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Conclusion - Pros

  • Outstanding low and high ISO performance in both JPEG and Raw files
  • High quality JPEG images at default settings
  • Wide dynamic range Raw files
  • Consistently pleasing metering and white balance results
  • Very solid build quality and good ergonomics / handling
  • Fast, responsive camera when adjusting settings
  • Weather-sealing comparable to higher priced D800
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Built-in flash can act as Commander for multi-flash setups
  • Comprehensive camera customization options
  • DX crop mode in both stills and video modes
  • 100% viewfinder coverage with high magnification
  • Auto ISO selection can be linked to lens focal length
  • Well-designed, easily accessible menu system
  • In-camera raw processing
  • Very good video specification and output
  • Ability to output uncompressed HD video to an external recorder
  • Manual audio control for both recording and monitoring
  • 3.5mm Stereo mic and headphone inputs
  • Dual axis virtual horizon

Conclusion - Cons

  • Small coverage area of AF array compared to its peers
  • Slow AF in live view and video modes (but good compared to its DSLR competitors)
  • Rear LCD prone to glare in bright sunlight, despite new design
  • Uncompressed video output over HDMI is not full frame, with black borders around image area*
  • No 'live' aperture control in live view or video mode
  • Sensor appears unusually prone to dust spots
  • No histogram in live view
  • When shooting in live view, rear screen is blacked out until data is written to the card
  • Maximum magnifications in image playback show pixelated output
  • Lacks useful customization of 'OK' button in playback (featured in D300S and D800)

*Since the publication of this review, Nikon has issued firmware update C: 1.01 which allows the D600 to produce full screen output over HDMI. When we have an opportunity to install the update and verify this behavior we will update the relevant contents of this review.

Overall conclusion

Nikon's last big DSLR release was the D800. The big news with that camera was its pixel count of 36MP, which when it was released, comfortably eclipsed everything else around (and at the time of writing still does). The D600 doesn't quite reach those dizzy heights, but at 24MP, it matches or exceeds the pixel count of every other full-frame system camera. It is also one of the most versatile, offering a 10.5MP DX crop mode, an in-body AF motor ( which ensures AF compatibility with non-AF-S Nikkor lenses) and compatibility witholder, manual focus lenses. These factors alone will give it serious appeal to two camps - D800 or D4 owners looking for a smaller, lower-cost second body, and D300S and D7000 owners who want to step up to full-frame but don't want (or can't afford) to replace all of their DX-format lenses in one go.

Accordingly, there are two ways of looking at the D600 as it sits within Nikon's current lineup - as a beefed-up D7000, or as a slimmed-down D800. Depending on your perspective, both could be equally valid. The D600 offers a highly compelling entry into full-frame for DX-format veterans but it also incorporates an awful lot of DNA from the D800 at a considerably lower price, making it attractive to people who were holding out for a D800 price-drop or just want a cheaper FX-format second body alongside a D800 or D4.

For a lot of D600 users though, this camera will offer the first experience of full-frame digital photography. You can use DX-format optics on the D600, but we suspect that the resolution drop from 24 to 10.5MP will be a good incentive to upgrade to full-frame lenses (although a lot of fun can be had with the AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G). Fortunately, in the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR standard zoom, D600 buyers have a 'kit' lens which offers very good image quality considering its relatively low cost. Similarly, Nikon's AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G and AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lenses are excellent performers, while still being reasonably affordable. If you're on a budget, the latest 50mm f/1.8 is a no-brainer but decades' worth of older Nikon lenses will work with the D600, too. This is good news if you're building a full-frame system around the D600 from scratch.

Something that we've definitely got our eye on though, and which we'll be in a better position to comment on over time, is the D600's apparent tendency to attract sensor dust. We're working with Nikon to understand (and further test) this issue and we'll update this review accordingly as we use the camera over time.

