D610 Initial Dust Assessment

Published November 4, 2013


Way back when, I wrote about the dust problems we were seeing in Nikon D600 cameras.  There was enough of a furor about it that when the Nikon D610 was released I assumed that the dust problem would be fixed. But I’m rather the paranoid type, and I never like assumptions, so as soon as the first D610s were delivered I thought it worthwhile to just double check that assumption.

I set up a fairly simple protocol for the first twenty-five D610 bodies delivered:

  1. The first image taken with each camera was our standard f/16, white-wall shot with contrast enhancement to check for sensor dust.
  2. The cameras then went to a tech for testing and checkout, which involves about 20-30 shots being taken, then back to me for a second sensor dust image.
  3. The cameras then went out on their first rental and when they returned I took yet another sensor dust image.
  4. Just like I did in the first article, I then stacked the images for each stage in Photoshop using the ‘darken if’ action to make a single image of the dust on all the cameras.


The results are pretty clear, and for those of you who hate to read, they indicate the sensor dust issues have, indeed, cleared up (I love puns) in the D610.

Remember, when you look at the images below, this is not the dust on one sensor; it’s the total of all the dust on 25 sensors. 

New – Out of the Box

For those of you who think a camera is always going to arrive with a dust-free sensor, let me assure you this is a really good result. One camera had a big chunk, 6 others had a small dust spot, the rest were clean to the limits of the test. That’s an excellent result; as good as any camera we inspect.

After In-House Testing

We expect the 20 or 30 shots we do with initial testing to jar loose some more dust that’s in the mirror box or around the shutter or sensor edges. That’s the case here as you can see, but again, this is a good result. There is more dust now, but most of it is small, as opposed to the large chunks we often saw with the D600. This is about what we see with any other camera and no single camera had more than a couple of specs.

After Rental

So we cleaned all those sensors and sent them out on rental, then took another image when they came back. I’ve only had 10 cameras come back from rental, so this composite is for 10 sensors, not 25 as above. But things looked so good I thought I’d go ahead and post now. Obviously rental conditions vary – we don’t know who was in studio and who went to the beach, but with D600s we definitely would see the pattern of large chunks in the left upper corner no matter where it went on rental.

With the D610 we just see a bit of scattered dust and one fiber. There’s nothing of note in the left upper corner.  If anything, this is a bit better than most cameras, but certainly no worse.

We’ll keep an eye out, of course, for problems in the future, but as best I can tell (and as we all expected) the D610 does not appear to have any sensor dust problems.

I’ll also note that when I evaluated the D600s I thought perhaps the shutter design, with its wider slot, was the problem. I was apparently wrong about that, since the D610 has what appears to be exactly the same shutter design. Since we saw the dust problem disappearing after 5,000 shots or so, it may be simply that there was a lot of dust inside the D600s that worked its way out early on. Perhaps the ‘cure’ was simply keeping dust out in the first place. Or maybe there’s something inside the camera (I haven’t had a chance to open one up yet) to prevent dust getting out to the sensor.

Of course, figuring out why it’s better is just to satisfy my curiosity. It doesn’t really matter what’s different as long as the problem is fixed, and it certainly does appear to be fixed.

Roger Cicala

November, 2013

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • It was quite a while ago you wrote the blog, but have you revisited the two cameras later?!

  • I’m afraid I’m one of the rare ones. Although I have cleaner my sensor a few times before, there was a slight earth tremor (talk about doing the wrong thing at the wrong time!), camera moved and my reflex action was to stop it, hitting the sensor with the blower. Fortunately it’s down at the left corner and can be easily touched up on processing. Taking into account the expense of getting it replaced I’ve decided to wait and upgrade at a later date. But, as you say, rare.

  • Roger Cicala

    REg, there are some vacuums, we’ve never found one that worked. There are silicone gel sticks that do work sometimes.

    The reason for brush and blow is simple – you can’t scratch a sensor that way. Scratching a sensor is rare. But scratching a sensor costs $700 to $1,600 to replace. Even if it’s rare, that’s a big expense. So we reserve things that could scratch a sensor for when they’re absolutely necessary.

    I know 15 people are going to jump on with “I’ve never scratched my sensor cleaning”. Good for you. We clean dozens a day, using the best equipment and trained technicians. Once every couple of hundred sensor cleanings one gets scratched. Never with a blower, though, and never with a brush. Wet cleaning, stamp cleaning, sensor pen cleaning, though, it becomes possible.

    BTW – blowing, done correctly does move the dust around. It moves it out of the sensor box into the air outside the camera.

  • Reg

    Joe said: And Now Reg asks also
    Is there a vacuum procedure for dust cleaning .. brush and blow and brush and blow .. isn’t just spreading the dust around ? did see a GEL Stick process video on Photography Life that is kind of a true removal method, just wondering with all the sensors that need cleaning on all the dslrs in the world brush and blow is the main style?

