Having purchased my Nikon D600 a month after it came out, I am considered an early adopter. I didn’t do this without doing my research. At the time the only full frame offerings by Nikon were their pro lineups (D700, D3, D3s, D3x, and later the D4) which were out of my budget. The lowest end of those cameras was the D700 and even after 4 years, the price of a used one was only about $200 lower than the new one. This was both good and bad. On one hand it was bad, because I wanted one. On the other hand, it showed that Nikon’s high end camera bodies hold their value well and it takes a few years before they are updated which brings value to the brand. Hold on to that thought.
Many of us hoped the official D700 replacement would have the same sensor as the Nikon D4, the way the D700 had the D3’s sensor, but as it turned out, the D800 had its own sensor, the 36MP monstrosity that I could not justify owning. In the photography circles, there were some angry people who had hoped for a cheaper more “every man” full frame camera and so they along with myself were happy when it was rumored that Nikon wasn’t done with their full frame offerings and a camera that would fill the gap between the pro FX shooters and the high end consumer shooters would come out. Sure enough,a couple of months later, I was happy to hear about the arrival of the new D600 which had a reasonable, yet still large 24 MP full frame sensor for $2100, about $900 cheaper than the D800. Still, this was the cheapest full frame DSLR in history and while it had some shortcomings in the specs- AF points being a little too close, no aperture controls in video mode, smaller body, etc., the camera was made with photographers like me in mind- those who wanted to move from DX to FX without spending a ton of money on their camera body. I opted to spend the rest of the money on FX pro lenses.
Unlike the waiting lists for the D800, the D600 was in stock and there were plenty of them. At first, there was nothing but praise. The camera took great pictures and the sensor had even better results than the D4 in some categories. Unfortunately, there were also many people complaining about dust and oil spots that started showing up in their pictures after only a hundred shots. At first, these people were shot down in online forums. “All cameras have dust moron!” and “stop complaining!” were the gist of it. The number of people with issues grew however and since Nikon was not saying anything about it, the hope was that maybe it was just a bad batch. That’s what I thought as well so I thought I’d give it a month. At the time, it seemed that the retailer I bought it from, BH had no complaints in their online review so I opted to go with them.
My D600 had some major dust. I cleaned it myself and it still came back. I called Nikon and Nikon’s rep was very rude and told me there were no issues and I would have to pay for shipping to Nikon if I wanted it looked at. I told her I had only owned the camera for a week and mostly used a new $1800 24-70mm lens on it so it’s a camera issue so rather than paying another $50 for shipping to Nikon, I sent it back to BH and got a replacement. Next camera also had dust:
This time I sent it to Nikon and it WAS clean for a while but the dust came back again. This time however, I could blow the dust off and still do that from time to time. By then, Nikon sent a half-assed admission that some cameras are prone to dust, but by then, it was too little too late. The name “Nikon D600” had become tainted and it appears that the camera is not selling as hoped. Most of the search engine hits my blog gets are still for “Nikon D600 dust”. On flickr, people still ask about whether new batches have dust. For the most part, it doesn’t appear that it does, but unlike the D700, less than a year after its release, the D600’s value has dropped significantly. So much for holding its value.
Today, I read on a rumor site which is true more often than not that a new D610 is in the works. The specs aren’t out, but from what little I have heard, in my opinion, this is not a standard upgrade but rather to start out with a clean slate with a new name. They know they screwed up the D600 or perhaps they know that there is no real fix for the dust issue so a slight redesign is in order. It brings back memories of the SB-900 flash which was a great flash except that it overheated and would shut down and so it didn’t measure up to the workhorse the SB-800 (which I own). The SB-900 name was tainted too so they came out with the SB-910 and fixed a problem that they never admitted existed. In my opinion, if the D610 is a real camera, it also is to fix a problem that supposedly never existed. It also makes the resell value of the D600 be very low compared to what the D700 had.
I’m really not jealous of the future owners of the D610 because in the last 9 months, I’ve taken great pictures with the D600 that I couldn’t have taken with my old camera. It just irks me that Nikon never really admitted the problem existed and if they were really going to make loyal customers happy, they should offer a recall or at the very least a generous trade-in program for D600 owners. All electronic gadgets get upgraded so that’s not issue. The issue is that this is more of a fix than an upgrade and early D600 owners were the beta testers.
