Without a doubt, the most important feature of a digital camera today is its image sensor. You could put the most advanced autofocus and metering systems with a boatload of great features into a camera, but at the end of the day, they are all more or less secondary – the sensor performance is still looked at first. Things like resolution, dynamic range, color depth and ISO performance are all tightly related to the sensor and its physical size. The Nikon D610 surely does not disappoint when it comes to its sensor performance. As I have previously reported in my Nikon D600 review, the 24.3 MP FX sensor on the camera is truly superb.
I tried to recover shadows on both the D610 and the D800 and I was able to get about the same amount of detail from both cameras. Hence, I have the same conclusion as folks from DxOMark in terms of dynamic range performance. The colors are also superb – I cannot see any difference in color rendering and skin tones between the D610 and the D800. As for low-light performance, the D610 also seems to handle high ISOs as good as the D800, as shown on the next page of this review.
Quality Assurance and Autofocus System
The autofocus performance of the D610 is identical to that of the D600, which is pretty solid. All 39 autofocus points worked well in phase detect AF and did not see any serious alignment issues as on the original shipments of the Nikon D800. It seems like Nikon did a much better job with the AF system on the D600/D610 in terms of QA. This is not to say that all Nikon D600 units are good. As I have previously pointed out in other articles, shipping and other factors can affect the performance and accuracy of the phase detect AF system. That’s why I always recommend to check your camera for potential autofocus problems within the within the 30 day return period. If anything is wrong, you should either return the camera, or send it back to the manufacturer for re-calibration.
Sensor Dust Report
As I have already reported in a separate article earlier, the Nikon D610 does not have the same dust issue as the Nikon D600. After running a very comprehensive test with over 10 thousand actuations on the camera, I came to a conclusion that the new shutter mechanism is indeed much better than the one on the D600. Take a look at the below before and after shots (left: Before, right: After):
The “before” image on the left was taken when I first started the test procedure, while the “after” image was taken after about 8 thousand clicks (3x timelapses at around 2 thousand each). As you can see, I started out with a little bit of micro dust, which was very hard to see even at f/22. The only reason why it looks so obvious, is because I actually boosted the contrast values so high in Photoshop, that everything becomes clearly visible. And if you look at the “after” result, only very small particles moved around a little bit, which is quite normal considering how much air was moved while images were taken.
If you are wondering why there is some micro dust on the sensor originally, that’s because I actually wet-cleaned the sensor once with a swab before starting the procedure. My very first picture showed a moderately sized particle on the sensor, which probably got there during shipping or while I was mounting the lens, so I decided to clean it (was impossible to remove using a rocket blower). The particle was removed, but the swab left some micro dust on the sensor.
If you do not know how to deal with dust issues, check out the “Photography Tips for Beginners” page, where you can find tutorials on maintaining camera gear and cleaning sensors and lenses.