The Nikon D600 review: full frame for the masses?

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Some cameras launch with a huge amount of anticipation and fanfare, some are surprises from far left field, and some are simply such poorly kept secrets that the manufacturer might as well just have skipped the announcement. Although the Nikon D600 falls squarely into the last category, I think photographers in the world were pleased when it finally broke official cover. The camera itself breaks almost zero new ground technically – it doesn’t push boundaries in any way. Not quite what you expected me to say in the first paragraph, I bet. This is not to say that it’s a bad camera; far, far from it.

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Smaller than the D800, but you’ve got to put them side by side to see it. Subjectively, it’s lighter but you don’t really notice in use; it feels about the same weight because the square handgrip design requires you to exert more pinky pressure, which makes the whole thing feel a bit heavier than it is…

I think two questions were on the mind of the Nikon enthusiasts and pros after the launch of the D800 (full review here) and D800E (which curiously, I’ve never actually reviewed): firstly, was this the D700 replacement, and why the enormous resolution? The D800 snuck in at the same price point as the D700 back in 2008; subsequent erosion of the D700 saw prices fall to the US$2200 level or thereabouts, at least for street prices in this part of the world. The older model continued in the lineup together with the higher spec (and higher priced) D800 pair. At this point, however, the technology inside the D700 was five years old – an age in the digital world, and possibly the oldest sensor architecture still purchasable new (with the exception of the Leica M9, whose photosite design was inherited from the 2006 M8).

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Awaiting departure. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

The D700 and D3 were turning points in Nikon’s history: first full frame, and first time in recent memory the noise advantage shifted decisively away from Canon. Even today, the D700 remains an excellent camera – mine has over 70,000 frames under its belt and hasn’t missed a beat. I still use it on reportage assignments or where the client doesn’t require 36MP and the associated enormous files. (My long term review of the D700 is here.) This review will be written from the point of view of a long-term D700 (100,000+ frames on two bodies) and D800E (20,000 frames between the D800 and D800E) user, with comparisons and references to both.

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Man in blue. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

Over the last few months, I’ve received no end of emails from prospective upgraders asking if the D800 was the camera for them; my answer is a resounding no. If you need the level of image quality this camera can deliver, you’ll know it, and you won’t need to ask me. If you don’t, and you buy it, you might be surprised that it doesn’t quite deliver the same pixel-level crispness as the D700 or D3. It’s an excellent machine, supplanting low-end medium format gear, but it also requires the rest of the support (lenses, processing workflow) to go along with it.

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Car lust. I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge BMW fan. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

Note: this review, as with all of my other camera reviews, is written from the point of a working professional. Images are edited through my usual Photoshop workflow as this is how I’ll be using the camera normally; I don’t shoot JPEG SOOC other than for client previews. For those who think it skews results, Photoshop benefits all images equally: it can make a great shot even better, but it can’t fix something that should have been there at the time of capture. EXIF data is intact and can be viewed by clicking through the image to its Flickr hosting page.

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Rain = traffic, Kuala Lumpur. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

Enter the D600. I think it’s best described as a hybrid of the D7000 and D800; it inherits the feel, construction, AF system and controls of the former, with most of the innards of the latter. It falls between the two in size, too, but it closer to the D7000 in ergonomics and weight. It also has a similar shutter/ mirror feel to the D7000 – well damped, and much quieter than D700 or D800, but is limited to 1/4000s instead of 1/8000s. Mirror blackout feels about the same as the D7000, which is still excellent. You won’t notice shutter lag with any of these cameras, which are all in the 40-50ms range. All three share the same EN-EL15 battery. The rest of the spec falls squarely in the middle, too: 24MP, 5.5fps (no boost with the optional EN-EL14 battery grip, and no provision for taking the larger/ higher capacity battery from the D4); 1080p30 or 720p60 video, native ISO range from 100-6400 with extension to 50 or 25.6k.

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Selat Mosque, Malacca. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

It uses the same EXPEED 3 processor as the D800, which means shunting around those largish 14bit files with relative abandon; the 14-bit lossless compressed RAW buffer is 10 frames. (Despite the files being smaller, it doesn’t feel any faster, though.) You also get a 100% finder with 0.7x magnification, but not the round eyepiece or eyepiece shutter; it’ll take the DK21M magnifier, and has a reasonably high eyepoint – I can see the whole frame just fine with my glasses. Sadly, the focusing screen has become even less snappy than the D800; it’s nearly impossible to use for manual focus without the focus assist dot. Fortunately, live view works the same way as on the D800, with a button to enable it surrounded by the still/ movie mode switch. It’s also inherited the record button placed behind the shutter, and the slightly difficult to reach second button – except now it controls metering mode, with exposure modes placed on a lockable dial – together with the fully customizeable U1 and U2 memory positions from the D7000. You also get IR remote receiver ports on the front and the back in lieu of the 10-pin connector on the front, which neither the D700 nor D800 have.

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Pick’n’mix for grown ups. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

It definitely doesn’t feel as solid or dense as the D800, let alone the D700; but if you haven’t handled either, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. Nikon claims a magnesium-alloy top panel, polycarbonate bottom section and magnesium frame, although the only way you’ll really be able to tell you paid a bit less is the feel of the rubber grips – it’s definitely D7000 semi-slippery and not D800/ D700 sticky. I personally don’t find the shape that comfortable either; it’s too square around the bottom portion where you little finger rests. The body has environmental seals to about the same level as the D7000; the gaskets don’t look as robust as those on the D700 or D800, and certainly not the D4. Curiously, I don’t feel either the D600 or D800 are true replacements for the D700; neither will do 8fps, and the model that shares the same build (D800) has such a high pixel count that it isn’t really suitable for some applications such as photojournalism or low light work. The D700 line has thus bifurcated into a more serious and less serious option.

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Slurp. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

There is one huge improvement in usability that’s worth mentioning: in manual exposure mode and live view, the camera now shows a usable/ visible image rather than the actual shooting exposure, which means that you can easily manual focus with a flash setting (say 1/200s, f8, ISO 100) in ambient light rather than having to change exposure or switch between aperture priority and manual to be able to see your image. The image is also a lot sharper than the D800 and not blocky – it’s much easier to tell what is in focus, and what isn’t. Needless to say, we don’t need to talk about usability of the D700’s live view function – putting it on the drive mode dial was just clunky, and precluded the use of the self timer or mirror lockup to minimize vibration.

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The surprise joy of finding you just might be in love. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

On the other hand, the D600 lacks a few controls that I’ve come to rely on in my normal workflow with the D700 and D800E, and as a result feels a bit more amateur than I’d like, mainly due to the number of button presses required for some things. Once again, if you’ve never used either D700 or D800, you probably won’t know or won’t miss them: specifics that come to mind are single-button zoom to a desired magnification level in playback using the center multi-selector; having the metering switch around the AE-AF-L button, and a separate AF-ON button. There are also fewer custom settings, though, notably around control configurability and autofocus. It’s also worth noting that although the camera has the same levelling display as the D800 in live view mode, it lacks the two-axis overlay in the viewfinder; instead, it uses the exposure meter to show left-right tilt, at the expense of the other shooting information which subsequently disappears. The LCD also appears to be less accurate for judging exposure than before; it appears much brighter and more contrasty than the actual image, which is something I haven’t seen on Nikon’s typically accurate LCDs.

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Untitled. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

You get the 39-point MultiCAM 4800FX autofocus module in this camera, not the wide-field CAM3500FX system in the D700 and D800 – and the cause of much consternation amongst D800 owners for the notorious ‘left side AF’ issue. I’m pleased to report that after extensive testing and specifically looking for the problem, autofocus on the D600 is fast, accurate and positive even with moving subjects; perhaps feeling a little more ‘solid’ than the D800 – more like the D700, in this sense. My particular example required no AF fine tune adjustment with most of my lenses, and -5/20 on the 28/1.8. CAM4800 has been tried, tested and proven in the D7000, and performs equally well here; it’s even been tweaked a bit to be able to focus consistently with lenses as slow as f8 to allow reliable use with 2x teleconverters.

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A glimpse into home and family. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

The one bad piece of news regarding autofocus is that the points are now even more clustered around the center of the frame than the CAM3500FX cameras; it seems that the base AF sensor itself has been taken from the D7000 and used without adaptation to the field of coverage. The overall coverage area is similar to the Canon 5DII, and it doesn’t cover the rule of thirds points, meaning that you’re almost always going to have to focus and reframe with off-center subjects, whereas the outermost row of five points would cover these subjects on the D700 and D800. Still, I’d rather have reliable accuracy over wider coverage, but ideally we should have both. The AF mode controls now use the new Nikon system of button plus command dial; rear to select AF-S or AF-C, and front to choose the number of points or 3D tracking.

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Stall proprietors sometimes remind me of thespians. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

In some ways, I miss the physical switches of the last generation, but having these settings electronically selectable means that you can save all settings, including AF configuration, to the U1 and U2 mode dials – I’ll probably keep one set up for regular reportage-style shooting with 11-point AF-C, aperture priority and auto-ISO, and the other for studio/ flash work at the X-sync speed (1/200s), manual exposure mode, base ISO, and 39-point AF-C. I wish my D800E had this option. That said, I’ll probably leave the D600 set up for reportage, and the D800E for studio work.

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Lantern and Dunlop. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

The D600 uses Nikon’s tried and tested RGB metering sensor (which also feeds color information to the AF system for subject tracking, as well as face recognition); it appears to be less biased to the active focus point than in the consumer cameras, but not quite as accurate for the overall scene like the D700; the camera seems to meter a bit hot in dark scenes, and a bit under for light/ white scenes – it seems we’ve taken a step backwards here. I feel the D700 generation had the most reliable metering of the lot; the D800 falls somewhere between the two. Auto white balance is accurate, and can safely be used for most situations.

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A curious symmetry. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

I believe the D600 shares the same base Sony sensor as the A99 (previewed here). It’s a 24MP CMOS design, apparently customized for Nikon – in the process losing the A99’s 10fps capability (or perhaps deliberately, to protect the D4’s position in the line as flasgship). Uncompressed RAW is no longer an option, but the whole workflow is 14bit. In any case, I remember testing the difference between lossless compressed and uncompressed NEF with the D3 and not being able to see any difference. The sensor delivers the same color palette as all of the other modern 14-bit Nikons; no surprises here. It’s worth noting that despite the larger pixel pitch, the D600 only matches it for dynamic range – somewhere around 13.5 stops useable at base ISO, which is on par with the leading DSLRs at the moment.

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Full test scene.

D600-D700-D800E low iso comparison
Low ISO crops. Click here for 100% version. As usual go by what I say, not what you see; you’re looking at an artefacted JPEG, not the original file.

D600-D700-D800E high iso comparison
High ISO crops. Click here for 100% version.

Both D600 and D800E produce slightly cleaner images at the pixel level than the D700 at identical print sizes; they’re also cleaner at the pixel level. The D600 doesn’t seem to gain anything over the D800E though; if anything, there appears to be more chroma noise at a lower, blotchier frequency. There’s also some softening going on; it seems that NR OFF isn’t really NR OFF on the D600 in the same way that it is on the D700 an D800E. The D600 also isn’t holding anywhere near as much detail – the AA filter no doubt has some bearing on that. What’s surprising is that at ISO 6400 and above, I’m not sure it’s outresolving the D700, either – look at the numbers in the purple swatch. The D700 also has noticeably less chroma noise; the amplitude is higher, but the grain pattern appears tighter and almost entirely monochromatic. Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to use ISO 6400 under normal conditions, and perhaps 12800/HI1 under duress with a significant amount of postprocessing. One important caveat: Adobe Camera Raw does not yet support the D600, so I couldn’t put the files through my usual workflow. I used the default Neutral picture control with sharpness at 7 and HIGH ISO NR off from all three cameras; though it seems that sharpening 7 means different things on the different bodies I believe I’ll probably gain another incremental bit of image quality once I can run the files through my normal workflow. Such are the downsides of early adoption. For now though, a flat JPEG is eminently useable, if lacking in some of the tonal plasticity of a good NEF. The lens used was a Zeiss 2/50 Makro-Planar at f5.6, focused at high magnification with live view. The cameras were locked down on a Gitzo 5-series Systematic tripod and Manfrotto Hydrostat head.

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Inside the ‘kitchen’. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

Overall, it’s safe to say the D600 shoots with the dynamic and tonal range of the D800, with the low light usability of the D700 – in part due to the lower pixel density sensor, and in part due to the very low vibration shutter. The large pixel pitch also means that it’s more forgiving when it comes to lens quality; needless to say anything that performs well on the D800E is going to perform well on the D600; I’m primarily using my AFS 28/1.8 G and 85/1.8 G without issue. Image quality is definitely closer to the D800 than the D700, and under circumstances where you can’t achieve sufficiently high shutter speeds, I suspect the D600 may well yield a better image than the D800 can, simply because it’s less demanding on the photographer.

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Feeling the emptiness and abandonment. Nikon D600, 85/1.8 G

Battery life may well be the best of all of the current Nikons – I’m estimating around 2,000+ frames per charge with my normal shooting pattern (400 frames with a mix of CLS, live view and regular CH reportage/ street cost 20% in battery life). No flash and short bursts of 2-3 shots yielded the results below – without a photo, I don’t think any of you would have believed it. I certainly wouldn’t – that extrapolates to about 3,400 frames/ charge! If that’s still not enough for you, there’s an optional MB-D14 vertical grip that allows addition of another EN-EL15 battery; the grip is physically smaller to match the size of the camera, so it can’t physically fit the larger battery from the D4, and consequently doesn’t get a frame rate boost with the grip installed.

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I don’t remember seeing this even on my D3. Whatever they’re doing with that new sensor, it’s very, very power-frugal. Also, the test was done with an older battery from my D800E which had been cycled a few times – so it’s not a new cell anomaly. The screen appears monochrome because the highlights are blown; it was a very dark scene and shot for illustrative purposes only.

