Nikon D600 has the second best sensor in the world

When Nikon announced the Nikon D600, I knew the new sensor would not disappoint. Since the D3, Nikon has put a lot of focus on sensor technology and A/D conversion. As a result, almost every single sensor that has been released during the last few years has been ranked very highly by many reviewers and image labs. As you may already know, DxOMark has been testing most new digital cameras on the market today (including medium format) and they crowned the Nikon D800E sensor as the best in the world earlier this year. Today, DxOMark released its rating for the Nikon D600:

Nikon D600 DxOMark

In the new article that DxOMark published today, it says “the D600 is an affordable camera that places a high premium on image quality, as it ranks just behind the top performing Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E. It is also a significant improvement over the high-end professional flagship DSLRs, the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4″. And here is an excerpt from their conclusion: “As an added bonus, the camera provides users extreme value, as noted through its DxOMark sensor score of 94, which puts it in an elite category currently occupied by two additional Nikon cameras”.

Looks like the sensor on the Nikon D600 is almost as remarkable as the one on the Nikon D800. The overall score of the sensor was just one point below the Nikon D800 and two points below the Nikon D800E (which has the same sensor as the D800, but a different anti-aliasing filter).

Here is a comparison of the D600 with the D800 and D4:

Nikon D600 vs D800 vs D4

Very impressive! Take a look at the Low-Light ISO figures – the D600 has the highest score there. Detailed image analysis and comparisons will be provided this week.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) EagleS

    i could NOT belive this when i have read it just an hour ago on dxomark score i mean WOW WHOA GREAT JOB NIKON

  2. 2
    ) Luis C.

    I knew it would place high, but a 94 is excellent! Good work Nikon!

  3. 3
    ) EagleS

    Nasim get that d600 as soon as possible !!! :)

  4. 4
    ) Ali

    Wow … Very interesting. Maybe it’s time for upgrading my camera. I was waiting for the differences in low-light ISO with D800 or other camera. Naseem Thanks for your great posts. I’m very excited. :)

  5. 5
    ) Max

    I also have the D3200 which got an outstanding score for low ISO, The reality is that the sensor is noisy start with ISO 200. I had the D700 and i was shooting in any ISO but with D3200 i stay at ISO200. (Especially for video)

    DXO show only one stop difference between them which is not true. Also they rate equally for the high ISO the D800 and 5D3. All samples and reviews state that 5D3 is a way better.

    I dont trust them, They always test Nikon cameras Immediately after release and other cameras lagging.

    Since i have the D3200 and previously the D700 i tend to Nikon.

    • 10
      ) David B

      Thank you for that healthy dose of real life in DXO Fanfest.

      By the way, what is the practical difference between DXO score of 2300, 2800, and 3100? Most cameras go from 1600 straight to 3200. The difference between 2800 and 2900 is laughable, you don’t even have settings on your camera to select 2900. a 1/32 of a stop?

      • David, those are scores, not ISO values. Those scores are based on sensor performance, similar to how I rate lenses with Imatest.

        I am not here to defend DxOMark. I always say “take any review, including mine, with a grain of salt”. No matter how objective we try to be, there is always a possibility of error, sample variation, etc.

        • 16
          ) David B

          Dear Nasim. I think you are mistaken. They are ISO numbers actually when it comes to Low Light. That number is not a score, like the other numbers by DXO. The other ones are scores, that number at the end, for low light is ISO.

          Here is how DXO defines that number http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/About/Sensor-scores/Use-Case-Scores : “……Thus low-light ISO is the highest ISO setting for a camera that allows it to achieve an SNR of 30dB while keeping a good dynamic range of 9 EVs and a color depth of 18bits.” Essentially, it is the highest ISO that DXO thinks has low noise and still able to provide 9EVs. This number is ISO SETTING, not a SCORE.

          Further, DXO states, “A difference in low-light ISO of 25% represents 1/3 EV and is only slightly noticeable.” Thus, 3200 vs 2400 (which represents 25%) would only be slightly noticeable according to DXO.

          • David, ISO 2980 is not a real ISO number. Even if DxO defines it as an ISO value, it really makes no sense whatsoever, which is why I said it is a score, not a real ISO value.