Lessons learned? Don’t be an early adopter because QC is not what it used to be at Nikon. Also, learn from other people’s mistakes. Sure, some people like to whine and complain about every little thing, but sometimes, there really is a big bad wolf out there.
It appears that the Nikon D610 is a real camera and will be released by the end of this month (allegedly). I will hold on to my D600 for as long as it will take pictures but I don’t think it’s right to put out a camera with an issue, never admit there is a problem, and then release a new camera which only appears to fix the “non existent problem” without offering an exchange program to the other customers who had faulty cameras. I have invested a lot in my lenses but after my current camera has had its run, I’m sad to say I will re-evaluate whether I want to stay with Nikon. Canon has become a very friendly company towards photographers with their gear and customer service. Sony is also becoming a decent option. Hell, I may just sell it all and go mirrorless. There is a lot of anger among D600 owners.
According to Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/07/nikon-earnings-idUSL3N0IR39F20131107 , Nikon sales have dropped 41% in the last 6 months! The easy answer as to why is to say “the economy is bad” and “The market is saturated”, but then Canon had a much lower drop of about 5% (give or take). Clearly Nikon is doing something wrong. In my opinion, here are a few reasons why Nikon’s sales have slumped:
Nikon cameras lack excitement lately.
Before the D800 or D600 were announced, many like myself were excited about the D700 replacement. We wanted a top sensor like the D4 had, at a more affordable price. After all, sensor technology had improved a lot in the last 6 years and much with computers, the cost of production had also dropped. Instead we got the D800, which I would argue does not really appeal to most photographers who would want a D4. Sure, the 36MP sensor was the talk of the town and a group of photographers, namely landscape and studio photographers swear that it is the greatest camera ever produced, but I think D800 mostly appeals to those who want and need a Medium Format camera and find the D800 acceptable enough and much cheaper. The D800 release, kind of was a kick in the gut of those who had waited for excitement.
Fortunately, the D600 was announced and was supposed to have that excitement. A $1600 rumored camera which was missing a few pro features but was full frame and perhaps this camera had the D4 sensor. WRONG! It came with its own 24MP sensor. Nikon had made it clear that if you wanted the D4 sensor, you had to spend $6000. Still, the 24 MP sensor was good enough. The worthless AF system however along with features deliberately left out (changing of apertures) made the D600 not have all that much excitement however compared to the other pro cameras. Then the oil and dust issues came out. More on that later.
Nikon has made it clear that they won’t give you what you want. There is always a catch. Now with the Nikon Df, you get the D4 sensor, but no video and other features are taken away. Oh, and it’s still $2700.
Nikon customer service is lacking
As I found out when I wanted to service my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, Nikon is the only game in town. They stopped selling parts to local shops. They are arrogant and expensive. They do a good job usually but they are arrogant non the less. $600 repair for such a minor issue is not a way to keep customers.
Then the D600 dust issues happened and they were in complete denial mode. I was told there were no known issues. This company line was passed down to retailers like BH Photo who STILL insist there are no issues. Some say that Nikon is an old school Japanese company and it’s a case of pride. They can’t dishonor the company by admitting fault. Others say that admitting fault might hurt the company name. Bullshit. How much harm has happened to the name now? How does 40% harm taste Nikon? How many man-hours and postage dollars have you spent on returns and cleanings?
It’s still not too late for Nikon. Nikon needs to offer a recall to all D600 owners. All of them. Replace their cameras with the D610 at no charge, and all will be well in time and trust is re-established. Remember Nikon, D600 owners are not the average soccer-moms. These are educated (photographywise at least) consumers who wanted a full frame camera and already own a lot of Nikon gear and are likely to purchase more pro gear. These are the customers you want to keep, not someone buying a D3100 who will never buy another lens and keep the camera for 10 years.
Swallow your pride and offer the recall Nikon.
*final update 1-9-2014*
I’ve noticed this is one of the most viewed posts I’ve had. I mentioned here https://thecoog.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/so-long-nikon-d600-wish-wed-end-on-better-terms/ but I no longer own the D600. Let’s just say Nikon and I came to an agreement and I appreciate their effort to finally solve the issue for me. If you’re looking to buy a refurbished Nikon D600 vs. a New D610, ironically I would recommend getting a D600 if you have the stomach for cleaning. You’d save about $600 over a new D610 and other than the cleaning, they’re very very similar. Myself I’m moving on…perhaps to a D610 or D800. Definitely not the Df. Yuck.