Nikon officially announced the long-rumored and much-leaked D600 a week before the Photokina trade show in September. The D600 is a full-frame DSLR aimed at enthusiasts, with a price to match. At a body only price of $2099/£1955, the 24MP D600 is significantly cheaper than its big brother the D800, and on a par with Canon's recently announced 21MP full-frame EOS 6D.

The D600 - which offers similar build quality and operational ergonomics as the popular DX-format D7000 - is a significant camera, even with the Canon EOS 6D arriving hot on its heels. The D600 matches or exceeds the pixel count of every other full-frame DSLR bar one (the D800) at a pricepoint which puts it within the reach of many enthusiasts. For those of us who've been covering the industry for a while, it's sobering to remember that the first full-frame DSLR, the Canon EOS 1Ds, was announced almost a decade ago. It doesn't seem like so long ago that full-frame was the holy grail of consumer digital imaging, promising liberation from crop factors once and for all, and a return to a simpler time where a 24mm lens actually was a 24mm.

A lot has changed since the 1Ds went on sale though (at an eye-watering $7999) and these days, if you want a full-frame camera, you don't have to remortgage your home. Cameras like Sony's Alpha 850, Nikon's D700 and Canon's EOS 5D brought full-frame sensors within reach of enthusiasts, and the more recent D800, Canon's EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D have continued that trend, offering more and more advanced specifications at prices much lower than top-flight equipment like the Nikon D3X and Canon's flagship, the EOS-1D X, the former of which, at least, is looking increasingly anachronistic. It's interesting to note, too, that with the D600, Nikon significantly undercuts the price of Sony's recent full-frame offerings - the SLT-A99 and Cyber-shot RX1.

Nikon D600: Key Specifications

  • 24.3MP Full-frame CMOS sensor (10.5MP DX-format crop mode)
  • ISO 100-6400 (expandable to ISO 50-25,600 equivalent)
  • Maximum 5.5fps continuous shooting
  • 39-point AF system with 9 cross-type AF points
  • 3.2in 921k-dot LCD screen
  • 1080p30 full HD video
  • Headphone jack for audio monitoring in movie mode
  • Uncompressed video recording via HDMI
  • Single-axis electronic level in viewfinder, duel-axis (pitch and roll) in live view
  • Dimensions: 141mm x 113mm x 82mm (5.5 × 4.4 × 3.2 in).
  • Weight: 760 g (1.6 lbs) (camera body only, no battery)

Affordable full-frame

At its list price at launch of $2099 the D600 is one of the most affordable full-frame cameras yet, and although Nikon insists that there are still good reasons to buy the D300S, it seems very likely that the D600 will finally supplant the older DX-format model as the 'upgrade of choice' for users of the D3200, D5100 and D7000. But despite its relatively low cost the D600 is very far from a 'no frills' model. Features like 5.5fps shooting at full-resolution, 100% viewfinder coverage, full HD video capture with an option to record uncompressed footage via HDMI and a customizeable 39-point AF system would be pretty impressive in a camera costing much more.

Ergonomically, the D600 will feel to some extent familiar to both of these constituencies. The D600's UI is very similar to the DX-format D7000; it even shares the same 39-point AF array. In terms of functionality though, the D600 also has a lot in common with its big brother the D800, particularly when it comes to video specification. Something that came as a surprise on the D600 was the ability to shoot uncompressed video footage via HDMI output. On paper, this, plus a mic socket for an external microphone and a headphone jack should make the D600 very appealing to videographers. The only real difference in specification between the implementation of the D600's video mode compared to the D800 is that you can't adjust aperture during movie recording on the new model (unless you use an older manual focus lens with a mechanical aperture ring).

D600 versus D7000: Specification highlights

  • 24.3MP Full-frame CMOS sensor (compared to 16.2MP DX-format CMOS)
  • Maximum 5.5fps continuous shooting (compared to 6fps)
  • 3.2in 921k-dot LCD screen (compared to 3in)
  • D800-style combined movie/still live view mode button
  • Headphone jack for audio monitoring in movie mode
  • Uncompressed video recording via HDMI

D600 versus D800: Specification highlights

  • 24.3MP Full-frame CMOS sensor (compared to 36.3MP CMOS)
  • 10.5MP DX-format crop mode (compared to 15.3MP)
  • 39-point AF system with 9 cross-type AF points (compared to 51-points, with 15 cross-type)
  • Autofocus sensitivity down to -1EV (compared to -2EV)
  • Maximum 5.5fps continuous shooting in FX mode (compared to 4fps in FX mode)
  • 2,016-pixel RGB TTL exposure metering sensor (compared to 91,000 pixels)
  • 2x SD slots (compared to CF+SD)
  • No 'Power Aperture' aperture control during movie shooting (offered by D800 using Fn + Preview buttons)
  • Shutter rated to 150,000 cycles (compared to 200,000 cycles)
  • Magnesium-alloy top and rear covers only (D800 has full mag-alloy chassis except flash housing)
  • USB 2.0 interface (compared to USB 3.0)