I preface every review with the same disclosure. I am not a professional. I do not shoot test charts. I do not try every lens with every camera. All opinions are my own, and are only based upon my own experiences with the gear. I haven’t had a ton of gear, or all of the expensive gear. I won’t list every specification or test for every specification. My review is not meant for professionals – if you are a professional, you shouldn’t need a review from an amateur. The information below is simply my own observations while doing normal photography, and is for other car enthusiasts and amateurs like myself.
I got my Nikon D600 back in March, and have been shooting it exclusively since I got it. I’ve already shot over 10,000 images on it, and have feel confident in stating that I know exactly how to work it in any situation and any lighting scenario.
Quite simply, the image quality of the D600 is outstanding. I have a lot of people constantly emailing me asking me what camera that I use. The D600 is that good, and it’s obvious the first time that you look at a photo from it. If image quality and dynamic range are important to you, then you will either want the D600, the D7100, or the D800. Only the D600 is full frame, and under $200 though. For me, the image quality was the single most important thing to consider when buying the camera.
Dynamic Range and HDR
The dynamic range of the D600 is only surpassed by the D800. What that means is that I shoot a lot less bracketed shots, and still get the dynamic range that I used to need to do HDR to get. I have shot brackets a good bit for HDR, and I find that the 3 shot bracket works as well as a 5 shot for me. I just set it to 3 frames, with +-2EV, and put it on Continuous-High shooting. That let’s me shoot an HDR bracket without even using a tripod. It’s a definite plus, but don’t stop reading – see my notes on landscape photography below.
The HDR function that was on the D5100 was useful, but the D600 has so much dynamic range that I haven’t even used the built-in HDR function even once.
Cleaning – the big question that everyone has. The answer is – yes, it does need to be cleaned a lot. None of my other cameras have ever had as many oil and dust spots. I’ve already had two professional cleanings at Camera Service Pro in Smyrna, and I just bought a sensor cleaning kit from Copper Hill Images as well. It gets dirty very quickly.
If you are shooting shallow DOF, like I do for car photos at events and shows, the pictures come out fine, and you won’t see any dirt or spots on the images. If you are shooting small apertures, then it is likely that you will see them, and you will have to clean the sensor a lot.
Some people online have complained that the D600 does not have the same rugged build quality of a Pro-level camera, like the D800, D4, D700, etc. My response is, do you need that? If you are on a hike through the Amazon, then you get the most rugged gear, but if you are at your kid’s soccer game, would you still need the best hiking boots? Get what you need for your own situation. Personally, I don’t need anything more than the weather-sealing that Nikon already has on the D600. It has let me shoot in light rain several times this year, with no problem. I don’t drop or abuse my cameras, so that’s good enough for me.
For an automotive photographer, the D600 will do everything that you need. At car meets and shows, the cars are static, so you don’t need a fast autofocus system, or rugged build quality. Typically, I shoot at large apertures, so I can go awhile without cleaning the sensor. Overall, I can say that the D600 is a great camera for those shooting like I do with cars.
Landscape photographers – run away from the D600. Get the D800. Since you will shoot at small apertures, you will find that you have to clean spots off all of your photos, and since new spots are constantly forming, you have to retouch every single shot.
Guess what? It gets even worse with HDR brackets. Photoshop will find these spots and make them even more apparent and they become highly visible. The time that you waste having to remove these spots is unrecoverable, so do yourself a favor and spend the extra cash to get the D800, which also has 36MP, instead of the 24MP that the D600 has.
Sports & Birds
While I have found that the D600 can do sports shooting quite well, it is not the best offering from Nikon. If you are a professional, then you should get the D4. If you are an amatuer, get the D7100. Both have better autofocus systems for shooting fast-paced sports, and higher frame rates. The D4 has the rugged build quality, but is quite large and expensive. The D7100 is the same size and weight as the D600. The D7100 is a crop sensor (DX), but in sports shooting, you don’t need the extreme shallow DOF that you get with FX.
Flying birds are the same as thrown or kicked balls.
The D600 is a great camera, but has a couple of issues that keep it from being THE camera. There is no perfect camera, and you just have to decide what problems and issues you can work around and live with.