Nikon D600 review

13 Nov 2012

Nikon cuts the cost but not the quality in this capable full-frame SLR

Price when reviewed: 
1,544(£1,544 inc VAT)
5

Full-frame SLRs used to be out of reach for most amateur photographers, but that's beginning to change. The Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D600 both use full-frame sensors housed in more consumer-orientated bodies. With prices below £1,500 exc VAT, they're enticing propositions for amateur enthusiasts, and might just make the perfect backup camera for professionals too.

The Nikon D600 is the first to arrive in the shops, and our testing lab. It sits neatly between the cheaper Nikon D7000 and the pricier D800 in terms of size, weight and sensor resolution. Physically, it's much closer to the D7000, though, with dual SDXC slots and an almost identical layout of controls. This isn't a criticism. The D7000's sublime ergonomics belie its price, and in practice there's very little difference between all three cameras when it comes to accessing key functions. Almost everything can be adjusted by holding down one of the many labelled buttons and turning a command dial. Thankfully, this includes toggling Auto ISO on and off – something the D7000 leaves buried in the menu.

Nikon D600

The only drawback we found was that reaching for the ISO speed, white balance or JPEG quality controls directly after shooting resulted in us inadvertently locking or zooming the previous picture. The D800 avoids this by splitting these shooting and playback functions to separate buttons. Meanwhile, those who shoot fast-paced action may regret the lack of an AF-On button for triggering autofocus separately to the shutter release. The AE Lock button or the Function button on the front of the camera can be assigned to this task, but this might not be enough to satisfy professionals who need to switch regularly between cameras.

Nikon D600

The autofocus sensor has 39 points, nine of which are cross-type. This matches the specifications of the D7000, and the layout of the points is identical - but they haven't been modified for the full-frame sensor. While on the D7000 they cover a large area, on the D600 they're bunched more in the centre. This is good news when using the 3D tracking mode to follow moving subjects around the frame, but only if they stay relatively near the centre. For subjects towards the edges, the only option is to focus, recompose and shoot. For us, this is the D600's biggest weakness, but it's something we could live with.

The pricier D800 boasts a 36-megapixel sensor, but our comparisons with the 22.3-megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark III revealed that the D800's massive resolution comes at the expense of slower performance and higher noise at fast ISO speeds. Predictably, the D600's 24.3-megapixel sensor can't match the D800 for details, but it challenges the 5D Mark III for low noise and fast performance.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,287
Price inc VAT £1,544
Overall rating 6
Performance 5
Features & Design 4
Image quality 6
Value for Money 6

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 24.3mp
Camera screen size 3.2in
Camera optical zoom range N/A
Camera maximum resolution 6016 x 4016
Camera optical image stabilisation in kit lens

Weight and dimensions

Weight 850g
Dimensions 141 x 82 x 113mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 900 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range fN/A - fN/A
Camera minimum focus distance N/A
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) N/A
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) N/A
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 5EV
ISO range 50 - 25600
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 5.5fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type Dual SDXC
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 921k
Secondary LCD display? yes
Video/TV output? no
Body construction Magnesium alloy, plastic
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type Mini-USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? yes
Software supplied Nikon ViewNX 2
Accessories supplied N/A