Nikon presents a pro-spec consumer full frame DSLR that's been on a diet
Nikon has set out to widen the full frame DSLR market with a two-pronged strategy embodied in the new D600. Name the two things that work against full-frame DSLRs and they have to be physical bulk and cost. The D600 takes on both of these issues and at first glance it looks like Nikon has hit its targets. The D600 is the smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR yet and it is one the most affordable. Its guide price for body only is under £2,000, which will probably match the discounted pricing of Canon's EOS-5D Mark III. There is no long wait for the D600, either - it ships this week.
Nikon has also been astute in its cost management with the result that the D600 Doesn't feel like a cut price DSLR at all. It has a magnesium alloy dust and moisture-sealed chassis, the same Expeed 3 image processor engine as the D4 and D800, the same high-spec. AF and metering sensors as its higher-spec. siblings, albeit with less AF points from the Multi-CAM4800 39-point AF system, and it has a new 24 megapixel full-frame sensor. Full HD (1080p) video can be recorded in 30p, 25p and 24p, with 60p, 50p and 25p options at 720p. Full HD movie clips can be up to 29 minutes 59 seconds long, and you get both external mic. and headphone ports. Continuous still shooting can run at 5.5 frames per second, while ISO sensitivity can be set to range between 50 and 25600.
Nikon is keen to point out that like its premium siblings, the D4 and D800, the D600 can autofocus with lenses and dim as f/8, meaning you can confidently use 2x converters on f/4 lenses. There is a three dimensional digital level or artificial horizon aid and a port for the new WiFi connectivity is available via the optional WU-1b adapter. There is also a dedicated GPS port for optional geo-tagging with the GP-1 unit. Using an EN-EL15 battery, thanks to new lower power circuitry, the D600 is good for 900 shots per battery charge, says Nikon. You can also shoot about an hour of video on a single charge. A new optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D14 and portrait grip has had to be developed because the base of the D600 is too short to accommodate an existing Nikon DSLR grip. Like the D800 you get a 3.2 inch 921K dot VGA screen at the back, but Nikon has not yet been persuaded to provide an articulated screen.
While the D600 is a professional level specification, Nikon classifies it as a consumer camera and it's not supported as a pro model. Nevertheless, Nikon expects a lot of pros to use the D600 and that should be no surprise.
From the outside any Nikon DSLR user should find themselves at home quite quickly with the D600.
At the top you have the audio ports, and below that the mini-USB connector (USB-2.0 - not USB 3.0) that also accommodates the optional WU-1b wireless LAN adapter. Below that is the HDMI port - and uncompressed video out is supported by this port - and on the bottom left is the GP-1 GPS adapter port.
Above all, the D600 is all about improved portability. Only Sony's new Alpha 99 SLT (translucent fixed mirror) full frame system camera beats the D600 in terms of full frame camera weight and the D600 is significantly lighter than the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Only in depth does the D600's dimensions not show a significant improvement, mainly because there is limited scope with a full frame DSLR mount/sensor plane.
The D600 does feel compact compared to other full frame DSLRs, but if size and weight are high on your list of preferences then the D600 remains a large and heavy camera compared to APS-C DSLRs and even more so compared to Compact System Cameras (CSCs).
While full frame cameras are unlikely to ever be very affordable, perhaps the most compelling attribute of the D600 is its price, which will put a lot of pressure on Canon's EOS-5D Mark II.