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Nikon D600 review

Sabyasachi Biswas December 26 | Updated on December 24, 2012

Nikon D600

Nikon D600 test shot

Nikon D600 test shot

If we consider Nikon’s old FX format lineup, the number of options weren’t too great. You had either the then pixel blockbuster D3X (24 mega pixels), at a heavy price tag of Rs 5.2 lakhs for just the body. Then there was the D3S, sold at Rs 2.8 lakh, and the D700 for about half the D3S’s price, but both of these fell short of impressing many experts by a few million dots.

Then the D800 popped up, changing the full-frame format line-up for Nikon almost entirely. It was less expensive than the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (and now even Mark III), and yet offered the bump in pixel count that a few niche user groups had been clamouring for. But not many photographers desperately need the 36.3 MP full frame sensor that the D800 offers, but at the same time need an FX format camera at a little more affordable price tag.

I have been using Nikon D600 for some time now to find out if it fills the void between the pro-shooter D800 and the older pro-sumer D700. And does it?

Features overview

Not really. The gap between D700 and D800 is actually a huge one. The D600 doesn’t try to bridge this – it comes as a new option altogether. Right now, it is probably the most compact full frame DSLR available.

The 24.3MP resolution of the D600 is twice of what its predecessor had, and is also more than its newly arrived competitor, the Canon EOS 6D, which clicks at 20.2 megapixels. In fact, it even trumps the EOS 5D Mark III’s resolution by a couple of million pixels. Of course, mega pixel count is not the best yardstick for a camera’s overall abilities.

So, while it is clearly established that it shoots pictures big enough to prove that it’s not compromising much on resolution, you might want to check if it compromises on any other features. And I would say, no. .

The D600 knows its spot in the market pretty well. It has an onboard pop-up flash, which doesn’t appear on the 6D. It also features the dual-SD card slot, which I found very handy. I could choose to use one card for RAW and one for JPEG, or simply choose to use the second card if the first one was full. This feature, also, isn’t something that the 6D has. The 5D Mark III has two slots for storage, but one supports CF while the other is for an SD card.

The 5.5fps rate is faster than the bigger D800’s, and also the 6D’s. This camera is also fast because of its image processor, the EXPEED 3, which could manage to take RAW burst shots without compromising on colour reproduction and maintaining low noise levels at higher ISOs.

What I did not like on the D600 were the locking mode and drive dials. Operating these locks is not exactly very comfortable, as the movement is not very smooth. The locks themselves feel quite hard. Also, the D600 does not come equipped with inbuilt WiFi for wireless file transfer or flash transmission, which the similarly priced competition, Canon EOS 6D, has. The grip, however, fit quite snugly in my palm. Though not the lightest camera around, the body felt quite light for its specs. The construction is part magnesium alloy and part plastics, and is weather sealed up to an extent.

Performance

I used the D600 with a 24-120mm lens, and not the stock 24-85mm kit lens. The first thing that I tried out was the AF system. The 39-point auto focus system is a step down from the D800’s 51-point AF system. And this, I felt, was a bit slow in acquiring subjects. In case of moving objects, the AF worked more efficiently when the subject was near the centre. The AF also faltered a bit in darker shooting conditions - even with the AF assist beam on, the focus sometimes failed to lock. This was while focusing on a subject at around 5-6 feet away, at a focal length of 70-80mm in room lit by one small incandescent bulb.

The colour reproduction was quite good, in all light conditions. I never felt that the colours were over or under compensated. I would say this is one of the better pro-sumer cameras for portrait and photography, as I found the skin-tones quite well reproduced.

Noise levels too, were under the point where it starts becoming annoying. It’s not exactly exceptional, while using on ISO 6400, but the fact that this camera has higher resolution makes the case slightly better.

While shooting on a continuous burst, I could shoot in both Super Fine JPEGs and 14-bit lossless RAW at the claimed 5.5fps, but the frame rate usually became slow and erratic after 3 seconds. A disappointing factor here, though, was that the maximum shutter speed was only up to 1/4000s, as compared to the 1/8000 that D800 and 5D offer. No, I don’t shoot bursting bubbles every day, but sometimes a really fast shutter speed comes very handy.

Verdict

Photography saw a massive spurt in interest as a hobby and a profession a few years ago, and many photography enthusiasts are now moving on from crop sensor format cameras to full frame formats, for studio, wedding and architectural photography. The D600 lacks in some departments like a good auto-focus and erratic burst mode, but the colour reproduction and low light performance is stellar. Used with he right lenses, this camera will produce really good images.

Love – Low light performance, colour reproduction

Hate – Control dials, erratic burst mode

Rs 1,35,950 (Body only)

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 24, 2012

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