With the introduction of the D600, Nikon made a full-frame DSLR more accessible than ever before. The D600 was an extremely popular camera, but it had one fatal flaw, a shutter mechanism that became known for shedding particles, dust and oil on the sensor. While Nikon never acknowledged the problem officially, the D610 is clearly an answer to the shutter problem on the D600. The camera is essentially the same in almost every way. The biggest difference between the two cameras is a redesigned shutter mechanism (which leads to an ever-so-slightly higher FPS count) and an improved auto white balance. And it seems to be a good solution... we tested the camera fully, and it does not show the same dust and oil issues the D600 presented.
The D610 shares the same 24 megapixel FX CMOS sensor as the D600, with essentially the same body, features and options. The new shutter mechanism shoots at 6 FPS, where the D600 was 5.5 FPS. The D610 also has a quiet mode for the shutter, and it is noticeably quieter than the normal mode; an option that is useful for wedding ceremonies, births, wildlife, or anywhere you would want to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Build and Design
The build and design of the camera are essentially identical to the D600. It features a magnesium alloy interior on the top and back of the camera's insides, and is weather sealed just as fully as the D800. The camera is equipped with the same dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots, the same display, and the same viewfinder with same focal points as the D600.
The street price for the body only is just about $2000, and the kit with the 24-85 f/3.5-4.5G VR lens is approximately $2500. This is $100 less than the D600 when it came out!
Because the D610 is basically the exact same camera as the D600, we will not be doing a full discussion of the Build and Design, Ergonomics and Controls, and Menus and Modes sections of this review. Rather, click here for a full review of the Nikon D600. (DigitalCameraReview's Theano Nikitas did an excellent job explaining the D600. There's no need to rehash the information again, right?) Instead, we will focus this review on the difference between the two cameras, namely the new shutter mechanism.
Does the shutter mechanism shed particles? Does the camera allow abnormally high amounts of dust into the seals? Are there oil splatters seen on the images?
Check out page 2 of this review. We have included a time lapse video containing 7200 shutter clicks that will expose any problems the D610 might have with dust/particles/oil.
The overall performance for the D610, in real world experience, is identical to that of the D600. Besides the lack of major dust and oil on the sensor, the two cameras perform in the exact same way.
I have owned a D600 for a nearly a year, and the D610 feels identical to me in terms of its performance and usability. There is a slight difference in FPS shooting speed (6FPS for this camera vs. 5.5 FPS for the D600), but it is not noticeable in everyday shooting. The camera performs very well and shoots quickly. The 39 point AF system is identical to the D600; however, my opinion of the AF coverage area bears repeating: it is smaller than I would prefer. It is easy to adapt to, however, by either focusing on one of the available points, using the DX crop mode, or using focus and recompose techniques. As in the D600, the sync speed is 1/200th of a second.
Nikon states that the D610 features improved white balance, and the colors are good our of camera in the video and still photograph modes alike. Image quality is great, and the camera's dynamic range is fantastic. The D600 handles high ISO very well, noise is not as issue until about ISO 3200 or higher, and I find images useable at 6400 and sometimes even higher than that.
If you choose to purchase the D610 as a kit, the 24-85 f/3.5-4.5G VR kit lens will be a great starter lens. The variable aperture zoom is probably not going to satisfy the pros, but a budding amateur will most likely enjoy the lens. This kit lens is nicer than most and has a flexible shooting range. The lens is adequately sharp, but is not the sharpest lens you will find.
Surprisingly, the inexpensive 85mm f/1.8 (street price of $500) is a fantastic lens for this camera. It produces extremely sharp results. For the money, it's hard to beat the value of this lens. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is also a stellar lens for this camera. It produces consistently sharp results.
Video and Image Quality
The D600's image quality is fantastic and the camera's dynamic range is impressive. The camera produces images with very little noise up to an impressively high ISOs. The image below was taken at ISO3200.
Below is a time lapse video taken with the Nikon D610. The video was taken over a two hour time period. A series of 7200 images were captured during this time. The video shows small amounts of dust that attached to the sensor. The Nikon 85mm f1.8 lens was attached to the camera for the video. Overall, the video shows that the dust issue is on-par with other DSLR cameras. The main concern is that dust appeared on the sensor while the lens was attached. This means one of two things (or both): either the camera had some dust already inside of it when this time lapse was started or the camera has an issue with dust entering the camera even when a lens is attached. The second scenario is much more troublesome and will fall in line with dust issues with the D600. However, we didn't see a large amount of dust on the sensor even after a month of repeated use. This would suggest that the dust in the time lapse video was already present in the camera.
Here is a still image taken after the time lapse. The dust spots have been circled. The image shows 8 spots (one was hard to tell and one looked more like a smudge than a spot). Admittedly, this is totally nitpicking the image and the camera. The image was shot at f/16 on a white piece of paper and magnified 200%-300% in order to expose the flaws. In real world use, the dust spots would generally not be visual at wide open apertures. Also, when other elements are thrown into the image (people, animals, backgrounds, etc) the spots would make them even harder to see. That being said, no one wants excessive dust on their camera's sensor. And when paying $2000 for a camera, buyers want to know their investment isn't going to have fatal flaws.
If you are interested in full-frame shooting and are looking for a camera that delivers amazing dynamic range, excellent image quality, and full feature set with great performance for both still images and video, all for around $2000, then look no further... this is your camera.
I will focus here on the main reason this camera exists: the D600's issue with dust and oil spots from the shutter. The main question I had from the time this camera was introduced was, "Will it fix the oil and dust issue?" Using the camera's time lapse feature, I took several thousand shots right away to see if there was oil and /or excess dust accumulation, and there was not. After a couple weeks of heavy shooting, the sensor was still pretty clean. DSLRs in general are prone to dust collecting on the sensor, but I did not notice anything excessive or beyond normal with this camera. So, I feel that the new shutter mechanism fixes the problem with the D600. I have no way to know anything behind the scenes at Nikon, but honestly, after shooting with the camera for several weeks, I think that the D610 is simply a Nikon D600 with a new shutter and a different white balance. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to purchase a full frame camera. For those of you with D600 issues, contact Nikon to get your camera serviced ASAP. Most current repairs include a new shutter mechanism, firmware update and an extensive sensor cleaning.