Nikon’s new D600 offers an appealing upgrade path for consumer users. We put it to the test to find out just how good this full-frame, entry-level model really is. Read the Nikon D600 review...
A slightly unusual problem I had with the 36.3-million-pixel D800 was that I found the resolution was just too high. With raw files reaching sizes of more than 75MB, I found that shoots normally totalling images of less than 20GB suddenly filled a 64GB card, which had knock-on issues for downloading time, processing and storage.
The D600 has a more manageable 24.3-million-pixel resolution from its 35mm (35.9x24mm) full-frame CMOS sensor. This delivers a 6016×4016-pixel file that averages around 28MB in 14-bit lossless raw form or just 10MB in JPEG. While this may seem a significant drop from the D800, the files will still produce a 20x13in print at 300ppi or an A2 print at 242ppi, which is more than enough for most users. Further details about the array and micro lenses are unclear, but the sensor works alongside the new Expeed 3 processor, which is also found in the D4 and D800, to deliver 16-bit image processing and provides the camera with a sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400, expandable to ISO 50-25,600. Presumably thanks to the smaller file sizes, the burst shooting rate is faster than that of the D800, providing a maximum of 5.5fps in full resolution. This is only slightly slower than the 6fps offered by the D7000 and faster than the 4.5fps offered by the new Canon EOS 6D. Sensor cleaning is built into the unit to shake dust from in front of the filter, while there is also the dust-off reference data via Capture NX2 for more stubborn particles.
The metering system is not the same 91,000-pixel system as that found in the D800, but the older 3D Color Matrix II system, with a 2016-pixel RGB sensorthat is featured in the D7000. However, this does offer a wide ±5EV exposure compensation, and a choice of matrix, centreweighted and spot options. The centreweighted setting gives 75% weighting to a choice of 8mm, 12mm, 15mm or 20mm centre circles. Equally, the spot option can be recorded from the centre 4mm circle or around the selected AF point.
The autofocusing system is a similar 39-point system to that found in the D7000, rather than the 51 points in the D800. These two factors are clear indications of the D600’s consumer slant, although, as the D7000 has proved, both are still very impressive systems.
Shooting modes are chosen via the top dial and include the standard PASM alongside the more basic auto, no-flash and scene-mode options. Within the scene selection, the D600 includes 19 options, from the likes of High and Low key through to pet portrait and blossom options.
Perhaps more useful for the experienced photographer are the drive modes on the dial below, which feature a quiet shutter setting, mirror up, remote control, and high and low burst options. Nikon has
been criticised in the past for not having an option to combine the self-timer and mirror-up functions, but on the D600 it is possible to select a mirror-up option when using the wireless remote or any setting using a wired unit.
The D600 accepts most Nikon and third-party lenses using the F mount. Those models designated for DX (APS-C) use will provide a cropped image on the camera, with an output of 3936×2624 or 10.3 million pixels. This means that those users upgrading from other Nikon consumer DSLRs can still use all their old lenses.For best results, though, the FX D and G varieties are recommended.
Images are saved via an SD card. Dual slots are available, offering the choice of a second card to be used as an overflow, back-up, or to save raw and JPEG files separately. Both are compatible with UHS-1 SDHC and SDXC cards. Using a high-speed 600x UHS-1 SDHC card, I managed 14 raw+JPEG, 15 raw or 47 JPEG files before filling the buffer in high-speed mode.
The D600 uses the same EN-EL15 battery as the D800 and the D7000, and the predicted number of shots per charge is 900, which is equal to that of the D800. This is still an impressive feat for a full-frame camera, and puts many other brands to shame.
Cementing its consumer status, the D600 also includes a flash – although so does the D300S. The D600’s flash is a moderately powerful unit, with a guide number of 12m @ ISO 100, and provides slow sync and redeye functions, as well as control of Nikon’s advanced wireless lighting system. Wi-Fi hasn’t been overlooked, either, and while it isn’t built into the body, a small adapter – like the one available for the D3200 – can be attached to the side to allow connection to a smartphone or tablet, for image upload or camera control.
Image: The Sigma 105mm macro lens has been able to reproduce very fine detail