|A little over a year ago, the Nikon D600, Nikon’s smallest and lightest digital SLR camera with a 24-megapixel FX sensor, was billed as a game-changer: a compact, full-frame camera with a modest price tag (“Full frame for all”). Stories appeared on internet about the shutter of the Nikon D600 failing due to oil or dust on the sensor. Roger Cicala of LensRentals described the phenomenon in his blog, and noted that it decreased/disappeared over time. However, Nikon chose to err on the side of caution and decided to quickly release a successor to the Nikon D600, with another shutter, to the market. Would this be the game-changer?
The target audience for this camera consists of advanced amateur photographers who demand a compact, lightweight, affordable (with a suggested retail price below the 2,000 euros), with – thanks to the large FX sensor – professional image quality.
|The Nikon D610 is an ideal camera for owners of a Nikon D7000 or Nikon D7100 who want to move to a full-frame sensor, or owners of a D800(E) who want a backup camera without making a major investment in a camera body. Also for users who want the advanced Full HD video functions of a Nikon D800, but for whom the investment in a Pro body is too high, the Nikon D610 is a great choice.
Are the possible dust problems a thing of the past? Immediately after the appearance of the Nikon D610, Roger Cicala examined the sensor and came to the conclusion that the sensor of the Nikon D610 is very clean and collects no dust.
|In many respects, the Nikon D600 and D610 resemble the Nikon D800E/Nikon D800. Yet the camera housing of the Nikon D610 is clearly smaller and at 760 grams (without battery) also significantly lighter than the D800. The camera has the same seal against moisture and dust as the D800. The Nikon D610 has, in addition to the buttons for shutter speed and aperture, also separate buttons for ISO, white balance, image quality and bracketing. This allows you to shoot without the menu in almost all situations. The recording buttons for video and photography on top of the camera are close together at the top right of the camera. I find that better than a video-record button on the back of the camera body. The Nikon D610 has a built in flash.
Startup of the Nikon D610 is fast (ca. 0.13 second according to Nikon), and the delay time for relaxing the shutter is also very short (approx. 0.05 seconds). The camera can take pictures with a continuous speed of approximately 5.5 fps in FX- and DX-format. The new silent shutter mode is (at 3 fps) a bit quieter than normal, but it is – just like all the other silent shutter modes of SLRs from other brands – no match for the silent shutter mode of compact system cameras such as the Panasonic GH3, which is almost completely silent.
Nikon D610 versus Nikon D600
Nikon D610 versus Canon 6D
Viewfinder, screen and menu
|The bright LCD monitor is 8 cm in size, with 921,000 pixels. With amateur cameras, a folding and hinged monitor is commonplace, but for semiprofessional cameras, not yet. The monitor of the Nikon D610 does not swivel or pull-out, but it does have a wide field of view and automatically adjusts the monitor brightness. An electronic virtual horizon with double axis prevents tilting pictures if you display the virtual horizon in the LCD monitor or the viewfinder.
The Nikon D610 has an optical viewfinder with a glass prism, which offers 100% frame coverage with a 0.7x magnification (and with a crop factor of 1, so total viewfinder magnification). The viewfinder image is as clear and uncluttered as that of the Nikon D800E, and that works great. Even in low light you have a clear picture, and a large viewfinder image means that you can preview the image well and frame it precisely. Once you’re used to such a large and bright viewfinder, the smaller viewfinder of a camera with a DX sensor will be disappointing.
The camera menu is, as we are used to from Nikon, clear, but sometimes you have to scroll down a long ways to find what you’re looking for.
Sharpness: resolution Nikon D610
|The sharpness of jpg files from the Nikon D610 compares to the sharpness of jpg files from the Canon 6D, the main competitor with a full-frame sensor. The differences are so incredibly small that the influence of the lens, your chosen image style and accuracy of focusing will have a huge impact on the final sharpness. A full-frame camera makes high demands of an lens, especially around the edges of the image. Switching to a Nikon D610 means the chances are good that you’re considering also purchasing a few new lenses, so you get the best out of your camera. And Nikon anticipated this with the affordable Nikon 16-35 mm f/4 and the Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 lenses.
When it comes to resolution, I think it’s not necessary to make the switch from a D5300 or a D7100 to a D610. The Nikon D7100 has the same number of megapixels as the Nikon D610, but scored in our measurements for jpg files even slightly higher in resolution. The sharpness impression of pictures made with a camera with a full-frame sensor is in practice sometimes higher due to the more beautiful background blur of recordings made with a full-frame sensor. Due to the larger difference in sharpness between the subject and the background, you get a greater sharpness-impression from a picture with a blurred background, while the resolution of both recordings can be equal.
In our practice shots, it was more noticeable that the white balance of the D610 was slightly warmer than that of the D7100 and that the D7100, with its smaller APS-C sensor, had a greater depth of field at the same aperture, than any indication we could see that either of the cameras was particularly sharper. Due to the cooler white balance and a slightly higher contrast, the test shot from the D7100 appeared sharper.
Dynamic range Nikon D610
|The total dynamic range that we measured for a Nikon D610 RAW file without noise reduction at 100 ISO is 12 stops. A top performance, 2 stops higher than the Canon 6D, and a fraction lower than we previously measured for the Nikon D800E and the Nikon D600.
Shown here is an illustration of the huge usable dynamic range of the Nikon D610 on the basis of a practice shot.
The original picture – made at 320 ISO – is deliberately made way too dark, to prevent overexposure of the street lamps in the image. In Lightroom, we were able to make the file 5 stops lighter, without noise or banding becoming visible. Also the colors are still natural to the eye, and that’s really a top performance.
Move your mouse over the image to the right.
