BAM! Squirky clean! Thank you so much!

  17. I picked mine up at the end of last December. Less than a month later I had to have the camera cleaned by Nikon. 1500+or- images later in April, I had to send it back in to Nikon. This ended with them having it a month, replacement of the shutter mechanism and a good cleaning. All is well until last night. Spots reappeared and I tried doing all that Nikon recommended as well as what you seem to swear by in this article. Bunk! It does not work. This D600 is a faulty product and I am awaiting for a form to fill out that is getting sent to the Consumer Protection Agency in my state. THe really need to address this, otherwise I can look forward to needing to ship my camera back to Nikon 4 times a year and at what expense? Bunk!DO NOT BUY A D600! While the images that are dust/oil free can be spectacular, the downside is it ends up being a part time camera. Part of the time in use and the other part in the shop. Get something else and save yourself the headache. 20+years with Nikon products.

  18. your dirty photo was at F22 and clean at F8. The problem does not really present itself unless shooting at higher F stops.

  19. Chris,
    Follow-up – I did get spots again. And yes, I think it’s a problem in the design of the Nikon D600, but from what I’ve heard from others, the problem exists in many DSLRs. The problem is that once you remove the lens, dust inevitably gets into the sensor area. Likewise, if you use a zoom lens, you are pumping air into the sensor area each time you use the zoom.
    This time, I bought the sensor wipes kit from Amazon for about $23, which again did the trick. It’s a big expense in itself, but minor compared to the cost of the camera, and the aggravation of having to send it to Nikon for cleaning and waiting for it to return.

  20. I have this problem spots reappearing after a few shots. I had d300 for over two years never had sensor wet cleaned and DID NOT have this problem.
    The d600 is a faulty camera Nikon will not admit it. I bought my camera from WEX in UK who were far from helpful. The guy there said I should WET clean sensor at least every month! NIKON do not recommend this and I have not done it.

    THIS is a FAULTY camera it should be recalled. NIKON will lose customers because of this I for one will never buy another Nikon camera.
    I am getting spots AT all apertures. No good saying ‘oh, they only appear at f22″ as some have on this board. Call me picky but If I pay £1500 for a camera I expect it work at all apertures.

  21. I agree. I have filled out a form to file a complaint here int he state that I live in. If enough people contact whatever consumer protection agency in your city, state, or country, then we may have hope for Nikon to correct this problem. I smell a global class action lawsuit.

  22. I went to the Nikon repair center today in Los Angeles and they told me that they are replacing the mechanism that is causing the problem. They told me that I’ll get my camera back in 7 to 10 day, unless the part is back-ordered.

  23. Wow, so Nikon in Los Angeles is replacing your mechanism? Is this something they need to do for _all_ D600’s or only for some (with maybe a serial number range, or manufacture date?) I don’t understand why this isn’t plastered all over the Nikon USA Support page. It only mentions that they’ll service your camera if it needs so. What a cover-up….

  24. Fern that is very interesting and should generate a lot of interest! My D600 has given me so many great shots but has also photo-bombed quite a few shots with specs of dust/oil. I don’t mind digging in and cleaning the sensor but I am a bit offended by Nikon when they put out the D600 with a recall defect but decide not to conduct the recall. As someone who pays for my own lenses and bodies, I can not afford to swap over to another brand out of spite (but I almost wish I could); hopefully the management at Nikon will have the morality to accept returns of any D600s with issues and offer a replacement (D610??) that does not have the same issues.

  25. dust is not a new problem. blower brushes have been around for years. i bought f2s in 1967 & 1968 and there was always dust on the mirrors and on the finders. as the film was in a spool and moved the dust wasn’t as much of a problem. a sensor doesn’t move, so it’s bound to collect dust. there must be dust on the mirrors, but no one mentions this. high-end cameras are more sealed today, but every time you change the lens: in goes more dust. digital cameras have lower resolution and higher failure rates than the old mechanical models, although no one seems to care except olde guys. i never heard any one saying an old nikon failed out of the box or shortly after initial usage. change is not always progress.

  26. FWIW, I had a smattering of spots appear in the top left area of my sensor while on a long California Hwy 1 trip. The skies are splotched in almost every shot.

    I was thinking about taking in for service, but it’s my main body and I have several photo sessions lined up in the next several days. Can’t be without it right now.

    So, I decided to get some compressed air and see if I could blow the dust or whatever was on the sensor off. At first it didn’t seem to make any difference. It took about five times, and eventually I was successful… clean sensor again. Whew… only cost me the price of a can of compressed air.

    Still, I doubt I’d be very pleased if I had to deal with oil spots or something that can’t be easily cleaned off.

    Has anyone heard or read yet that Nikon is considering a recall to replace the problem component?

  27. I just took mine in for a second time, this time I told them that I want the shutter changed and to check that the sensor cleaning function was working, the first time even that was not functioning properly. this is for sure the last Nikon I will ever buy. The quality has gone down hill considerably in the last few years, customer service doesn’t seem to care much, you keep coming back and the issue is never resolved. now the D610! what a slap in the face for all of us who spent $2000.00 on a camera they should never have released to the public. try trading it in , you will only get $900.00 for it. I bought mine in August of this year. After 2months it lost 50% of it’s value! criminal to say the least.

  28. I sent my d600, purchased 1/13 for $2000, in for a cleaning after many attempts to clean the sensor myself, both particles and oil spots. The kit cost $25. The cost to me to send the camera in with insurance was $40. Nikon honored the warranty by cleaning the camera and replacing various components. After about a month back from the cleaning and service I noticed additional oil spotting. I cleaned them again. After a few cleanings I decided to contact Nikon again and arranged to send it in, by now date is 10/13 with thousands of photos shot. In the mean time I contacted the company I purchased the camera from, because I did not want to keep spending my money for shipping and insurance. They told me to bring it in and they would replace it with a newer d600. They honored the exchange however I was hoping for a replacement with the d610, but to no avail.

    I asked if there were issues with dust and oil spots with the newer d600. They assured me Nikon fixed the problem. Does anyone know if the issue is fixed with the newer d600 with serial number starting with 3070…? I am sure I will find out the more I use the camera. I have to say, after 40 years using Nikon products, I am tempted to try Canon out the next time I want to upgrade.

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