Nikon D600 Review

by Enche Tjin on October 11, 2012

Nikon D600 camera is not the best Nikon full frame camera, but it is a best compromise between technology and camera size. It is relatively cheap compared to other full frame cameras in the market. Rumor about the D600 has been leaked for months. Finally, it is announced mid-September 2012. The camera is aimed at enthusiast photographers. Here’s my review which contain facts and my personal experience.

Nikon D600 (right) is about the same size as D7000

Nikon D600 (right) is about the same size andweight as D7000 (left)

Camera Design

My first impression when holding the Nikon D600 is the camera quite light compared with my workhorse Nikon D700. The difference is significant, which is a good thing. Nikon D700 weighs almost one kilo (995 g), while the D600 is only 760 g.

D600 size was relatively small. It is more like middle-class DSLR camera such as Nikon D7000 and D90. At a glance, D600’s is about 1 cm bigger. D600 LCD screen is slightly wider (0.2 inches). The buttons are the same size, but some of the buttons change place. Unfortunately, the camera is slightly bigger than D7000, but this is not surprising because in the body resides full frame sized sensor (FX). The viewfinder is larger and automatically makes the camera taller. Nonetheless, this camera is the lightest Nikon full frame camera up to date.

The top and back of the camera is made of magnesium alloy and the rest is made of high quality plastic. This design is similar to the Nikon D7000. According to Nikon, the camera is weather sealed. Compared to its brother Nikon D700, Nikon D600 has some new buttons such as bracketing and video recording. Metering and focus selection switches disappear.

Exposure mode is similar to the D7000. Nikon D600, which has a U1 and U2 mode that can be programmed according to your needs. For example, U1 can be programmed for sport photography, while U2 for portrait or product photography. The D600 also has a lot of scene modes. These mode are usually favored by beginners or the general public who are not interested in learning basic photography techniques. The existence of these features signal that Nikon D600 is not only designed for the professionals and experienced photographers but also to people who purchase digital SLR camera for the very first time.

Compared to Nikon D700, Nikon D600 is better suited to take a walk or street photography, especially if we put lightweight lens. Lens that weight 600g or less is good, but for a lens that weighs more than 600g, You will feel the lenses are too heavy and bulky compared to the camera.

Image quality

Image resolution is big which is 24 MP. You will be able to print at up to 60×40 inches image with very good quality. To take advantage of this great resolution, it will require high quality lenses too. Low-quality lens like a 50mm f/1.8 or 28-300mm VR will not yield sharp image. If you have plan to buy this camera, be prepared to upgrade your lens collection.

Big resolution images also means you’ll need faster shutter speed to prevent blurry photos. A little sloppy in this area will cause the picture to be blurry. The other problem of course is the size of the file (especially RAW) is 26 MB large. For JPG it is about 6-12 MB depending on the type of compression (fine, normal, basic).

The advantage of large photo resolution is to get more details in the photo. Cropping can be more freely without fear of the image becoming too small. Of course, we also need a large-capacity hard drive and a high specification computers to process them.

The photo quality is very good although it is not sharper than my Nikon D700. Possibly because of the lens I use was overwhelmed by its 24MP resolution. I also look at the picture at high ISO in the range of 1600-3200. The image still has a lot of detail and high ISO noise is easily removed without significantly reducing image detail. In a very dark lighting conditions, ISO 6400 can be used and clean enough for A4 size prints.

At ISO 6400, the image retains many details and is still good for print

At ISO 6400, the image retains many details and is still good for print

Viewfinder and autofocus

Nikon D600 viewfinder is larger and clearer compared to Nikon DX camera with APS-C sensor. It has 0.7 magnification and 100% coverage. This feat is nice because you can see exactly what will be on the picture. The Nikon D700 has a bit bigger magnification (0.72x) but only 98% coverage area. Nikon D800 has the biggest viewfinder and coverage area: 0.72x and 100% coverage.

D600 autofocus module is similar to the Nikon D7000. (Nikon claims it is has been improved). Autofocus is fast enough for still image or moving subjects. There are 39 points to choose from, 15 of which are cross type sensor that is more sensitive and accurate. The weakness of this AF module is it is actually designed for DX sensor. So it spreads only in the center of the frame. If your subject is in the edge of the photo, then you’ll face a little difficulty to lock focus accurately.

You can use recomposing technique (lock the focus and change the composition by moving the camera), but if you use big aperture such as f/1.4, it will be quite difficult to get the main subject in focus 100% accurate. Another drawback is when you shoot in dark places or at night, the focus point are quite small to see. Locking focus is more difficult compared to higher end full frame cameras: D700, D800 and D4.

AF points are a bit small and is concentrated in the middle of the viewfinder screen

AF points are a bit small and is concentrated in the middle of the viewfinder screen

Performance and speed

Nikon D600 is very responsive camera. We did not have to wait long to turn on the camera or change the setting. Consecutive shooting is quite fast, slightly above 5.3 images per second. Camera buffer can store 16 consecutive RAW images or 43 JPGs before the camera stop shooting.. Once stuck, you will need to wait about 6-12 seconds to be able to shoot at full speed. File writing speed depend greatly on SD card that you use. My advice is to use class 10 or 30MB/s card.

