Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for D600_24_85_front34l_KM.high.jpg
  • 24.3-Megapixel FX-Format Imaging Sensor
  • 3.2-Inch, 921,000 dot LCD Screen
  • EXPEED 3 image processor
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • Dedicated Video Record Button (when in live view)
  • Auto mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Live View shooting
  • Face Detection
  • Pop-up flash with i-TTL control
  • Dual SD card slots
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • Optional GPS and WiFi accessories
Pros
  • Auto shooting mode allows for point-n-shoot ease with amazing results
  • Outstanding image quality through standard ISO range
  • Built-in flash can control external flash units with i-TTL
  • Kit lens features new VR II system for up to 4 stops of correction
  • Large, Bright 3.2-inch LCD
  • Overall good shooting performance
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Several programmable buttons around the camera body
  • Great Price for a Full-Frame camera
  • 1080p Video Capture
  • External Audio Input
  • HDMI Output
Cons
  • Camera must be set to live view and video mode to capture videos
  • High Speed Continuous came up short of advertised 5.5fps
  • Face detection struggled, often unable to capture image or face out of focus
  • VR II auto tripod detection did not work for us with still images
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 0.8 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 to 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.72 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 0.94 seconds
  • High Speed Burst = 5fps (other programmable slower settings also available)
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 (95MB/s), 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Nikon D600 is a powerful and very high quality pro-level dSLR with a smaller body and price tag that may appeal to wider range of photographers. It brings professional quality at a more affordable price.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a FX-Format (full-frame) camera that is easier to travel with and carry, or if you on the fence about the size and/or price of a full-fame camera. 
The Nikon D600 is entering a bit of new territory, giving their FX-format Full-Frame shooters the option of a smaller, lighter camera body with the image quality, sensitivity and performance of their larger, professional series of dSLR cameras. On the other hand, they are also offering a smaller, cheaper solution to those who are on the fence about spending the big money and carrying a monster of a camera.

The Full-Frame 24.3-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor is combined with Nikon's Expeed 3 image processor and a blazing fast AF system to give you all of the speed, quality and benefits of a professional camera with a much smaller price tag. They have included all the great extra features as well; WiFI capabilities with an optional adapter, dual card slots, i-TTL control with built-in flash unit, built-in RAW (NEF) and HDR processing, Full 1080p HD video recording and the availability of the huge selection of NIKKOR lenses. 

Using the D600 is incredibly simple if you are at all familiar with dSLR cameras. The buttons and menu systems have both been laid out very well, giving you quick and easy access to any feature or setting that you are looking for. All of the switches are firm but move well and all of the dials that control the cameras shooting modes are locked into place, both preventing any unwanted setting changes. For more advanced customization, you will find the Custom Settings Menu a plethora of adjustable settings, 2 pre-programmable shooting modes, a customizable menu and three programmable buttons on the camera. On top of that, all of the picture control settings are adjustable and savable as well. The pop-up flash, which is not always available on higher end dSLRs, is a great addition as a single flash or as a commander for Nikon's i-TTL flash system. 

Just slightly larger than a mid-level dSLR and noticeably smaller than Nikon's other FX-series models, the D600 is still a bit large but very comfortable and easy to handle. The contoured grip on the right side is very comfortable and gives a good sense of control over the camera. The biggest benefit of the larger body, if you are used to a smaller camera, is that the controls are big and well spaced. This makes navigation and setting adjustment very easy. If you are used to a bigger body you will love the portability that the D600 brings.

Composing and viewing your images is also easy and enjoyable. The optical view finder with 100% field of view allows you to see exactly what you will capture when using FX-format lenses (the view drops to 97% with DX-format lenses). The addition of the important shooting information into the OVF allows you to make you adjustments without taking the camera away from your eye; so you never miss a shot. For shooting movies, or whenever you prefer shooting with the LCD screen, Live View gives an accurate and detailed representation of what you are about to capture. At 3.2-inches and featuring 921,000 dots of resolution, this is one of the largest and highest resolution screens you will find. 

The D600 did very well in our performance tests. The camera is able to turn on and capture its first image in just 8/10 of a second; meaning you will never miss capturing an image because you are waiting for the camera to get ready. With the camera focused, the shutter lag is almost instantaneous, and still incredibly fast when allowing the AF to work, taking between 2/10 and 4/10 of a second depending on zoom, distance and available light. The camera's shot to shot delay is also minimal at just over 7/10 of a second without the flash. With the flash it still fell just under a second at 0.94 seconds. The D600 also features two continuous shooting modes. The Low mode allows you to set the speed at which you would like to capture your images. If you want the fastest that the camera can produce, you have to switch to the High mode, allowing the camera to capture up to 5fps; we were not able to capture the 5.5fps that Nikon claims. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 (90MB/s) 8GB SDHC memory card, Program mode, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults. 