I don’t have much to say about the camera’s video capabilities – I’m leaving that for persons more knowledgeable than myself; I’m absolutely not a videographer. However, on the few quick panning test videos I’ve done, I see minimal rolling shutter and to my eyes, it looks slightly more fluid overall than the D800’s video. This isn’t entirely surprising given the sensor’s shared origins with Sony’s heavily video-centric A99; video has traditionally been one of the company’s strengths. I believe the D600 also has the same capability as the D800E to stream uncompressed video out to an external recorder via HDMI, which will make it an interesting option for videographers on a budget.

The D600 didn’t receive anywhere near the same fanfare or hype as the D800/ D800E at introduction; perhaps it was the long rumour train, or perhaps it was the fairly conservative spec sheet. However, I think this is going to be one of those cameras that enjoys a long burn in much the same way as the D70 and D700 did – it brought a decent feature set with a sizeable leap in image quality at a new low price point. The D600 body retails at US$2,100 or thereabouts. In that respect, I feel in the long term it will do for full frame what the D70 did for DSLRs in general: it made it accessible. It’s more than enough camera for the average user, yet not so much that getting the most out of it becomes a challenge, like the D800/ D800E. The D600 is full frame for the masses; if you’re not a pro but you’re itching for an upgrade from your D700 or D7000, this is probably what you’ve been waiting for.

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Untitled. Nikon D600, 28/1.8 G

You’ll notice I haven’t said much about its nearest immediate competition, the Canon 6D – that’s because I haven’t handled one. But I’d be surprised if there was any dramatic difference in image quality; photographers will pick one or the other based on the lenses they already own. Both of these cameras would make excellent travel outfits. Personally, I’m currently trying to decide if I’ll stick with the OM-D or go with a D600 and a couple of pancake primes. Both are capable of delivering excellent image quality in the right hands, have a few tradeoffs, but neither would be taxing to carry and shoot for an extended period of time in the same way a D800 and suitable lenses would. It’s the first big camera I’ve bought that didn’t feel like it was a dramatic upgrade in some way to what I had previously (think D200 to D3, or D700 to D800E) ; but a solid, incremental upgrade in all directions.

In conclusion: the Nikon D600 may not be the D700 replacement or make waves like the D3 did, but for most users it’s going to be like Goldilocks: just right. MT

The Nikon D600 is available here from B&H and Amazon (body only or kit (with 24-85 VR lens).

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Comments

  1. Hi Ming- I appreciate the thorough review. A quick question: The last couple shots- the ones of the food vendors on the streets- seem to be shot at rather low iso levels for the apparent light. Could you shed some light on this? 😉 Seriously though, did you underexpose and lift the lows/mids in post? If not, what do you think of the d600’s potential ability to be shot in such a manner? Thank you for any insight you may have on this matter.

  2. Ming,

    I have the D600 and like the pictures you took with it. What were you camera setting when you tool those pictures? i especially like the last one (6000779b). What post processing did you do? I like how the image pops with details and color. Are there any specific camera setup that you use? I am looking to get quality shots like that from my D600.

    Thanks

    • No specific settings. Aperture priority and the right amount of exposure compensation. If you nail the basics of photography and postprocessing, that’s all you need. It’s not in the camera – it’s in the way you shoot.

      • castiel diallo says:

        indeed. i came to the realization that putting the d600 in DX mode for street photography would compensate for the centre biased focus points. i should think 12mp is sufficient for this undertaking, yes? does this camera have “aperture preview” a la d800, and do you do HDR with a single photo and LIGHT ROOM editing?

        • Sufficient providing your shot discipline is adequate. No, it doesn’t show the shooting exposure in live view, but it has depth of field preview buttons. I don’t use Lightroom.

  3. hi Ming,
    After reading i still cant make up which camera to buy, a d600 or d700(can still buy brand new online)? mainly i am taking pictures of landscape and kids. Which camera gives better picture quality in terms of colour and sharpness? I am new to camera and taking classes.
    thank you

  4. Looking at your skin tone colors of the different pictures that you put up, are you using the vivid colors of Nikon? Because the colors of the different skin tones taken on Nikon and Leica look quite similar…. or is it just a post processing method?

    Love your blog, and your work!

    • I don’t use any out of camera settings. In general, every file is shot RAW and processed through photoshop for consistent colour; I aim to deliver consistent color regardless of of camera. For the D600 review, I used a desaturated, low-contrast JPEG to give me the flexibility to put the tonal range where I wanted in the final image, plus retain as much dynamic range information as possible.

      • Thanks Ming! Appreciate the reply to my query. Look forward to seeing more interesting photos and reviews from you!

  5. dear dear Ming
    i read that one of the famous photographer stated in his blog that D600 would be the body he would recommend to folks over the D800. one of this reasons is it has the same “e4″ flash custom setting like the D4, can you help me to understand what that custom do ? and how is it really important, and if it lacks in D800?
    one more thing how the technique of (focus and recompose) will affect your speed to acquire focus especially in macro when u are shooting insects… i think i going to miss a lot of shots for active insects when relying on the technique ..what to u think , is not that a real limitations because of those cluster focus points?

    • It’s exposure compensation for flash over the entire frame or background only; basically in addition to adjusting flash power (affects the foreground) it will also adjust the exposure to brighten the background. I personally don’t use this as I run in manual mode whenever I use flash anyway; I prefer it because you get more control that way.

      Focus and recompose is definitely going to affect your response time, and yes, I’m slower because of the centered cluster of points.

  6. Using DX lenses I believe it will deliver 10.5MP DX-format crop mode. Hence, do you see any drop in image quality if using DX lenses e.g. 17-55F2.8 or 35F1.8 in comparison with similar lenses onto D7000 or D300s body?

  7. Hey Ming love your site, praise it to everybody. Being absolutely a nonpro I just love to make pictures. I recently got hold of the D800e after 6 years with D200. My abilities aside the reason to the hefty upgrade was that it had good video reviews and it just might hold another 6 years until next upgrade. So in 2018 I don`t have the feeling that all the pictures I took in the meantime was undersized. In 2018 we could easely have reached 36MP resolution screens. Besides, right now, its so funny to crop a picture – and still being able to hold a high resolution.

    • Thanks Jesper. I’d still avoid cropping if I were you, it means that a) you’re not using all of the resolution you paid for and b) you’re not making the most of your perspectives – a 24mm does not render like a 24mm anymore; it’s impossible to get a strong image if you can’t previsualize your shot and this includes perspective use.

      • Jesper Helbo says:

        Thank you for the quick reply. Every picture as an imagination before the shot and to be kept as so after – or deleted. You are right. Every picture tells a story, cropped or not,- but you should know when you take the picture, what the story is. I guess this is where I am not the real artist. Often I dont know excatly what i want, just feeling the moment. Im still an imature picturemaker,- the best pictures resemble something i have seen before – therefore the visualization is a strive to copy others. And when i “gut” shoot it is a weak pursue trying to see things different from what i have seen in others.

        • I think you just need some more practice – both technically, to give you the tools to create what you envision, and to be able to see and conceptualize strong ideas in the first place.

  8. Michael Jan Nelson says:

    Dear Ming,

    Thank you for your very thorough and insightful review of the D600: sufficiently detailed, technical and documented. Of the many reviews that I have read, yours was the most helpful in providing understanding of the camera and its differentiation from its bigger and smaller brothers.

    Again thank you,

    Mike

  9. Hi, I just want to say you’re one of the few photographers who have the talent and skills to match their professional gear. I think I’ve learned a few things as to what and how I should do with my camera just from taking a look at your work. You’re excellent.

  10. Thank you for the very detailed review. I am researching an upgrade from my D90 and keep bouncing back and forth from the D7000, D600, and D800. You review has been by far the most complete I’ve found for the D600.

    • I think the D600 probably best fits what you need, unless you shoot wildlife and need that 1.5x boost.

      • Actually, wildlife and landscapes are my key subjects. it’s complicated as cost, weatherproofing, and battery life are all key considerations as well. I am moving to rural Borneo soon, to an area with heavy rains and intermittent power.

        I have heard of people reporting oil spattering on the sensor of both the D600 and the D7000. Have you had this occur with your D600?

        • Hmm, you might actually want the D7000 for wildlife. Landscape is solvable because there are decent DX wides. The weatherproofing is the same as the D600, i.e. one notch below the 700 and 800.

          No oil issues here.

  11. CG-Malaysia says:

    Hi Ming
    Read your earlier response to Hanshan…

    My query will be made comparing D600 vs D700.
    Will you lose more sharpness integrity of the focused area (eg. eye of the subject) when you recompose in the D600, assuming equal recomposed distance in the D600 and D700 respective viewfinders?

    Btw, you’ve one of the best photography blogs I’ve ever come across!

  12. Ming,

    thanks for a great review! i’m coming from shooting a canon film camera. i just use three primes, and i am fine with giving those up for a nikon 24/1.4g, 85/1.8g, and a 50.

    it seems canon got it right with autofocus and metering, but overall the 5d iii did not sound like great value. therefore, i was ready to go with a d800. i planned on shooting 5:4 crop to slightly reduce file size, and also to give a very full frame of autofocus points. (i got a fuji x-pro for walking around, handheld shots.)

    i was going to use the d800 mostly on a tripod, for landscape and portraits. but your review spooked me a bit. i wondered if it would be too much for my first digital camera. still . . . i figured i would grow into it. and i trust myself to figure things out. i tried a d800 at the local store . . . the lighting forced all shots to go to high iso . . . over 4500. (i had set shutter at 2x focal length, so the images were sharp enough—and they were.) it looked much worse than i thought it would in terms of noise. fuji does much better at higher iso in my opinion. i will print some of those images soon and see how downsampling worked on them.

    so, trying to figure this out . . . the d600 is what i HOPED canon was going to do with the 5d iii. the dynamic range of this sensor is what they should have delivered. too bad nikon didn’t make one of these with a d800-type body!

    anyway, i’m thinking of choosing the d600 over the d800. i was so excited about the 24/1.4, but dismayed that you were not happy with it on the d800. did you use it on the d600? and how about the 85/1.8g? better, worse, same on d600 vs d800?

    i rely on af, and i am a little concerned about af on the d600 since i can’t so perfectly use my 5:4 approach to getting focus points at the edges. sure, one gets used to where the cut-off points are. but with the d800 you can see them in 5:4 mode! and it gives you a feeling of a very full frame of focus points.

    you do say in your review that . . . well, you seem to suggest that the d600 is quite precise: “perhaps feeling a little more ‘solid’ than the D800.” i was surprised by that. however, you also say that you actually focus and recompose on the d600. so, i am wondering if those outer points are not as reliable in your experience. focus and recompose from center to edge of frame is troublesome in some situations, at very wide apertures. in general, people have expressed a lot of disappointment in the d600 focusing array. for portrait and landscape, i think it shouldn’t be so big a deal, but if the autofocus is not as good as the d800, i would be inclined to go with the latter. i also occasionally shoot dancers, in low light. i don’t quite need d4-level autofocus. but i do need precise and reliable.

    d800 still seems very compelling for portraits and landscapes (and the mild action of low light dance). but maybe the autofocus is really no better overall. also, i know that in terms of sheer image quality, the d600 has enough for me.

    (also, i have larger hands. the d600 feels really awful to me. i bet a grip will greatly improve things. the d800 is more comfy, but even that would need a grip. canon got ergonomics much better, even if the actual u.i. on nikon is great. but that’s another story.)

    okay . . . back to work. thanks again for all your help!

    • And, by the way, you not only have a great blog, but you make some damn fine images. and i would be less inclined to trust you otherwise. there is SO much nonsense out there in terms of gear opinions.

    • Wait for the 6D since you’re a Canon shooter.

      The D600’s AF points are all precise, but they’re just so close together that it’s faster to center-focus and recompose than select one and still have to recompose slightly.

      • thanks for the reply. with respect . . . maybe not “equates” . . . because that might go too far. tiger woods may not be the best golf coach. why not? because he may not actually understand HOW he does what he does. knowing how and knowing about aren’t the same. moreover, tiger might just suck at explaining, diagnosing, motivating.

        but, i do take into account the fact that you have some really great stuff up here in terms of images, and you DO seem to understand quite a lot about the how of it all. so, it’s a general compliment. and your reviews make a lot of sense. except for recommending the 6d. 😉

        but seriously, the d600 seems to offer much better dynamic range, shadow detail, and overall value. except for af and metering, it seems to give the bloody 5d iii a run for its money. my years with an old ae-1 film camera are not enough to make me wedded to canon. in any case, my lenses are manual focus, and i’m done with that. i admire you manual focusers. and it’s a little more primal. but i am happier with autofocus.

        ***however, i am still wondering about those lenses. have you used the 85/1.8 g or the 24/1.4g on the d600?

        ***also, as far as focus . . . i have heard people say that the d800 is really good at guessing the subject you want to focus on, and that if it doesn’t guess the first time, it usually guesses on the second try. so i was in part asking about the af sensor’s ability to, say, detect a face and lock onto the nearest eye (which the d800 is supposedly pretty good at). i live on the california coast, and anything in favor of the d800 makes me lean that way to get maximal impact on those landscape shots, as well as the portraits of the lovely souls who live here.

        of course, much of this must sound like nonsense to a pro like you. it’s nice as hell of you to indulge all of us crazy-hearted amateurs. still, we love the same thing in the end: it’s all for beauty.

        • Thank you.

          Hold on a minute: don’t make a snap judgement to switch systems on the basis of third hand information. I doubt the difference will really be that large. But if you have no lens commitments – then whatever works.

          No, I sold both my 85/1.4 G and 24/1.4 G after finding they didn’t work that well on the D800E.

          I’m manually focusing my D800E for just about everything because the AF system just isn’t accurate enough for my liking, especially to wring every last bit of detail out of that sensor.

  13. Hi Ming,
    Thanks for the review. I shoot mostly at my church which is very poorly lit and has horrible multi-colored stained glass windows. I’m getting a bit older and less steady in the hands. I have a d700. I understand that the d600 is about one stop better at high iso but is also needing higher shutter speed to get clean pics. So … is this basically a wash? By the time I use one stop extra with the d600, will I immediately loose that stop be having to dbl the shutter speed? I always have to use the expo-disc or grey card with the d700 as I don’t like the skin tones with the d700. Are the d600 color more accurate?