            Again, I am not here to defend DxO. In fact, I would question this particular test, since there is no official RAW support available yet. Perhaps DxO does have RAW support and they are looking at real data. However, if comparisons were made with JPEG images out of the camera, then the whole test is flawed somewhat. I will be posting image crops from the D600 soon, but since there is no RAW support yet, I will have to publish JPEG only for now…

            • 34
              ) David B

              well lets agree to disagree. I posted above the exact definition of what DXO measures in that number and it is clearly ‘the highest ISO setting (not a score, but an ISO SETTING, as they write black on white) that allows 30DB, at least 9EV, and 18bits of color bits.” How much more clear do they have to write it?

              In fact many sites such as popular http://www.snapsort.com that compares camera characteristics accept it as such and use these measurements for low light exactly as I say.

              All I am trying to point out really that the diference between most modern DSLRs and some Mirrorless (Sony NEX for example) in terms of noise in low light is so small, that it hardly matters in low light. Even DXO measurements point out the difference between all modern FullFrame DSLRs is less than half of a stop, which, depending on photographer’s techniques re: proper exposure is reduced to nothing.

              The only thing that might matter at all this Day re: DXO score is dynamic range for those landscape shooters that don’t bother to use HDR and other techniques to increase it. That is true that on modern Nikons and Sonys you can recover an obscene amount of detail in shadows, something Canons and m43 crowd is not as capable of.

              The other thing that matters is AF and there, it remains to be seen who is the winner these days….

    • 22
      ) TR

      Max, you are right to say that – like any test or review – you should not take this as an unquestionable truth. It is always important to understand the methodology. If I am not mistaken, DxOMark downsample all images to the same size to allow for comparison. Many of the other reviews I see online don’t do this, they compare on a pixel level – those who downsample tend to agree with DxOMark. DPReview for instance state that the D800 is better at high ISO – not hugely, but better. Did you downsample the D3200 to the same resolution as D700 for your comparison? If not maybe you should – not because DxOMark do it, but as I think it is the only fair way (or upsample the D700 to D3200 resolution).

      Why? Because that is how you would engage with photos in the “real” world, i.e. beyond pixel test. You print photos at the size that suits you and put them up on a wall; you look at different photos on your projector; etc. – always at the same size. And that means that you would either see the D700 photos enlarged, if it is a really large print, or the D3200 photos downsized. And if you do that the D800, D3200 etc. come out better as the process reduces noise. That is also the reason why Nokia’s PureView mobile phone produces such great photos (despite a small sensor it has even higher resolution than the D800).

      • 24
        ) Max

        differences is huge, no need to be a rocket Science so see that for the 2mp resolution of video mode inddor @ISO200 in my room, dark Furniture shows huge amount of noise that can not be corrected with any noise reduction software in post.

        DR however is unbelievably good

  6. I think this rating is somewhat premature. It is based on use of only one or two DF600s. Many will await more use of this camera before they buy one. The D7000 and the D800 both had serious initial issues. The D800s are still not completely resolved. The video better work better on the D7000 in terms of buffering, etc. Many were looking for a D400. Instead we got offered another FX camera. I have about seven FX lens. However I am not set up well in telephoto since after the 70-300VR the field useablity goes down and the cost goes way up. I am trying t decide if the 200-400 Nikkor is a go for us. I have used it in the field and regard it as awfully big. Fine for platform shots but if you are right out in the action (about like the view you’d get if you were a football PLAYER with a camera) the 200-400 Nikkor is not the best lens. So I am not sure about Nikon’s recent FX drive. Every pro I personally know was looking for D400 from Nikon.
    DaveyJ

    • 17
      ) DavidW

      This is a review of the sensor only and not the camera as a whole. And despite the issues with the D800, its sensor ratings have not changed since first being introduced.
      I’m surprised by your comment on a potential D400. Very few pro’s I know, in fact not a single one, would opt for a DX over an FX system these days. Given the lack of demand for a pro-level DX system, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nikon abandons the pro-DX line altogether.

  7. 7
    ) EagleS

    well as they say haters are gona hate xD

  8. I wait with baited breath for some lenses to be tested with the D800.
    I have yet to read a review about a zoom lens which is top notch for distortion and Chromatic aberration,or am I missing something?
    I suspect the 600 will also be showing up the pitfalls on current lens offerings from Nikon

  9. I am not sure EagleS’s comments on haters is appropriate. I have read each of the posts on this topic. I subsequently have re-read EagleS’s comments closely again. Not sure at this point what conclusions to draw. Seconds after I posted my thought (based on about 50 photo pros thoughts expressed to me over the last two months about this camera) his comment appeared. I don’t think any remarks here have been made by anyone that was without careful deliberation. I also have read a number of comments about this very review. Dx0Mark’s review of course is a start and encouraging.

