As I’m sure most of the people who read this site know, the Nikon D600 was announced recently. The simple fact you need to know is that it is an enthusiast level full-frame camera. Not only that, but the starting price of $2099 in the USA is the lowest a full-frame (FF) camera has been offered for from release (technically, the Sony A850 that bombed was $2000?). This camera is interesting enough to me that I felt compelled to write an opinion article on it.
(stock image from nikonusa.com)
What can we expect from a low cost full frame? We can expect a change in the entire game. The other companies will most likely follow suit and that should really change the landscape of digital photography. While there are, of course, used full-frame DSLR cameras below that price point, it still doesn’t open the gate like a new product can. I think 2013 will be the year that we see a wider audience have access to FF sized imaging sensor cameras, which I think is a great step. We are moving back toward an era where film formats were primarily of this size or larger, and better for it in my opinion. I personally love smaller cameras, but I don’t think FF is not capable of being small.
The D600 is larger than the Pentax K-5 (width: 141mm to 131mm height: 113mm to 97mm), but smaller than the Nikon D800 (width: 141mm to 146mm height: 113mm to 123mm). I’m expecting the D600 to be a reasonable size and weight, probably one of the smallest FF interchangeable lens cameras to date. This is great for mobility, yet still keeping the benefit of that large sensor. Nikon has gone further with that by releasing lenses like the 50mm f1.8G and 85mm f1.8G that are a reasonable compromise in price, aperture, and size.
As for specifications, there are a few good points as well as bad points. It is a given that some compromise needs to be made to keep costs down and keeping the camera small. Here are a few specifications and my opinion for each:
24.4 million pixel sensor
A perfect amount and more than sufficient. I always felt the D700 was a bit lacking in this department.
Scene modes available
I personally have no interest in scene modes. However, I assume this was necessary so that full-frame cameras could be offered to a large audience. That means a camera shop would have no problems offering the D600 to a Soccer Mom or a retired serial cruise goer. Anyone is fair game and they would really benefit from the low-light capabilities that were once only reserved for professionals. That being said, I’ll let that feature slide.
Two SD card slots
I’m pleasantly surprised they included two slots. This is fitting considering the D7000, but given the cost cutting measures, it’s nice to see that feature wasn’t omitted. This is more fitting with the enthusiasts than the general consumer, but both can benefit.
100% view 0.70x magnification viewfinder
I’m glad they didn’t skimp here. A nice large bright viewfinder is one of the largest draws to a FF camera. I’d love a camera with a nice large viewfinder like that…
AF-S or AF lenses fully compatible
I don’t know much about Nikon specifications, but I assume that means older screw-driven lenses will auto-focus. I’m glad Nikon didn’t skimp here, because lenses like the 20mm f2.8D AF are very appealing.
1/4000th maximum shutter speed
Here is where we see the main cost cutting measure. I’m sure achieving 1/8000th with a FF sized shutter (and flipping around a big mirror) is one of the larger expenses. I personally would have wanted to see 1/6000th, but considering FF cameras don’t suffer from diffraction as soon as an APS-C camera, this won’t be as much of an issue. Probably the largest negative of this camera, but it is at least fitting with the goal.
Flash sync speed up to 1/200th
Another negative that could cause some issues for enthusiasts. I personally can’t complain coming from Pentax where 1/180th has been the limit for a long time. I don’t even know what more advanced Nikons are capable of in this regard…
5.5 fps maximum continuous shooting speed
This is sufficient given the position of the camera. It’s even faster than the D800, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were using the same processing systems inside. Not bad at all.
ISO from 50 – 25,600
Standard given the Sony sensor in question. It is nice to see ISO 50 as an option because that can help a bit with the slow maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th.
Auto focus sensitivity range -1 to 19 EV
Not great. I would have liked to see it sensitive down to -2. The AF in low light might not be as good as some of their other cameras. As frame of reference to Nikon shooters, the D800 goes from -2 to 20, but the D7000 is the same as the D600.
Video modes as a whole
The video capability looks pretty solid. H.264/MPEG-4 encoding and the standard of 1080p at 30fps with 720p having a 60fps option. It also includes an external mic port, which is good.
– Uses the same batteries as the D7000 and I think one other camera, so it’s good for shooters who use multiple bodies.
– Uses Nikon’s proprietary RAW format, which is a negative for me. This means my copy of Photoshop CS5 and Camera RAW won’t be able to open D600 files. Adobe’s (poor) policy of only updating Camera RAW on their newest version of PS is a poor way to treat customers. For Pentax, I’m not hindered by this issue because their cameras use DNG RAW format. I assume the camera would come with something to open the files, but that would add an extra step to my editing process.
– The official specification page linked above lists Autofocus Fine Tune as available, so if you see that unavailable on another site, it is wrong. Having AF adjustment is a very helpful feature for people who know how to use it.
The D600 is appealing enough to me that I’ve tossed around the idea of switching. The only way that would happen is if I sold my entire current Pentax toolset, which would be a long and difficult process. That being said, I been looking at Adorama to see what type of kit I could piece together and it looks pretty good…
Potential camera kit:
Nikon D600 (primary)
Nikon D7000 (secondary)
Nikon 20mm f2.8D
Nikon 85mm f1.8G
Nikon 50mm f1.8G
Nikon 60mm f2.8D Macro (potential option)
Tamron SP AF70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC (mail in rebate currently for -$100, but I won’t count that in the total)
As I’m not familiar with Nikon flash, I’ll say for now a Sigma EF-610 DG Super flash.
For a total of around $5,525.
Edit, I an starting a revised list as I research what equipment is available, this would be an ideal kit:
Nikon D600 (primary)
Nikon D7000 (secondary)
Nikon 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm f1.8G (my main use lenses)
Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX (basic wide lens)
Tamron SP AF70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC (basic ranged lens)
Lightroom 4 (needed seeing as Photoshop CS5 Camera Raw won’t be getting updates…ugh)
2x Nikon EN-EL15 batteries (surprised they cost so much…)
2x 16gb SanDisk class 10 SD cards (could stand to use a few extra at 24mp)
Nissin Di622 Mark II Digital Flash for Nikon iTTL (simple iTTL flash, not sure on specs yet)
This won’t be happening, but it would be nice…
Would I switch? (update, signs point to yes…) It would be difficult considering my financials, I take donations (link below)! ;), given the need to sell off all of my current equipment, but this is the closest I’ve come in the 7+ years I’ve been using Pentax DSLRs. Well done Nikon.