Nikon D600 - A Full-Frame Nikon For Your Full-Time Passion (Part 1)

12/22/2012 6:13:59 PM

Nikon’s new D600 offers a seductive way of upgrading for consumers. We made a test to see how good this basic full-frame model would be.

Nikon D600

Nikon D600

For Nikon, this is such a busy year. The brand’s new models have spread all DSLR series, from professional D4 to basic D3200, as well as recent additions such as Nikon 1 J2 compact, D800 full-frame and many other compacts. Right before Photokina trade fair, we believed there would be more models introduced – and we were right. Exposed to public one week before the fair, D600 filled the visible gap between Nikon’s semi-professional D800 and D700 for advanced amateurs. This gap might have been extended by the old-fashioned D300S who aged over 3 years. While D600 is not a direct alternative, it will surely attract those whose desire upgrades from D700 or D300S, as well as from D7000 or D90.

D600 uses 24.3MP full-frame sensor. It’s believed to have been created by Sony, like many Nikon’s previous used to – especially because of its presence which was just one day after Sony declared 3 new models, including Alpha 99, with a similar sensor.

The camera mainly borrows layout and design from D7000 yet the body is bigger and heavier. It, additionally, has waterproof ability, a durable screen-cover and a full-frame sensor (the most important one).

Despite fast improvements in image quality from smaller sensors and that many compacts provide APS-C sensor to rival DSLR, full-frame unit is still considered the highest visual standard for amateurs. The appearance of Canon EOS-5D and Nikon D700 has first brought sensor’s 35mm size to serious amateurs, yet there will be progresses in price from models ranging from hi-end APS-C to full-frame ones.

D600 is due to fill this gap and bring full-frame camera to a wider customer base. However, based on RRP, there’s still a distance of $1,485 between APS-C D7000 ($1,508) and full-frame D600 ($2,993) and room for an ASP-C sized model featuring higher resolution plus costing around $2,100.

Regardless full-frame sensor and high price, D600 still lies in Nikon’s consumer segment, not expert segment (where D300S is). It has flash installed, 1 standard mode wheel and scene modes. While this camera is for photographers, like D7000, it can be appealing to experts who want a second full-frame body. We received one of the first released models and tested it right then.

It has flash installed, 1 standard mode wheel and scene modes.

It has flash installed, 1 standard mode wheel and scene modes.


An unexpected I encountered with 36.3MP D800 was too high resolution. For raw files seizing over 75MB, I realized images, which often account for 20GB, suddenly dominated a 64GB card, resulting in problem of downloading, processing and saving times.

D600 has 24.3MP resolution, thus it is easier being managed than its full-frame CMOS 35mm (35.9x24mm) sensor. It averagely offers a 6012x4016pixel file a space of 28MB (14bit lossless raw) or 10MB (JPEG). While this seems a considerable decrease with reference to D800, the file is able to create 20x13in image at 300ppi or A2 photos at 242ppi, quite enough for most users. Deeper details about micro lens array are vague, but the sensor works with the new Expeed 3 processor, which also can be found inside D4 and D800, to supply 16bit image process and ISO 100-6400 sensitivity which is extendable up to ISO 50-25,600. Perhaps due to smaller file size, burst speed is faster than that of D800, providing maximal 5.5fps in full resolution. It is only slower than 6fps produced by Canon EOS 6D. Sensor cleaning is installed in the unit to stand against dust coming to the filter, plus reference data via Capture NX2 is for more restive elements.

Light meter is not like a 91,000pixel system (in D800) but the one 2D Color Matrix II system (appearing in D7000), with 2016pixel RGB sensor. However, it provides wide exposure (+/-5EV), with options for matrix, center-weighted and spot. Center-weighted setting adds 75% weights for 8mm, 12mm, 15mm or 20mm circle. Similarly, spot option can be recorded from the center 4mm circle or around the selected AF point. AF system is 39-point type (similar to D7000’s one rather than D800’s 51-point system). These two elements are signs that clearly refer the D600’s trend towards consumer, though as D7000 showed, both are still impressive systems.

Capture modes chosen via mode wheel on top include PASM standard with basic shooting, no flash and scene mode. In scene option, D600 contains 19 presets, from High and Low key to pet portrait and blossom.

The most useful for experienced photographers is probably burst modes on the lower disc, including silent capture, mirror-up, remote control, along with high burst and low burst. Nikon has been criticized earlier as it had no options for combining self-timer and mirror-up, though on D600, you are able to select mirror-up while using wireless remote control or any settings via a landline unit.

D600 accepts most of Nikon lenses and third-party lenses by using F mount. Models assigned to use this DX (APS-C) will deliver a cropped image in the camera, with 2936x2624pixel or 10.3MP output. This means that users who want upgrades from Nikon’s other consumer DLSRs are still able to deploy their old lenses. However, for the best result, it’s recommended to use FX D and G versions.

Images can be saved via SD card. There’re two slots, providing option for the second memory card used as an alternative or for saving raw and JPEG separately. Both are compatible with UHS-1 SDHC and SDXC cards. Using a hi-speed 600x UHS-1 SDHC, I have 14 raw+JPEG files, 15 raws or 47 JPEGs before filling up cache memory in hi-speed mode.

D600 uses EN-EL15 battery like D800 and D7000 did, and the expected number of images per each recharge is 900 (the result is the same as D800’s one). This is an impressive achievement for such a full-frame model and it may drive other brand to feel ashamed.

To enhance its consuming state, D600 also includes 1 flash – though D300S does, too. D600’s Flash is a fairly strong unit and Guide Number is 12m at ISO 100. Additionally, it provides red-eye sync and wireless light control. Wi-Fi wasn’t neglected and while it is not integrated inside the camera, a small adapter – which can be installed inside – allows for connection to tablet or smartphone to upload images or control the camera.

Ratings: 8/10

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