    • 14
      ) EagleS

      why are u thinking that my comment had anything to do with youres ? that was a misunderstanding !

      i have comemnted at same time as u but that doesnt mean i have talked directly to u !

      by this comemnt i meant that people who use Nikon D4, who use Canon 5d mark 3 and so on and on are going to say that DxoMark doesnt offer accuret measurements and that Canon fans will say that dxomark are purposely making Canon look horrible in comparasion to Nikon.

      • Thank you for your clarification EagleS. I never mention Internet communication as DIRECT communication. By that I mean face to face. I agree with many of these points of view to some degree. I have personally never shot with a D4. I also KNOW I would not buy one.

        General comments to all posters: Regardless of any feelings we have about a camera we use as a tool, we HAVE to accept in this digital age that changes are happening very fast. I think lens are in general a better investment. But the biggest heaviest Nikon lens I ever owned (and very higher rated) was regarded by the younger guys in my company as a wrist breaker and not a serious field lens. Before you start thinking what weaklings I should tell you that all of these guys are incredibly strong and agile. But we have other missions often than just taking pictures. Either work, races, or some very active involvement. We have even tried P&S high end cameras, Go Pros, etc. I would not buy a P&S camera due to the fact that that the average images are worse than even a very modest DSLR camera.

  10. 13
    ) Randall

    I have the camera and the images it produces are amazing. 24mp feels like the sweet spot for all my lenses. It plays real nice with my 85 1.4g which I was worried about because some have complained about that lens on the d800. My copy doesn’t seem to have any autofocus issues at all but even if it did I’m too love struck to care.

  11. 18
    ) mike

    someone buy my 7000 so I can get myself a 600!!!!!!!!!

    • 19
      ) Randall

      Ebay it. They are selling for about $700-800 depending on condition (not bad considering you can get a new one for $995 right now. Do a search on completed listings to see ones that have sold recently. I got my d5100 on there now. I sold my 55-300mm dx lens on ebay for more then I paid. I think camera stuff does pretty good on ebay. I also picked up a nice 28-300mm for $800. Great place to buy and sell.

  12. 20
    ) SK

    Nikon D800 had the best sensor but what Nikon did to it is a well-told story!

  13. 21
    ) David B

    digitalreviewcanada.com posted some real life samples, including at high ISO. Here is an example at ISO6400 http://www.digitalreviewcanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/DSC_0358.jpg
    you can see a lot of blotchiness and ugly yellow noise at that ISO in real life night scene. However, this is Jpeg, because there are no RAW profiles available for it yet; I am sure RAW will be better

  14. 23
    ) Marco

    Nikon D600

    |I AM |The Camera Everyone Loves To Hate|

  15. Absolutely amazing response from David W. I also am David W. folIowed by a J last name. Today I asked the biggest two photo stores in the world about this issue. They said the DX versus FX controversy is rampant. They assured me that this is not as you state. All of the newspaper photographers I know are full time photographers. That means pro to me and to IRS. They tell me the lack of a D400 is mysterious. Obviously I am evaluating my own options and that of my company. Our planed upgrade with a D400 and hopefully a 80-400VR UPGRADED also now looks closer to about $18,000 despite the fact that I have six FX Nikkor lens.
    Two friends just purchased 100-400 Canon lens and the appropriate adapters as they did not want to lug a 200-400 Nikkor. I am used to being at events where both event officials and police seem to regard huge lens users trying to get out in the thick of things as the time to step in and extract that photographer as hindering things. given all this a D600 with smaller and lighter, if backed by appropriate lens would be most welcome.

  16. The D600 does seem to be doing quite well. Will I sell my D7000? Of course not. We always have use for a less high end camera when safety of the camera is an issue. Will I buy a D600? Maybe! Randall’s post was pretty nice. Question to you all on this topic? What tele would you use on it????

  17. 29
    ) Nikon Fan

    It is an awesome sensor in an enthusiastic/consumer/cheap camera.

    When will Nikon release the D400?