Image Quality

The D600 gives very good image quality across its ISO sensitivity span, proving at least a match for its big brother the D800 at a pixel level. Naturally though, the 36MP D800 can resolve more detail, and its extra pixels give a more useful 15MP DX crop mode, too.

At full resolution, the D600 delivers very pleasing JPEGs with plenty of detail, and although pixel-level sharpness is somewhat lacking (a consistent criticism of Nikon's JPEG engine for some time now), sharpening and noise reduction are well-balanced at the D600's higher ISO settings. In fact, up to ISO 6400, you really don't need to worry about noise much at all, unless you're shooting under very warm artificial light, where all cameras struggle. Switching to Raw mode is definitely worth doing if you're a stickler for image quality - not only do you get control over white balance, and the ability to recover some blown highlights, but you'll also be able to tweak noise reduction and eke out the maximum resolution from the D600's 24MP sensor.

Obviously, to get the absolute best out of the D600's sensor you'll need a good lens, but Nikon's current lineup contains a healthy variety of relatively affordable primes and zooms, including the 'kit' option 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, which delivers pretty good results considering its approximately $500 street price.

Handling

As far as handling is concerned, the D600 is similar to the D7000, with the addition of a redesigned live view switch. As such, anyone used to shooting with that model (or a D800, and to a lesser extent the D4) should be able to adapt pretty quickly. Nikon's decision to swap the + and - magnification buttons for image review will fox D7000 owners though, and D800 users might be frustrated by the lack of a 'one touch' magnification option. If you're a heavy live view user, you'll probably dislike Nikon's implementation of manual focus in live view on the D600. It's impossible to adjust aperture during live view shooting, which doesn't matter all that much if you rely on the camera's contrast-detection AF system but makes manual focussing a pain. Effectively you have to set aperture twice - once to establish correct focus (for which you want the aperture wide open) and then again to your desired taking aperture for image capture. This means activating live view twice before you can get your shot.

On the subject of frustration, we've never been all that keen on Nikon's insistence on moving the 'ISO' button around on the surface of its DSLRs, and ideally we'd prefer this control on the top-plate, adjacent to the shutter button. Little things, after all, can make a big difference. The D600's ISO button is poorly placed for easy operation with the eye to the viewfinder, although this is mitigated by an excellent auto ISO implementation that - in practise - should remove the need to visit the ISO button all that often. Another plus - the D600 shares the same battery as both the D7000 and the D800, which should make life a little easier for anyone intending to run it alongside either older model.

The Final Word

There's a lot to like in the Nikon D600. In fact, really, there are very few areas in which it can be legitimately criticized given its market position and price point. Being a mid-range DSLR (albeit towards the top end) it lacks the customization options of the D800 (and D300S) and borrows its operational ergonomics primarily from the D7000. This will cause some photographers some frustrations (the D600's aperture behavior in live view mode is particularly annoying in a $2200 camera for example) but the bottom line is that the D600 offers similar pixel-level image quality to the more expensive D800, in a similarly tough body which also offers many of the same headline still and video features.

The differences between the D600 and D800 are partly the result of Nikon's attempt to differentiate its DSLR lineup and partly, we suspect, a consequence of design decisions that were necessary to maintain the D600's lower price point.

The D600 is the first full-frame DSLR from Nikon that has not sported a variant of the 51-point AF system first seen in the D3 back in 2007. Instead it uses a tweaked version of the 39-point AF system introduced in the D7000. This system is perfectly capable but makes the D600 noticeably less versatile when focusing in poor light or in challenging conditions like sports, where its smaller, DX-format AF coverage could cause problems. That's the trade-off. If you need the ultimate in AF performance, save up for the more costly camera. Likewise resolution - if you need to make billboard-sized prints, the D800 is a better option. But if you want excellent image quality and solid day-to-day performance from a full-frame body the D600 is a very compelling option, and seems likely to remain so for some time.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Nikon D600
Category: Mid Range Full Frame camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Full frame shooters looking for a smaller, lighter and less expensive alternative to pro-level DSLRs. Photographers who often shoot at high ISOs.
Not so good for
Sports shooters who need wider AF coverage or videographers who demand real-time aperture control and fullscreen HDMI output.
Overall score
87%
The Nikon D600 brings full frame functionality to the masses along with dual SD card slots and 100% viewfinder coverage. Image quality at high ISO sensitivities is outstanding and a wealth of customization options enables quick access to shooting controls.