    Thanks
    Andy

  14. Hey Ming,
    Just Google-stumbled my way to your blog while searching for D600 and ended up reading dozens of your posts over couple of days. You light your shots like a true artist, which impressed me a lot.

    I primarily shoot environmental portraits using Pentax but now I am considering a switch out to Nikon full frame. I had one question for you about Face Recognition: D800 with its 91K RGB meter (370×246 grid) is supposed to be able to detect faces far better using skin tone + shape information compared to D600’s 2016 pixel meter (55×37 grid). Once a face is detected, D800 meter biases exposure for the face. Face detection metering, if implemented well, can come in quite handy for tricky lighting situations.

    In your shooting experience, did you feel that D800 was seeking out faces and exposing correctly for them? How big is this difference in practical usage compared to D600?

    Thanks!
    Kay

    • Thanks Kay. My D800E is used almost entirely for studio work, so I shoot manual with flash 99% of the time – the remaining 1%, I didn’t think the matrix metering was anything special; to be honest, it felt less reliable/ predictable than the D700 and got easily fooled by either bright point sources or what was directly under the AF point. That said, it’s no worse than the competition, just seemingly not quite as infallible as its predecessor.

  15. Hi Ming,
    Thanks for a great review. I am looking for a new camera for my growing family. I will have a newborn soon. I like to take good family portrait and landscape photo(my hobby). Looking for a new camera system with great image quality, replacing my aging camera- CanonXTi (I don’t have much investment in Canon lenses).I have used this camera extensively over the last 4 years. I’ve read lots and lots of reviews. My choice comes down to MFT with full range of lenses VS Nikon full frame with few primes. Will I miss much image quality if I go with MFT? Thanks again.

    Teera

  16. Really appreciate your reviews – THANK YOU Ming! I think I’ve read all 222 comments, too ; )
    I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but…. I’m shooting portraits and weddings with my trusty ol’ D300…. I’m going to love the D600 right?!? (The D800 files are too big for my liking)

    • Haha, no problem – You’ll love the D600 except for the very centrally-concentrated AF area – especially coming from the D300.

      • Thank you for your reply Ming! I just rented the D600 for the weekend to try out and I thought I loved it until I found a bunch of images with moire.. argh! Was not expecting that and haven’t had issues with moire since my D70 9 years ago. Love how sharp it is and the noise, or lack there of, is superb, but I’m not impressed to see moire. Sigh.

        • No problem. I haven’t seen moire in any of my images. A possible solution is to stop down a bit more so diffraction removes the moire…I do this with my D800E sometimes when shooting heavily textured subjects.

  17. Tom Martin says:

    Dear Ming: thanks for the superb site (just found it today). Like many, I’m deciding between the D600 and D800E. I have a slightly different usage scenario than I think is normally discussed. Economically (and for familiarity), I’d like to invest in one set of lenses. Ideally one body. And in any event, I only want to carry one set of gear when I’m shooting. My two usage situations are events, where I want to cover both people (street scenes, essentially) and interesting objects, but then I need to switch to long-distance shots of action. The other application is basically landscapes, where a tripod/monopod is sometimes possible. For the latter, I’d like to be able to print large at times (up to 4′ wide).

    Initially, the D800E seemed ideal, if possibly overkill, because I am viewing the D800E or D600 as a flexible set of cameras, not as a spec that always must be maximized.. But some reviews, like yours, raise questions about the difficulty of applying the D800E casually (e.g. outside the studio). My question is this: is this a hard limitation of the D800E, where you actually get inferior results compared with say a D600 or D7000? Or is it more a case of “you won’t get the most out of the D800E”, but if you use lower res settings and/or DX mode your results will be perfectly good?

    • Thanks Tom. You can use the D800E as a general purpose camera; the caveat of ‘you won’t get the most out of it’ is because it puts a huge number of pixels per each degree of field of view, the highest yet; you will need much higher shutter speeds to handhold than you think. I’m finding 1/2x or even 1/3x is required. If you want to make 4′ wide landscapes, the extra resolution of the D800E will make a difference. But ask yourself: which will you be doing more of? I think that will tip the decision either way for you. Even the D600 I’m finding needs a bit higher shutter speeds than expected. Perhaps the 12-20MP range was the sweet spot for most handheld applications…

  18. D600 it better than my D800 lol…. I want to change my gear ha ha

  19. Thanks Ming for the very informative D600 review. Got hold of one day after,, when I set it to WB to A, it does its job of correcting the tungsten yellow the 1st time. when it was turn off/on again it did not do the job and after 5 shots it works again..Ming do you encounter this problem. Thanks

  20. Ming,
    I am still trying to troubleshoot the D600 and figure out what I may be doing wrong or right. I purchased the lens align system and my Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4D lens repeatedly front focuses in live view. My first concern is whether I am misinterpreting the test results, but the 4 which sits on the ruler just in front of the 0 to my view is clearly the sharper image. Is it possible to send you the photo to look at to get your opinion? If my interpretation is correct, could that mean there is a sensor misalignment issue or some other problem?

    I cannot thank you enough for your help, and I suspect I speak for many others out there who love photography. It is very hard for hobbyists striving to learn more to find resources for personal help and assistance. I know it is only very little, but I did use your Amazon link to purchase a new SD card for the camera. I will use that link exclusively in the future as I expand my camera equipment, hopefully next with the zoom lens I asked you about previously, but first I need to get things figured out with the D600 before I can go forward. Thank you.
    Kim

    • That sounds very odd indeed. You are using single-point AF-S and defocusing the lens manually before running the test, correct? This should theoretically be impossible; the only thing I can think of is that the camera is focusing on the wrong thing. You should be focusing on the vertical target portion, not the ruler – if it’s too small, bring it closer to the camera.

      • Ming – Yes, I set up the test exactly as you described. I used a 50 mm Nikkor f/1.4D measured exactly 5 feet from the test target, focusing exactly on the central sighting port in the center of the vertical target. The minimum distance at which the test can be run with this lens according to the lens align distance tool is 4 feet. I sent my “set up photo” taken in standard color profile at f/8 and my “test photo” taken in live view at f/1.6 to Michael Tapes, the designer of lens align. He verified accurate set up and front focusing in live view. At your suggestion, I repeated the testing tonight at progressively closer distances between the camera and the test target and with each change, front focusing got less and less. Finally at a distance of 26 inches from the vertical front target of lens align to the camera sensor did the front focusing cease in live view. I believe and correct me if I am wrong, that the sensor is taking in a larger area than what one would think given where the focus point shows up on the image or the sensor is not exactly where it is marked as being. I think I should probably return the camera unless you think this finding is within acceptable tolerances. I am interested iin hearing your thoughts about this. Thanks again for all your help and teaching.

        • Honestly, this result doesn’t make any sense at all. In LV, the camera uses the imaging sensor to focus the lens, which means that whatever image you get is as good as it’s going to get. (I presume you used a tripod, of course). This could mean that your lens has issues at longer distances (unlikely) – it is possible to have high resolution and low contrast, and vice versa. I don’t remember being particularly impressed with the 50/1.4 D or G on even the D700 though. How about borrowing another 50/1.4D and trying again? Is the effect still there at f2?

      • Hello Ming – I have not been able to borrow another 50 mm f/1.4D, but I am still working on figuring this out. Wonder if it has something to do with field curvature. I am going to abandon this lens and move forward as planned with a lens purchase since I am heading out for vacation to see the change of seasons in the mountains and looking forward to taking the D600 along. You have convinced me of using prime lenses instead of a zoom, especially after my recent testing showed my Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 to be an AF fine tune 0 at 80 mm and -12 at 200 mm on the D600. By the way, is this within factory tolerance for this lens or should I send it to Nikon for repair?

        I plan instead of getting the 24-70 mm we discussed a few days ago, to get a pair of prime lenses as you advise, specifically the Nikkor 85 mm and 28 mm f/1.8G lenses you recommend. However, I read that the 28 mm has not only focus shift problems causing back focusing which peaks at f/5.6, but also has a donut field curvature problem. This makes me a little nervous after struggling with the 50 mm. Could you tell me what your experience has been and if the lens has these issues how to work around them? I would like to use the lens for trying my hand at landscape pictures and for daily walk about use. Once I know what to do, I will use your Amazon link.

        Thanks for all.

        • Could well be – try the 50/1.8 G, it’s the best of the AF 50mms at the moment.

          I have no idea what their tolerances are, but I suppose if you can adjust it and it’s sharp, that’s within tolerances right?

          The 28 does have field curvature, and I can’t actually think of one that doesn’t. My favourite 28 – the Zeiss 2/28 Distagon – has even worse field curvature. For critical focusing (usually at middle apertures), I use live view anyway which focuses on the sensor and avoids these problems. If I’m viewfinder shooting, it’s either at or close to wide open, or very stopped down – neither of which will cause those problems.

      • Hello Ming,
        Just a quick followup: the Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 D when tested on the D700 with lens align front focused as well. I think the problem is due to a field curvature of the lens. Not sure if I will keep it. I guess it is good for an emergency if used stopped down. I am now heading for your Amazon link to buy the 28 mm and 85 mm f1.8 G lenses since those are the ones you have recommended. Thanks for your suggestion of the 50 mm 1.8G, but I would like to go with what your first recommendation is.

        One quick question re. my Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8: O AF fine tune adjustment at 80 mm but -12 at 200 mm. Is this outside of normal tolerance for a zoom lens? I am trying to figure out if this lens needs to go back to Nikon for repair.

        Thanks for helping me through the transition process from the D700. It really was a forgiving camera as these lens related problems were not nearly as apparent as on the D600.

        • Definitely sounds like a lens issue. Just to be sure: does you D700 focus ok with other lenses? Need to rule out (however unlikely) that it could be an identical problem.

          On your 80-200 – it doesn’t sound unusual, but that’s the problem with zooms – you’ll have to AF fine tune for the FL you use the most, unfortunately the camera will only remember one setting.

          No problem! The D700 has enormous pixels, and is very forgiving of technique, lenses and general postprocessing abuse of its files…And thanks for your support.

  21. Lovely review bro. I actually read till the comments section where you summed up pretty much everything. I’m a D90 user.
    Taken from the comments previously:

    If AF/ moving targets/ weather sealing and build quality/ controls are a priority: buy the D700.
    If image quality is more important: buy the D600.
    If image quality is really important, you print large and are willing to carry a tripod, buy the D800E.

    If I’m into weddings/portraits/may be alittle motor sports, will D600 suffice?

    IQ from D700 vs D600 isn’t a huge difference?

    Thanks a lot for your time.

    • Thanks. Pretty much on the money. You should be fine with the D600, but you might miss the wider AF grid for motorsports.

      Huge difference in IQ from D700 to D600, the D600 has twice the resolution, one more stop of dynamic range, better color, and slightly lower noise.

      • Ming, you’re really unbelievable in your response rate and patience! You have probably a 99% rate instead the 90 you mentioned :P. And you’re articles are very thorough, well written and nicely supported by great images.

        I’ve been struggling several weeks on weather to upgrade to a used D700 or D600 (from DX), and this comment helped me with the final decision towards the D600. THANKS!! Besides resolution wasn’t sure there were other significant improvements in IQ, which is my main concern (I shoot mainly land/cityscapes, night photography, HDR and portraits, I don’t print much, but eventually can start doing it more regularly, and the smaller file size was even an advantage for me).

        I got here by a link on a forum thread discussing D700 vs D600, and from now on I’ll definitely start following your blog (would follow you on 500px also, I don’t use flicker)

        • Thanks. I try to respond to everything, but I’m sure a couple slip through. There are hundreds of comments a day, so it’s quite possible.

          Too many social media to keep up with; started with Flickr and just don’t have the time to change. Enjoy the new camera.

  22. I think you’re onto something here (“full frame for the masses” 🙂 I too have been impressed with the specs for the D600 and the entry level pricing. As a high ISO night photographer, this camera has a lot of great features, which I’ve reported on in my recent blog, including some interesting links (including a video shot entirely with this camera):
    http://intothenightphoto.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-entry-level-full-frame-cameras.html

  23. Nice review, wonder whether you’ll ever be testing it with the WU-1b wireless transmitter and see how’s does it perform in Wireless tethering or LiveView controls.

    • No plans to.

      • [i added this question earlier today, re-posting here since i had included it way back in the thread]
        Ming, I’ve found those two prime lenses you referred me to a few days ago on this thread, and plan to purchase them. As I’ve researched those lenses, however, I’ve realized that they’re poor choices for filming video on this camera. From what I’ve read, it appears that manual Nikon lenses are better for video because of the common focusing challenges with DSLR video.
        Is this true? Can you or one anyone else on this forum confirm? If so, in addition to those two prime AF lenses you’ve recommended (28mm and 85mm), which I plan to purchase for taking stills, what are the most useful lenses for filming video with the D600?
        thanks

  24. Bette Lee says:

    Hi Ming,
    Thanks for your excellent review! I’ll probably buy the d600 (upgrading from d90). I know you like the 28 mm f1.8. Are there any other wide angle Nikon lenses that you would recommend, say 24 mm or 35 mm that would work well on the d600? Thanks in advance, and keep writing and shooting! Lee

  25. Hello Ming,

    First of all big big congrats for you site, I have discovered it searching for D600 reviews and I’ve been reading your past articles for some days now. I appreciate your on-the-field reviews and your pictures, keep up the good work.

    Second, I dare to ask for an advice from you. I own a D90 for 3 years now shooting mostly street, portraits and sports and I plan to upgrade to FX. I own 2 FX lenses (85 1.8 and 180 2.8) and plan to buy a 24, 28 or 35 after getting the body. My budget would cover a new or used D700, new D600 or D800, I have tested all of them in showroom and I am aware all will get me better IQ, ISO performance and DOF, I have to say I am a fool for getting nice bokeh when shooting portraits.

    What I want besides that? Forgiveness (at least at first), accurate AF and speed. For now I tend to exclude D800 as I see it fit better for studio and more experienced photographers and I want to choose between D700 and D600. I see D700 as more forgiving and with better AF and D600 as newer, potentially with a longer life ahead, better at ISO and IQ and smaller (I prefer the D90/D7k shape).

