If you’ve previously put off upgrading to a full-frame DSLR because of price, size or lack of user-friendly controls, Nikon may have created the DSLR you’ve been waiting for. The Nikon D600 has the look and feel of a DSLR more like the enthusiast level D7000, but with a 24.3MP sensor and the same EXPEED 3 processor as the flagship D4, the D600 is at its heart an advanced DSLR. With a shooting speed of 5.5fps and a 100% viewfinder it’s an able performer in a wide range of photographic situations. Then there’s the dust- and weather-sealing that’s on par with the professional level D800. Nikon really has trickled down some impressive features to make the D600 a worthy option for enthusiasts and professionals alike.
The D600 features a native ISO range of 100-6400 that’s expandable from 50-25,600, allowing flexibility in a range of shooting conditions. Noise response is very impressive at high ISO settings and we’ll be taking a closer look at that later. The autofocus system is reportedly as sensitive as that of the D4, and offers a highly respectable 39 individual points that are sensitive in low light conditions. Nine centrally positioned cross-type sensors are designed to provide increased AF accuracy in adverse shooting conditions. Taking the use of teleconverters to a new level, the D600 will work with long lenses with maximum apertures as slow as f/8. Focus points are reduced to seven, but it’s a small price to pay for the flexibility.
If this all sounds a little complicated you’ll be pleased to know that this DSLR also features a number of user-friendly controls that you’ll be accustomed to after using an APS-C DSLR. The D600 features a full Auto mode, 19 popular scene modes, and image retouching where you can process images and movies to a limited degree in-camera. It’s not the most popular DSLR feature going, but it is there if you ever need it. Then there’s the Scene Recognition System, which uses the camera’s sensor to aid exposure, autofocus and white balance to achieve more reliable results. This is difficult, if not impossible, to test but it certainly sounds like a useful feature to have.
Handling & performance
The D600 feels compact in the hand and uses a control layout more like a consumer level APS-C DSLR, rather than a pro spec DSLR. It’s comfortable to hold although the grip could be a little deeper to help accommodate longer fingers. Although Nikon says this is a lightweight camera, there’s little, if any, discernible difference between this and what would be considered larger DSLRs. However, there’s no doubt that it feels smaller in terms of its dimensions. Turn the camera over and you’ll find a bright 3.2in 921K dot LCD that produces bright and clear images. A screen cover to reduce the risk of damage is also provided.
With a 100% viewfinder you can be sure of seeing the whole shot, but the size of the viewfinder eyepiece feels a touch too small for our liking, and not really in keeping with some of the more advanced features we’ve looked at. The mode dial features an annoying lock button similar to those that started cropping up on Canon DSLRs in the last few years. We don’t know how many times you’ve accidently knocked the mode dial, but for us it’s never, so this button is more a hindrance than a help. If you’re upgrading from an APS-C DSLR chances are you’ll have a stack of SD cards already. The D600 features dual SD slots with a range of recording options to overflow, backup and save different file types on the two cards.
Wireless connectivity unfortunately isn’t built-in, but a relatively inexpensive WU-1b Mobile Adapter is available. This allows you to share images with a Smartphone or tablet, and even control the camera with the device. Of course, you’ll need to download the free app to do so. As you’d expect from a current DSLR, full HD video is available. The maximum recording time is the standard 29 mins 59 secs at 30fps, 25fps and 24fps at 1080p. Drop down to 720p and you can enjoy 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24fps. The jewel in the crown here has to be the microphone and headphone sockets so you can attach external mics and monitor sound levels. The only downside with video is that you can’t change the aperture settings in Live View for video, you have to switch to Stills Live View to change aperture and then back again.
The D600 isn’t perfect, and perhaps this is because it’s a blend of so much from two distinctly different camera markets – pro and enthusiast. Certain elements of the camera feel clunky, but then you’re dazzled by the blistering performance elsewhere. Put these grumbles aside and what you’ve got is a truly impressive DSLR, which for a reasonable price offers exceptional image quality. ISO noise response is nothing short of incredible and makes shooting at ISO 6400 a realistic option. And let’s not forget the more aesthetic and image quality benefits of a full-frame sensor. Nikon really has produced a great camera here that will appeal to enthusiasts and professionals alike, with some very impressive pro spec features.
- Body price: £675 (Secondhand price as of June 2016)
- Effective resolution: 24.3MP
- Sensor type: 35.9x24mm CMOS (full-frame)
- Autofocus: 39 focus points
- ISO range: 100-6400 (expandable to 50-25,600)
- Metering: TTL using 2016-pixel RGB sensor
- LCD: 3.2in 921k dots
- Viewfinder: 100%
- Shooting speed: 5.5fps
- Video: Full HD (1080p)
- Sensor cleaning: Yes
- Card type: SD, UHS-I, SDHC, SDXC
- Weight: 850g
- Visit: www.nikon.co.uk
This review was first published in the December 2012 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.