Review Nikon D600

In September 2012, the Nikon D600 camera was announced. It is Nikon’s smallest and lightest digital SLR camera featuring a 24 megapixel FX sensor. The suggested retail price in the Netherlands is below 2000 euro. And that is a very attractive price for a camera with a full frame sensor. Nikon announced this camera as a game-changer (“Full frame for all”). High time for a Nikon D600 review, to see whether it is a game-changer.

At the press conference, Nikon gave a very apt description for the this camera: a camera with the body of the Nikon D7000, the sensor of the Nikon D3X and the video of the Nikon D800. The target group for this camera includes advanced amateur photographers who demand a compact, lightweight, affordable camera with, thanks to the large FX sensor, professional (image-) quality. But this camera is also a good choice for videographers who appreciate the advanced Full HD video features of Nikon D800, but for which the investment in a Pro body is too high.



In many respects, the Nikon D600 resembles the Nikon D800E / Nikon D800. But the camera body is substantially smaller. And it weighs 760 grams (without battery) and is, therefore, also considerably lighter than the D800. The camera has the same seals against moisture and dust as the D800. The Nikon D600 offers dedicated buttons for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, image quality and bracketing. This enables you to shoot in almost all situations without having to use the menu. The record button for video is next to the shutter release button, on top of the camera. I think this is a more convenient position than a video record button on the back of the camera body.

The Nikon D600 comes to live very fast (about 0.13 seconds according to Nikon) and the delay time before the shutter is released is also very short (approx. 0.052 seconds). The camera can shoot RAW images at a rate of approx. 5.5 fps in both FX-and DX-format.

The most obvious difference with the Nikon D800 is the 24.3 megapixel FX CMOS sensor. The Nikon D600 offers less resolution than the 36 megapixels of the Nikon D800. But every disadvantage has its advantage. A smaller file can be saved faster. And you can store more pictures on the two SD cards you can place in your Nikon D600.
The ISO range of the camera ranges from ISO 100-6400 and can be expanded to 25600 (equivalent) and ISO 50. The 50 ISO setting allows you to choose  a large aperture (e.g. to get a nicer bokeh when shooting a portrait) without the risk of overexposure in sunny weather conditions.

Nikon D600 versus Nikon D800

  • There are many similarities of the D600 with the D800
  • The D600 is faster than the D800 (5.5 fps vs 4 fps), but has less megapixels (24 vs 36)
  • Nikon D600 has a more efficient energy use: due to an adaptation of the circuits used in the D800, the D600 allows you to produce approximately 900 pictures or about 60 minutes of video using 1 battery charge.
  • The Nikon D600 is 10% smaller and 20% lighter than the D800 (760 vs. 900 g)
  • The Nikon D800 has more AF points (51 vs. 39) and more cross-type AF points (15 vs. 9)
  • Data storage: D600 has 2 SD card slots, the D800 offers 1x CF and 1x SD
  • Data connection: D800E is faster using USB 3.0 (5 Gbit / sec) vs D600: USB 2.0 (480 Mbit / sec)

Nikon D600 versus Canon 6D

  • Canon 6D has a larger ISO range: up to ISO 25600 (boost to 102,400), vs 6,400 ISO (boost to 25,600) for the Nikon D600
  • Canon 6D has built-in GPS
  • Nikon D600 accommodates 2 SD cards and has a built-in flash
  • The Nikon D600 has a 10% larger screen and provides continuous AF during video
  • Nikon D600 has more AF points (39 vs. 11) and more cross-type AF sensors (9 vs 1)

Viewfinder, display and menu

The Nikon D600 has an optical viewfinder with a glass prism, which provides 100% frame coverage with 0.7x magnification and thus a 0.7x total viewfinder magnification. The viewfinder is just as bright and clear as the viewfinder in the Nikon D800E. The bright LCD monitor measures 3.2 inches and has 921,000 points. For an amateur camera, a tilt and swivel monitor is common. But not for (semi-) professional camera’s. The monitor of the Nikon D600 is fixed, but has a wide viewing angle, and it automatically adjusts the monitor brightness. An electronic virtual horizon with double axle prevents skewed images if you choose to display it in the LCD monitor or the viewfinder.

The Nikon camera menu is as we are accustomed to: easy to use, but sometimes you have to scroll far down to find what you are looking for.


Resolution Nikon D600

Resolution measurements of the Nikon D600 with the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 have been carried out with Imatest. The measurement results are shown in our Nikon D600 test report. The Nikon D600 delivers a jpg file with a resolution of (averaged over ISO 100 – ISO 6400) 2350 LW/PH. This is slightly higher than the resolution of the Canon 5D MK2 and MK3 and halfway between the Nikon D3x (2000 LW / PH) and the Nikon D3200 (2600 LW / PH). Such differences will not be seen with the naked eye.