Looking at our outdoor image samples we have a very detailed, sharp and well exposed image. All of our outdoor samples were taken in both Program and Auto shooting modes. The camera's auto mode produced a more vivid image with deeper colors and more contrast than the normal picture control setting for program. We did see a better exposure with the auto setting with the cannon shot as well. Looking closely you will see the better color and the white building in the back was not blown out as it was in the program shot. In the auto shots, however, we can see some slight aberrations around the high contrast areas in the image, such as around the power lines and small tree branches. 

If you are purchasing the D600 kit, you will also be receiving the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR lens. On the full-frame FX-format camera there is no magnification for this 3.6x zoom lens. This lens is compact and comfortable to hold and operate.  All of the markings and information are easy to read, and the zoom and focus rings feature a textured rubber grip which makes them easy to handle and easy to find while shooting. The zoom itself is smooth and firm allowing steady, controllable zoom for both still images and videos. This lens also features Nikon's new VR II image stabilization. It allows you to shoot handheld up to 4 stops lower than normal without blurring or softening the image from your hand shaking. 

Our indoor sample images show the camera's excellent exposure and amazing amount of image detail. From the dust on the UPS truck to the stitching in the flag, you can see everything within these images. With the full-frame image sensor, the depth of field is a little less than we are used to seeing when shooting at f/8, especially at the short distance of our M&M man samples, which is something that could make a difference in lower-light situations if you are used to using specific settings. The amazing image quality ranges from ISO 100 through ISO 6400, showing very low amounts of noise and great amounts of detail and sharpness for each level all the way through. The camera also features 1 full stop below ISO 100 and 2 full stops above ISO 6400 for your extreme shooting situations. Once you get into the higher extended ISO settings, the image quality decreases quickly as the amount of noise takes over the image. Using the high ISO noise reduction does slightly change the look of the images. Turning the NR all the way up will help hide some of the noise, but it will also dull the image overall. What setting is best for you will depend on your shooting situation and what your intended results are. 

Shooting portraits with the D600 really isn't any different that shooting anything else, unless you use the Live View mode with face detection. The camera did very well picking up the faces within the frame in Live View mode, but there was a lot of lag with capturing the images. After a face was detected the camera hesitated to release the shutter, if it did at all. We also ended up with several images that were incredibly blurry. Shooting without the face detection was much easier by manually controlling the camera to focus and adjust exposure settings for the face of your subjects.

Our HDR sample images show the slight differences that the camera can produce by combining two images for the overall effect. While we were able to see more detail in some of the images, it came with an overall lack of contrast to the image. The camera was also a little inaccurate when in Auto mode, as can be seen by difference in the two samples. Besides Auto, you can also choose between 1EV, 2EV and 3EV. While this is a convenient and quick way to create these effects, they will not be as bold and vivid as most people are looking for when shooting this way. You will be much better off to take the bracketed images on your own and use HDR software to control and produce the images that you want. 

As with most digital cameras, its movie mode is capable and a great addition to capturing still images, but you will not find the features and quality that you will get from an actual video camera. The power of the D600 allows you to capture beautiful full 1080p HD videos with stereo sound. With this camera compared to a true video camera, available light will make the biggest difference. The more light you have and the better lenses for low-light shooting the better the camera will handle shooting video. Once the light gets low, the noise will increase dramatically. To go along with the incredibly sensitive built-in stereo microphone, Nikon has also included an input for external sound that will greatly increase the sound quality and capabilities. 

Powering the D600 is a 7.0V, 1900mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery that is capable of producing 900 images on a single charge when shooting through the optical viewfinder and not using other accessories or the LCD screen much. The number of images will decrease the more you use other functions of the camera and the more you review your images. Nikon also has the MB-D14 Multi Battery grip that allows you to add another battery or AA type batteries to increase your shooting capabilities. This will increase the size of the camera a great deal, but it does add a few additional controls such as another shutter release and command dials that make portrait shooting more comfortable. Also included with the camera is a single battery charger, that quickly charges in any standard outlet. Charging outside the camera allows you to keep more than one battery charged and on hand. A second charger may be useful if you keep several batteries and shoot long sessions.

Bottom Line - The Nikon D600 is a fantastic Full-Frame FX-format dSLR, which offers professional features and quality at a much more affordable price than we are used to seeing for a Full-Frame camera. Nikon has done an excellent job of keeping the body compact and light, making it more appealing to those that travel or want to stay clear of a large pro style camera. To go along with the image sensor, the Expeed 3 processor, incredibly fast AF, huge 3.2-inch LCD and powerful built-in flash really complete the camera, making it as portable as possible. Image quality more than lived up to what we expected from a camera in this price range, and while the performance was also great, it did fall just a little short of Nikon's claims on the high-speed continuous end. With a MSRP of US $2,100.00 for the body or US $2,700.00 for the kit with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens, it still does not fall into everyone's price range. It is definitely worth a look if you are on the fence about stepping up to a professional Full-Frame camera, or if you would be in the market for a more compact, easier to carry body.

You can check out the price of this camera on Adorama by clicking here

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