Since the Nikon D600 DSLR has been released this morning, I have been receiving a number of emails and comments about it from our readers. Looks like there is some confusion about the capabilities and limitations of the camera. A number of online resources are talking about the D600 and thanks to some famous bloggers, people now think that the D600 has serious problems. I am not here to defend the camera that I have not touched yet, but I would like to clarify these issues so that there is no misunderstanding or confusion.
1) Sharp Images
After I posted the Nikon D600 Sample Images, some of our readers started questioning the quality of the camera, blaming softer images (particularly from the owl shot) on the camera. First of all (and I am sure most photographers already know this), the softness of images has little to do with the camera. Even the cheapest entry-level DSLRs like the D3200 are capable of producing very sharp images. Take a look at my article on making sharp images and you will know exactly what I mean.
Second, anyone who has ever shot with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR (I own one) knows very well that it is not a good lens to be coupled with teleconverters. In fact, the only TC it works well with is the Nikon TC-14E II, which provides 1.4x magnification. The TC-20E III (see my Nikon TC-20E III Review) that Florian Schulz used in the shot makes the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR a 400-800mm lens and if it was not for the AF system on the D600 that can take f/8 lenses, he would have never been able to autofocus with it. The fact that he got the bird in focus at 800mm and reasonably sharp at wide open aperture of f/8 is already a big achievement. If you don’t believe me, mount the Nikon 200-400mm with the TC-20E III on the Nikon D700 or D3s and try to do it yourself.
The owl shot is pretty sharp for 800mm wide open. Nobody would post an image like this full-size. Some sharpening in post and down-sampling a little will make the image look superb. I took the same image in Photoshop, down-sampled to 1200 pixels wide and applied Unsharp Mask with value 50 and 1px radius. Here is the result:
2) Multi-CAM 4800FX ≠ Multi-CAM 4800DX
Now here is another one that keeps coming up. Yes, the Nikon D600 has a similar AF module as the Nikon D7000, but it is NOT the same. Notice it says “FX” versus “DX” in the end? There is a difference in size between the two – FX AF module is physically larger. Now this one is debatable, so I will speak from my own personal experience. I have shot fast-moving wildlife extensively with both the Nikon D300 and the Nikon D700 (the D300 has Multi-CAM 3500DX and the D700 has Multi-CAM 3500FX). While most people say that the AF system on both is identical in terms of performance, after several years of shooting with both, I found the AF system on the D700 to be more accurate, especially for photographing fast-moving birds (often in flight). I do not know if it is the bigger size of the FX module that makes a difference or there is something else going on, but if the same thing applies to Multi-CAM 4800FX used on the D600, it should be more accurate for fast action than the D7000. Now this by no means means that the 4800FX is as good as the 3500FX or Advanced 3500FX used on the D800/D4 – the latter obviously has more AF points, cross-type sensors and better tracking ability. However, the FX version should perform better than the DX in my experience.
Now here is a flip side to this. Due to the large size of the internal guts (mirror, viewfinder, etc) on the D600, the AF points inside the D600 viewfinder will not be as spread out as on the D7000. Unless Nikon made the 4800FX much larger in size, this means that most of the AF points will be concentrated in the center of the frame.
3) Viewfinder Size
Using a full-frame sensor requires a larger mirror and hence a larger pentaprism. I expect the viewfinder on the Nikon D600 to be of the same size as the D700/D800, which is MUCH bigger than the one on the D7000. If you shoot with both FX and DX cameras side by side, you will quickly see that the difference in viewfinder size is huge. And trust me, after you use a larger viewfinder, you will never want to go back.
4) AF Fine Tune
One of our readers could not find any references to AF Fine Tune on the D600 and thought that Nikon omitted it. It would be completely idiotic for Nikon to omit this important feature from a $2K camera, especially since the Nikon D7000 has it. Here is info from the Nikon D600 Brochure: “Nikon Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, fine-tuning, 39 focus points…”. So yes, the D600 will have the AF Fine Tune feature for tuning lenses.
5) 1/4000 Max Shutter Speed
A lot of people are saying that the max shutter speed of 1/4000 is a deal breaker. Really? How many images have you captured in the last year with the shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second? Open up your Lightroom catalog and find all the images that have shutter speeds faster than 1/4000. Out of over 50 thousand images that my wife and I shot last year, I only found about 20-30 that were shot at 1/8000. With fast glass. Wide open. On a sunny day. There is only one stop of exposure difference between 1/4000 and 1/8000. If you are getting blown out images, just lower that ISO to 50. It will compensate for the one stop light loss. Or if worst comes to worst, you always have an option to use an ND filter. Strobists carry ND filters to lower the shutter speed and they do not seem to be complaining that much.
6) Lack of PC Sync Port
Unless you have your camera glued to a tripod in a studio environment, shoot with a flash bracket or want to trigger your camera remotely with a PocketWizard unit, there is little reason to worry about the lack of the PC sync port. I cannot remember the last time I used the PC sync port on any of my cameras and I shoot flash quite a bit. If you really need to have the PC sync port, just buy the Nikon AS-15 adapter or one of those third party adapters that has a built-in hot shoe as well. I do not like using cords to trigger my flashes – radio or infrared do just fine.
7) 1/200 Flash Sync
David Hobby made a big deal out of the 1/200 flash sync limitation, saying that it is “game over” for the D600. I have a lot of respect for David’s work, but I think he is exaggerating this limitation and making too big of a deal out of it it. The difference between 1/250 and 1/200 is one third of a stop. Most people that shoot flash won’t care about this. Yes, it is a bummer for sports shooters (only when using dumb flashes) and it does make flashes a little less effective overall, but it does not make the D600 a bad camera. Most Canon DSLRs, including the new 5D Mark III are limited to 1/200 sync speed. Again, this limitation is a non-issue for probably 99% of photographers out there, if not more.
8) Nikon D600 Review
Many of our readers are anxious to find out how the D600 will do in terms of image quality when compared to the D700 or the D800. I have already put an order through for the D600, so I will start reviewing it as soon as I receive it in late September. There should be enough stock this time, so I do not anticipate any major delays. A comparison between Nikon D600, D700 and D800 is posted in our review of the Nikon D600. I will take it for a full spin, taking pictures of landscapes, portraits and wildlife, so the review should be pretty thorough.
I think that’s all. Please let me know if you have any questions!