Compared to the Nikon D800, D600 buffer capacity is greater because the image resolution is smaller. On the other hand, the buffer in D700 feels larger because the image has only 12 MP. Buffer can hold 17 RAW images and 100 JPG images. Although D600 is not the fastest camera, performance is quite good for sports and photojournalism.

Left: Nikon D600 dynamic range is very good. It keeps the background from too bright. Right: Shooting in high ISO is not a problem. This image is shoot at ISO 2000

Left: Nikon D600 dynamic range is very good. It keeps the background from too bright. Right: Shooting in high ISO is not a problem. This image is shoot at ISO 2000

Other Features

Dual SD card slot: Like D7000, this camera has two slots for SD card. SD card is smaller and usually used in mid to low end DSLR camera. High end cameras use compact flash (CF) card. But it does not matter because SD cards are now also cheaper and faster. If you are coming from entry or mid level DSLR, you will not need to buy another SD card. But if your SD card is slow, I recommend you to get higher speed cards.

Shutter D600 is relatively quiet for the size of a DSLR camera. The sound is quite similar to D7000 and quieter than D700. You might wonder why I discussed the shutter sound. It is because there are plenty people attracted to a camera based on the sound alone, which i find absurd hehe..

Flash sync shutter speed and max speed

There are two weakness that disappointing profesional photographers, but I think it is not significant for most photographers. The first is the maximum flash sync speed is limited to 1/200 sec. Usually other DSLR cameras has 1/250 sec sync speed. In addition, maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 sec. Typically more sophisticated DSLR cameras 1/8000 sec.

About max flash sync speed, I think 1/200 sec is not a problem unless you play with flash regularly in very bright lighting condition. Similarly, a 1/4000 sec shutter speed is rarely used except when you photographing in a very bright condition with lens that has large aperture. Fortunately, we can choose ISO 50 in D600, so the two drawbacks are not very important for me.

DX lenses

If you have a Nikon DX lenses, which is designed specifically for APS-C sensor camera, you can still use it with the D600. The difference is, the edge of the photo will be black because the diameter of the lens can not cover the sensor. The alternative is to turn on AUTO DX crop. The camera automatically crop a picture in the middle. The resulting picture is still quite large, which is 10 megapixel.

One of the advantage of full frame sensor is the shallow depth of field. Imge is shot at f/2.8 with 85mm f/1.4D lens

One of the advantage of full frame sensor is the shallow depth of field. Imge is shot at f/2.8 with 85mm f/1.4D lens

Conclusion

Nikon D600 is a very balanced camera that can yield high quality photos. D600 has many advanced features and will satisfy most photographers both amateur and professional. This camera is suitable for all types of photography. In my opinion, the most suitable type of photography is travel photography, because the camera is not too heavy and bulky.

Overview of the advantages and disadvantages of Nikon D600

+ Size is relatively small for camera with full frame sensor
+ Price is relatively cheap considering premium features it offers
+ Great image quality even in high ISO
+ Uncompressed video recording
- The spread of the focus point is only concentrated in the middle area
- Autofocus system is not as reliable as other advanced DSLR camera
- Autofocus during live view or movie recording is slow and not smooth

The main spec

  • 24 MP full frame sensor
  • ISO 50-25600
  • 39 focus points, 9 cross type
  • Consecutive shooting speed 5.5 fps
  • Video recording Full HD, 30p
  • Price $2099

Competitors

Canon 5d mk3 has a better features than the Nikon D600. It has far better autofocus system. 5D has slightly faster consecutive shooting speed. 5D mk3 also has sharper and cleaner image in high ISO. But it is more than $1400 more expensive and it is bigger.

Canon 6D is direct competitor of Nikon D600. 6D has several advantages such as built-in Wifi (does not require additional accessories). LCD screen is more detailed. It might has lower noise in high ISO. On the other hand, 6D autofocus is worse than D600. Consecutive shooting speed is also 1 fps slower.

For users of Nikon D90 or D7000, this camera is ideal because it has similar design, button and menu layout. The main difference is in the quality of image and bigger viewfinder.

For users of the Nikon D700 and D800, D600 offers smaller size and lighter weight with a large image resolution. Compared to the D700, D600 can record video.

Nikon D600 is available at Amazon.com <– getting any camera/accessories here will help me run this blog. Thanks in advance.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Clyde Jim October 13, 2012 at 6:14 am

“Low-quality lens like a 50mm f/1.8 or 28-300mm VR will not yield sharp image. ”

Okay, the superzoom poses a few compromises. But the 50mm 1.8? Alright, what lenses do you recommend?

Enche Tjin October 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

@Clyde I recommend these lenses: 85mm f/1.8G, 28mm f/1.8G, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, 24-120mm f/4, 16-35mm f/4 VR

dennizfutalan March 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Good review.. Im still confuse whether to get this one or the d7100 i do love to have good image quality but the lens are too expensive though.. Also the af coverage is a pain really why that small.. Great review though if only they had made the af a little bigger..

Enche Tjin March 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm

@dennizfutalan thanks :)

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