Why is my camera drawing labyrinths on my photos?

On the photos where the lens flare is present, my Nikon D7000 is drawing strange labyrinth-looking artifacts. Here’s an example.

The first image is a screenshot of a little part of the original photo zoomed 2:1 in Lightroom.

The second image is the same photo with Lightroom’s contrast, clarity and sharpening set to the maximum to make the labyrinth pattern more visible.

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enter image description here

This affects only some of the photos presenting lens flare. Here, for instance, the lens flare is present and light conditions are very close to the first photo, but there is no labyrinth pattern, only usual noise (screenshot of a part of a photo at 1:1 with contrast, clarity and sharpening set to the maximum):

enter image description here


  • I can see this pattern only on some of the photos when the sun is in the frame or nearly in the frame.

  • It is present with any lens I tested.

  • The actual photo was shot at f/8, ISO 200, 1/640 s. I’ve seen this pattern in photos shot at ISO 100 as well.

  • The photo is in RAW format, so this is not a JPEG artifact.

What is that? How do I avoid it?