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Comments

Total comments: 19
SxeHunKA77
By SxeHunKA77 (2 months ago)

What UI did Nikon install in this camera?

0 upvotes
carton dinis machado
By carton dinis machado (4 months ago)

how to compare Nikon D600 versus nikon D7100

1 upvote
Mike FL
By Mike FL (4 months ago)

The new D610 has the same problem that Dust spot issue continues.

0 upvotes
amestigon
By amestigon (4 months ago)

Today, D600 was ordered to be off sale by Government in China. 2014/03/16

0 upvotes
tallguy600
By tallguy600 (5 months ago)

Law Firms Lining Up to File Class Action Lawsuits Over the D600 Dust/Oil Issue:

http://petapixel.com/2014/02/25/law-firms-lining-file-class-action-lawuits-d600-dustoil-issue/

0 upvotes
tallguy600
By tallguy600 (5 months ago)

Great camera but the oil spots, sold all my Nikon equipment and got a Canon 6D instead.
Now much happier with great Wi-Fi implementation, made in Japan better camera body....

1 upvote
Scottelly
By Scottelly (7 months ago)

Something that amazes me is that the Sony A99 actually performs better at high ISO settings, like ISO 1600 and ISO 6400, than this camera and the D610. I didn't expect that. If you doubt me, just take a look at the photos here with the studio shot comparison tool. Be sure to set the ISO settings for both cameras and make sure you look at the playing card and the writing on the red square under the dime. Those areas REALLY show the noise. http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/studio-compare#baseDir=%2Freviews_data&cameraDataSubdir=boxshot&indexFileName=boxshotindex.xml&presetsFileName=boxshotpresets.xml&showDescriptions=false&headerTitle=Studio%20scene&headerSubTitle=Standard%20studio%20scene%20comparison&masterCamera=nikon_d600&masterSample=dsc_4526_03&slotsCount=4&slot0Camera=nikon_d600&slot0Sample=dsc_4526_03&slot0DisableCameraSelection=true&slot0DisableSampleSelection=true&slot0LinkWithMaster=true&slot1Camera=sony_slta99&slot1Sample=dsc00049&x=-0.378464142966364&y=0.34409159041539195

0 upvotes
munro harrap
By munro harrap (7 months ago)

I am sure you , thinking a little about it, must realize they produce with profit in mind, not love for you, who are merely contributors to their profits for them.
That is all you are, and all even the greatest photographers are- a means of supporting their incomes and assuring the wealth and value of the yen against the euro, pound, and dollar.

Nikon knew pre-release, surely, that this problem existed, as they extensively test new machines. Therefore, it follows, surely, that this was all done on purpose, as was designing lenses that do not cover more than APS-C properly (24-70 NahNo!) because they delude themselves that we are all so pleased to own a Nikon that we will even buy plastic mount lenses for it!! Made of plastic, and according to one reviewer taped inside with sticky tape as iPhone lenses are with glue.

They think we are that jackdaw stupid. They are correct. We are so stupid we cannot make cameras at all!!!

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
Frank C.
By Frank C. (8 months ago)

No recall from Nikon because of their abysmal recent quarter(s), if this would have happened in 2010 I'm sure Nikon would have replaced the shutter mechanisms for free under guarantee but is it stands now Nikon is struggling, there's no money in the pot to recall and fix the d600

0 upvotes
tallguy600
By tallguy600 (9 months ago)

How do you explain the D610 and the lack of recall of the D600?

