Movie mode

Nikon has outfitted the D600 with many, but not all of the video features seen in the D800. Among the similarities with its more expensive sibling are HD video recording at 30 frames per second, 3.5mm headphone and stereo mic inputs and manual audio controls. And like the D800, the D600 can deliver uncompressed video output over HDMI, although there is currently a limitation we'll discuss shortly.

Recent Videos

Movies can be shot at two different crops from the sensor, FX and DX. This makes it easy to vary the field-of-view for grabbing footage, even if you've got a prime lens mounted. However, the ‘FX’ size is a significantly cropped version of the full sensor (it’s 91% of the sensor's width), so the field-of-view will be a little narrower than you’d expect for any given focal length.

Video quality options

The D600 can shoot 1080p movies at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second and at up to 24Mbps. Video footage is compressed using B-frame data compression of the H.264/MPEG-4 video codec, which tries to optimize the capture of motion with an eye towards maintaining manageable file sizes.

Sizes • Frame size/frame rate
1920 × 1080; 30 fps
1920 × 1080; 25 fps
1920 × 1080; 24 fps
1280 x 720; 60 fps
1280 x 720; 50 fps
1280 x 720; 30 fps
1280 x 720; 25 fps
Audio Monoaural internal mic, Linear PCM
Format MOV
File compression H.264/MPEG-4 (Advanced Video Coding)
Recordable time 29 min. 59 sec.

Uncompressed Video

The D600 becomes the latest Nikon DSLR (following the D4 and D800/D800E) to offer the ability to record uncompressed video to an external video recorder connected via its HDMI port. For video professionals, the benefits of shooting uncompressed video are analogous to the benefits of shooting in high bit-depth Raw mode for stills - greater latitude in post-production with regard to color grading. We've provided links to both compressed and uncompressed versions of video output on the video page of our Nikon D800/D800E review. Whether using HDMI-enabled output to record the highest possible quality footage or to simply use an external monitor as viewfinder, this is a feature that is becoming more common, with rival Canon recently announcing this capability for its EOS 5D Mark III DSLR via a firmware update.

Unfortunately, shooting uncompressed video really isn't as simple as it should be. You can only record in uncompressed mode with an external hard drive attached via HDMI, which makes perfect sense (the footage really is enormous). Unfortunately though, you cannot record 1080p video to both the card and the external HDMI device simultaneously. Whenever video is recorded to the card, the HDMI output drops to 720p. The ability to record full HD uncompressed over HDMI and at least have compressed 1080p recorded as a 'safety' backup to the card would be a useful feature for many independent video shooters. But this is not an option.

The D600 outputs 1920 x 1080 video via its HDMI port, but for no logical reason that we can work out, the actual image area is smaller than those dimensions by about 5%, and the difference is made up with a black border around all four sides of the video image area.

In the simulated image above, we're showing you what that 95% coverage looks like, substituting the black border for green for the sake of visibility. The end result is that when shooting video to an HDMI recorder, if you want the footage to fill a 1920 X 1080 pixel frame, you'll need to scale it up to 105%. Not ideal.

Of greatest concern, however, for any video professional is that the D600 does not deliver full screen output over HDMI (as illustrated above). What you get instead is 1920 x 1080 video with a black border on all sides. The field of view is consistent between the onscreen preview and the HDMI output, but the HDMI output is downsized in a way that is similar to the D800's default HDMI output setting which delivers an image area of 95% frame coverage. On the D800, though, you can specify 100% full screen output; an option missing completely from the D600. In practice, this means that anyone shooting D600 footage will have to upscale the image to roughly 105% during the editing stage to eliminate the border. This odd limitation could severely limit the camera's appeal to professional video shooters.

Note: 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.

Like the D4 and D800, the D600 includes both a headphone port for audio monitoring and a 3.5mm stereo mic input. There are 20 adjustment levels each available for audio recording and headphone volume. An Auto option for each is enabled by default.
Uncompressed HD video footage can be sent out of the camera, straight to an external drive via the built-in HDMI port, shown here sitting beneath the USB 2.0 port and to the right of an accessory terminal compatible with wired remote or optional Nikon GPS unit.

Handling in Video mode

A dedicated movie record button sits within easy reach just behind the shutter button. Switching between stills and video capture is not always a single button affair, however, as you must switch the camera to live view and set the selector lever to movie mode. The movie record button is disabled when live view is turned off and/or the selector lever is set to still images.

In a downgrade from the D800, it's not possible to change the aperture in movie mode. In the A and M modes the camera honors the current aperture setting when you engage movie live view, in effect giving full-time depth of field preview, but you can't subsequently change it. Instead you have to exit live view, change the aperture and re-engage. This is actually an improvement over DX-format Nikons such as the D7000 that allow you to change the aperture setting in live view, but don't apply it if you start recording (so movies are recorded at the aperture that was initially set on entering live view, regardless of what's displayed on the screen). At least the D600 no longer gives you the false impression that you have this ability in movie mode.

In the Program, Aperture and Shutter-priority shooting modes, the only method of exposure control is via exposure compensation adjustments of +/- 3EV, with the camera always using Auto ISO. In Manual mode you can adjust both shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, but Auto ISO isn't available.

As we explained on the live view page of this review, exposure compensation in manual mode is used to change the metered target exposure, meaning that to match the onscreen preview in the recorded movie, you'll need to adjust your exposure settings to the camera's metered target.

As with the D800, contrast-detect AF is the only option available when shooting videos. It is not only slower than the camera's 'normal' phase-detection mode but lags significantly behind the contrast-detect AF performance of most mirrorless models we've seen. While we expect a performance dip as a result of having to use a contrast-detect AF system in movie mode, the lens' AF hunting is so prominent both visually and audibly in movie mode that we only recommend using AF when filming static subjects. Even then, you're much better served by acquiring focus before pressing the movie record button.

Video quality

The image quality of the D600's video output is very good. Colors are rendered in a natural-looking manner with auto exposure and white balance settings producing pleasing output overall. The sensitivity of the built-in monaural microphone is quite impressive. We were consistently able to record faraway sounds with clarity. At its auto settings the microphone does a nice job of giving prominence to sounds originating in front of, rather than behind, the camera. Wind noise and ambient sounds emanating from behind the camera, while audible, rarely became distracting.

Video Samples

Dpreview is partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Video 1

This video sample demonstrates the audio recording capabilities of the D600's built-in mono microphone. With the microphone set to the default auto sensitivity setting, the guitar and vocals are recorded with good presence overall and pleasing separation between treble and bass tones. At its default shooting settings, the D600 output shows pleasing contrast and delivers sharp, crisp video. View the file at full resolution though and you can see distinct moiré patterning in the musician's corduroy pants and guitar strings.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 35 sec, 110 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2

This video clip demonstrates the low light performance of the D600 along with the image stabilization of the Nikkor 24-85mm F3.5-4.5G ED VR lens. Outside of manual mode, the D600 uses a maximum ISO sensitivity of 6400. Contrast and saturation are pleasing and the auto white balance performs fairly well given the conditions. The camera was set to single AF mode and focus was acquired on a middle distance object before recording began. View the clip at full resolution and, as you'd expect, the image is slightly soft at such a high ISO and chroma noise is visible, though certainly not objectionable.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 55 sec, 151 MB Click here to download original file