D600 – The Best affordable Full Frame DSLR.

FX Sensor24.3MPISO 50-25600

Nikon has been busy launching their updated FX lineup over the past year and this new entrant packs a lot of punch for a small guy: the D600. Weighing in at 760 grams without the battery, it is the lightest FX DSLR from Nikon till date. This new Nikon features a 24.3MP FX sensor, 39-point AF system, a glass prism optical viewfinder with 100% coverage and a 3.2″ Screen all in a sleek body. While the D4 and D800 models are aimed primarily at the professional photographers, the D600 has been designed for the amateur/enthusiast photographers in need of a FX sensor in a lightweight and sleek body.

The D600 has taken on a number of features and functions from its elder siblings the D4 and D800. The new faster Expeed 3 engine helps in quick processing of the 24.3MP images. With in-camera HDR exposure and blending you no more have a need to externally blend the pictures on software. The uncompressed live video stream and time lapse video mode which were introduced with the D800/D800E. Introduction of the U1 and U2 User Settings options from the D7000 body was also a huge surprise as it was missed it out completely on the D800.

Until a year ago the only option for a Nikon user wanting a Full Frame DSLR with more than 12MP was to either shift to Canon or to pick up the pricier D3X. The launch of the D800 & the D800E came as much relief for most Nikon users and Nikon has done one step better this time by making the D600 one of the most affordable and best performing Full Frame DSLR in the market.

Powerhouse

At the heart of the Nikon D600 sits a new Nikon developed 24.3MP FX CMOS sensor. The new FX CMOS sensor with a 24.0 x 35.9 mm dimension was developed by Nikon, with 24.3 million effective pixels, and a pixel pitch of 5.49-microns. It provides image dimensions of 6,016 x 4,016 pixels at full resolution. The level of detail delivered by the new 24.3MP sensor is impressive.
The D600 features the new Exspeed 3 image processing engine, same as the one used in the D4 and the D800/D800E. This engine is capable of 14-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit image processing. With this combined power the D600 is capable of a burst rate of 5.5 frames per second.

Adding to this combo is the 2016-pixel RGB sensor which supplies information to the camera’s Scene Recognition System which in turn optimises exposure, white balance and auto-focus.
Auto-focus is handled by a revamped version of the Multi-CAM 4800 system, similar to the one found in the Nikon D7000, which delivers a high level of performance.This new AF system has 39 AF points, out of which 9 are cross-type, making it very fast and precise. Also the central 7 focus points will function at apertures as small as f/8, a good news for photogs using teleconverters.

Using the Dynamic AF (9, 21 or 39 point) users can intelligently track the subject if it moves from the initial AF point as the camera keeps the subject in focus. The 3D Focus Tracking automatically tracks the subject in motion, a tool very helpful in sorts/action photography. In Live View mode AF is handled by contrast-detetion, unlike the phase-detection in viewfinder mode. Even though AF performance in contrast-detection mode is good it fails to match up to some of its EVIL counterparts.

The D600 features a newly designed shutter mechanism, with Kevlar/carbon-fibre composite blades, rated for 150,000 actuation, giving it a long life.Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30-seconds, with a shutter release lag is 52-milliseconds. Strangely the flash sync speed is reduced to just 1/200, down from 1/250 sync speed on the D7000 and D800, a huge disappointment for Speedlight users. Shutter release modes include single-shot, continuous, self-timer, Quiet-shutter, remote-release, and mirror lock-up. The shutter cycles at 5.5 FPS in both the FX and DX formats.

Design

The top and rear panels made from a magnesium alloy, while the rest is constructed from polycarbonate material. The body is also partially weather sealed. On the back of the body  is a 3.2″  921,000-dot LCD screen with automatic brightness adjustment, same as the one on the Nikon D800. The optical viewfinder above the screen provides approximately 100% frame coverage in FX format.

The shooting and customisable shooting preset modes dial can be found on the top left hand corner similar to other entry level Nikon DSLRs. The model dial has a press lock mechanism to make sure it doesn’t get dialed accidentally. The five button along the left side of the screen can be used to set ISO, Quality, White Balance and Picture Control in shooting mode. In review mode these buttons act as Zoom Out, Zoom In, Help and Retouch buttons. On the right of the screen you fins the d-pad for navigating the menu system. Below the d-pad is the Photo/Video selector with the Live View button in the middle. The design of the D600 is a combination between the D7000 and the D800.
On the left side of the body behind hinged rubber doors is an array of connection ports including the headphone and external microphone ports, along with the usual USB and HDMI connectors. Also present is a dedicated accessory socket for connecting a wireless adapter, remote shutter release or GPS module. On the top right side behind the shutter release button is a dedicated record button for video, this placement of the button helps in changing over from taking photos to shooting videos easily.

The D600 features a pop-up flash which can also act as a master controlling up to two groups of wireless slaved system flashes. The built-in flash has a guide number of 12. External Speedlights can be added using the hot-shoe mount. The dual SD memory card slots have been carried over from the Nikon D7000. With the two-card system you can record every image simultaneously on both cards for instant backup, use one card to store raw files and the other for JPEGs, or use the secondary card for overflow from the primary card. Nikon D600 is compatible with both UHS-I compliant Class 10 SDHC memory card and older Class 4 cards. The D600 is lightest Nikon FX DSLR from Nikon, weighing in at a mere 760gm, a boon for photogs wanting an FX body for prolonged periods of shooting.

Image/Video Quality

Occasionally the images tend to be slightly overexposed and the colours tend to be a bit warmer. Nikon has one of the best Auto White Balance function among DSLRs, and this can be seen in the D600 as well. The low light performance is very impressive, with image having very controlled and useable noise levels even at high ISO. The amount of detail captured by the 24.3MP sensor is impressive throughout the ISO range. Like most new Nikon DSLRs, the D600 can shoot two differently exposed images and then blended them in-camera to form a single HDR image. The exposure differential can be set for  1, 2 or 3 EV , this feature is only available when shooting JPEG.

In the video mode the D600 is capable of shooting FULL HD at 24, 25 or 30 FPS and at 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 FPS in 720P mode. The video is saved as MOV files encoded with H.264 or MP4 compression. An added advantage of the D600 is its ability to stream uncompressed live video feed to an external device. In the time-lapse mode, which can be selected from the menu, the built in intervalometer triggers the shutter at preset intervals and the resulting images are converted into a into a Full HD video file and saved on the memory card. The maximum shooting time is 7 hours and 59 minutes and the maximum length for  time-lapse photography is 20 minutes of video recorded.

Conclusion

At just $2099.95 the D600 is an affordable FX DSLR with great performance. The amount of detail captured by the new 24.3MP FX sensor in the D600 is impressive.  While photogs may think that the 39 point AF should have covered a larger area, the AF accuracy and speed makes up for this in performance. The small and lightweight FX body comes packed with a punch and can serve you as well as its more expensive sibling, if you can sacrifice with a few features and functions. The D600 is a must buy for anybody wanting to upgrade to a Full Frame body.