One doesn't need a PHD in damage control; the way Nikon handled this issue and it's customer base are a shame.
The D600 should have been fixed, full shutter issue disclosure should have been provided.
Is the D610 shutter mechanism the same as the one on the D600 where it was replaced?
Simple questions, there should be answers but of course no, nothing.

4 upvotes
Andrew770
By Andrew770 (9 months ago)

DP Review is a professional organization and their review of the Nikon D600 meets professional standards. It is impressive how much better the Nikon D600 camera performs than Canon and Sony's high end cameras. The D600 is clearly the winner in the DP Review comparison of these top end cameras. For me the D600's handling of ISO images sets it apart from the competition and is one reason why Nikon is the #1 camera brand.

Apparently the early production run of the Nikon D600 had some cameras whose shutter mechanism was faulty. Nikon gave an advisory in February 2013 for those affected to take their cameras to their service centers and many had their camera's shutter mechanism replaced.

Canon's top end camera also experienced a light leak issue from its early production run. Apparently providing a fix was much more involved because it was a structural problem. Apparently Canon's solution was to put a tape inside the camera to cover the light leak.

Finally, the D600 is awesome!

1 upvote
Segaman
By Segaman (9 months ago)

For some its awesome, for others its their worst nightmare.
As long as your happy everything is fine, if there is a 610 there is a big reason for that.....

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
WhiteBeard
By WhiteBeard (6 months ago)

You seem to trust DP Review's "professional standards" so much that you forget to use your own critical sense. Look closely at the studio shots, JPEG at 100 and 3200 ISO and tell me that the Nikon is not overly soft and lacking detail compared to the Sony or Canon, especially on the playing cards.

0 upvotes
Noogy
By Noogy (9 months ago)

http://www.dpreview.com/previews/nikon-d610/

Cheers to DPR for the gold rating of D600 - a clearly defective camera by design and component. The link above is the implied admission from Nikon. Next time raters from DPR, it is better that you state "we withhold any final rating on this camera at this time until we see a conclusive fix from Nikon" or something like that and save yourselves the embarrassment.

4 upvotes
gmortiz
By gmortiz (11 months ago)

D600 nightmare: After three weeks a few spots appeared. After four weeks a MASSIVE number of spots appeared and I sent it in to Nikon's New York repair facility. Two weeks later I received it, they had replaced the shutter mechanism and cleaned the low pass filter. I took some blue sky test shots which revealed spots still on the sensor. Back to Nikon for the second time. I received the D600 back from Nikon and the workorder shows all they did was re-clean the already cleaned sensor. Test shots show the exact same spots present as when they received it.

How ridiculous is it that an untrained consumer can see a serious problem in 5 minutes, and Nikon's service center has now twice sent out a camera with a damaged sensor.

One more thing: HEY NIKON - can we end the fantasy that the problem is dust? From the owner's manual: "Note, however, that the filter is extremely delicate and easily damaged." And apparently it is damaged when lubricant from the shutter mechanism hit it.

5 upvotes
nekrosoft13
By nekrosoft13 (10 months ago)

the "trained" technician is stuck in some poorly lit building. Is not like they can go outside and take shots of blue sky.

2 upvotes
hovirag
By hovirag (9 months ago)

Nikon comes clean over the dust and oil problem – meaning they fixed it. Nikon users also mentioned even before the Nikon announcement that these issues disappear after the camera has been run in.
Source: http://bubbajuju.com/get_nikon_d600_on_sale/
where there are two comparison grids of the most popular cameras to date.

0 upvotes
socaltrevor
By socaltrevor (1 month ago)

they didn't fix it

0 upvotes
jengord
By jengord (3 weeks ago)

No they havent fixed it. What they are doing in Australia is fitting a new D600 shutter, cleaning your sensor and sending it back, then surprise surprise after about 500-1000 shots the oil is splattered thickly again, not the normal one or two spots but multiple,this is not normal! after about 4 returns they send you another D600. So then your back on the round-about. I dont think I will buy NIKON again.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 19