Nikon D600 as a Landscape camera

This attractive woodland dell is unfortunately down a somewhat steep hill from the nearest car park. Since for the shots I was planning, plus shooting the video I posted earlier, required a tripod and I wanted to use my 28-300mm zoom lens on my D600, carrying the whole lot with my Rode microphone wasn't so bad down the hill, but proved somewhat of a "trial" on the return journey. Staggering back, I was cursing and wondering why on earth I'd chosen this combination. Added to this was the fact that it was pretty cold and my hands were going numb from carrying the cold metal of the Manfrotto tripod I was attempting to manhandle back up the hill.

I kept thinking of all those Panasonic ads. with landscape photographers climbing cliffs with a G3 slung over their back, banging on about how light it is!! So the first comment to make about the D600 as a landscape camera is - Its b****y heavy!!

Having done stuff like this in the past with medium-format cameras and a bag of lenses, maybe I should have known what I was getting into, however that was a while ago and my back has seen better days!

I should mention at this time one of things I don't like about DSLR's and that is the somewhat non-ideal live view implementation. Yes I know the mirror has to be got out of the way so everytime I press the switch there's a huge clunk, but is there any reason why this is still pretty basic on these cameras? The focusing is slow, not that it mattered with what I was shooting yesterday, but irritating none the less, plus I seem to be unable to get WYSIWYG on the screen (my fault possibly since I haven't read the manual!) If you are used to mirrorless or compact cameras then you're in for a real treat if you want to use a DSLR with live view. There is also of course no flip-out moveable screen on the D600. Nikon seem to regard this as amateurish, which is the only reason I can think of that explains why they leave this incredibly useful feature off their "pro" cameras. 

It was while I was out shooting that I suddenly began to see the virtue of the Sony DSLT fixed mirror system and the much improved live view that gives. However since I'm probably not planning to repeat this D600 experience anytime soon, I'll just leave that there.

While shooting the video footage at the same time I was actually wondering about how the companies that use cameras like these for ads. and T.V. series manage. However I'm sure that they have all sorts of stuff bolted on and of course they have a major advantage that I don't, a crew! 

So, to conclude the negative aspects of this, under the circumstances I have described then the D600 is a somewhat "difficult" camera to use. It is 150g lighter than the D800E I have, but when a heavy lens (or lenses) is added to the equation it becomes quite a handful. As I've indicated this is something of a one-off (well if it wasn't before, it is now!!) but it was something I wanted to try or perhaps get out of my system might be a more appropriate phrase.

So to the positives. The quality of the images was excellent. I won't do comparisons with the DP2 Merill, since the images I shot required more than a fixed lens. I also wanted the best quality at all focal lengths I could get from a zoom, and as the 28-300mm is the best "superzoom" I've ever used, that was what I chose. In the end with my hands getting colder and colder, that was a wise move since the last thing I wanted to be doing was keep changing lenses. The D600 doesn't produce images as sharp as those from the 800E, but they are none the less very good indeed. I also think that because of the lower pixel density I get a "cleaner" image and slightly better dynamic range. 

It is the case that these D600 shots looking pretty similar to a lot of other cameras that are on the market these days. However the 35mm sensor does make a difference to the quality, and there is less luminance noise (graininess) in the images than with my NEX-7 for example, understandable given the differences in sensor size. This sensor size does of course impact on the depth-of-field, hence the use of the tripod. Some of these shots are at f/16 at the longer ends of the zoom with pretty slow shutter speeds. VR is good, but not that good. 

So, if you are thinking of using one of these for landscape work similar to what I have described, you're reasonably fit and can put up with the live view slowness then I would reccommend the camera. There is very little to complain about in terms of the images produced, which ultimately is what this is all about. 

I suspect that my decision to do this is yet another consequence of my watching the Ansel Adams documentary a few days ago. Having seen his exploits carrying huge plate cameras up mountains, I was moved to put myself out a bit more than usual. It is something that I used to do on a regular basis and I've carried tripods and heavy cameras around the Pyrenees, the Alps plus all the less pastoral areas of the UK, but as I indicated earlier, not for a while. 

Will I repeat the exercise? Probably not for a while, and at least not until I've stopped basking in the warm glow of being a "proper" landscape photographer again!

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