Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update on Nikon D600 Sensor Oil/Dust Spots Issue

One of the few issues about the Nikon D600 is its propensity to get dust on its sensor.  It has been documented by Roger Cicala of LensRentals here.  In addition, some say the sensor gets oil (not just dust) on its sensor.  Roger did not notice any oil on the 20 units of the D600 that he examined, and I personally have not observed it.

Anyhow at around 2000 shots I noticed that there were spots on my shots, even at a not-so-narrow aperture of f/8.  I blogged about that here.  I thought the spots were oil based on the characteristics I observed but it turned out that the spots were only dust.

That was about a month ago.  I'm now at around 4500 shots, and although I haven't seen dust on my shots, I decided to reexamine the sensor.  Here's what I found.

I now have a lighted sensor loupe, so I took a look at the sensor.  To my relief, I did not see anything that looked like oil spots.  I only saw a few flecks of dust.  I blew them using a sensor cleaning blower but some of the spots remained.  I tried to take photos of the sensor but it was really challenging.  Here's what I was able to capture:

Other than that one spot, I couldn't see much.  (I was able to blow that one spot away using the sensor blower).

Meanwhile I decided I would take some narrow aperture test shots.  At first I took shots at f/22 and didn't notice anything.  I then changed to a Tamron 70-300 VC which can go to as narrow as f/32 then I took a shot:

In Lightroom, I maximized the contrast to make the dust spots easier to see.

Click for higher-resolution versions of the shots.  It's a lot dustier than what I could see from the sensor loupe, but I'm not very worried because they aren't showing up on my shots.

Sometimes, dust exhibits the characteristics of oil (see here) therefore dust can be mistaken for oil.  The following are definite indicators of oil:

1. Visible oil on sensor.  See this photo:

2. Rings on test shots (dark outside, light inside).  If there is a ring but it is light outside and dark in the middle, the ring could just be a halo from excessive postprocessing (sharpening, clarity, contrast, etc.).
Example on D800 photo (scroll down):
Photos of REAL oil spots - courtesy of Canon.

Link 1: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/support/consumer?pageKeyCode=prdAdvDetail&docId=0901e0248013d2ea
Link 2: http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/news/EOS_oil_spots.do

Note: the spots on my sensor don't seem to have donut-like rings like the ones shown on Canon's site.

3. If you physically attempt to wipe the dust and it smears.
WARNING: physical contact with the sensor or AA filter will void your Nikon warranty

11/16/12 UPDATE:  I just want to pose a question for readers: this issue about the D600 is very widely known.  And there is clear evidence of DUST.  However, even the issue about spots is very widely known and there's so much interest and discussion about it, why is it that there is still no unmistakable evidence of OIL (i.e. photos of actual oil spots on sensor/lowpass filter, or donut-shaped rings on photos, or smeared oil)?  There is evidence of oil on some other cameras (see examples) but I haven't seen any such evidence for the D600. Could it be that people are mistaking spots for oil?  Just something to think about.

Nikon D600 Resource Page (see under "Dust Spots")
Firefly DSC-2000 Review