Nikon D600 Hands On Preview - Features
Last week Nikon announced the imminent arrival of the D600 – a small,
lightweight DSLR designed for enthusiasts looking for an affordable
full-frame DSLR. Since then we’ve managed to lay our hands on one to
give it a once-over and form some initial opinions on what Nikon’s
latest DSLR has to offer.
Positioned just below the Nikon D800 but some way above the D7000, the D600 will initially cost around £350 less. While the D600 isn’t intended as a replacement for the four-year-old Nikon D700, the positioning of each model along with the use of a full-frame sensor in each is almost certain to invite comparisons. The two models really are quite different though. Not only is the D600 physically smaller than the D700 it’s also a much more advanced camera that benefits from all the technological advances that have been made since the D700 was first launched back in 2008. Interestingly though, in terms of the launch price both the D600 and the D700 have landed on the shelves with a very similar price tag around the £2,000 mark.
Like the more expensive D800, the D600 employs a 35.9mm x 24.0mm FX full-frame sensor. Effective resolution has been pegged at 24.3MP though, rather than the 36.3MP offered by its more expensive sibling. Of course, this isn’t the only compromise that’s been made and other areas – such as the new 39-point AF system – have also been similarly scaled down, so as to maintain the D800’s premium status and justify its extra cost. This shouldn’t be of too much concern to the D600’s target market though, because the D600 still offers plenty of advanced shooting features to help enthusiasts set their camera up exactly how they want it.
One further point worth making before we delve into the specifics of the D600’s technical specifications, is that the new model has been the subject of plenty of speculation in recent months, with Nikon even going so far as to describe it as a ‘game changing’ DSLR. Had the D600 been the only enthusiast-targeted full-frame DSLR announced in the past week then it would be hard to disagree with that. However the launch of the full-frame Canon 6D only days after the D600 emerged certainly puts a new twist on things. With both cameras vying for exactly the same market it’ll be an interesting battle to watch. At present the 6D is around £100 cheaper to pre-order, and offers built-in Wi-Fi functionality – something the D600 lacks. Will Nikon be cutting the D600's price in order to compete? Sadly, we have to say that we very much doubt it.
At its heart the new Nikon D600 employs a 24.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor, along with the same EXPEED 3 image-processor that’s found in Nikon's flagship D4. The EXPEED 3 chip is designed to make light work of data-intensive imaging tasks, and to this end the D600’s able to reach a maximum continuous burst speed of 5.5fps at full resolution – faster than the 4fps offered by the D800. The processor also offers 16-bit image processing and enables the D600 to offer a standard ISO range of 100-6400, which can be further extended from ISO 50-25,600.
Autofocus is taken care of by a brand new Multi-CAM4800 module that offers 39 individual AF points across the viewfinder, of which the central nine are cross-type sensors. Should you want to, you can also opt to reduce the number of active AF points down to nine or 21. The sensor module has been re-engineered to improve performance in low light with a combined aperture up to f/8 with detection down to -1EV, which should allow the camera to focus in especially dim light. The D600 also shares the handy AF mode button found on the D800, which makes light work of switching between AF-A, AF-S and AF-C modes.
Metering is looked after by Nikon's renowned 2016-pixel RGB metering sensor - the same one that’s employed by the Nikon D7000. The D600 gets a glass prism optical viewfinder that provides a 100% frame coverage and 0.7x magnification. Just below this sits a fixed 3.2in, 921k-dot LCD screen that can automatically adjust brightness levels. In addition to the large monitor on the back there’s also a small LCD screen on the right-hand shoulder (as you look into the camera) that displays all of the camera’s primary shooting settings. Landscape photographers will also be pleased to know that Nikon’s dual-axis electronic virtual horizon can be called up onto the D600’s monitor to help you frame perfectly level horizons.
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