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Nikon D810: Sensor Cover Glass Quality?

Jorn O writes:

I just received 2 new Nikon D810 cameras( August 25, 2014) and sent them to my local repair technician to evaluate. One of the things I always have him check is the sensor and low pass filter for defects, inclusions, and etc. The 2 new D810 cameras were both supposedly corrected for the long exposure/white spot issue.

However, it appears that the low pass filters (or protective glass) on both cameras have a significant number of dark specks of some kind in the surface coating or embedded in the sensor glass. He observed (30 power microscope) 18 of these specks on one sensor and 24 on the other. The size and quantity of these specks indicates to me a significant quality control problem and I am going to return both cameras. I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Nikon’s solution to this problem was to just map out all of the photosites affected by the specks and consider the problem solved.

I have had similar problems with the D3x and D800E sensors – my records indicate returning and replacing 4 new cameras over a 3 year period due to significant inclusions in the low pass filter glass. I guess Nikon doesn’t think anybody is really looking hard at the sensor systems they are putting out.

It is interesting to note that the first D810 I purchased from B&H in July was also inspected and cleaned by my repair technician, and did not have the problem with the specks on the sensor glass even though the serial number indicates that it is on the recall list that Nikon has.

I also have 5 D800E cameras and they do not exhibit the speck on sensor glass issue. I was going to upgrade 3 of them to D810's, but not sure if I will now. With regards to the D3x sensors and imbedded inclusions - I did not keep them so I do not know if they would have had an impact on image quality. However, when you pay 8000.00 for a camera body I think it is reasonable to expect first class quality in a sensor, especially when your technician tells you he does not see this issue on most other vendors cameras that he works on (Canon, Sony, Pentax,etc).

DIGLLOYD: I can’t say much more than “seems concerning”. But given Nikon’s financial performance (~27% drop in sales YOY), could there be cost-cutting or lowered standards going on that might compromise quality? A hunker-down retrenchment rather than moving ahead with innovations like supporting an EVF option on a DSLR?

Taken together though, inclusions in sensor cover glass and white spots requiring a camera recall out of the gate do not speak well to Nikon’s release of the D810. Coming on top of the D600 dust/oil issue, it might shake one’s confidence, if only a little. The D810 is a flagship camera after all.

Still, I doubt that the white spots service advisory has anything to do with the sensor glass 'specks'; the white spots seem to be a hot pixel type long exposure issue (Nikon has been obtuse on the cause of the issue, or why some but not other cameras are affected). Sensor quality is not a fixed thing; sensors come in grades too (number of defects and similar). What grade sensors are used in the D810 (what yield/quality cutoff?). Are camera bodies now like lenses where one has to worry about “good sample” or “bad sample”?

Tom H writes:

I’ve noticed the same problem with my Canons over the years. You can send your camera in for repair and get a new glass that looks just like the one you had. The last time I sent back a body to Canon for this problem i took a shot of the glass surface using a dissecting microscope and included a print with the body. It didn’t make any difference. The new one had fewer pits.

DIGLLOYD: I’m not sure it matters in any case. More than likely any usage over would accumulate more crud by an order of magnitude, even with sensor cleaning.

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