The Nikon D600 is one of the newest full-frame DSLRs to hit the Indian market. There’s a lot of hype surrounding it, considering the fact that it’s quite possibly the cheapest full-frame DSLR out there at the current market rate of around Rs. 1,32, 000. The body weighs just 760gm (850gms with battery and memory card).
Features – video shooting capabilities
While typically it’s the norm to speak about the image sensor and resolution in any camera review, it’s the video features that also make the Nikon D600 so interesting, especially for a professional. Here is the camera that finally challenges the Canon 5D Mark II in its video making ability. You can record on MPEG-4 and H.264 formats. Nikon D600 offers two resolutions to shoot video – 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720. The former’s frame rate is 30, 25, 24 fps while the latter’s is 60, 50, 30, 25 fps. It can stream uncompressed footage over its HDMI port. Another superb feature of the D600 is time lapse photography.
The rear of the D600 with the large 3.2-inch display
Maximum recording time for time-lapse photography is 20 minutes. Through the menu, one can set the shooting interval and time. Movie files of time-lapse photography are saved in the 16:9 aspect ratio. It can even output an uncompressed live video stream to external recorders.
Design and build quality
The D600 has a rugged magnesium alloy body on the top and the rear of the camera, but the front plate is plastic. This is one of the main reasons why the D600 is so light. Nikon D600 has dual SD card slots with SDXC and UHS-I support on its right hand side.
Connectors on the left side of the D600 body
The D600 uses the EN-EL15 battery that’s also used in some of the other Nikon DSLRs such as the D7000 and D800. To the left of the body are three doors. The topmost one shelters the ports for external mic and audio-out. Sound levels can be manually adjusted in the camera, but a professional would definitely want to use an external one. Below this are the slots for the USB 2.0 port and a mini HDMI connector. The D600 also has an optional Wi-Fi unit, which allows the camera to be controlled remotely from an Android or iOS device. The shutter has been tested for 150,000 cycles.
The colour reproduction is extremely good even at higher ISOs. The Nikon D600 has incorporated its newly developed 24.3 MP FX format CMOS sensor (35.9 x 24mm). This sensor provides us with the native wide ISO range from 100-6400. ISO can also go down to 50 and pushed up till 25,600 and still retain accurate colours with minimal noise.
The top display on the D600
We shot images at ISO 2500, 6400 and then at 25,600. These were shot on the 50mm lens. There was some banding visible at the highest ISO, but otherwise the image quality was highly impressive. The full ISO range can also be used while capturing HD video under varied light conditions. The impressive HD video, which has good colour reproduction and tonal range throughout, helps to create a true cinematic experience with full HD video recording.
The centered locking pin for changing the shooting mode worked more as a hindrance for me. Imagine shooting and trying to switch from manual mode to shutter priority mode while shooting a busy traffic scene. I wished I had an extra hand! Beneath the Shooting mode is the Release mode. This also comes with a locking pin. The Release mode will help you switch to options like Single-frame, Continuous Low, Continuous High, Quiet, Self-timer, Remote control and Mirror lock-up. Continuous High provides us with a superb 5.5 frames per second, which makes it faster than the D800. It is great for sports photography.
One can use both DX and FX lenses on this camera. With the DX lens, the image will get cropped and you will notice the amount of data that is lost when using the DX lens. And then one can understand the futility of using them on the D600. So go sell off your DX lenses and go buy the FX lens. I had used the AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED lens to test the DX feature and the 24-120mm 1:3.5-5.6D lens to test the FX feature. Both were kept at 35mm, aperture at f/4.5 and shutter speed 1/8th sec, 640 ISO.
Performance and usability
The Nikon D600 is quieter than most other full frame DSLR cameras even without using Quiet release mode. I am sure this will be one feature that wildlife photographers are going to find very useful. The D600’s viewfinder gives us 100 percent frame coverage. I found this very helpful when I was shooting interiors for one of my magazines and because of this feature I was sure of my framing.
The mode selection dial
The D600 comes with a 921,000-dot 3.2-inch LCD screen. The gel resin, which is between the cover glass and the screen, helps to prevent the fogging that regularly occurs in hot and humid conditions in our subcontinent. This feature makes use of an ambient light sensor to allow for automatic adjustment of the screen's brightness, contrast, gamma and colour saturation. As is the general usage, the screen has excellent viewing angles but lacks good visibility in direct sunlight.
Manual and automatic focus switch
Like the higher-end DSLRs, the inbuilt flash can remotely control other Nikon Flashes. But the one disappointing feature for photographers is the flash sync, which has been reduced to 1/200th of a second compared to 1/250th of a second in Nikon D7000 or D800. Both FX and DX lenses work fine with the D600, but I wouldn't recommend a DX lens with this full-frame camera because of the amount of data one would lose.
Comparisons and verdict
Till the Nikon D800 entered the market, if a Nikon user needed a full-frame camera with more than twelve megapixels without having to switch over to Canon, he or she would have to invest in the much more expensive Nikon D3X. At over Rs. 5 lakhs, the D3X has been so prohibitively expensive for photographers that there are very few who could even give these cameras on hire. We now have so much more choice. Nikon D800, which cost Rs. 1,65,000; the slightly more expensive D800E costing around Rs. 1,80,000; and the Nikon D600 at Rs. 1,32,000. And while it's obviously not in the same league in terms of overall build quality, ruggedness and durability, the Nikon D600 can certainly hold its own when it comes to cutting-edge features and technologies, some of which were practically unheard of when the D3X was released back in 2008.
Made for budding professionals
The Nikon D600 is a unique blend of the D7000 and the D800. It has the same levels of weather sealing and protection present in the D800. I feel that many prospective owners will use it either as a step-up or a back-up body. The right-hand grip is smaller but still quite comfortable, especially when we use the camera for a longer period of time. Nikon D600 has imported a lot of features from the costlier Nikon D800 into a body that highly resembles the D7000. Nikon D600 has 39 Auto Focus points and nine of them are cross-type points. The arrangement is very similar to that of the D7000, but they are all grouped tightly in the centre of the frame, giving very less coverage for off-centre areas.
But I feel that the difference in the interface is such that it would make D800 users stick to buying another D800 rather than the cheaper D600.
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Oct 20, 2016
Oct 20, 2016