    What do you think would fit me best out of the 2? Or 3?

    Many thanks in advance,
    Lucien

  26. Hello Ming,

    First of all big big congrats for you site, I have discovered it searching for D600 reviews and I’ve been reading your past articles for some days now. I appreciate your on-the-field reviews and your pictures, keep up the good work.

    Second, I dare to ask for an advice from you. I own a D90 for 3 years now shooting mostly street, portraits and sports and I plan to upgrade to FX. I own 2 FX lenses (85 1.8 and 180 2.8) and plan to buy a 24, 28 or 35 after getting the body. My budget would cover a new or used D700, new D600 or D800, I have tested all of them in showroom and I am aware all will get me better IQ, ISO performance and DOF, I have to say I am a fool for getting nice bokeh when shooting portraits.

    What I want besides that? Forgiveness (at least at first), accurate AF and speed. For now I tend to exclude D800 as I see it fit better for studio and more experienced photographers and I want to choose between D700 and D600. I see D700 as more forgiving and with better AF and D600 as newer, potentially with a longer life ahead, better at ISO and IQ and smaller (I prefer the D90/D7k shape).

    What do you think would fit me best out of the 2? Or 3?

    Many thanks in advance,
    Lucien

    • Hi Lucien,
      Thanks for your compliments. I don’t think you’d miss the extra controls/ configurability of the D700, coming from the D90, so I’d go with the D600 – as you point out, it’s got more life in it, and more potential in terms of image quality. I don’t think there’s that much of a price difference either.
      Cheers
      Ming

  27. Hi absolutic/Ming,

    Great personal insight on the D600. Though I wanted to inquire from absolutic as to his/her dislike of the D800 (although your comment would definitely be critical, Ming). absolutic, How was the D800 worse? What are you usually shooting? It’s because I’m planning to invest on a D800 to shoot kiddie parties, reunions, portraits, engagement shoots & on some occasions, as a 2nd team wedding photographer.

    I have a D700 and it’s really a stellar performer. But I need a second body to be delegated either as a primary camera or my back-up. I hope that you would be able to respond as soon as possible as I’ll be purchasing either a D800 or D600 by Monday. Thanks.

    • You’re better off with the D600 for that – the D800 is going to require higher shot discipline than you can always manage in a reportage scenario.

      • Wow! Thanks for the prompt reply Ming. Much appreciated! Though, I just want to add to my inquiry:

        1. What and how do you mean by higher shot discipline? (I’m just curious)
        *Also, I usually shoot in manual mode. With regards to this, would your definition of shot discipline include a faster shutter speed than the usual (above the suggested focal length)to be able to get crisp & sharp images from the D800 and that even if the image is going to be underexposed, I could still adjust it through Lightroom given that the D800’s dynamic range would allow the underexposed areas to show.

        2. honestly, I’m leaning more towards the D800 for the following reasons:
        a. It has a magnesium alloy body (I had a D7000 before, and it unfortunately fell from 3ft. attached to a tripod and the middle portion, which is hard plastic, cracked open, ripping off the mount from the camera body. Maybe a magnesium body would not result to the same situation as it did to my D7000).
        b. Live view movie mode Aperture control can be adjusted.
        c. I have the following lenses: 70-200mm f2.8G VR2, 24 f1.4G, 50 f1.4G [Which all could be well-suited for the D800 as I’ve read from forums and with some of your comments (Though I’m not sure).

        Hope you would be able to comment soon. Thanks and much appreciated Ming.

        • 1. Higher shutter speeds, optimal apertures etc to avoid camera shake and softness.
          2a. Yes and no – I’ve seen/ experienced magnesium bodies crack, and plastic bodies bounce and shrug off similar falls. Depends on the angle of the fall and the lens attached etc.
          2b. Fair enough – not thought about this as video isn’t really a concern for me
          2c. 70-200II is good, 24/1.4G is good if you have a good copy (many have decentering/ astigmatism; it’s a complex design and the tolerances are very, very high to get one that works perfectly at f1.4) and no AF issues on the D800. 50/1.4G haven’t tried, but I wasn’t that impressed with any of my 3 copies on D3/D700, so I doubt I would be on the D800. 50/1.8G would probably be a lot better.

      • I understand Ming. Okay, for my final inquiry: What about AF performance? I heard that the D800 is kind of sluggish during low light situations (As Chris Nicolls of the CameraStoreTV have professed on their D600 review which is why he’s planning to plunge towards the D800). Is it really true? And is the D600’s AF as sluggish as well (based on your field test) or is it the same as that of the D700?

      • Thank you Ming. I would like to commend you on your prompt responses! I appreciate you taking time in replying to people’s inquiries and I’m sure many are grateful as well (Given that with you as a professional photographer have only limited time windows to reply on those multiple comments from people)! And your reviews are as unique and as insightful and they are extremely helpful to a great number of consumer’s already in their buying decisions for a camera. Blessings be upon you from the Almighty.

        • You just happened to catch me while online and doing some site maintenance – I do try to reply everybody, though. I’m sure I’ll miss one or two occasionally – it’s nothing personal!

      • Haha I see, Ming. Still, I believe you have a heart for people which is why you take time in trying to get back to them as soon as you can. And many are happy for that especially for such a professional photographer taking time to reach out to people.
        Well, I guess the decision is up to me now. But I’ll take your recommendation of buying the D600 over the D800 into serious consideration…very. serious. consideration.

        Thanks again.

      • That’s not a silly question, Ming. If only I could try both and determine which camera suits me, then that would be the best scenario. The problem is that in our country, once you open the box and flick the shutter, it’s considered sold (Unless the D800 would have the AF issue). 😦

        But if you mean I try both by buying both cameras, that would be far-off because I can only invest in one. 🙂

        If somebody takes the time to write to you…it would probably be rude not to write back, no? – YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, Ming. The problem is, some people wouldn’t even care if others would think disappointingly of them by not answering back. Having the heart of humility, being compassionate and being helpful at the same time is quite uncommon these days.

        • That makes sense. There’s still a lot to be gained by having a fondle and test shoot even in a store – they have demo units, presumably. You can even find them here in Malaysia, where it’s much the same situation (no returns, zero customer rights etc).

          There are many popular bloggers/ reviewers I’ve written to over the years for various reasons. I think I get perhaps less than a 10% reply rate. I don’t want to be one of those people. The minute you start ignoring your supporters is when you start to become too arrogant for your own good…it’s dangerous.

      • Hi Ming,

        Sorry I dosed off already last night when you replied. You’re 90% reply-back response is, for sure, highly acclaimed and I’m sure, you’ll get a roaring applause for being very decent & courteous enough to your commenters. 🙂 I just hope that with you taking the lead by appeasing your supporters with your prompt responses, the 10% who are described otherwise would realize that arrogance, being prideful or conceitedness would lead to negativity & disappointment. Thanks again!!! Blessings be upon you from the Almighty God.

    • Jorge Balarin says:

      Hi Fathom,

      I’m in a very similar situation, but my choice is to buy a second D700 body (In Peru we sa: “Better something bad that you know, than something good to be known”. In the future, I would like to have a D800 for special purposes, and I will replace one of the D700 when a real update comes. Greetings, Jorge.

      • We have that saying here too: ‘Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.’

        If AF/ moving targets/ weather sealing and build quality/ controls are a priority: buy the D700.
        If image quality is more important: buy the D600.
        If image quality is really important, you print large and are willing to carry a tripod, buy the D800E.

      • Hi Jorge,

        Actually, buying a 2nd D700 body is my 3rd option. But, honestly, I want to have video capability because I’m sure it would come in handy when it’s needed. Though I’m happy for you that you’ve made your decision already. At least you won’t go into the trouble of finding more reviews and assessing them that would lead to tour final decision (Believe me, I’m panicking already because I was given the privilege of having both a D600 & D800 under my name but it’s going to be until tomorrow only).

        Though thanks for replying on this thread. I’m glad I’m not the only having the feeling of insecurity should I be choosing the wrong unit. But you have a great point in choosing a proven, stellar performer.

  28. Great review, as always from you! Even though I switched to Olympus recently, there’s always something to be learned by me by just looking at your pictures. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Btw, since you’re a Bmw fan, it is pure coincidence that you’ll doing a workshop in munich, isn’t it? 🙂
    FYI, the Bmw world building has it’s own website: http://www.bmw-welt.com
    Kind regards, Tom

    • Thanks Thomas – how are you finding the DVD? And no…er…well…maybe, yes, there’s a reason why I’ll be coming to Munich 🙂 I hear der Welt rents M cars by the hour…

  29. Hi Ming. I’m new to shooting. I own a D7000 but would like to move up to FF. I like to use the AF points to move around the frame, especially with off centred or thirds composition. With the AF points spread being so concentrated in the middle, I’m concerned I will not be able to do this as well, or I will need to focus recompose using centre AF point. I’ve heard focus recompose was not good to do. This is my main concern with D600. Thoughts?

    • The rules are overrated. Learn them, then throw them out the window. Focus and recompose is dangerous with shallow DOF lenses because the effective focus distance may change if the focal plane is not flat. A greater AF point spread is good, but not if they’re not accurate…the D600 is accurate but tight. I think it’s mostly acceptable for the majority of situations.

  30. Hello Ming, what are you thoughts of 85mm 1.8D vs 85mm 1.8G? Thank you very much…

    • The G is much better. Neither is great for flare performance, but sometimes that can be cinematic – I actually don’t mind it. When I want to shoot into the light with zero flare I’ll use my Zeiss lenses.

      • Thanks very much for your reply Ming. I have now purchased a 1.8G and it’s a really great lens just as you say.
        For your shots, what is your workflow to set the ISO, or do you have auto-iso enabled on the camera?

  31. Ming,

    Great review, as always. You highlighted what I think is the showstopper for me, and possibly others…the AF coverage area. I’m constantly in AF-C mode with moving subjects, so I rely heavily on the outer focus points for focus & composition. I realize that technically I could use AF-ON (programmed on the AE-L button) and recompose, or shoot wider and crop later as a compromise. However, I don’t think that will yield the results I expect.

    What are your thoughts on my specific usage?

    Thanks in advance.

    PS it’s too bad because the specs are almost perfect otherwise, and I love the feel of the camera. I realize the D800 is an option too, but think it’s not a great fit/overkill for what I need…pretty bummed at Nikon here.

    • Thanks Christian. I too normally rely heavily on the outer AF points – that’s how I found out about the D800’s shortcomings in the first place – the D600 may well be the only ‘proper’ camera I leave permanently in ‘centre-point-and-recompose’ mode. If you’re just shooting wider and cropping because of the AF points, doesn’t that just turn the camera into a D7000? 🙂

  32. hi

    thanks for the brilliant review and ur responses…

    i have got a d90 and had been bitten by ‘FF’ bug.

    my interest is towards wildlife, nature and portraits. i am thinking of d600 over d700 bcos of its low light ability and the flexibility of cropping the pictures. however, i am also impressed by the relatively affordable ‘long zoom’ lens range offered by Canon over nikon. so, should i wait to see what 6D has in store?

    would be very helpful to hear your thoughts…

    cheers

    • No problem. I don’t think I’d pick one over the other for image quality, but usability and lenses. You’ll find the Canons are not that intuitive to a longtime Nikon user. And if you shoot mostly wildlife, I don’t think it makes sense to go FX because you instantly lose 1.5x reach…

      • hi thanks again for such a prompt response…

        wildlife n nature (landscapes), goes in opposite extremes…FF vs DX & affordable lens system and weight to carry!!! In your expert view, what would be the most balanced approach?

        • Well, you can still do landscape work with DX, and there are decent wides available, so I’d probably go to DX since it’s much harder and more expensive to get the same reach from FX for wildlife than it is to go wide on DX…

  33. This is an excellent review. It is always nice to read a review that
    1) Actually is a review and not a “preview” or conjecture based on specs
    2) Doesn’t sound completely like a fanboy review

    So, thank you for that. I am a D7000 owner (have been for nearly a year now) and have been quite pleased with my weapon of choice, until I shot at Fashion Week and experienced the weakness of my camera. In well lit, completely controlled environments, I couldn’t ask for more.. but with the need for higher ISO and much better fps, my little D7000 was running to keep up. I have been wondering if getting the D600 would be appropriate, or if I should wait until I can afford a higher-end FX camera, and this review has gone a long way toward helping me make up my mind.

    (Excellent shots, btw)

    Summer
    http://www.summerpolonsky.tumblr.com

    • Thank you. Everybody has an opinion, but none of them are meaningful unless a) there’s some point of reference, and b) there’s some experience and substance behind it. If you get enough fps out of the D7000, then the D600 should be plenty – it’s 5.5 vs 6, and you won’t notice the difference in practice.

  34. William Hughes says:

    This is another vote of thanks both for the blog and this post in particular – I love the ‘test’ photographs, makes me want to come over and trying my hand.
    I’m another confused amateur with a D200 looking to upgrade…
    I recently bought the Nikkor 70-200 VR II with TC 2.0 with an eye to improving my lenses before buying a new body, particularly as it might be D800. Now I’m not at all sure – I shoot Air Shows a lot, so fast AF and high fps are important, the rest of the time it’s a mixture of wildlife (bird), landscape and street – for which I use a S90.
    I’m sort of leaning to buying a D600 for the IQ and DR for most of my shooting and pair that with a D3200 for the air shows – the DX crop will help there as the new zoom plus converter still come up a bit short occasionally on the D200. Even here in the UK it’s about the same to buy a D800 or both the D600 and D3200. The problem with the D3200 is that it has only has 11 autofocus points, is still only 4fps and probably has a tiny buffer. If only a D3s was cheaper but then I’d want more pixels so I could crop!

    • No problem. I think the D7000 is what you want – decent FPS, good AF field coverage, and the crop factor. FX isn’t ideal for reach unless you crop, which defeats the point.