Noise Nikon D610
|Modern cameras are qualitatively very good, and that means that we are talking about ever-smaller differences. If you make your test shots under standard conditions, then with the eye at low ISO values (under 6400 ISO) it’s very difficult to find differences between cameras in terms of noise. You should then proceed to very large magnifications, larger than A3, which most photographers don’t or rarely use. It is a common phenomenon for perfectionists: 90% of the result you get with an investment of 10%. For the last 10% difference in quality, you pay much more. But if you have an eye for it, you can also enjoy it very much. And the professional who blows up a picture to billboard size will certainly notice the differences. We try therefore in our testing – no matter how small the differences also are – to find out which camera produces images with the least noise.
The absence of noise is where cameras with a full-frame sensor excel. And the Nikon D610 beats out on this point all the cameras with a full-frame sensor. The illustration below gives a practical example: like most other cameras, the Nikon D610 has a fantastic signal-to-noise ratio – low noise, high usable dynamic range and a nice tone scale. In terms of noise, one can obtain the very best performance at an ISO range of 50 to 200 ISO. I would not be surprised if a 50 ISO shot made with a Nikon D610 were a fierce competitor in terms of image quality for large-format cameras with a much larger sensor.
Color reproduction Nikon D610
|For the image processing, just as with the Nikon D4, an EXPEED 3 processor is applied. This processor works internally with 16-bit image processing, which also for jpg files results in a nicer tone scale and so better image quality. According to Nikon, the white balance of the Nikon D610 is improved compared to the Nikon D6100. I found the difference in our test shots hard to see. In daylight the Nikon D610 indeed gives a very accurate color reproduction. I also liked that the colors are not as saturated as with many amateur SLRs. It was precisely the saturated colors that appear on the Nikon D610 to be even more accurately shown, while the shades of gray were reproduced equally well. Sometimes the white balance is a bit too hot for my taste, but many people find that more beautiful.
Nikon D610 Autofocus
The Nikon D610 uses the same 39-point AF system as the Nikon D4 and has 7 cross sensors with which AF remains possible even for lenses with an open aperture to f/8 and with a sensitivity to a lower limit of-1 EV (ISO 100, 20°C). In measuring the resolution, the autofocus on the Nikon D610 appeared in a positive light with a very small spread in the measurement results: the autofocus offers very reproducible, good sharpness.
|Also here we have very little to add to what we previously wrote about the Nikon D600. We have not tested the video quality of the Nikon D610, but mention a number of features. The Nikon D610 offers just as many features as the Nikon D800 when it comes to video: the Nikon D610 video is based on the same technology as used for D800. The only downside that I can think of on the basis of the specifications is that the aperture is not adjustable during recording of a video.
The combination of film applications, frame rates and convenient, adjustable controls makes optimal filming in full HD possible. In Full-HD (1080 p), recording is possible with formats based on both FX and DX. Full HD movies (1080 p) can be recorded at 30 p, 25 p and 24 p, with the options of 60 p, 50 p and 25 p at 720 p.
The maximum length of these films is, due to EU regulations, limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. If you apply an external recorder, you can generally make longer than half an hour continuous recordings.
|The Nikon D610 offers a HDMI output that lets you send live video images without compression in 1080 p to an external recorder. It goes without saying that this is reduced to 1080i if the camera notes that an external monitor is used. The uncompressed data is transferred with the indicated image size and frame rate, without the information overlay which is displayed at the same time on the TFT monitor of the camera. There is also a movie editing function, which allows the start point and end point of a movie clip to be customized. In this way, film clips are more efficiently stored. A microphone jack makes it possible to use an external stereo microphone for better sound quality, and there is an audio output for an external headset.
Creative camera features
|On this point, nothing has changed compared to the Nikon D600. The Nikon D610 offers editing menus with many features, including red eye and color balance correction, active D-lighting, RAW editing and format adjustments. In addition to various picture styles, you can use filter effects such as skylight, star, miniature, line drawing, color sketch and selective color. Quick retouching includes distortion control, perspective correction and fisheye. Attractive features that further increase creativity are:
Time-lapse: the shutter is activated at preset intervals. Time-lapse photography saves images as movie files, meaning that a slow action can be played back quickly with speeds that are 24 to 36,000 times higher than normal.
Conclusion Nikon D610 review
Look in our list of tested cameras for specifications and comparison of these performances with those of other cameras.
|Is the Nikon D610 a game-changer? Possibly, but the competition – even in-house – is fierce. The image quality of cameras such as the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D5300 are very good. In particular, the bokeh and a better signal-to-noise ratio are properties that are rated higher for cameras with a full-frame sensor. If you don’t place as much weight on those points, then a switch to a camera with a larger sensor might be a less good investment than buying a modern lens.
People going for the absolute highest quality will still have to make a decision about whether he/she is going for a Nikon D800E or for a Nikon D610. If you look to the image quality, the Nikon D610 is just as good as the Nikon D600, and the Nikon D610 has to acknowledge its better in the Nikon D800E, but that is the best camera that we have tested to date. Both cameras are more or less similar in terms of dynamic range, color reproduction in daylight and signal/noise ratio. The Nikon D800E trumps the Nikon D610 really only in the automatic white balance in artificial light and in terms of resolution. The latter is of course no surprise as the Nikon D800E has one and a half times as many megapixels. The D800E also has a higher price tag than the D610.
You get with the Nikon D610 a whole lot of value for less than 2000 euros, making the move to a full-frame camera easier. Maybe it’s wise to budget some extra for new lenses, because only this gives you the best from a modern SLR with a full-frame sensor such as the Nikon D610. You will have a lot of fun with it; of that I’m certain.