At least as much fun as the sharpness is, it is to enjoy the beautiful background blur with a full-frame camera, as shown in the enlarged crop of the image to the right. When you prefer a nice bokeh, then there’s nothing like a camera with a full frame sensor.

A large, high resolution full frame sensor makes high demands on a lens. Especially at the edges of the image, much older lenses perform less than modern lenses. When you currently own a Nikon camera with an APS-C size sensor and you decide to switch to a Nikon D600, the chances are that you will also purchase a few new lenses in order to get the best out of your camera. Nikon has anticipated by introducing the affordable Nikon 16-35mm and Nikon 24-85mm lenses.
Large sensors (or rather: large pixels) provide images with extremely low noise, so you can choose to use higher ISO settings. Despite very unfavorable light conditions you’ll get usable images, even at high ISO settings. The image above is taken at night at ISO 6400 and a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds, f/5.6. A very good result. However, for a nice big print and the possibility to be able to lighten up the shadows without disturbingly visible noise, I would prefer a lower ISO setting.

Dynamic range Nikon D600

We measured a total dynamic range of a Nikon D600 RAW file without noise reduction at ISO 100 which was equally high as for the Nikon D800E: 12.5 stops. Top performance: these two cameras share in terms of dynamic range at this moment the number 1 position, thanks largely to the high dynamic range at low ISO settings. For comparison, the Canon 1DX and the Canon 5D MK3 retrieve both just under 11 stops at low ISO settings.
If we compare our results with DxO mark (who measure with a higher accuracy), then we measure the total dynamic range (with a different method) systematically approximately one and a half a stop lower. But the trends are the same. The test results are in the Nikon D600 test report. For the test method and explanation of terms, see FAQ.
A poor signal / noise ratio in the shadows reduces the dynamic range of jpg files (for any camera) to a lower usable dynamic range. The usable dynamic range is very high: 8.6 stops at ISO 100. At 50 ISO we even measured a usable dynamic range of 10 stops!
With such a large usable dynamic range you do not even need an HDR mode, where you combine differently exposed images to 1 HDR image.
Here you see an image shot straight into the sun. Lightroom shows that the sun is overexposed (indicated with red) and a few spots in the shadows are underexposed (marked in blue). The exposure is good: underexposure will not reveal further detail in the highlights (the sun). If you drastically adjust the luminance in the shadows in Photoshop or Lightroom, you will see no noise in the edited image. This would not have been possible with an image made by a digital camera even a few years ago!

Noise Nikon D600

The Nikon D600 has an excellent signal-to-noise ratio: low noise, high usable dynamic range and a beautiful tone scale. The best performance in terms of noise is obtained in the range of ISO 50 to ISO 200. Comparison of noise in jpg files with the measured noise in RAW files without noise reduction, shows that noise reduction in jpg starts at ISO 400. If you have a 400 ISO RAW file without noise reduction magnified to 100% on your monitor, and you compare it with a 400 ISO jpg file, you can see a small difference. 50isojpg
The ISO range ranges from 100 to 6400 ISO, but it can be expanded to 25,600 and reduced to 50. Due to a low signal to noise ratio, the highest ISO settings are less useful. But the 50 ISO setting really is a nice extra. Shown here are two 100% crops of jpg files made at 50 ISO and 25600 ISO. 25600isojpg

Color accuracy Nikon D600

For image processing, just as with the Nikon D4, an EXPEED 3 processor is applied. This processor works internally with 16-bit image processing, which – even for jpg files –  results in a nicer tone scale and thus better image quality. In daylight, the color accuracy of the Nikon D600 is indeed very high. I also liked that the colors are not as saturated as in many amateur SLRs. At 100 ISO, of the colors of a standard ISO 100 RAW file that was converted in Lightroom, the dark blue and dark green colors appear a little too saturated. Compared to the Nikon D800E, the color accuracy of jpg files is just as good (both have a Delta E94 of 5.5). But for RAW images the Nikon D800E was slightly better (DeltaE94 of 4.4). Such a difference is so small, that if you have both files side by side on a calibrated monitor, you can just see the difference in some colors. minikleur1600ISO
Nikon’s 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor is not only used for object recognition (it detects human faces using the optical viewfinder) but also for analyzing the color and brightness of a subject. We could not see an improvement – when the camera is set to automatic white balance – in terms of improved color reproduction in artificial light, when we compared the Nikon D600 and the Nikon D3X.
When you shoot your images in RAW with the Nikon D600 in difficult or mixed light situations, you can improve the white balance manually significantly compared to the automatic white balance. Here you see the orange color cast when using the automatic white balance in tungsten light.


The results of our Imatest measurements for the color of the Nikon D600 in daylight and artificial light are in the Nikon D600 test report.


Built-in flash

The Nikon D600 has a built-in flash. Convenient, especially for photographers who switch from a camera with a DX sensor and built-in flash, like the Nikon D5100 or the Nikon D7000, to the Nikon D600. This growing group of users is accustomed to a built-in flash. And a Nikon D600 with a Nikon Speedlight SB700 is still very large compared to a Nikon D7000 or a Nikon D600 with pop-up flash.



