(news & commentary)
Nikon today issued a tersely worded statement about the ongoing D600 issue. Slowly but surely the D600 issues are becoming a case study of how not to react to consumer complaints. Note that the first reports of problems—including postings on this site—came in late 2012. The camera itself was introduced just before Photokina in fall of 2012. Nikon themselves issued their first statement on the problem in February 2013. Had that been today’s statement, maybe the problem would have just gone away the way most QA issues should and do.
Unfortunately, Nikon continues to prolong their pain.
First things first. Nikon finally did make a clear and direct apology, even using the words “Nikon sincerely apologizes.” That’s good news. As is the statement that Nikon will work to improve their quality. Someone at Nikon finally got the essence of what an apology is and how it has to be worded.
Second, Nikon has clearly stated that they will service D600’s, even out of warranty. But they’ve also now said that they will replace cameras that have been serviced multiple times that continue to show the problem. Another clear statement, and one that, unfortunately had to be made.
Let me back up a moment. In response to Nikon’s announcement today I got a lot of emails asking a question: was Nikon replacing shutters with D600 shutters or new D610 ones? The answer is D600 shutters are being used to replace D600 shutters. While I can’t pinpoint what the differences are, I’m told by sources at Nikon that they can’t just stick a D610 shutter in to a D600. Apparently Nikon used the transition between bodies to do some other small changes internally in the camera, likely to improve manufacturing efficiency.
This is the reason why Nikon had to make the statement about replacement if shutter replacement didn’t solve the problem: they’re still using the same shutter design, though the quality control has certainly gone up on recent production.
However, while I wish that this were the complete end of the D600 problems, I’m not sure it is. Note that Nikon specifically wrote “multiple granular black spots” in their description of the problem. This is the purported shutter flaking issue. But that wasn’t the only problem that D600 users saw. They also consistently reported excessive lubricant splatter. Unfortunately, I’ve seen three examples now of repaired D600’s that still seem to throw excessive lubricant into the upper left corner of images.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that lubricant splatter is something that we all have to live with. In moderation. All the pro Nikons I’ve used back to the D1 have thrown an oil spot or two from time to time. Ditto the Canon pro models. Looking back at images and my history of cleaning, I see that my D1x was probably the worst case at this, my D2x least likely to do it, and my D3 and D4 somewhere in between. Likewise, I’ve seen lubricant splatter (one to three spots generated over hundreds to thousands of images) on the D100, D300, D700, and D800, though I never saw any on my D200. I can live with small amounts of lubricant splatter.
In all three cases of repaired D600’s and lubricant splatter I’ve seen, the number of spots were far higher than I’m used to: in the many dozens after hundreds of images shot. Nikon’s announcement today does not mention lubricant splatter. I suspect that Nikon will claim that lubricant splatter is just normal operation. Yet the examples I’ve seen so far would be outside what I’d personally consider the established “norm.” Let’s hope that they were anomalies and that Nikon will get around to helping those customers, too. If not, then we might not have heard the last of the D600 user complaints.
So I’ve got to write this: camera sales were down last year and they’ll be down again this year. You create an enormous friction on sales if your current customers are still complaining about your product from two years ago. Today’s announcement went a long way to stopping that, but I’m not sure it went as far as it needed to go.