  35. Ming,
    Could you comment on the Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4 vs. the Nikkor 24-70 mm lenses on the D600 and the D800? Can either be used on either camera or is one not adequate for a specific sensor? I plan to purchase one of the 2 lenses today, and will do so through your link to Amazon after I get your recommendation. My leaning is toward the 24-120mm f/4 due to the light weight and longer focal range for more flexibility, but only if the optics hold up for both the D600 and D800, as IQ is my priority. The reason I ask this is that I am undecided on the D600 vs D800 though I plan to get one of these, and I want to make sure that the lens I pick will work on the camera I decide upon.

    I am still working with the D600 on action shots (dogs running at up to 30 mph) and as you suggested, think that the problem is not in the AF system, but in the quality of the optics I am using with my Nikkor 70-300 mm and Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 mm lenses. I am starting to wonder if regardless of whether I get the D600 or the D800, it will mean that I also need to abandon my Nikkor 70-300 mm and replace my Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 with the 70-200 mm f/2.8. It seems to me that moving beyond the resolution of the 12MP D700 sensor requires better optics even at the D600, 24 MP level. Is that correct? Have you tried the 80-200 mm f/2.8 on either the D600 or D800? I think it would be easier to figure this situation out right now if I had a 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens to try on the D600 for a direct comparison but I do not.

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing your time and expertise.

    • Nope, sorry – I haven’t used either on the D600 or D800. Last time I shot with a 24-70 was on the D3. I’ve gone all primes since.

      I’d probably go for the 24-70 though, focus seems a bit faster and you do gain an extra stop of light.

      You’re correct: more resolution/ pixel density requires better optics. The 70-200 I isn’t that great in the corners, you’ll need the II.

  36. Thanks for the excellent review. I’m about to buy my first DSLR. I’ve been following photography blogs and researching the options and waiting to see what new cameras would be released this fall. I’m interested in learning photography and also making some simple short films (esp. video interviews).
    I was leaning toward getting a refurbished Canon 7D with two good lenses to start with. (The 5D Mark III appears to be excellent but also more camera than I need and more than I can afford.) Then I started reading about the new full-frame cameras, the Canon 6D and Nikon D600. After reading a number of early reviews and tests, I’m ready to make the plunge and buy the D600. I thought for sure I’d be getting a Canon; but the specs speak for themselves, and in my situation it’s really hard to justify not going for the D600, given the alternatives.
    I suppose I’m one of those customers that Canon could’ve had — for the camera, lenses, accessories, etc. — but won’t get because the 6D is simply inferior to the D600 in many significant ways. The price is right, and the product is excellent. Can’t wait to get this camera!

    • No problem. Good lenses will always make more of a difference than a good body – especially if the choice is between a slow kit zoom and a couple of decent primes (the Nikon f1.8 Gs are pretty darn good.) And adding a shameless plug, it would be great if you could order it via my Amazon referral link 🙂

      • Any recommendations on lenses? Again, I’m starting from zero, and can’t spend a fortune. I was thinking of getting two lenses for now: the 28-300 and a 50mm. I read your review of the former, and a few other reviews as well (Rockwell, Mansurov).
        I’m going to Asia in January for a few months, so I need a few (2-3 perhaps?) good lenses that will multi-task while traveling extensively: people, landscapes, some portraits; some video, mostly stills.
        Suggestions? many thanks

      • Thanks for the generous replies. I’ll definitely purchase my new gear through your Amazon links.
        Could you say just a bit more, in layman’s terms, about the lens recommendations? (I need to learn a lot more about this topic.)
        Specifically, why these two lenses (instead of, for example, the classic 50mm)? How should I think about those two lenses you mentioned (the 28mm and 85mm), and what are they best used for? And why no zoom? I wasn’t expecting that.

        • Thanks in advance for your support. I prefer to have two distinct perspectives – 28 is a moderate wide, 85 is a moderate tele – and both correspond nicely to the native human field of vision (general scene plus peripheral vision, focused vision on one subject). I’ve just never really gotten along with the focal lengths in the middle – 35 and 50 – so it’s as much of a personal preference than anything. There’s no one size fits all for anything – you can use any lens for any subject depending on the perspective you want – but generally, 28 is good for documentary/ walkabout and 85 for isolation, portraits and details.

          You’ll lose at least a stop in aperture (more in transmission due to the large number of elements) with even the best zooms, and gain plenty in weight. Primes give you better optics, too – they’re optimized for one focal length, not a whole load of them. The only zooms I own at the moment are the 100-300 for M4/3, and the kit 14-42 that came with my E-PM1.

          • Jorge Balarin says:

            Hi Ming,

            I think I red that your Nikon 24mm f/4 G is a lens that you like very, very much. Did you prefer the 28 f/1.8 G over the 24 f/1.4 G ? Greetings, Jorge.

          • Jorge Balarin says:

            I was thinking to buy the 24 f/1.4, but if the 28 f/1.8 is not so much away in terms of quality I could easily change my mind. Greetings, Jorge.

      • Jorge Balarin says:

        Sorry Ming,
        Just I saw your excelent review of the Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon, that you define as a “no brainer for architectural or landscape photography”. Could I know how you compare it with the Nikon 24/1.4 G ? Greetings, Jorge.

      • Ming, I’ve found those two prime lenses you’re referring to and plan to purchase them. As I’ve researched those lenses, however, I’ve realized that they’re poor choices for filming video on this camera. Manual Nikon lenses are better for video because of the common focusing challenges with DSLR video.
        Can you or one anyone else on this forum confirm? In addition to those two prime AF lenses you’ve recommended (28mm and 85mm), which I plan to purchase for taking stills, what are the most useful lenses for filming video with the D600?

        • I’m not a video guy so I can’t comment, but yes, I can see why that would be an issue – no hard stops and very short focus throw. From the limited video experimentation I’ve done, have a look at the Zeiss 2/28 Distagon, the Zeiss 1.4/85 Distagon, and the Nikon 105/2.5 AI.

  37. This is a fantastic real-world review! Thank you for your time and effort making this. It is very informative. I’m currently deciding on either the D600 or the D800 as an upgrade from my D300s. This review along with your D800 review have given me great insight into the decision. Thank you again!

  38. Can those nice black borders around your photos be produced in Lightroom 4 ??

  39. Scott Cramer says:

    Hi Ming,

    Great review and thanks. I just received my D600 and I love it so far! It is a joy to shoot with and light and compact but not a toy either. It really is an amalgamation of a D800 and a D7000. Currently using a D3, a D800, and the D600 and this camera is a perfect travel, light weight, walk around, backup camera. It strikes a balance with just the right amount of pixels. One other thing to mention is the build quality is quite good, a little beefier than the D7000 but not quite as big, bulky and heavy as the D800. Also, the 24-85 VR kit lens is a nice lens. It has great contrast, it’s compact, covers a nice range, and seems pretty sharp upon initial testing.

    I couldn’t agree more with you about the OK button during playback. The simple solution is to allow the OK button (during playback) to be re-assigned to zoom instead of the re-touch menu ( who actually uses that anyway!). They allow for custom re-assignment during shooting, why not playback?

    Anyway, keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts.

  40. Thanks for another well written review. 🙂 I read them all with great interest! Perhaps what impresses me the most about your work is the incredible consistency in your images, and with that you’re basically a huge advocate of “the gear doesn’t matter”. (At least not for web and small prints.) I don’t think I can tell from your images here whether they be shot with an e-pen, a D5100, D800 or a Leica, without looking at the information. (That’s not exactly in Leicas favor…)

    I have one question related to pixel density, which has been commented here. Is it really the pixel density that matter, with regards to how good technique you need, or is it the amount of pixels you put on the subject? The D5100/D7000 has about the same pixel density as the D800, does that mean they need the same technique? Or is it the amount of pixels that come into play? If you use 35mm on the crop sensors and 50mm on the D800, you would get about the same frame, but put a lot more pixels on your subject with the D800, and isn’t that pretty much always a good thing? If it’s pixel density, how does the Sony RX100 compare, it must have tiny pixels compared to even the D800…

    • No problem. I think there’s some self-selection involved too – I won’t use the camera in the first place if it doesn’t do what I want it to. That said, maybe you should add the iPhone, GRDIII and RX100 to the list too…

      Pixel density: it’s more about pixels per degree of view. So with the D7000, you’ve got the same density on the sensor as the D800, but you’re not using as long a focal length (i.e. less pixels per degree of view for a given overall angle of view). Does that make sense?

      • Right, I figured you would select the best tool for the job, a bit of a luxury I as a strictly amateur/hobby photographer can’t afford.

        As for pixel density, I think I sorta kinda see what you mean. I think it makes sense, even though I don’t fully understand it, thanks.

      • So if you had D200 and were looking to replace it, and weight and video were not an issue

        would it be D600 or D700

        • I can’t answer that question without knowing what you’re going to do with it. If sport and tracking AF were your priority, then D700. If larger prints or low light, D600. If weight, D600. If bad weather shooting, D700. Etc.

  41. Dear Ming Thien, i have view your superb quality photos, and i currently using D3s, due to Image quality wise, worth to upgrade to D800e ?

    • Ask yourself a few things: do you need the resolution, i.e. print big? Then yes. Do you have good enough lenses and shooting technique to make full use of the resolution? Then yes. Do you shoot under low light conditions a lot? Then the D3s will serve you better.

      • Dear Ming Thien, thank for nice comment, i like low light photography, yes,i ll stay back for d3s. thank you again with best Regards.

  42. Steve Tompsett says:

    great review Ming..ive been following your blog for a while now..you never disappoint mate..Im staying with my D700 for a while yet.

    OT i know ..but have you ever tried a sigma 85mm 1.4..and if so whats it like compared with the Nikon 85mm 1.4.

    cheers mate..steve

  43. Great hands on review and will stick with the D700, but the superb quality of your photos make me want a 85 f1.8, lens lust… Peter

  44. I have a question about a quiet shutter feature Ming did not address in the review. It is quite relevant to those of us with babies who like to take pictures of babies without necessarily waking them up. D700’s shutter was very loud. D800’s quiet shutter feature was a joke – not quiet at all. My newborn would wake up and cry if I wanted to use D800 on him while he was so cute in his sleep. My Canon 5DM3 is amazing in that quiet shutter is truly quiet and it even has continuous quiet shutter feature which is amazing. I can actually take photos of my child and he does not wake up. It is perfect. Now D7000’s quiet shutter was actually much better than D800, it was somewhat muted, although not as good as Canon 5DM3, still much better than D800. Ming, is quiet shutter feature on D600 more like D800 or more like D7000? How quiet is it? Does D600 has continuous quiet shutter mode like 5DM3?

    • The D600 is more like the D7000. It’s slower and not as sharply pitched. I don’t know what the 5D3 has so I can’t comment on whether it’s the same or not.

    • Hi absolutic/Ming,

      Great personal insight on the D600. Though I wanted to inquire from absolutic as to his/her dislike of the D800 (although your comment would definitely be critical, Ming). absolutic, How was the D800 worse? What are you usually shooting? It’s because I’m planning to invest on a D800 to shoot kiddie parties, reunions, portraits, engagement shoots & on some occasions, as a 2nd team wedding photographer.

      I have a D700 and it’s really a stellar performer. But I need a second body to be delegated either as a primary camera or my back-up. I hope that you would be able to respond as soon as possible as I’ll be purchasing either a D800 or D600 by Monday. Thanks.

  45. Ming, excellent review, as usual, you do not disappoint. A long time Nikon user, I was disappointed in D800, it just did not wow me, I felt that AF was worse than on my previous D700 (which I loved and took tens of thousands photographs with). I don’t print huge landscape shots and the dynamic range of 14.4 was lost on me. As much as I loved D700 I did not D800. As I was shooting dual system, I traded it for Canon 5D Mark 3 which turned out to be amazing all-around-performer, with AF to die for, and Canon L lenses are amazing. So I currently shooting with Canon 5D Mark 3 for important things, Olympus OM-D (thanks to your reviews, in part) for anytime I want to use something small, and Sony RX100 for these times when I really don’t feel like carry anything with me. Has Nikon came out with D600 at the time instead of D800, I might have had second thoughts about going completely Canon route, I truly believe it is a terrific overall performer.

    • I have the same feelings too – whilst the image quality of the D800 is fantastic, the rest of the camera doesn’t feel as reassuring/ confident as the D700. The D600 does, which is a good thing.

  46. Hey Ming.
    Last 2 weeks I’ve enjoying your fantastic blog, and its great combination of extensive products analyses with gorgeous images.

    I am an amateur shooting for ~3 years with first D80 and then D7000. Recently i was considering an upgrade to FF and tended towards D700. In this review you suggest D600 may be better now (for the same $2K price), but i still think D700 may be better for me:
    – much better AF and MF (extremely important to me as many of my shots are thrown out because of bad focusing).
    – its more pixel-sharp at 100% – makes for better feeling when editing 🙂
    – more convenient on-camera controls
    – better fall and weather protection

    As weight/size is unimportant for me, my 2 points of confusion remain high ISO and resolution.
    Is there really a 1-stop high ISO advantage of D600 over D700? I didn’t have that impression at all based on the comparison shots above.
    And regarding resolution As most of my shots are published on the web or small (up to A4) prints, is there any point in multiple MP-s for me? If i’ll need to shot sports or wildlife and not spend fortune on expensive tele-s, i could use the second-body D7000 with same resolution as the D800….

    Thanks a Lot!
    Andrei

    • Resize the images to the same output size, and there’s a definite advantage to the D600. If you don’t need bigger than A4 print ability – then 12MP is more than sufficient. I’ve done prints up to 60″ wide with the D700 before. And if you shoot a lot of tele work…the D7000 will give you the same cropping ability as the D800, as well as having wider AF field coverage than any of the current FX bodies. I think you’ve already decided, haven’t you? 😉

      • Seems so:) just wanted to check with a pro that my assumptions are accurate.
        Except still, if i take the D600, then i don’t really need the D7000 – so i can sell it and get a smallish new mirrorless as a second body for my wife. Oh, decisions, decisions….

  47. Jorge Balarin says:

    Hi Ming,

    I just discovered your nice blog. At some parts of your review you said that the D600 could be an upgrade for current owners of the D700 and D7000, but in other parts you said that it is not. I’m the owner of a D700 and I would like to know if in terms of image quality the D600 could be an upgrade of my camera (It seems that the autofocus system is not an upgrade).

