Conclusion - Pros

  • Outstanding high ISO performance in both JPEG and Raw files
  • High quality JPEG images at default settings
  • Wide dynamic range in Raw files
  • Consistently pleasing metering and white balance results
  • Solid build quality and weather-sealing
  • Responsive camera when adjusting settings and handling
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Built-in flash can act as Commander for wireless 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
  • Easily accessible menu system
  • 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
  • Rear LCD prone to glare in bright sunlight
  • No 'live' aperture control in live view or video mode
  • No histogram in live view
  • When shooting in live view, rear screen is blacked out until data is written to the card
  • Lacks useful customization of 'OK' button in playback (featured in D300S and D800)

Overall Conclusion

Reviewing the D610 is a challenge because it's essentially the same as the D600 with only a handful of improvements. Nikon introduced a new shutter mechanism with the D610 and with it came a slight boost in continuous shooting speed - 5.5 fps to 6 fps - and a new Quiet Continuous mode. The auto white balance system has also been updated.

The aspect Nikon didn't promote at the time of the D610's launch was that the new shutter may also have been intended to address the D600's reputation-damaging dust/oil problem. Having shot more than 15,000 frames with the camera, we had little problem and we haven't seen many complaints from owners.

With that concern out of the way, we were able to appreciate the D610 for the camera the D600 appeared to be: an impressive feature set combined with well-honed ergonomics in one of the least expensive full frame cameras we've ever seen. Although for D600 users there is little reason to upgrade to the D610 (unless Quiet Continuous mode is critical or Nikon's servicing doesn't resolve persistent dust issues). The D610 incorporates everything that made the D600 an excellent camera while upgrading a few things, meaning there's a lot to like and little to criticize.

Handling

There are no surprises in shooting with the D610. It's consistent with Nikon's recent DSLRs. However, users coming from older bodies such as the D700 will need to reorient themselves. The D610 shares the button layout with the D7100 with its lockable PASM dial and drive mode dial underneath. The D610 also borrows the movie/stills switch around the live view button and the combined AF/MF switch and AF mode button. AF is easily accessible via the eight-way controller and there are plenty of options to customize the buttons and settings. And just as you'd expect from a full-frame DSLR, the D610's viewfinder is large and easy to see through — the same one found on the more expensive D800. And like many DSLRs, we found the LCD tough to see in bright sunlight.

In hand, the D610 feels solid and the weather-sealed magnesium alloy inner frame make it a durable shooting tool. When compared to mirrorless systems its not exactly small, but it's smaller than the D800. In fact it's only a slightly larger than the APS-C format D7100.

The D610's autofocus is solid, but it's not the 51-point pro-level system found in the D800. The capable 39-point AF system is a version of the one found in the D7000 (and D600). At 6 fps the D610's continuous shooting speed and buffer capacity (with fast SD card) should be more than enough for most situations. However, dedicated sports or wildlife shooters may want faster speeds and find the center clustering of AF points a hindrance for critical work.

Working with the D610 in live view mode is still cumbersome. For a $2,000 camera it should provide a better experience. There still is no live preview on the LCD of aperture and shutter speed changes - it is set when entering live view. Previewing any adjustments requires you to exit live view and re-enter. The D610 also lacks a histogram view in live view. Both the D800 and Canon EOS 6D offer live exposure preview and histogram options in live view mode, making this an annoying omission in the D610. Continuous AF in video mode is also less than stellar with lots of visual and audible hunting.

Image Quality

The D610 delivers excellent image quality across its base ISO range of 100-6400 and can give usable files when boosting to 12800 or 25600. The JPEGs the camera produces have lots of detail with minimal chroma and luminance noise. In fact, up to 6400 you don't really need to worry about noise much at all. The default settings produce files that have a natural, unprocessed look. Shooting in Raw mode with good lenses will help you get the most out of the D610's 24MP sensor, while giving you control over white balance, noise reduction and the ability to recover both shadows and the occasional bit of highlight information.

Metering and auto white balance perform as expected - consistently and on par with other Nikon DSLRs. Despite the company's claim of an improved auto white balance system, we didn't see a noticeable improvement in everyday shooting, so it's still best to set a custom setting for challenging scenes.

The Final Word

Being towards the top of the mid-range DSLR category, the D610 tries to be a compromise between the higher-end D800 and lower price point D7100. It borrows operational ergonomics from the D7100 and carries over a similarly tough body with the same pixel-level image quality as D800. The case for the D610 all depends on your shooting style and end use. If you need ultimate AF performance, save your money for a more sophisticated system. Similarly, if you need maximum resolution for large prints or work in live view a lot, the D800 is a better option.

While the D610 might be 99% of the older D600, overall it's a better camera that ups its enthusiast credentials and makes it a tougher competition for its main rival, Canon's EOS 6D. The D610 doesn't have the 6D's built-in Wi-Fi connectivity options for remote control from your smartphone, GPS tagging and image transferring. The 6D also has a more usable live view mode with live depth-of-field preview and histogram view. The considerably smaller and less expensive Sony Alpha 7 offers another credible alternative, if the lenses you need are available for it. Still, for photographers looking to move to full-frame for the first time or for professionals looking for second body, the D610 should be near the top of the list for consideration.

The bottom line: Although the D610 lacks some frills, like built-in Wi-Fi, GPS or an articulated LCD, pound for pound it's still a lot of camera for the money. If you're looking for top-notch image quality in a tough weather-sealed body with enough versatility to handle most shooting situations, the D610 - just like the D600 - is a capable tool to execute your creative vision.

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 D610
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
Conclusion
The Nikon D610 brings full-frame capabilities to a larger audience while retaining most enthusiast-friendly features. Image quality at high ISO sensitivities is very good, and a wealth of customization options enables quick access to most shooting controls. The slight improvements and fixes over the D600 make it a strong competitor in this part of the market.
Good for
Full frame shooters looking for a smaller, lighter and less expensive alternative to pro-level DSLRs. Enthusiasts who often shoot at high ISOs or want shallow depth-of-field.
Not so good for
Sports shooters, travel shooters wanting something truly lightweight or anyone who regularly uses far off-center focus points.
87%
Overall score

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