Nikon D600 Autofocus

The Nikon D600 uses the same 39-point AF system as the Nikon D4. It offers 7 cross AF sensors which remain possible for lenses with open aperture to f / 8 and with a sensitivity to a lower limit of -1 EV (ISO 100, 20 ° C). When measuring the resolution was the autofocus of the Nikon D600 in a positive way with a very small variation in the results: the autofocus is very reproducible at the right point sharp.
Compared with micro-43 cameras are the AF points less evenly distributed over the entire image field: at the edges and corners of the image are not AF points. This is not specific to the Nikon D600, but applies to all SLRs.

Nikon D600 offers multiple AF modes, including dynamic-area AF, 3D-tracking. The AF is actually able to catch the smallest subjects, as you can see in the example below. For many cameras, the small insect in the foreground is not recognized, and the camera focuses on the wall behind the insects. But the Nikon D600 does a perfect job here.
small-AF small-AF2


We have not tested the video quality, but we like to mention a number of video features. The Nikon D600 offers as many features as the Nikon D800, when it comes to video. The Nikon D600 video is based on the same technology as that used for the D800. The only downside I can think of on the basis of the specifications, is that the aperture is not adjustable while recording a video.
The combination of film applications, frame rates and convenient, adjustable controls makes optimum filming in full HD possible. In Full-HD (1080p), recording is possible in both FX and DX based formats. Full HD movies (1080p) can be recorded in 30p, 25p and 24p, with the options 60p, 50p and 25p at 720p.
The maximum length of these video recordings is, due to EU regulations, limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. But if you apply an external recorder, you can record non-stop for longer than half an hour.
The Nikon D600 has an HDMI output which allows live video without compression in 1080p to an external recorder. The signal is automatically reduced to 1080i if the camera detects that an external monitor is used in stead of a video recorder. There is also a movie editing function, that enable you to adjust the start and end of a movie clip. In this way, movie clips can be stored more efficiently in the camera. A microphone jack allows an external stereo microphone for better sound quality. There’s also an audio output for an external headphone. moviesettings

Creative camera functions

A brief review of one page only is too short to address all creative filter effects and functions of the Nikon D600. It offers editing menus with many features, including red-eye correction, color balance, Active D-lighting, editing and RAW format adjustments. Besides several image styles you can also use filter effects such as skylight, star, miniature, line drawing, color sketch and selective color. Quick Retouch includes distortion correction, perspective correction, correction and fisheye.
We will pay attention to filter effects and retouching in a Nikon camera in a separate article in the near future, since these capabilities are available in may Nikon cameras. Attractive features that further enhance creativity are:

Time-lapse: the shutter is activated at preset intervals. Time-lapse photography stores images as movie files, allowing a slow action to be played fast, at speeds from 24 to 36,000 times higher than normal.
The HDR (high dynamic range) mode, press the shutter 1 time and make 3 shots (well, overexposed and underexposed) which then are combined in the camera to 1 HDR image. The range can be widened to + / – 3 stops for various effects, which the transition where the two exposures meet, can be adjusted for a more natural result.
Active D-Lighting: with Active D-Lighting Nikon offers a function in which the details in both dark and light areas of the image become more visible. This delivers stunning images with lots of detail and natural contrast, both in video and in photographs.

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Conclusion Nikon D600 review



See our list of tested cameras to compare the performance of this camera with other cameras.



  • High image quality (dynamic range, noise, resolution)
  • Handy size and comfortable weight for a camera with a full frame sensor
  • Space for 2 SD cards and Wifi possible with WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter
  • Video includes clean HDMI output
  • LCD monitor is not rotatable or pivot able
  • No integrated GPS and Wifi
  • Aperture is not adjustable during video recording

Is the Nikon D600 a game-changer? When you look at the image quality, the Nikon D600 still has to acknowledge the superiority of the Nikon D800E. But that is the best camera we’ve tested to date. Both cameras are more or less equal in terms of dynamic range, color reproduction in daylight and signal / noise ratio. The Nikon D800E trumps the Nikon D600 in our lab actually only with the automatic white balance in tungsten light and in resolution. The latter is not surprising, because the Nikon D800E has 36 megapixels, and not 24 megapixels like the Nikon D600.
When you consider convenience and price, then the roles are reversed. With the Nikon D600 you will get much value for less than 2000 euros. If you add everything up, then the Nikon D600 could indeed be a game-changer, causing many photographers to switch to a full frame camera. The highest quality with the Nikon D600 will only be achieved by using the best lenses. And even there, Nikon has thought about that and introduced recently two reasonably priced zoom lenses: the Nikon 16-35mm and Nikon 24-85mm.


The results of our Imatest measurements (and more) are shown in the Nikon D600 test report.


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