    In other blogs a red a lot of complaints about the ability of the D600 to track subjects moving fast, and I had the feeling that perhaps it is not a good camera for that purposes, and that it’s autofocus system is not so reliable as the one of the D700. By other side I would like to know if you experienced some problems due to the not wide way the autofocus points are spread over the frame. Personally I would like that the autofocus points of my D700 are even covering a wider part of the frame.

    Another doubt, talking about the D800 you wrote: “it doesn’t quite deliver the same pixel-level crispness as the D700 or D3”. Could you explain me what does mean (I’m not a profi). I thought that the D800 image quality was superior than the one of the D700.

    I like your photos very much. Some weeks ago I did some night photos without flash, during a jazz concert, for the first time in my life. I shoot in aperture priority (f/2.8), and I think I used a minimum shutter speed of 1/300, with a maximum ISO of 3200. I think my photos were ok. Could you advice me about proper settings to do night street photos like the beautiful ones that you posted here ?

    Finally, I’m going to tell you that somewhere I red that a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 zoom, could be better than a prime like the 50mm F/1.4 to do photos in low light enviroments. Do you think that is true ? Best wishes and greetings, Jorge Balarin.

    • Thanks for the compliments. Image quality-wise: definitely an upgrade. AF: not so much. Controls: nope, except for live view. I didn’t track any fast moving subjects with the camera during the test period – just people walking etc – but didn’t notice any issues, either. Completely agree with a wide AF frame coverage – the CAM3500FX cameras are already fairly narrow after the DX bodies, and CAM4800FX is even tighter around the center.

      I think you may be confusing the D600 and D800 reviews: the D600 seems to have a stronger AA filter than the other three cameras, and isn’t quite as sharp at the pixel level. The D800E is the sharpest of any Nikon to date, so if the D800 isn’t enough, get the E version.

      There are no fixed settings I use…depends on the light and the images I want to make. I just meter for my subject and make sure I have enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

      A faster aperture is always better in low light – there is no way the zoom can be better than the prime.

      • Jorge Balarin says:

        Thank you very much Ming for your clear answer. One final doubt: is the D600 less sharp than the D700 at maximum amplification ? (does “pixel level” mean “maximum amplification” ? ) Greetings and best wishes, Jorge.

  48. cinematic feel ! brilliant light work !

  49. Hi Ming. Great review! Best one I’ve come across yet! I’m a newbie and just started shooting last year with a D7000, but really wanted a FF. I lean towards PJ/Documentary, street, fine art, and portrait. Not interested in sports or landscapes. When the D600 came out, I pounced on it without doing much research first. I’m reading mixed reviews now, which are giving me buyers remorse. People seem especially disappointed with AF point spread, max SS, and flash sync, which as a newbie don’t mean much to me yet. Did I make the right choice given the kind of photography I like to shoot? Should I return my D600 and get a used D700?? Also, I want to invest in good glass. It’s between the 24-70 f/2.8 or the 24-120 f/4G ED and the 85 f/1.8G. The latter giving me two lenses instead of the one. Help! Thanks!!!!

    • Should be fine. The skill level of the operator makes far more difference than the camera. I’d go with the 28/2.8 and 85/1.8 for a bit more low light flexibility.

  50. Could you give your thoughts on the D600’s continuous focus tracking accuracy as compared to the D700?

    • Haven’t tried it extensively, but it appears to be not quite as good because of the reduced focusing area. Hard to tell on precision though, the pixel density and tolerances for the D700 are both more relaxed.

  51. Love the review and the site. I was wondering about the choice of 28mm – vs – 24mm . Would 24mm be a poor choice for me on the wide end? I already love the 85mm lens… 🙂

    • Thanks. I wasn’t happy with my 24/1.4’s performance on the D800E, so I got the 28 – also helps that the way I see natively is closer to 28, I suppose.

  52. I found you via your post on dpreview… and have been surfing the rest of your site for the last 2 days. Stop writing so well!! 😉
    Seriously though, love your site and the wealth of information here is fantastic.

    I know you’ve really addressed this question already, but I guess I need to have it pounded in my head – it sounds like in your opinion, the D600 more versatile than the D800?

    I’m upgrading from a D90, looking to get my first full frame. The D600 seemed ideal, though I was disappointed in the lower flash sync and max shutter speed. Then I also noticed that I can get a used D800E (there seem to be a lot available in Tokyo now) for not much more than the new D600. And – the D3s (used, of course) is also available here for a price that I would be willing to pay. So now I’m researching, researching, researching. I almost wish that Nikon didn’t have such a great lineup! 😉

    I know that any of those cameras (D600, D800/E, and D3s) would be a huge step forward for a previous D90 user, so what I’m looking for mostly is versatility and “growth potential” (for the operator). I haven’t focused on a particular field of photography (I shoot the gamut of landscapes, portraits/studio, street, and events), hence the need for a versatile camera. I also want a camera that I can use and grow with for a decent interval of time (say the next 4-5 years) as after I get the body, I’ll be focusing on the lenses (I plan on getting the 24-70mm first since I figure that should offer versatility as I start out with full-frame).

    Apologies, this comment has gone on way longer than it needed… what would be your recommendation between the D600, D800/E (used) and D3s (used)?

    • Haha, I’ll take that as a good thing – thanks Jeff. There’s about 400 posts and north of half a million words of content, so it might take you a few more days yet…

      To your question: yes and no. If you’re okay with the resolution, and want more responsiveness, speed and high ISO capability, buy the D3s. If size/ weight is your priority, D600. If you need the resolution, then D800 – but be warned, it’s not so easy to tame the beast handheld.

      • Yep, I’m still going through your articles – love the horology and food images you produce and now feel the urge to give it a try myself just for fun 🙂
        Oh, and your “daily schedule” post sounds exhausting…

        As for your response to my question, yes, that’s pretty much what I figured. I’d actually forgotten about the weight consideration of the D3s to be honest.
        Were I a rich man, I’d have the D800E for landscape work, the D3s for street/sports, and the D600 as the walkaround/vacation camera 😛

        I’m leaning towards the D600 still for the versatility, but waiting till a few more reviews come out before making up my mind…

        • It gets even more exhausting when there’s client work to do AND reviews AND teaching AND workshops to prep for!

          All of the cameras are great choices. Some are better suited to some types of work than others, but ultimately it’s the sack of meat behind the camera that will make the most difference to the end product…

      • Frankly, I’m amazed that you are responding to all your comments! I admire that, but… I hope you don’t burn yourself out..

        • Well, I think the least one can do is write back if somebody takes the time to write to you…sadly, with the faceless medium of the internet, I most bloggers don’t bother to engage with their readers.

      • Believe me, I’m very glad that you do write back, and I know the rest of your readers feel the same way 🙂

  53. Any indication when Adobe will be including the d600 in the raw updates?

  54. Thank You for a great review. Can I ask about manual focusing on this camera?
    “it’s nearly impossible to use for manual focus without the focus assist dot”
    Will d600 be as good as d700/800 for manual focus lenses with additional accessories?

  55. I’m sure it is a nice wee camera, but at £1800 it is hardly full frame for the masses. I will stick with my D700 and OM-D.

    • I think that part of the problem is UK-specific pricing. It’s more like $2,000 around the rest of the world. The OM-D isn’t exactly cheap for what it is, either…

  56. I read some reviews 2day on the D600 and yours adreses my feelings about how to observe new announcements into perspective what’s already there. I’d followed you already on Flickr .. there you use a Leica M9 as I do also.
    So well done this observation !

    However sometimes a specific lens got a permanent place of desire in your heart. I my case the Nikkor 105mm f/2.0 Defocus Control (DC)…So I bought one this week. But a lens can be good, but it Needs a magic box to keep the light of the moment.

    So I am now in the stage D600 or ancient proven Technology ..the D700. Sure every new Camera will bring ‘something’ more or better, but that doesn’t mean the last one is out-of-date. In the end it’s all about the result, printed or on the screen.

    So 4 years ago I also owned the D700 with the 135mm DC, and at that time I thought that combination would never run out of satisfying my needs, on Photograpghy of course. And looking at the 12mp NEF’s in my prints…they still do.

    So I acknowledge all your remarks about the D600 vs D700. And Size and some functions yes or no, doesn’t influence my Images as I see them.
    But looking from a Photograpy standpoint, what i your opinion would be the 1 or 2 Photographic-benefits of the D600 over the D700?

  57. I read some reviews 2day on the D600 and yours adreses my feelings about how to observe new announcements into perspective what’s already there. I’d followed you already on Flickr .. there you use a Leica M9 as I do also.
    So well done this observation !

    However sometimes a specific lens got a permanent place of desire in your heart. I my case the Nikkor 105mm f/2.0 Defocus Control (DC)…So I bought one this week. But a lens can be good, but it Needs a magic box to keep the light of the moment.

    So I am now in the stage D600 or ancient proven Technology ..the D700. Sure every new Camera will bring ‘something’ more or better, but that doesn’t mean the last one is out-of-date. In the end it’s all about the result, printed or on the screen.

    So 4 years ago I also owned the D700 with the 135mm DC, and at that time I thought that combination would never run out of satisfying my needs, on Photograpghy of course. And looking at the 12mp NEF’s in my prints…they still do.

    So I acknowledge all your remarks about the D600 vs D700. And Size and some functions yes or no, doesn’t influence my Images as I see them.
    But looking from a Photograpy standpoint, what i your opinion would be the 1 or 2 Photographic-benefits of the D600 over the D700?

    • Resolution and perhaps another stop of useable high ISO, that’s about it. There’s weight, too, if that matters to you. If you don’t do live view regularly, or need more resolution, then stick to your D700.

      • Hello Ming, thanks really for your review, and your marvelous photos that give me both the desire to visit KL and Malaysia and confirm my wishes to replace my D700 with a D600.
        I simply want to add another good reason for me, as a former F3 user, to change my camera for a D600, it’s the 95% viewfinder coverage of the D700… I always find this annoying (though manageable).

        Yorys

      • Hello Ming,

        Yeah Weight and 24mp. I went out yesterday and bought the D600 to service my 105mm DC.
        I read the massive book and played a little with the D600. I was a D700 owner 1 year ago.
        My first observations on D600

        – Great feel, smaller the D700 but big enough
        – Shutter-sound….. soft, soft, soft ! I love it
        – Some buttons (WB, ISO etc) on the back now, work just good as on top
        – +/- so far only via dedicated button on top (At D700 I put it on the front dial/wheel
        – View finder good and LCD at the back …HUGE !

        As I see it now….this new technology can take you for a long time.
        If you have a D700, what will you gain?

        – Smaller/Lighter more handle easy
        – 24mp vs 12mp… is really a benefit !!
        I work back many time to 1:1, that mean I tail have 18mp !
        – Can Switch easy to DX, so my 105 becomes (When Necessary) a 150mm on 10Mp or so
        – Shutter sound almost nothing compared to D700/D800 (as a Leica user I like that)
        – AF-C in Live View works good
        – AF fields in finder, I read a lot of comments, is working great, fast and accurate

        And Last but not lead… It’s 4th generation Sensor technology which brings you
        always good IQ. (DXO Labs makes D600 3rd after D800 and D800E and
        before Mid-Format)

  58. Love the review and the sample pictures, it’s great to finally start seeing actual user reviews with real world experience with the D600!

  59. Hi,
    You recommend this camera for long exposure and night photography.
    thanks

  60. Good review. But, I have a D800 and D7000 and I’m not attracted to the D600 at all. For sports the D7000 is great and for portrait/studio/wedding work the D800 is supreme. The only criticism I have is when you compare the D600 with the D800 by discounting the D800’s advantages by saying they’re not much different. Problem is, they are different. Very much so. Also, if someone has a D800 they probably have a good lens and workflow. Cheers

    • No, I didn’t say that. I specifically pointed out that the controls and some specific functions are different enough that you’d be thrown off if you use a D800.

  61. Excellent review as always – I always enjoy reading your reviews – they are always solid and interesting. AND fantastic photography from a world that is quite exotic to me. Thank you.

  62. Hi Ming!
    Thanks for the review, exteremely insightful and great to see a comparison between the ‘past’ (D700) and the ‘future’ (D600/D800).
    As an owner of a D90, what would one experience with a change to a D600 (my lens collection is all FX anyway)?
    I have read that ‘FF is so much better than DX’ but, other than the obvious changes in FOV with a given lens and/or DOF/crop etc, but, all things being equal, is there any specific property(s) that makes FX ‘look better’ from an IQ perspective?
    Reason for asking is that I’d have preffered a new D300 DX type but if there actual discernible differences with using FX then maybe I’ll jump on the D600 ship and look at a DX later on.
    BTW, purchased an RX100 for a ‘carry around’ last weekend. I haven’t had time to try it out properly but the high ISO (on interiors) looks pretty poor 😦 However, my ‘kit’ may look like D600, D90, RX 100. In the light of the second paragraph would a better DX be worth considering as a replacement for the D600/D90 combo – i.e using a ‘new’ DX and the RX100?

    • No problem. You’d get more DOF control and separation at a given distance. The sensor is also a couple of generations ahead, so you’d also get better DR, high ISO performance, color acuity and pixel-level crispness.
      No idea about DX releases, I know as much as the next guy on the street…the RX100 does fine up to about 1600, 3200 for emergencies. Process carefully. Stick to the wide end when it gets dark because that’s much faster than the long end…

  63. Good to hear the D600 is quieter than the D700. That’s the only thing that bugs me about my D700, the shutter noise/clack when shooting, even on the street, it attracts attention. I’ll have to test one myself to see how big the difference is. Another important point you bring up, the shape and size of where you hold the camera. I find the D700, for all its weight and size, to be a wonderful camera to hold and shoot. Another thing to look out for when i check it out. Sounds like this 24mp sensor with it’s image quality, focus system, will be a fine upgrade for me in the next 6 to 12 months…Ming Thein, thanks so much for your ‘take’ on this new nikon body and your excellent photos…

    I do hope I can shoot with the D800 and D600 myself in a shop near my home, so I can compare image quality for myself…

    • No problem. Just be aware of the much smaller AF area. It’s quieter, but also the x-sync speed is only 1/200, not 1/250 with a max of 1/4000 not 1/8000 – that’s probably why.

