Nikon D600 defect & bug update: incorrect exposures?

Gear & App Reviews December 7th 2012 12:19 PM 8 Comments

This is going to open a huge can of worms, but I have to go here:  Are we wrong to expect high end electronics to be manufactured cheaper and cheaper, without any compromises whatsoever in quality control or overall sturdiness?  Some days it seems that way.  (Of course, some days I firmly believe the exact opposite!)

The Nikon D600 has been rather unfortunate to have multiple defects / bugs.  First, it was the sensor dust.  A widely documented issue with severe dust accumulating in the upper left of images; much more dust than normal even for full-frame DSLR’s.  Apparently however this dust accumulation was largely caused by oil on the sensor, which seemed to diminish (or, stop increasing) after the camera had been through a few thousand clicks.  My suspicion is that the D600 factory simply over-oiled some parts in the D600, the oil got on the sensor for the first few thousand clicks, and attracted more dust than usual.  My second suspicion is therefore, …after a few thousand clicks a good sensor cleaning ought to clear things up and then the dust issues will be the same as any other full-frame DSLR.

Unless, of course, Nikon has gone with a less effective “sensor shaker”, (the automatic sensor cleaner) …in which case dust may indeed always be slightly worse on the D600.  We’ll know in 6-12 months for sure, and so that’s where I’ll leave the issue.  For now, here’s some reporting references on the D600 dust:

 (20 different cameras’ dust combined, shortly after being brand new)

 

 

The next big issue, reported this time by BorrowLenses.com, is a possible aperture stop-down issue among some D600’s.  Click HERE to read the article.  At first, they believed the Canon 6D was just under-exposing everything in a 6D vs D600 comparison.  It wasn’t until they put multiple D600’s side by side and started playing with the DOF preview button that they realized the issue was with the D600 alone.  The aperture doesn’t always stop down properly, sometimes over-exposing by ~2 stops!

 

 

Once again, this sounds like another common factory defect.  In the past I’ve had camera bodies and also lenses with this exact issue.  It costs $200-300 to repair, if I recall.  (Although it’s often under warranty)

It has to do with Nikon’s decision to keep the older, mechanically coupled aperture control, as opposed to Canon’s all-electronic aperture control.  Nikon uses this mechanical aperture stop-down so that we can have backwards compatibility with almost every Nikon lens ever made, even the manual focus stuff from the 70’s and 80’s.  As a landscape photographer and general history buff, I love this.  In fact I regularly shot with “AIS” Nikkor lenses.  But clearly, the system has it’s drawbacks.  Back then in the 80’s, almost everything was made of metal, and quality control was the pride of any name-brand.  Now, we’re trying to make half our parts out of plastic, as cheaply as possible with incredibly high-volume output.  A recipe for serious quality control failures.

Thus, my pondering of the concept that maybe we’re expecting too much perfection from our high-end electronics manufacturers, considering the dirt-cheap prices we are barely willing to pay.  Are consumers being un-reasonable when they expect perfection in “affordable yet high-end” equipment?  To some extent, I believe so.  The D600’s image quality is absolutely incredible, it beats even the $8,000 flagship D3X from just a few years ago.  And it does this in a $2,100 package.  What did you expect, D3X reliability and performance for $5,900 less?

Of course tons and tons of people will read my opinion and say “that’s baloney, we deserve perfection, $2,100 is still a ton of money!!!”  To that I respond, …really?  Have you analyzed the costs of manufacturing, parts, labor, etc….on an international scale?  Do you know exact per-unit profit margins, versus the cost of quality control, versus the cost of service / repair?  Well, me neither.  ;-)

In my opinion, it is a combination of both.  We shouldn’t expect a $2K camera to be as robust and reliable as an $8K camera.  But on the other hand, a brand new camera should work perfectly.

Even if it means our high-end electronics don’t become as affordable as we want them to, as fast as we want them to, I’d love to see quality control go up.  I hope that manufacturers get this message.

 

Take care,
=Matthew Saville=

 

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About

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge. Connect with him on Google Plus

8 Comments

  1. Ryan Siemers

    Matthew, I appreciate your progressive thinking about the compromise of a quality caliber camera for thousands less than the high end professional beast. I agree with you that it is difficult to hold a manufacturer accountable for this type of issue when we are given so much to begin with, on a rather tight budget. All the same, it’s a reminder that this isn’t considered a “Professional” body. It’s likely the reason it’s been named the D600 instead of the 700s. 

