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Published On: Sat, Oct 27th, 2012

Nikon D600 Review – good set of shooting features

Nikon D600 created a lot of buzz when it was first announced and it has certainly managed to live up to all of the hype. This camera is designed smartly and is quite fast. Photo quality too is good.

Nikon D600 Image quality

Photo quality of the Nikon D600 is terrific but there is one disappointing exception. The image data is relatively clean at the midrange and low sensitivities and the camera has good noise reduction and JPEG algorithms. The JPEGs are quite clean till ISO 400 and the camera started to show some degradation with shadow areas from ISO 800. However, in well-lit areas, there wasn’t any degradation till ISO 3200. JPEG pictures are usable till ISO 1600 but it also depends on the lighting and scene. You can push it till ISO 6400 but I would recommend you to work with RAW for being on safer side.

Nikon D600

It was surprising to see that this camera wasn’t better than Canon EOS 5D Mark II with ISO 12800 but Nikon D600 review says that this camera does have less clipping with shadows and there weren’t hot pixels. Just like most of the full framed cameras, this one does produce pics along with natural, nice sharpness and tonality. The dynamic range is broad but I was disappointed to see that there is plenty of recoverable detail with clipped highlights even with raw 14 bit files as compared to the higher priced models like D800 and 5D Mark III. I am curious to see how Canon EOS 6D works in such circumstances. D600 was quite well for shadow detail.

Just like other models from Nikon, differences of colour between Neutral and Standard Picture Control are minimal but Standard pushed contrast by a bit. This may be a problem when you are shooting any high key pictures due to aforementioned problem of clipping with the highlights. The saturated pinks and reds display some contouring in JPEGs – they are really good – but RAWs have the data for pulling the detail back.

The colours were looking appealing, bright, and saturated. The automatic white balance was a bit too cool in outdoor situations but these days, the sunlight too is getting cooler. Using setting of Keep Warm Lighting in white balance does not help if there isn’t any warm light. All this can be tuned according to your tastes just like the other cameras in the market right now.

Nikon D600 Image Quality

Nikon D600 Video quality

Video looks pretty fine in conditions of bright lighting. The pictures are sharp enough and are exposed well too. There aren’t a lot of artifacts. In conditions of darkness and low light, there was plenty of colour noise and the dynamic range is a bit lost as compared to the more expensive models and the Canon EOS Revel T4i which is less expensive.

Nikon D600 Performance

While reviewing, I discovered that the Nikon D600 is fast enough for handling anything. It takes around 0.4 second for getting ready to shoot from power off. In conditions of bright lighting, it takes around 0.5 second for adjusting focus, exposure and starting to shoot and in dim light, it is 0.6 second. RAW and JPEG photos take about 0.2 second one 1 shot to next one and with flash, it increases to 0.6 second. However, in practice, I found that shooting and focussing was almost instant. The only exception is that processing of JPEG + RAW files held me up occasionally on the reviewing images after shooting. The Live View auto focus is quite typical for dSLR – slow and cumbersome.

Continuous shooting was around 5.5 frames per second for RAW and JPEG but when RAW burst goes up to 16 frames, buffer gets filled and things slow down to 4.6 frames per second. For testing, I had used SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB per second SDXC card. Using 39 point AF slowed down things a bit and I had hit or miss kinda accuracy. I was annoyed by the fact that AF multipoint tracking mode do not show what it is locked on and hence it is impossible to tell if it is working correctly. The single point AF work fast and accurate but the movement of lens barrel was slow of 24-85 mm lens to be performance bottle neck instead.

Nikon D600 Price

The rated battery life is competitive but there is one warning that I wish to give. In spite of support for Eye-Fi API in-camera, this card definitely drains plenty of battery. LCD certainly needs some magnification and shading through loupe to shoot video if not for the basic operation of Live View.

Nikon D600 Design and Features

Nikon D600 is based a lot on D7000 and according to me, the design is one of the best from dSLR family of Nikon. I liked the design and operation and I had a great time shooting with it. This camera is a bit lighter as compared to other cameras having full frame bodies except for the newest competitors. The build quality is quite similar – it is constructed from magnesium alloy chassis and is covered with polycarbonate having moderate weather and dust seal.

Left shoulder of the camera has dial for exposure mode and top has release mode dial. Nikon calls the latter drive modes. I didn’t like the position of lock button in center, it is the same as that on Canon cameras. I felt a bit awkward in operating the camera single handed. There are 2 slots for user setting on the options set which are more sophisticated. I liked them better than that on mode dial and 3 slots was optimal number of the custom sets.

Nikon D600 review says that right shoulder has status LCD, exposure compensation, and metering buttons. Power switch circumscribes shutter button and there is small video recording button. I wasn’t a big fan of small top record keys; they are a bit outdated and it is also disappointing that you cannot program 1 of the buttons on back for the function.

Nikon D600 Specs

Just like other models from Nikon, right side of lens has 2 programmable buttons and left side has flash/flash popup compensation button, focus mode switch along with focus area button and bracketing control. There is one capability that Canon and Nikon both should put in – the option of selecting the groups of the focus points. It is present on Sony Alpha SLT-A77 and also the older dSLRs of Olympus.

It is worth noting that Canon has dropped buttons column on left side of smaller LCD on 6D but D600 still has all of them and manages to be a bit narrower as compared to 6D. Picture controls, menu, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and quality are on left side. Movie/Live View switch and rocker from focus point selector can be selected using right thumb.

Nikon D600 Review

Nikon D600 Viewfinder

Viewfinder of the Nikon D600 is quite nice, bright and big. It has the standard over lay grid that is seen on a lot of Nikon dSLRs. You get to assign one of buttons for activating digital level in viewfinder which uses exposure bars. I liked this but was a bit disappointed to see that there was toggle between this and typical information of exposure and also that there was vertical indicator for back-front tilt.

There are some missing features on Nikon D600 like GPS, Wi-Fi but still this camera has good set of shooting options. There is flash inside just like 6D. I don’t recommend using it much but you might think otherwise. There are props for headphone jacks and dual SD card slots and these features aren’t available on 6D. The staples of Nikon are all retained like intervalometer and time lapse shooting. There is also uncompressed and clean HDMI output which we first saw on the D800. However, biggest advantage of Nikon D600 over 6D is ability for using all the variation of both the DX (along with cropping of APS-C) and the FX lenses.

D600Limitations on the Features

There are lines drawn by the company about the features. For example, the manufacturer has just given 2 slots of custom setting and they can’t be saved to SD card to share across the bodies (but you do get Picture Controls – save and share). It is also limited to 3 shot/3EV bracket but this might be wise considering highlight clipping. It is based on somewhat limited and same 2 exposure without RAW HDR as seen on D4.

Nikon D600 Camera

Nikon D600 Price

Nikon D600 price is $2,029 but it depends on where you are buying from. Prices will vary across different stores.

Conclusion

Nikon D600 is quite close to D7000 with full frame sensor. Both the cameras have similar modern video capabilities and you are paying extra money for it. You should sit back and think if you really need all these features before committing your money to it.

D600 is a good upgrade over D700 due to the features. It is also a good alternative to D800 if you are looking for something that is less expensive. But D800 comes with broader dynamic range, better build, and better autofocus system. If you need all this depends on what you are going to photograph.

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