The one real gripe we have is the placement of the ISO button on the bottom left of the nice 3.2-inch 921,000-dot LCD. Nikon’s higher-end cameras place this in the group of three buttons on the top left of the camera, while many Canon cameras place it just behind the shutter button. Either of those placements make it easy to change ISO while keeping your eye at the finder. We were, on more than one occasion, flummoxed by the odd location of the D600’s ISO button. Worse still, you can’t assign it to one of the function buttons.
As usual, Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II served up excellent exposures even in some tough situations. We were happy to see up to +/–5 EV exposure compensation, but were baffled as to why autobracketing is limited to three frames.
Even more baffling: why the camera’s automatic HDR function combines only two shots. It produced nice results in many situations, and lets you select 1, 2, or 3 EV for the exposure differential. But we’re surprised that Nikon didn’t step this up to three shots.
Burst shooters should like the D600’s 5.5 frames-per-second continuous shooting, which allows for up to 57 full-sized, fine-quality JPEGs or up to 16 14-bit losslessly compressed RAW images before the buffer fills. In our field testing, the camera’s 3D tracking AF did a fine job of keeping up with moving objects.
Video enthusiasts will likely get weak in the knees over the D600’s ability to output an uncompressed HD stream to an external recorder from its HDMI jack. More casual video shooters should be plenty pleased with the quality of the video footage the D600 records to SD cards using Nikon’s usual H.264 encoding. There’s little in the way of artifacts and the footage we captured had well-saturated colors and was pleasingly sharp.
The Bottom Line
As we haven’t yet tested Canon’s EOS 6D, there’s no good point of comparison for the D600. But given the images (both still and moving) that this camera can produce, the well-designed, weather-sealed body, and the vast array of lenses and accessories in the Nikon system, we say it’s well worth the price.
Obviously, we’ll have more to say once the Canon arrives, but for now, the Nikon D600 is the best full-frame bargain you can find. Nikon shooters looking to take their first step into full frame should not hesitate to do so. And Nikon-shooting pros looking to add a backup full-frame body have a wonderful option in the D600. This year’s holiday shopping just got a little bit more interesting.
IMAGING: 24.3MP effective, full-frame (FX) CMOS sensor captures images at 6016x4016 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: Dual SD slots store JPEG, NEF RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 57 shots at 5.5 fps; RAW (14-bit), up to 16 shots at 5.5 fps using an SDHC UHS-I card.
AF SYSTEM: TTL phase detection with 39 selectable focus points (9 cross-type); single-shot and continuous AF with 3D predictive focus tracking. Tested sensitivity down to EV –1 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
LIVE VIEW: TTL phase-detection or contrast-detection autofocus.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-, or 1-EV increments); 150,000-cycle rating.
METERING: TTL metering with 2,016-pixel RGB sensor; Matrix (evaluative), centerweighted, spot (approx. 1.5% viewfinder). EV 0–20 (ISO 100).
ISO RANGE: Normal, ISO 100–6400 (in 1/3-EV increments); expanded, ISO 50–25,600.
VIDEO: Records at 1920x1080p at up to 30 fps; 1280x720p at up to 60 fps; in H.264 MPEG-4 MOV format; uncompressed video output available through HDMI jack; built-in mono microphone; stereo minijack input; maximum clip length: 29 min. 59 sec.
FLASH: Built-in pop-up; GN 39 (feet); hot shoe for dedicated i-TTL autoflash; flash sync to 1/200 sec.
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level pentaprism.
LCD: 3.2-inch TFT with 921,000-dot resolution; 11-step brightness adjustment.
OUTPUT: USB 2.0, mini HDMI video, composite video, and analog audio.
BATTERY: Rechargeable EN-EL15 Li-ion, CIPA rating 900 shots (with optical viewfinder).
SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.6x4.4x3.2 in., 1.9 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $2,100, body only.