  18. 30
    ) Anson R

    Great D600! I think into the Nikon D600 there is a Sony-sensor. Today Sony builts the best sensors in the world, because of that, there are not Canon-cameras in the TOP TEN. This symbiosis between Nikon and Sony is perfect. And…..also the Hasselblad Lunar use a SONY SENSOR.

  19. 31
    ) Anson R

    The Nikon D600, 2nd best sensor ever tested!
    The Nikon D600, record high dynamic range!
    The Nikon D600, 1/3EV low-light ISO proress over the Nikon D700 in spite of th edoubled megapixel count!
    The Nikon D600 beats the Canon EOS 5D Mark III : +2.5EV ore DR, 1.1 bit color depth and a slight advantage of 1/3EV in low light!

    Adieux, adios, bye-bye, goodbye Canon.

    • 32
      ) David B

      I wonder which Canons are you saying good bye to. Do you buy all your photo equipment based on DXO results?

  20. I guess I am baffled that a number of posters are contemplating selling their D7000. It is a great camera for the price. I always have need for cameras to use in the field after they are no longer the best and newest. My son is off at an important business meeting which also requires that he inspect six 60 ft. tall chimneys. He took his tried and true Nikon D200 and a 18-135 DX Nikkor lens. He sure would not scrap his D7000 to buy a new D600. Right now we are looking for the right camera to use in a helicopter we will probably own soon. Sometimes point of view matters somewhat more than what the latest offering from Nikon is. I am on this site today still evaluating the next purchase of a D600 versus D800 and the yet unannounced D400. A note to those who champion FX over DX…..the highest official in Nikon Europe said that they were not going to ignore the large number who need DX Nikons. The test mules for that camera exist and are quite astonishing from what anyone on the outside can tell (that includes everyone on this site). A D7100 lower level model will also be introduced from what I can tell. I could direct you to a site that right now has many posts for DX advantages. Friends who recently bought D800s report on these sites that in some of their use the D800 and lens cannot be used as they are too big and too noteciable to get good candid street shots. One of my favorites of all of these posters who has information which has helped guide my business says he is going to add a D7000 for his own vacation use. He also says shooting the D800 in DX mode, in his mind, is foolish. Shot now, crop later seems to be the right strategy.

    • 37
      ) Max

      There will always be better camera’s! The D7000 is better than we could dream of a couple of years ago. I have a D800 and a D7000. The DX system is often more adequate and the lighter lenses make photographing more fun which leads to more creativity and better images!

      People here please realize that most of the internet blogs and tests are influenced by an aggressive marketing from Nikon and other camera sellers. They will do everything to make you upgrade. Every D7000, D3200 or even D90 can deliver stunning photographs! A marginal bit of noise doesn’t matter at all (and if the photo is good nobody will care)!

      I agree with a very well known camera expert who says: we are now in a stadium that upgrades do deliver small improvements but become invisible in practice.

      We get better lenses, better camera’s, where are the better photographs?

  21. 35
    ) Adnan Khan

    Thanks Nasim :)

    So ,D4 is only for sports and wild life (Action) wins in ISO and fps only
    D800 is for portraits and Landscapes
    D600 is for about anything just might not catch the bullet getting out of muzzle at 1/4000 ;) (which I’m trying to shoot these days ) LOL :))

    That’s really great performance by the cheapest Nikon FX! , if D7000 or D300s’s new model is not impressive enough in fps I might replace the D7000 with the D600 as my second body for action only ,not bad!

    ==========================

    Nasim can you please recommend a custom desktop around $2500 to $3000 which can handle D800′s gigantic files! . My laptop is i7 4mb ,12GB ram ,2 gb video card ,7200rpm hd, but it feels like a Pentium 100 from mid 90′s when I try to open RAW files in LR4 (I’ve defraged. it and there is more than 500gb of free space always,Ive also tried getting files from main drive rather than 3.0 USB ex drives) I’m also considering to install a SSD drive as main drive.
    I haven’t upgraded my desktop or actually I’m not using it anymore since last 7 yrs. or so.
    Will be much obliged if you or any guy from your team writes a review on what important things to get while assembling a system primarily for D800 or huge image file sizes use.

    I miss film days :(

    regards
    Adnan

  22. 36
    ) al

    well, Nikon may claim the sensor (aka imager) is theirs, but the fact is Sony designed and manufactured the sensor. Nikon has absolutely no expertise in sensor tech.

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