  64. Great review! Will be interesting to see if you jump ships from the OMD to D600 so please let us know if and when – and why!

    “Personally, I’m currently trying to decide if I’ll stick with the OM-D or go with a D600 and a couple of pancake primes. Both are capable of delivering excellent image quality in the right hands, have a few tradeoffs, but neither would be taxing to carry and shoot for an extended period of time in the same way a D800 and suitable lenses would.”

    • Depends a lot on RAW support – I’d love to trial the D600 for my upcoming Japan travel workshop in October, but if there’s no ACR support I’ll probably pass.

  65. Thanks for your timely review. You certainly work fast and hard. I picked one up too even though I am wondering where it fits in. I am thinking the D800E as a tripod only camera. The D800 and D600 are more interchangeable for each other depending on the situation. My first thoughts of it are as a great walk around body for the smaller primes like the 28 1.8 and 85 1.8 that you have shown. I haven’t tried the pancakes yet. Thanks for your efforts.
    p.s. Any idea when your US workshops will be..even vaguely?

    • Very much the same thoughts I’m having. The problem with using the D600 together with the D800 is that they’re similar enough that you’re almost certainly going to miss some of the controls, as well as being frustrated by the reduced AF grid – I know I was. But yes, it makes sense with the 28 and 85 1.8Gs – that’s what I did for most of the review images; I visited another town about an hour out of Kuala Lumpur.

      Sorry, no firm dates as yet…but I’m thinking around April for SFO and either Boston or NYC.

  66. Ming,
    I am a hobbyist, not a professional, but photography is a passion where I devote much time and energy and do much work for charity. I recently purchased the D600 after having been using the D700 for action animal photography with consistently phenomenal crisp tack sharp images. My still images with the D600 are as you described, just amazing, but I am having a terrible time with trying to shoot rapidly moving subjects. I do primarily animal photography ranging from dogs to running wild animals at animal sanctuaries. With the D700 I use AF-C, dynamic mode, single center point with all 51 points active and never use VR. On the D600, I have been using the AF-C, and tried single point, 9 and 21 point settings and cannot get sharp images. I have tried changing the tracking lock on from long to all the way off to see if this would affect speed of AF acquisition. I am using a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 and Nikkor 70-300 mm f4-5.6 lens (VR off) as I did on the D700. I do not know if this AF and light metering system is robust enough to do this kind of work, or if the higher resolution sensor requires better lenses or if I should be using VR when shooting evenat shutter speeds > 1000, or if there is another reason or if I am just technically doing something wrong which certainly can be the case but I never had trouble with the D700. I do note that when an animal runs from open sun into shade that the metering does not switch at the transition point as it did with the D700 and the subsequent shots in the burst will be underexposed. Could you comment on the AF system for working with this type of photography and also if you think the D800 would be a better choice for those of us who do this kind of work or what you recommend? I have enjoyed the D700 tremendously but would like to have the dynamic range and improved IQ of the newer sensor. In terms of what lenses I can afford and physically handle, the only new lens I could transition to would be the 70-200 mm f2.8 if the 80-200 mm is not high enough quality and/or purchase the 300 mm f/4. Thank you for your consideration in answering the above.

    • Hi Kim,
      Is it a focusing problem or a camera shake/ subject motion problem? I.e. do your images look OOF or motion blurred? You’ll need to use higher shutter speed thresholds for the D600 because the pixel density is higher. And yes, turn off VR above 1/1000s – the system can’t respond fast enough and can result in double images.
      The D800 is not for this kind of work because you need VERY high shutter speeds and AF precision to get pixel-level crispness, which isn’t always possible with available light work.
      Ming

      • Ming,
        Thank you for taking the time to help. I know how inundated you are with questions. I am seeing soft images, not motion blur. Today I shot at at shutter speeds of 1/2,000, no VR, at times stopped down to f/5.6 or 6 to add DOF, without pushing the ISO above 2,000 in well lit conditions with the 70-300mm in RAW format. I got extremely inconsistent focus. During a 5-8 shot burst- one shot may have been sharp (or almost – tack sharp images were rare) and then the next really soft. I found that sometimes the camera just would not fire even if the buffer only had a few shots in it and was far from full. I held the shutter and just watched the shot go by even with AF-C in release mode and AF tracking lock-on turned off. I never had this problem with the D700 and the same lenses mentioned above. I did not have improperly exposed images, at least to my viewing and interpretation of the histograms. Looking at the images in View NX-2, I am suspecting that this problem could be due to a combination of inadequate optics as well as the lack of robustness of the AF system. There definitely was a drop off in IQ above 200 mm as you have reported with this lens, but even at shorter focal lengths, the focus was not consistent. I wonder if upgrading from the 80-200 mm f/2.8 to the 70-200mm f/2.8 would resolve a lot of the problems, maybe not all but enough. Do you have any experience using the camera for action type photos? and specifically of erratically moving subjects, sometimes up to 25-30 mph? I am hoping the user is the problem and I can remedy this situation, and not that this camera is wrong for for the demands I am placing on it. For the type of lighting I often work in, the increased dynamic range over the D700 is very noteworthy and I would like to see if I can make things work. Thank you for your help.

        • The D800’s higher pixel density requires much more precise focus than before. What you could ‘get away with’ on the D700 isn’t the case anymore; I’ve been trying to tell people this all along: it’s not an action camera!

          The 70-300VR is decent but not up to the required standards either optically or AF-speed wise for the D800. The 70-200II will solve most of the problems, but not everything – a lot will be down to technique and checking your AF fine tune.

      • Ming, my observations were in reference to the D600 and not the D800. I am using the D600. I am sorry if I did not make that clear. Are your thoughts and recommendations still the same?

        • The D600 falls midway between the two in terms of demands on technique and shot discipline – you will still need higher shutter speeds than you previously thought; AF fine tune will help, but I can’t say how your lenses perform on this body because I’ve never tried it.

  67. Ming,
    I am a hobbyist, not a professional, but photography is a passion where I devote much time and energy and do much work for charity. I recently purchased the D600 after having been using the D700 for action animal photography with consistently phenomenal crisp tack sharp images. My still images with the D600 are as you described, just amazing, but I am having a terrible time with trying to shoot rapidly moving subjects. I do primarily animal photography ranging from dogs to running wild animals at animal sanctuaries. With the D700 I use AF-C, dynamic mode, single center point with all 51 points active and never use VR. On the D600, I have been using the AF-C, and tried single point, 9 and 21 point settings and cannot get sharp images. I have tried changing the tracking lock on from long to all the way off to see if this would affect speed of AF acquisition. I am using a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 and Nikkor 70-300 mm f4-5.6 lens (VR off) as I did on the D700. I do not know if this AF and light metering system is robust enough to do this kind of work, or if the higher resolution sensor requires better lenses or if I should be using VR when shooting evenat shutter speeds > 1000, or if there is another reason or if I am just technically doing something wrong which certainly can be the case but I never had trouble with the D700. I do note that when an animal runs from open sun into shade that the metering does not switch at the transition point as it did with the D700 and the subsequent shots in the burst will be underexposed. Could you comment on the AF system for working with this type of photography and also if you think the D800 would be a better choice for those of us who do this kind of work or what you recommend? I have enjoyed the D700 tremendously but would like to have the dynamic range and improved IQ of the newer sensor. In terms of what lenses I can afford and physically handle, the only new lens I could transition to would be the 70-200 mm f2.8 if the 80-200 mm is not high enough quality and/or purchase the 300 mm f/4. Thank you for your consideration in answering the above.

  68. Good review; and those night shots were very nicely taken. What was the white balance setting used, was it on auto ?
    I like that last ‘untitled’ shot very much. May I know what the ISO value, aperture and shutter speed used for that shot ?
    Last but not least did you find the D600 has the tendency to over-expose ?
    Thanks.

    • Thanks. Yes, auto WB for all images. EXIF data should be intact if you click through the image to the flickr hosting page.

      I found the meter inconsistent: sometimes hot, sometimes under, but actually it turns out half the problem is the LCD’s gamma being a bit off, and not being able to judge exposure accurately with it.

  69. Do you think there is room in Nikons range for one more full frame camera…………maybe a 24 MP D800, could that wbe why Nikon launched the D800 without the down sampling option ??

    • Honestly, I wish this sensor was in the D800 body, with a higher frame rate as a true D700 successor. But I suspect we’re more likely to see a 48MP D4x instead to compete with that upcoming Canon.

      • Hi Ming
        Yeh, my problem is I have a D200 which I have had since its launch , its a great camera and sooo well built, i didnt bother with the D700 thought i would wait for its replacement, i guess the route Nikon decided upon supprised many of us, ive looked at the D600 but it just doesnt feel like the D200 nice and solid, if feels light and cheap in construction, so now there is really nothing for me to replace my D200 with………….or should I go for D700, i dont need video ??…………Heeeeelp

        • Light is better when travelling, but not necessarily for damping shutter vibration. The rubber is also clearly not the same grade. Either camera will be a huge upgrade to what you have now anyway – I used a pair of D200s before getting the D3, and the difference in image quality was incredible (same sensor in the D700).

      • Do you think that by me shying away from the D800 simply because it demands the user lift their game I would be in denial of my own lack of ability and that one should rise to the beast, in an effort to improve or is it simply that the D800 is unnecessarily overtaxing and distracting for the non pro shooter

        Do you think we are all a little afraid of this high res camera because its the first one to appear and in 3 years we will look back and laugh about it as more similar cameras appear on the market, do we all just need to get stuck in and master it ??

        Why do you think the D4 which is designed for the most demanding user was not given the same high res spec as D800,

        • No, I honestly think that shooting technique demands aside – I’m sure there are plenty of users who can manage just fine – the files are just too big. You really don’t need files that large unless you make big prints regularly; it’s overkill for web use etc. I know because I do both, and the only reason I use the D800E is because I do have clients who use my images for 9ft high walls. Personally, I’m fine with 12MP for my own personal work – which is why I’m still using my D700, compacts, Pen Mini etc.

          The D4 needed a) higher data throughput and b) better high ISO capability, which wasn’t possible with the D800 sensor and current processing technology. Both are shifting around 180MP/S, which is a huge amount of data. Similarly, press photographers seldom need that kind of resolution…

  70. Very nice review Ming, but I have a concern with what you said about using manual focus lenses. “Sadly, the focusing screen has become even less snappy than the D800; it’s nearly impossible to use for manual focus without the focus assist dot.”

    I have the D7000 right now and shoot exclusively with MF lenses. One of the reasons I ordered the D600 was for the larger viewfinder to help in focusing. Would you say that the D600’s viewfinder makes it easier, worse, or about the same as using the D7000’s viewfinder when shooting with MF lenses? Thanks.

    • Thanks Leighton. If you’re used to a D7000, you should be okay; it’s got about the same snap but is of course brighter and bigger. If you’re used to a D800, or a custom MF-purposed screen like the one I’ve got on my D700, it’s not so easy to use.

  71. Nice review – I actually picked up a D700 this week – for me saving the money for a new D600 and putting it to lenses and flashes was the better option – indeed though five yrs old it still performs absolutely stellar.

    My plans are really to only use it with the 28/1.8g and the 85/1.8g plus macro so keeps the weight sensible. Having said that regardless of D700 or D600 it still is heavy compared to mirrorless so when out and about I have to consider how much I will use it for personal shooting for the image quality – but the full frame ‘look’ is addictive 🙂

    Question – you mentioned ‘pancake’ primes, I’m guessing its all relative when compared to mirrorless 🙂

    • Absolutely, there’s nothing wrong at all with the D700. I’ll still continue to use mine when I need the fps and not the resolution. I still think it’s probably a better tool for PJ work. The D600 works great with the 28 and 85 1.8Gs – that’s what I shot for the review – no issues at all; both lenses are stellar. As for the pancake primes – Voigtlander makes a 28/2.8 and 40/2 MF, and there’s the older Nikon 45/2.8 P. I think there’s also a Voigtlander compact 70/75/90 or something if I’m not mistaken.

      • Ah great, I’ll have a look into them!

      • Shaun Connell says:

        Hi Ming

        As always your review is thoughtful and thought provoking. I’m planning a move from DX to FX, primarily for PJ work so I’d like to better understand why you would choose the D700 over the D600. Help!

        • The larger pixels are more forgiving of small amounts of camera shake under borderline shutter speeds/ low light conditions, and the AF grid is much wider.

      • Shaun Connell says:

        Hi Ming and thanks for another thoughtful and thought provoking review. I’m currently a DX user looking to develop in the PJ genre so I’m really interested in better understanding your preference for the D700 over the D600 for that. What’s your rationale?

  72. Hi
    it was a great review and I wanted to say thanks, after deciding that nikon is for me,Do you think this is a good idea to make this camera my first dslr and spend the diff in price with D800 on glass?
    BTW, It means a lot that u answer all your comments… appreciate it.

    • I definitely would NOT go for the D800 as your first DSLR. The D600 is more suitable and yes, second to spending money on improving one’s skills, glass will make a biggest difference. (Of course, both are ideal 🙂

  73. Excellent review. Thanks.

  74. Thanks for Another excellent article.

    “Personally, I’m currently trying to decide if I’ll stick with the OM-D or go with a D600 and a couple of pancake primes”

    That’s an interesting comment. You seem to have been so happy with the OM-D and lenses that I have to askmwhynyou are saying this?

    Regards
    Guy

    • Oops. Not sure what happened to the end of the sentence. This is what I tried to post.

      Thanks for Another excellent article.

      “Personally, I’m currently trying to decide if I’ll stick with the OM-D or go with a D600 and a couple of pancake primes”

      That’s an interesting comment. You seem to have been so happy with the OM-D and lenses that I have to ask why you are saying this?