    I think this all comes down to setting a customer’s expectation. In August os 2012, Nikon discontinued the D700. They likely did so because it lacks any video capability. It was a fantastic sport and wildlife body, but it was leapfrogged by the D800 and many of the capabilities of the D600 (minus the shutter FPS). So I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to assume in general that the D600 was the professional replacement to the D700 on many levels. So by not explicitly letting Nikon’s customers know that this isn’t a “Professional” body, customers have the expectation for it to perform as a weather tight instrument. 
    Also, a wedding photographer is likely to shoot 300-700 shots easily at a large event. Not that they spray and pray, so when they go into retouch their work, they are likely to encounter this dust as a serious issue for clean up. (Even with automation for cloning and healing).

    Personally, if I shoot a time-lapse sequence in a high contrast environment, I rely on RAW to pull those highlights and shadows back into visible range. That’s another area where this dust can emerge and frankly create an insane amount of work or a serious distraction to the viewer. 

    My pair of D7000s have never had issues with dust like what I’ve been hearing around the D600. It’s frankly something that forces me to stick with these instead of upgrading them to the D600 for the time being.

    However it is important for us to remember that Nikon and Canon were severely affected by the Asian Tsunamis that destroyed factories and killed thousands. The fact that even just a year or so later we have new hardware is pretty remarkable to me. And I applaud them for keeping the ball moving. 

    Compared to that, dust is a pretty minor inconvenience. 

    I can handle dust, but have there been any reports about sea spray or sand in ocean environments affecting photographers? 

    • Matthew Saville Baldon

      Ryan, I believe that the verdict on the dust issue is that all you have to do is shoot a few thousand photos, get the sensor “wet” cleaned, and you should be good to go.  Overall however, I agree that it should be clear-  you cannot expect a D600 to be as rugged and reliable as a D700, let alone a D3X.  They’re just not the same caliber of camera, and the amateur bodies are always going to be prone to defects a little bit more, as well as general usage breakdowns etc.  It’s just a fact of life IMO.

      Still, the point of my article was to encourage better overall QC, and the pursuit of craftsmanship in general, even for more affordable product lines…

      =Matt=

    • Ryan Siemers

      I did read the “verdict”/solution It’s not too difficult to shoot through a few thousand frames as an active shooter. However, does that really solve the issue of how weather sealed the body is? That concern is why I ask if there have been any reports about sea spray or sand getting into the body, when there’s been no lens change. 

      I don’t imagine that just a little less oil on the sensor would  prevent sensor damage from something like salt water. I’m a land locked shooter mostly, so it’s not an experience I encounter much. I’d imagine, you clean your sensor after a shoot on the beach in any case (just to be on the safe side).

      I thought the point of your article, by the end, was that customers need to chill out a bit and have realistic expectation.

  2. Sohail Mamdani

    Hi Matthew – just a quick heads-up – the issue we found was traced to damaged aperture prongs in the cameras. More than likely, this was the result of accidental damage; I imagine if a camera with a lens attached was bumped/dropped hard enough, it would bend that pin?

    • Matthew Saville Baldon

      Yes, Sohail, having used various Nikons for 10+ years now I know exactly the problem, and it has happened to me on other occasions with rental situations.  This is very good information to have!

  3. MBryner

    You asked if we should expect high end products to get cheaper without compromising quality and overall sturdiness – I make my living as a design engineer and my answer is a loud yes. We should expect it and in fact we should demand it. If you compromise on quality and reliability, you can’t call it high end, just overpriced. When you can build it at the same quality or better and at a lower cost, then you can drop the price. 

    I was ready to buy a D600 but that’s been put on hold until I think I can trust Nikon’s manufacturing again.

  4. Slevirn

    The problem is the consumer they are more price responsive then about quality responsive. The same as photography today customers want cheap and I don’t like cheap photos that can be shot from a phone or ur dame rebel what a load . But that’s the market place and all you reading this it accepts this and is why the way it is. I love my 700 i just wish it had the 600 sensor.  

  5. JON

    I just purchased the D600, and as soon as I turned it on it displayed the ERR error code. I was still able to take photos, but they all were overexposed by about two stops. This was a brand new camera, and I’ve used interchangeable lens cameras long enough to know how to carefully attach a lens, so this is definitely a factory defect, not a user-created problem. I’m returning this unit and getting a replacemnet.

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