Body & Design
Full frame sensor aside, the D600 looks and handles like a mid-size Nikon DSLR. It is smaller and lighter than its big brother, the D800 while maintaining a comfortably deep handgrip. The body is itself features magnesium alloy construction for its top and rear shell and Nikon claims weather-resistant and dust-sealing perfomance equivalent to the higher-end D800. All the external controls you'd expect to find are present, with mode and drive dials, front and rear command dials and ample array of buttons that put shooting controls within easy reach.
We've already mentioned the ergonomic similarties between the D600 and its stablemates the D7000 and D800, but the significance of this (beyond the comforting embrace of familiarity, if you're using them side-by-side) is that the D600 combines accessibility and functionality very successfully. The exposure mode dial will be nice and familiar to D5100 and D7000 owners, but users of Nikon's high-end DSLRs will appreciate the fact that it is lockable, and does not rotate freely. D5100 owners will enjoy quick and simple, 'visual' access to PASM and auto shooting modes, whereas more advanced photographers will be grateful for easy access to the D600's two customizeable 'U' shooting modes, from the same dial.
Owners of lower-end DSLRs, or compact camera upgraders probably won't even notice, but we suspect that a lot of Nikon users will be pleased to see that the D600 has a body-integral AF motor. This is a feature of Nikon's high-end DSLRs, and allows the D600 to be paired with older, non-AF-S lenses and still achieve AF. If manual focus is your priority, you can program the D600 to recognise up to nine 'non-CPU' manual focus lenses, so if you've got a large collection of older optics, you don't need to turn to Ebay just yet. The only limitation is that the very oldest, non-Ai models are off the table. They'll jam if you try to use them on the D600 (but will mount just fine on lower-end models in the D3XXX and D5XXX class, albeit without aperture indexing). Yes - the details of Nikon's lens compatibility are complicated...
Apart from the minor differences detailed above, the D600 is operationally very similar to the D800. As we'd expect in a current-generation Nikon DSLR the D600 offers a neat stills/movie live view switch and a separate movie recording button (rather than combining the two, as the D7000 does). The D600's LCD screen is exactly the same as the one on the back of the D800 too - 3.2 inches, with a resin layer to reduce internal reflections and increase screen contrasts and visibility outdoors. In use, the difference between this and the LCD on the rear of the D7000 isn't enormous, but there is a difference.
The D600 lacks the separate AE-L/AF-L and AF-ON buttons that you'll find on the back of the D800, but if you miss AF-ON that much, you can always re-assign AE-L/AF-L to fulfil the same function (remembering of course that it is possible to save two entirely distinct sets of shooting parameters, including custom settings, to the 'U1' and 'U2' custom modes).
The D600's viewfinder - like that of the D800 - is large and bright, and with a 0.7x magnification, is essentially the same as that on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. It offers 100% viewfinder coverage, enabling precise framing. The D600's Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VIII screen gives good indication of focus, which is doubly important, given that Nikon currently lists no alternative focusing screens for the D600.
One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is. Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
|The Nikon D600 has a viewfinder magnification of 0.7x, which is significantly larger than the D7000 and virtually the same as the Canon EOS 6D and the Sony SLT A99.|