2012-09-25

Nikon D600


Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: I'm not buying one.

Counter Opinion: The more is see and handle the Nikon D600 the more impressed I am. I'm having a hard time imagining a better entry into Nikon's world.

Yes, it's expensive, but not overwhelmingly so. Today the D600 and 24-85mm lens costs a little less than what my first SLR did, which was the Olympus E-1 with 14-54mm lens, and I used that for years with just the addition of a cheap macro lens. That's not a bad deal.

Alternatively, buy the D600 body and add the trio of new f/1.8 primes (28, 50, 85) for an awesomely capable set that's still not that big or expensive. Swap one of those fast primes for a macro – the 50/1.8G for 60/2.8G, or 85/1.8G for 105VR – and that base is covered; add an SB-700 flash, a couple of SD cards, and don't buy anything else for a half-decade.


As a D800 owner, I do still see the value in the heavier iron. The higher top shutter speed and flash sync speeds are things that I've used just this week, and printing 16x20" photos at a little over 300dpi certainly doesn't suck. I also already own an MC-30 ten-pin remote, so that's a cost savings right there. Although I am jealous of the D600's ability to use the non-astronomically-priced ML-L3 wireless remote – life's a barter.

In an odd digression from their recent design trend, the shutter button on the D600 isn't as aggressively sloped as on their other 2012 cameras. I'm not sure that it means anything, but it does suggest that the D600 was in development before the new ergonomics were nailed down for the D4/800/3200 designs. Coupled with the D600's quick availability it's fairly clear that Nikon was sitting on skids of these in anticipation of Photokina – and the hubbub over the D800 dying down.

There are a couple of clues that makes me think that the D600 is the FX companion to the D7000 rather than a D800-lite. One big one is that the D600 uses the MC-DC2 remote instead of the ten-pin connector of the 'pro' series. This suggests that the D800 also needs a 'pro' DX companion that could finally replace the D300s, in the same way that the D700/D300 worked together. I could see the difference in control layouts between the D800 and D600 being enough to discourage people from using those two as a pair. As it stands, though, the image zoom in/out buttons are reversed from the D7000, as they are on the D800 and D4 compared to their predecessors, so clearly a model bump in the D7X00 line is in order.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, IQ: I haven't scrutinized it but have no doubt that it'll be excellent. DxOmark has already ranked its results among the best in the world – pushing the top Canon camera out of the top twelve in the process – but in all honesty, there's hasn't been a truly bad camera made in many years. The Olympus E-510 is the last one that comes to mind for me, with its ability to record about one stop of highlight detail above the midtone; if anyone knows of any more recent than that, please let me know.

The biggest D600 news for me is that Nikon has finally included a half-decent a thumb rest. It's not as good as the 5DmkII, but it's a sign that perhaps someone at Nikon has picked up a second-hand F5 from eBay. I do find the hand grip a little narrow, but the thumb ridge makes up for a lot. Including a 100% viewfinder is a strong statement about how highly Nikon thinks of this model, despite its lack of a round viewfinder; Canon missed that mark on its upcoming 6D 'competitor'. The D600's shutter is even a bit quieter than the one on the D800, which is another nice touch.

Nikon has built themselves a very appealing little camera.


Counter Opinions are quick "sales counter" product reviews.
As always, viewer discretion is advised.
Last updated 25 sep 2012

9 comments:

  1. It's almost irresistable, and the top #1 search in our local price search engines here in Germany (where it now starts roundabout 2k€). I was thinking about that very mentioned 3-prime combo lately, and can hardly get it out of my head. Sure, an OM-D is cheaper, lighter, maybe even more cute, and we have that 3-prime combo for that one already, so this will probably break the deal. But oh man...

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  2. The E-M5 is a jewel. But to me the difference is hidden in the sentiments "a very good camera for what it is" versus "a very good camera."

    The Olympus is very good, even compared to 1.5x crop sensors. The D600 is very good, no matter what it's compared to. And yes, there is a huge price difference. But try out the D600, and look through its optical viewfinder, before you decide.

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  3. If I ever need the firepower of a DSLR, this would be at the top of my shopping list, with almost exactly the kit you describe (though I might get the 35/2 instead of the 28/1.8, but neither of those wow me).

    I _guess_ I would look at a 6D. I generally like how the big Canons feel in my hands; I'm sure it's fine. But on specs, the Nikon says it's here to be Prom King while the Canon got dragged to the dance against their will. Nikon is really on an unbelievable streak here.

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  4. My casual, no-inside-information opinion is that Canon knows that they've flubbed this 5D3/6D launch with good but insufficiently compelling products. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they try to realign their price to be just above the D800 very soon.

    I realize the Zeiss ZM 35/2 has ruined me, but I'm just not a fan of the Nikon 35/2D. The 28mm feels like an in-between choice, since I do prefer either 35 or 24 as a focal length, but the 28/1.8G is probably their technically best wide lens, at any price.

    …I've also been thinking that the 28/1.8 and 60/2.8G macro would be a really good two-lens kit, but that's getting way ahead of myself.

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  5. I am also "meh" on 28mm. Maybe because it's so common — how many 28-XXmm kit and megazooms are there now? Perhaps 28mm is mostly being used poorly.

    But 28/1.8 and 60/2.8G macro… yes, that'd be an astoundingly flexible and unquestionably excellent two-lens combo.

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  6. What do you think of the Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S zoom? I'm seriously thinking of this with the D600 as my essential walk-around camera (one body, one lens). I'm thinking about all of this here.

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  7. I have this thing about Nikon's lenses: most of the cheap ones aren't good enough to interest me, and most of the expensive ones aren't better enough to justify their price. But if I was to look for a standard zoom to back up my primes then the 24-85 is where I would end up.

    Its performance isn't stellar, but it's pretty good, and it's not that expensive. Add in software correction for distortion (via Lightroom) and my main complaint about it goes away; stop it down and add in DxO's Optics program and sharpness improves significantly as well.

    But the thing is that same paragraph applies to the 24-70/2.8, 16-35/4VR, and 17-35/2.8 as well – as long as you replace "not that expensive" with "mind-crushingly expensive".

    I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the D600 and 24-85 as a kit. I would suggest adding the 50/1.8G as well, though – that's a genuinely inexpensive lens that is remarkably good, not just good-for-the-price. That's tough to beat.

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  8. I would gladly pay $2,499.00 if Nikon would put inside RGB focus sensor from D800 / D4.

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  9. The good news is that if you're also willing to spend an extra $500 for a faster top shutter speed, faster x-sync, and better build quality, then you're in luck.

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