Nikon D600: Performance

February 23, 2013 by Theano Nikitas Reads (33,542)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 10
    • Total Score:
    • 9.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


The D600 is a real pleasure to shoot with. In many ways, it’s as responsive as my D3s with fast start-up time and quick action throughout most of the shooting experience.

Although you won’t have the lightning fast continuous shooting speed of the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1DX — or even the Sony A99 –the D600 can capture up to about 5.5 frames per second, even when set to RAW + JPEG. Be sure to use a high capacity card for storing the camera’s large files, though. And make sure to use a high speed (Class 10) card to help keep the D600 nimble.

Nikon D600

Its 39-point autofocus system doesn’t quite match that of the D800’s 51-points and the area of AF coverage is, understandably, smaller. I haven’t shot a runway show with the camera, but Iimagine I would miss being able to set the top focus point on a model’s eyes because of the smaller AF area. On the other hand, using the DX crop mode helps expand the AF coverage.

That being said, autofocus is fast and accurate in good light. As the light level drops, AF isn’t quite as speedy but certainly quick enough that it was rarely an issue in everyday shooting. And, most importantly, it nailed the focus in almost every shot regardless of light levels.

In Live View, not surprisingly, AF is much slower — as it is in almost all DSLRs. I rarely use this mode and when I do, the camera is usually mounted on a tripod and manual focus is engaged.

If you regularly use Speedlights and/or studio flash, keep in mind that the D600’s sync speed is 1/200th second, rather than the more standard 1/250th second. But, unless you’re heavily dependent on external flash and need the extra sync speed, it shouldn’t be an issue. 

Video Quality
DSLR video has become increasingly important as still photographers expand into movies by choice or by necessity. As mentioned earlier, the D600 inherits some of the D800’s advanced video options including uncompressed output to an external drive via HDMI, the ability to view live footage on an external monitor, a headphone jack to monitor the camera’s 20 audio levels and a microphone jack. The camera’s internal microphone records in monaural so you’ll need an external microphone for stereo sound, although the internal microphone is quite sensitive and can pick up relatively distant sounds.

Movies can be captured in both FX and DX modes with a range of options including full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30/25/24fps, 1280 x 720 at 60/50/30/25fps. Two quality levels — high and normal — are available as well.

Video quality is quite good. Colors are accurate and natural looking. Even indoors under mixed lighting, auto white balance worked extremely well. Test footage was sharp in good light and at low ISOs and softened only slightly under low light conditions.

As an extra bonus, the D600’s timelapse feature automatically combines images to create a finished stop motion video in-camera.

Image Quality
The D600 certainly delivers where it counts and image quality is excellent. On default settings, test shots were very good but adjusting various parameters elevated the quality even more.

Exposures were almost always spot on thanks to the camera’s excellent matrix metering system. Equally as impressive is the camera’s auto white balance, which — like the sample video — kept the stage and the dancer’s white suit clean and bright, even under mixed lighting. But, if you prefer a more “natural” (e.g., warmer) representation when shooting indoors in tungsten lighting, for example, you can tweak the camera’s settings.

Colors were rendered accurately with enough saturation to bring images to life without overdoing it. Saturation, however, can easily be pumped up or toned down in-camera to suit your personal aesthetics. And Nikon’s Active D-lighting works well to maintain shadow and highlight detail.

Regardless of the lens used, detail capture was quite good. I tend to prefer shooting with the 24-70 and 70-200, which are very sharp. But the kit lens delivered crisp detail in most images as well.

After shooting with the D3s for several years, I’m comfortable pushing ISOs to extremes since that camera is so amazing at high ISOs. The D600 doesn’t have the same latitude (nor did I expect it to) but one of Nikon’s strengths is keeping noise under control without losing detail and the D600 performed really well across its 100-6400 light sensitivity range. Although expandable to a low of 50 and a high of 24,600, I tried to stay within 100-3200 but topped out at 6400 on occasion. Sure, there’s noise at higher ISOs, particularly in shadows as you’d expect. But the D600 handled itself quite well. Personally, I prefer to deal with image noise in Adobe Camera Raw rather than using in-camera noise reduction since it’s more controllable. But each photographer needs to determine how much a trade-off between detail and noise reduction he or she is willing to make. Fortunately, with the D600 the trade-off is pretty minor.

ISO 100                                                                                 ISO 200

ISO 400                                                                                 ISO 800

ISO 1600                                                                                ISO 3200

ISO 6400

Additional Sample Images

Nikon D600

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