Last week Nikon released the much anticipated Nikon D600, the new camera is designed to be an entry level full frame model so advanced amateurs and semi pro’s can break into the FX world. when the chance came up to try one out I could not say no …and in my eyes it is a great new addition to the Nikon range!
Just to start with a little warning I am not going to go into the Specs, they can be found all over the Internet and on the Nikon website, This little hands on review will focus on the feel of the camera, Build quality and my own opinions.
The D600 was brought out and as I got my first feel I was immediately surprised, I had expected a weak plastic construction but instead it felt reasonably solid. The weight, although lighter than a D800, is still significant enough to be reassuring in the hand and when paired with a Pro grade lens does not feel overwhelmed (Picture with a 14-24 2.8 attached).
The D600 is aimed at the advanced amateur and the size and the build quality reflects that. The D600 is NOT a pro level Dslr but its build and quality construction will allow it to be used and abused. The D600 is apparently sealed to the same level as the D800 and from holding and using the camera I would agree. The front and rear dials are rubberised to stop the ingress of water and all of the buttons are sealed. The one area I would be worried about is the Top mode dial, as in my mind it is one place that feels vulnerable to damage.
On the topic of the mode dial in my opinion it was the one area I felt let the camera down. The dial does have a lock to stop it being knocked by accident, but I found it hard to use in practice. To hold down the button and turn the dial was difficult and those with larger hands than mine will struggle. Below the mode dial is the shooting dial and once again it is difficult to use. The lock button has been squeezed onto the back and when you press it down you inhibit the turning of the dial. If Nikon had just positioned the lock in the same place as on the D800 this could have been avoided. In practise I am sure that using the dials would become much easier and I only had a short while to get used to the new body.
The D600 body is shaped much like all of the new breed of nikon cameras with a sloped shutter release section to give a more comfortable hold and feel. When I picked up the camera it fitted very well in my hand, with my forefinger resting perfectly on the shutter and my thumb on the real dial. The slope although not a major change does give a significant ergonomic improvement to the camera even compared to my D300. On top of the Grip next to the shutter button is the exposure compensation button, the metering mode and the new video button, laid out in the same pattern as the other new bodies. The buttons are well spaced out and can easily be reached without any strain.
When the shutter is pressed the 39 point AF system is very fast to react and acquires focus swiftly and easily. The camera found it easy to focus even in a dark room and worked well with the new 24-85 kit lens. The new AF was even better with fast glass (14-24 2.8) and to my own eyes seemed to be faster than the D300 I am used to.
Many people who are looking to buy the D600 will inevitably want to compare it the the Pro level D800. Of course I also wanted to see how the new body stacked up against its bigger brother…so I managed to get hold of one for a little side by side comparison!
Looking at the front of the two cameras to start we can see that the size, in reality, is pretty comparable. The D800 is a little taller but not significantly and they are both roughly the same width with the D600 being slightly smaller. On the front we can see that the D600 does not have the 10 pin port or the studio flash port that the D800 does ( something that may put off some users). The Fn button is also positioned closer to the bottom of the D600 that for my hands I found difficult to reach compared to the D800’s.
Moving to the back of the two cameras the first obvious thing that is different is the viewfinder. The D600’s viewfinder is significantly smaller than the D800’s, but this does help to lower the overall height of the camera. The saving in heigh however does mean we loose the wonderful round finder of the D800 that in my personal opinion if far superior and provides a far better experience for the photographer. One great feature of the D600 is that Nikon have used the same 3.2″ LCD from the D800/D4 . In my testing it was a fabulous screen, giving crisp clear images that allow for easy reviewing of images in the field. Another positive of keeping the screen size the same is that if you do buy any accessories for the screen (say for use with HD video) they will work on other current Nikon bodies. On the subject of HD video the D600 has both a mic input and headphone jack in the side of the camera.
One area on the back of the D600 that did frustrate me was the smaller control pad. The D600’s control pad is quite a bit smaller than the D800’s and felt awkward to use. The small size made it hard for me to accurately move the auto focus point and meant I had to take my eye from the viewfinder to make some adjustments.
Another button that has been lost on the D600 is the Af-on button next to the rear dial. I know quite a few photographers use this button to start AF, so this may provide an issue for some photographers.
Looking down on the two cameras we can see the major difference between the two bodies is the mode dial. The D600 has a lockable dial as I discussed earlier whilst the D800 has a selection of buttons to allow easy access to important features such as ISO, BKT, WB and Quality. These buttons are found down the back of the D600 as you can see on the previous image. In terms of Size the D800 is only slightly wider than the D600 but ergonomically it does feel a little more comfortable in use. The D600 however does feel great in the hand and I personally felt it was nicer to hold than my own D300.
After using the D600 for a few hours I really felt it was a solid piece of photographic kit. The build quality for the level of camera is exceptional and stacks up very well to its bigger brother the D800. A few of the more advanced features are missing on the D600 such as the larger viewfinder and 10 pin port, these however would add additional size and weight to the compact body. The feel of the camera in the hand is very good and I think would be even better with the new additional grip (especially when using larger lenses). The Auto Focus is fast and accurate and the images seem to be beautiful with high levels of contrast and dynamic range. The D600 in my own eyes is going to be a fantastic camera for many high end amateurs looking to break in to the FX world, providing a capable camera in a smaller and more portable package.
As a conclusion I didn’t think the D600 would be anything special but after using it I must admit I am impressed. The D600 feels great in the hand, produces lovely images from my tests (sorry I don’t have any samples) and has an extensive array of features that will be appreciated by many. With the price now settled at around the £1600 mark the camera is a truly fantastic product at a very reasonable price, I would highly recommend one!
If you have any questions or think I have missed anything please drop a comment and I will answer and add any of the additional information you would like,
I would Just like to say a huge thank you to the people at Grays of Westminster for allowing me to use and review the D600, they always provide excellent service and know everything you could possibly want to know about Nikon cameras!
If you are thinking of buying the D600 you can purchase it from amazon here Nikon D600 Digital SLR Camera Body