      Regards
      Guy

    • Given a choice, and assuming there isn’t a huge size/ weight penalty, I’d prefer the larger sensor because I have more DOF control – not shallower all the time, but the choice when I want it. The relatively light weight and small size of the D600 plus the new CV28 pancake (and lack of a decent 28 for M43, at least until the Schneider shows up) is opening up some questions in the equipment.

  75. Is it possible to support you via Amazon.co.uk? Your links always refer to Amazon.com site.

    • Doesn’t look like it, I’m afraid – you could try clicking through the normal link to see what happens, but aren’t US prices much cheaper anyway? 🙂

  76. A very good review Ming and much appreciated. I have a D600 on its way to me and your real world user experience is insightful. As a user of the D2X, D300 and D700 bodies, I will definitely miss the one-press 100% image review that these models possess on the backside wheel. I had assumed that that feature was standard on Nikon DSLRs going forward but, obviously, it’s not. Very strange to me that it’s not been included. I’ll really miss that function. Is that feature something that could be resolved in a firmware update or…not? If it was added, I would find this body to be perfect for me going forward. Anyway, again, thanks for the review and your stunning imagery.

    • Thanks Michael. I always thought I was one of the few people using that function because most of the Nikon shooters I talk to aren’t aware of it at all! You don’t get it on the consumer bodies because there’s no separate ‘enter/ok’ button – the center of the multi-selector does that.

  77. Ming, you write very well and I always enjoy your reviews, but I hope you forgive me in saying that this and your D800 reviews are misleading in one significant way: they tend to to fixate on ‘pixel level sharpness’ and noise, which falls into the ‘lower MP = more forgiving’ trap – which really simply means you notice things like focus errors more when zooming in to the image at 100% on a higher-res sensor.

    I think it would be nice for your readers if you re-emphasized that the detail that focus errors blur out are not even there in the first place on the lower-res sensor.

    Your crop comparisons do not show the same AOV – which automatically puts any higher-res sensor at a disadvantage, because the higher res sensor shows a more ‘zoomed in’ view, and this looks noisier than it would if that crop had been downsampled to match the lower-res shot. This is misleading, and only important if you want to see things at ‘pixel-level’ – and I’m not sure why you’d ever really care about that unless you were comparing lenses, not sensor performance. (this is why DxOMark normalizes on an 8MP comparison in their sensor measurements and rankings – because they realize this.)

    Aside from that, this is a very good user review and you touch on a lot of things that will be important to people, and describe them clearly.

    • Thanks for your comments, Jim. If you have significant pixel-level blurring, even downsizing isn’t going to help you. I’ve tried this in practice: even viewing images at the same output size, I’m finding that if shutter speeds are very borderline and camera shake is likely, the D700 images just appear crisper. As for AOV, we’re considering the whole image: I’m not going to shoot a D700 at a higher magnification and closer than a D800 in the same situation because it has less pixels: 28mm is still 28mm, and you’d still have to frame and compose like a 28mm because of the overall sensor size. So whilst your idea of comparing things at the same AOV per pixel makes sense, this is not very useful in the real world because it automatically gives the advantage to more pixels, with everything else being equal. DXOmark results are also misleading because in practice, there are a lot more factors at play – some of which are affected by pixel count – influencing the overall look of the images, even at the same physical output sizes.

  78. Ben Hopkins says:

    I’m not so convinced on the 6D, obviously I haven’t handled one either but it seems that it falls short in most significant categories. Lower resolution, 11 point AF vs. 39 point AF, 4.5 fps vs. 5.5 fps, only one SD slot, 97% VF coverage and no built-in flash to use as a trigger at the same price point. I agree that most Canon users with a significant investment in glass would stick with the 6D and they will probably enjoy it, but it really seems like Canon dropped the ball on this one. Nikon even owned them in immediate availability for the first time in recent memory.

    • Hi Ben, I have to agree (whole-heartedly!)…. Canon left the door open on this one…. quite disappointing.

    • We are talking about really small differences here – not make or break. I think it’ll be down to system. I was surprised with availability though, even in small markets like Malaysia…

    • I agree that Canon dropped the ball. I’m an enthusiast Canon 7D user looking to upgrade to a full frame, and I’m very underwhelmed by the 6D. I’m going to have sell all my Canon EF-S lenses anyway (no lens backward compatibility from Canon), so I’m giving the D600 a very serious look. The more a read about it, the more I’m convinced it is the right body for me. The dynamic range the camera is showing is very exciting, and I doubt the 6D will match the D600 in this area. All the little differences in spec between the two cameras add up. Nikon has made the decision even easier by making the camera widely available right away. I don’t know how many people are in my boat, but Canon’s handling of the 6D has likely lost them at least one long term customer.

      • I suggest you try it first, because the control interface is pretty different. I’m sure the image quality is close enough that it won’t be the deciding factor in whether you get the shot or not…but a fumbled button/ dial might.

    • I’m one of those “Canon users with a significant investment in glass” … and I just sold one of my favorite lenses (70-200 f/4L IS) to a friend… and that’s just the beginning. Why sell it all off? I rented the D600 and Nikon 24-70 f/2.8G last weekend. Compared to my 7D the image quality is truly _unbelievable_. As serious hobbyist landscaper I’ve been wanting to move to Full Frame for a long time… and I’m going to move to Nikon to do it.

      • So long as it works for you – I’m not a huge advocate of frequent system switching because of all the relearning that’s required.

  79. Must resist … must resist! At least until the XE-1 is launched. I know they (D600 vs XE-1 are vastly different, so admittedly, maybe I am just a geek. A quick question if u dun mind. In addition to the OM-D, which would be your 2nd camera ?

    Great review and insights as always. Personally, I find the price difference btn the D800 and D600 too narrow to make any significant diff (where FF prices are concerned, factoring in the price of lens, which is a longer term investment, it makes the diff more insignificant, IMO at least) Your user experience is much appreciated, always! I dun wanna be told of how great (or not) the specs are, that we all can read. Its how the equipment feel and performs in the real world. So thank you again!

    • Depends on what I’m doing. If I’m shooting pro work, a pair of Nikons or a Nikon and the OM-D. Otherwise, whatever I feel like on the day + RX100.

      As for pricing – depends on where you are, I suppose. The D800 is about 50% more. I’d personally be more concerned about ease of use/ shooting discipline required – if I was a reportage or travel shooter, I wouldn’t pick the D800 because I know that I can’t get the most out of it under the majority of shooting conditions I’m likely to encounter. Studio, commercial and the kind of thing I do now, D800 makes more sense.

  80. Another great review… As a current D700 owner I’m in a situation thinking to upgrade or not. But base on my current scope of work the D700 is just good enough for me. But instead it can a good replacement for my D7000 and also a great companion for the D700. Ming, just one question… does Nikon grade the D600 as a pro body which enable it to be part of NPS registration?… Thank you

    • Thanks. If the D700 isn’t missing anything, then save the money. Always be clear about what it is the new camera will do for you that the existing ones aren’t before buying it. I don’t know about NPS and the D600, but I don’t think so. You also need to be a credentialed pro with tear sheets, business registration etc to qualify – it isn’t like CPS where all you need is gear.

  81. Eddie Marmolejo says:

    Thanks Ming. A good read, but I didn’t realize Goldilocks shot FF 🙂
    So there’s a chance you’ll move on from your OM-D?

  82. For the kinds of photography in which I’m interested, it boils down to this: I want full frame, I want something compact and I want a reasonable file size that won’t choke my computers and my iPad. The 600 fulfills those wants far better than the 700 ever could, while, for me, the 800 was only good for one out of three.

    You’ve covered the major bases, answering some questions about the camera I have not seen addressed elsewhere, which is making me more comfortable with my purchase. Thanks.

    • Thanks Dave – yes, I think the D600 fits your needs perfectly – the weight and size difference to the D700 is quite remarkable. Not so much to the D800 though, which feels quite similar to me.

  83. That’s one of the best reviews I’ve read so far. Thank you Ming. I totally agree that the LCD brightness is way way off. Same on the D800. I find this the most annoying thing on this camera. Still love the D700 🙂

    • It’s a bit of a mix of two problems – brightness and metering. Between them, I got some slightly surprising results when I opened the files for the first time – could also be because I’m just not used to the camera yet. I think that exposure tweaking function might be necessary – providing of course the metering is consistently off in one direction…

    • Seconded the LCD comment. I turned the brightness of the LCD down to -3. But it’s annoying shooting outdoors with -3 and you have to turn it back up to 0 when you can’t see the LCD screen with the sun shining right on it.

      • It’s almost as though the gamma of the LCD just doesn’t match the files – yet it still looks relatively ok. Hmmm.

      • DSC_0010
        This was shot with Program mode, iso 2000 on my 24-85vr. This picture looked all nice and bright on the LCD, but it came out somewhat dark when I ran it on ViewNX2. So yup, I think the gamma’s somewhat off for pictures shot without sufficient light.

        LCD aside, I’m still getting the hang of getting the right metering and exposure. Took me a few tries to get this below shot.
        DSC_0198

        • I think the only way around this is to go with the blinking highlights warning and histogram – though the former doesn’t tell you anything about gamma. You might think the midtones look okay, when in fact they’re underexposed by a stop or so…good thing the sensor has a lot of latitude.

  84. Great review Ming. I think you have helped me to finally say goodbye to my unfulfilled order for my D800E. I got my D600 last Thursday, and have to agree it is the perfect upgrade for someone like me (enthusiast ) and allows path to full frame. BTW,my first DLSR was my beloved D70. Last year I got a D5100, which with a pancake, fits in my palm. Tried your OM-D after reading about it but the knobs were too fiddley and tiny for me. So, lovi’n my new D600. Do wish they could have added more shots to the exposure bracketing though.

    • Thanks Bob. I had no idea there was still a backlog for the D800E – that’s pretty shocking. The D600 is a lot more forgiving than the D800E on both lenses and technique, which I think helps restore the balance in favor of fun rather than work…

  85. Great stuff from Malacca. I can almost taste the food Ming. I think I’ll be picking mine up in Australia as soon as we’re done with out workshop this weekend. See you soon!

  86. Good review Ming. It is probably worth noting that the D600 will also shoot 1080p/24 video (just like the other Nikons), rather than just the mentioned 1080p/30. Not having 24p would be a deal breaker for many people interested in video, which this camera would otherwise attract for it’s “uncompressed” HDMI output at 8 bit 4:2:2

  87. Very thought provoking review. Thank you.

  88. Very much appreciate your insights and reflections in general, Ming, and particularly on this device since I have one sitting here — couldn’t agree more with your “goldilocks’ comment, and similarly will be using this as a travel camera (europe next month) combined with that tiny cosina/voigtlander 28/2.8 … looking forward to your impressions on that particular lens too …

    (if you don’t have the Voigt28, will lend you mine while you’re in SanFrancisco)

  89. David Hamments says:

    Great review Ming! I think you’ve convinced me to order the D600, rather than pick up a lightly used D700… FYI, I think there’s a small typo in this paragraph:

    “In some ways, I miss the physical switches of the last generation, but having these settings electronically selectable means that you can save all settings, including AF configuration, to the U1 and U2 mode dials – I’ll probably keep one set up for regular reportage-style shooting with 11-point AF-C, aperture priority and auto-ISO, and the other for studio/ flash work at the X-sync speed (1/200s), manual exposure mode, base ISO, and 51-point AF-C. I wish my D800E had this option. That said, I’ll probably leave the D600 set up for reportage, and the D800E for studio work.”

    The D600 doesn’t offer 51 point AF-C to my knowledge…

    Cheers, D. Hamments

Trackbacks

  1. […] myself for some time, and hadn’t realized it? It was the same case with the JPEGs from the Nikon D600 I was testing around the same time; they looked great at typical display sizes, but started to fall […]

  2. […] small, light Nikon D600 got me thinking about full frame as a viable alternative for a lightweight travel kit again – […]

  3. […] head, or 468MGRC0 Hydrostatic ball head Gitzo GT1542 Traveller with Gitzo 1780QR head Leica M9-P Nikon D600 (backup), D700 (reportage/ low light), D800E (primary for commercial work), F2 Titan (personal […]

  4. […]  Ming Thein – The Nikon D600 review: full frame for the masses? […]

  5. […] should I buy?’ – note that this has now gotten even less straightforward now that the D600 is an option, too. And then there was the fact that it wasn’t really that different to the […]

  6. Anonymous says:

    […] la Sony A77 (quiero video) pero ahora dudo y repito, como segundo cuerpo, hacerme con la Nikon D600 The Nikon D600 review: full frame for the masses? o Oly OM-D Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 No se, creo que voy contracorriente jajajajajajaja […]

  7. […] Ming Thein in his D600 review asks, “Full-Frame for the Masses?”: The D600 didn’t receive anywhere near the same fanfare or hype as the D800/ D800E at introduction; perhaps it was the long rumour train, or perhaps it was the fairly conservative spec sheet. However, I think this is going to be one of those cameras that enjoys a long burn in much the same way as the D70 and D700 did — it brought a decent feature set with a sizeable leap in image quality at a new low price point. The D600 body retails at US$2,100 or thereabouts. In that respect, I feel in the long term it will do for full frame what the D70 did for DSLRs in general: it made it accessible. It’s more than enough camera for the average user, yet not so much that getting the most out of it becomes a challenge, like the D800/ D800E. The D600 is full frame for the masses; if you’re not a pro but you’re itching for an upgrade from your D700 or D7000, this is probably what you’ve been waiting for. […]

  8. […] Raar En om deze post niet helemaal onzinnig te maken. Hier een (in mijn ogen) eerlijke review: https://blog.mingthein.com/2012/09/24/nikon-d600/ Hij wordt hier ook goed vergeleken met de D700 & D800(E). Met citaat […]

  9. […] If you want to see a more capable tool for that, look at Ming Thein’s review of a better one. […]

  10. […] 35mm Full frame action now with the recently both released and announced Nikon D600 receiving a photographer-priority review by Ming Thein. […]

  11. […] 13/09/2012: Nikon announces D600 FF 24,3 mp The Nikon D600 review: full frame for the masses? – Ming Thein | Photographer In conclusion: the Nikon D600 may not be the D700 replacement or make waves like the D3 did, […]

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