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There appears to be a move towards increasing the number of camera models with full frame (ie 24x36mm) sensors. Sony, for one, has even released a fixed mirror DSLR model with a full frame sensor.
Going back to the film camera days companies just couldn’t leave 35mm alone: Kodak stupidly tried the disk camera taking 11x8mm exposures … and the pictures were woeful!
Then came the 110 format, ballooning up to a magnificent 13x17mm, producing pictures that were a little better but still suffering from a lag in photographic chemistry that continued to produce grainy images.
Earlier, we had seen the 126 format with 28x28mm images. This managed to capture a decent market share.
Another one from the same time was the half frame format (18x24mm) that attracted a decent sector of the buying public and even led to some pretty innovative camera designs, especially from Olympus.
More recently, and just prior to the emergence of digital cameras was the ill-fated APS-C format (25.1×16.7mm). IMHO this format only managed to accelerate the demise of film cameras by confusing the buying public.
So the struggle still goes on. Currently, we are surrounded by compact digital models that have sensors that range all the way down to 11mm and smaller … the size of a fingernail.
These are perfectly capable of making decent and sharp 10x15cm happy snap prints, but little larger due to the emergence of noise in the images.
If you need higher quality digital images you must head north to at least 17mm diagonal sensors or, even better, APS-C sized cameras in the guise of Sony’s NEX (23.4×15.6 mm) and Canon’s EOS-M model (22.3 x 14.9 mm). These not only offer a larger sensor but take you to interchangeable lens land.
So we eventually arrive at full frame sensor territory.
With this model under review, the Nikon D600, we can enjoy full frame CMOS capture and access to Nikon’s famed range of interchangeable lenses.
But … we also get to ‘enjoy’ the pleasures of a full size camera that, when loaded with the review f3.5/24-85mm lens, tipped the scales at a (to me) significant 1.3kg. Out and about, you certainly (and passers-by) know you’re carrying a serious DSLR!
But, if you want 35mm quality, the D600 is surely the way to go, price and design-wise.
I found the camera easy to get used to, with external controls sensibly laid out: mode dial on top left, with choice of single or multiple frame capture control made from the concentric ring beneath; at right is the shutter button, video record, exposure correction and metering area nearby. Mode dial is forward of the shutter button. The auto focus/manual button is set into the lens barrel’s left side (viewed from behind).
Front: flash operation and bracketing buttons plus one for AF mode.
At rear left are buttons for menu, choice of picture style, white button, quality/size, ISO setting.
Rear right is where the main command dial is found and the OK button, video/still selector, plus Live View and others.
The camera’s 24.3 megapixel CMOS captures a maximum image size of 6016×4016 pixels that can deliver a 51x34cm print made at 300 dpi.
In movies it can record excellent quality, Full HD with 1920×1080 pixels. I have to say that, on my shooting safaris, it was a delight to shoot stills alongside video clips, with the changeover between formats a very simple chore. To record video it was a simple task to tap the red button sited next to the stills shutter button. The only downer was that, while videoing, if I hit the shutter button the video record was interrupted.
In the movie which accompanies this review you may notice some unwanted artefacts, due to the dull day shooting and subsequent necessary lifting of the exposure levels and colour saturation in iMovie software.
Movie wise, uncompressed movie data can be output to an external recorder via the built-in HDMI interface.
The camera is claimed to be the ‘lightest and smallest FX-format (full frame) DSLR camera’ on the market and, if you sit it beside its peers, it certainly echoes that claim.
Smaller it may be but it’s also equipped with the same EXPEED 3 high-speed image-processing engine that’s built into the D4, D800, and D800E Nikon FX-format cameras
I found, in use, that the camera performed very well on low light and gave an outstanding performance with its AF system that tracked subjects with 39 focus points and cross-type sensors that sensed the nine most frequently used focus points at the centre of frame.
Viewing is via the delightful optical viewfinder at the top of the camera or the large 8.1cm LCD screen at rear, activated as a Live View function. I found the former to be excellent in bright light, with the LCD failing badly in the same conditions. Unfortunately, the screen can neither be tilted or swung.
There is no CompactFlash card slot but there are twin SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots; the pair can be used in overflow fashion, as sequential backup or separately set up to record JPEG in one and RAW in the other. Mighty handy!
There is a time lapse feature which is one of the options in the movie settings. The camera takes photographs at a preselected interval, with the memory card access lamp lighting up when each shot is captured. The camera then assembles the images and records them as a silent video.
Some pros may scoff but there is an inbuilt flash that has a guide number of 12m at ISO 100. Useful as a fill light.
There is a wireless connection that can download images from an Eye-Fi card or control two external flash units and even operate the camera remotely.
All the way to ISO 3200 the D600 took clean shots with very little noise. Only at ISO 6400 was there some evidence of noise but sharpness still held up, making it a very useable setting.
Quality: excellent (of course!)
Why you would buy the Nikon D600: you want full frame quality at a reasonable price and luggable weight/size.
Why you wouldn’t buy the Nikon D600: no vari-angle screen.
An impressive camera. Should sell in truckloads.
Image Sensor: 35.9×24.0mm CMOS. 24.3 million effective pixels.
Metering: Matrix, centre-weighted, averaging and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: full frame 35.9x24mm CMOS.
A/D processing: 12- or 14-bit.
Lens Mount: Nikon F.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 30 to 1/4000 second, Bulb. Flash X-sync: up to 1/200 sec.
Continuous Speed: 5.5fps in FX full frame mode.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I compliant cards. Two slots.
Image Sizes (pixels): 6016×4016 to 1968×1112. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720 at 24/25/30fps.
Viewfinders: Eye level pentaprism and 8.1cm LCD (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: NEF (RAW), JPEG, NEF (RAW)+JPEG, MPEG4.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400. With expansion down to ISO 50 and up to 25,600.
Interface: USB 3.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input, external stereo mic, headphone output, remote.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 141x113x82 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 850 g (with battery and SD card).
Price: get a price on the Nikon D600 body only or with a 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens or with 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Nikkor Lens.