  • Andy

    I was torn between purchasing a refurbished d600 for $1500 and purchasing a new D610 for $1995. Based on your blog, and comments from the users, I have decided to go with the D610. Having peace of mind, and saving countless hours researching blogs about the D600’s oil/dust issue, are well worth the few hundred $$$ difference – for me anyway.

    Many thanks for this post!

  • Thank for the hard woork you had made

  • Tañí for the woork you MADE for all os us Nikon user

  • Roger Cicala

    Mark, there’s a youtube video up somewhere about our sensor cleaning. It’s a couple of years old but we haven’t changed much. Dust Aid is a sensor stamp – flat soft silicone that picks up dust. Visible dust and several others make good sensor brushes, but any soft nylon brush works fine.

  • Mark S.

    Thanks for the good reporting! I tried to find in this blog what you use for the sensor brush. Can you make a recommendation?

    I also saw a mention of the Dust-Aid. Is that compressed air? I thought that using compressed air was a no-no, because of the dangers of blowing liquid propellant onto the sensor or anywhere inside the camera body for that matter.

    I just ordered a large Rocket Blower and hope to get it today.

    — D600 owner

  • Michael

    Larry: Unfortunately I am not familiar with the procedures, since I live in Denmark. But I know there are many lawyers in USA specialized in this.
    Today I have just got my D610 as substitute for the D600. I will now test it.
    Good luck.

  • Larry

    Michael, your suggestion of a class action by D600 owners is a good one. We need a way to gather class members. Any ideas?

  • Joe

    Is there a vacuum procedure for dust cleaning .. brush and blow and brush and blow .. isn’t just spreading the dust around ? did see a GEL Stick process video on Photography Life that is kind of a true removal method, just wondering with all the sensors that need cleaning on all the dslrs in the world brush and blow is the main style?

  • Steve

    I have sent my D600 to Nikon 3 times because of the “dust” problem. The last time, Nikon replaced the entire shutter mechanism. They never explained why or described what it was supposed to fix. But, they did replaced the shutter. Previously, all I got was a good cleaning and more dust.

    I don’t really know if the problem has be fixed or not. Instead, I have modified the way I take photos, and I avoid higher F-stops except when I really want to enhance depth of field.

    I’ve taken several thousand images since I got the camera back. I will have to do a dust test image and see how bad (or good) it is.

  • Michael

    YES, as Leif says: … there are so many possible causes of the D600 issues e.g. poor assembly, poor lubricant, poorly applied lubricant etc.
    Only NIKON knows, what has gone wrong, but they haven’t got the guts to be open about it – not even to a big customer like Roger. Nikon could start with learning from their own CSR policies:
    Any lawsuit should be organized collectively by a group of D600 owners in USA, as there are traditions for such lawsuits against manufacturers. Just ask Toyota. They learned the lesson many years ago – as far as I remember it did cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Leif Goodwin


  • Roger Cicala

    Leif, I did. It looks exactly like the D600 shutter. There could be some changes in materials that aren’t visually apparent, of course.

  • Did you take a look at the D610 shutter, and see if there were any obvious differences from the D600 one? I ask as there are so many possible causes of the D600 issues e.g. poor assembly, poor lubricant, poorly applied lubricant etc.

  • I think the owner of the D600 should get lawyer and get a refund from Nikon!
    We get f–ed by nikon and bought defect cameras that is worth peanut now because of Nikon.

  • Roger, Could you do a comparison test between the *new Olympus E-M1 with the Leica 25mm and Leica M-E with the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. I am interested in this comparison to show how serious Micro Four Thirds has come in the image quality department & wallet department against bigger sensors like the M-E & APSC. Thanks

  • Michael

    Thanks to Roger for doing these tests. However I am surprised, that you after your testing already have dust spots on the sensor. I got a D600 just after the release last October 2012, and quickly afterwards I noticed the problem – however not with dust but with what looks like “oil” spots. The spots could not be dusted away with the blower, but I could remove with the wet cleaning (Visible Dust).
    So I delivered the camera to the Nikon repair team, and it was cleaned, but soon afterwards the spots came back. Now it has been cleaned by NIKON 3 times, and I have demanded a replacement,since I have not got the time to fool around with a faulty camera. I have been told that I will get a new camera – I reckon it will be the D610.
    I have been a Nikon user since 1967, and I have never had a problem before. I have had all their digital cameras, and never a problem with spots on the sensor. And when my D600 was in for cleaning I got my 5 year old D90 out again, and tested that, and not a single spot and neither in all the years I have had it. Quite frankly – Nikon have handled this issue in a very irresponsible manner, despite their stated CSR policy of quality, consumer dialoque etc. etc.
    So I really hope that the spot issue is completely solved with the D610, so I can get back to work, because the camera itself is a great camera.

Follow on Feedly