A new Nikon is like an old friend I've just met.
I've always been a Nikon man. As opposed to a Canon man that is. There is just something more...... "photographic" about Nikons. I don't know whether its because Canon make photocopiers, one of the most terrifying and unreliable machines ever invented. (Those who know the horror of what the words Paper Jam! mean will understand) Or whether its the fact that they sponsor Formula One, one of the worlds most boring sports. (Or do you think that "tyre strategy" is actually interesting?) Could it be that they make those white, cream or beige (whatever they are) big telephotos? Then again it might be because that they obviously sacked their design department many years ago, having decided that the curvy, 1980's padded shoulder, EOS look would serve them well for the next 100 years. Its obvious they don't have anybody who can think of a decent name for a camera. GX1, 1DX, 1D, 1DS, 5D, 5D Mk II, 5D Mk III, 500D, 550D, 600D, 650D etc. etc. When they get to the 950D will they start again? 100D Mk II, 150D MkII? or will they just add an X? They are however democratic, since the EOS-M design was obviously the result of a competition for people who had never picked up a camera in their life. No there is something reassuring about a Nikon.
There's lots of discussion about the death of the DSLR. Says who? The argument is that they are too big and heavy. Well isn't that the point? Who on earth is going to notice you with some microscopic mirrorless nonsense that looks like a bar of soap? I've never picked up a gun. But I can imagine that its quite a stimulating experience. Of course the fact that this is so, and one of the most lethal, painful and destructive implements man has ever come up with actually feels sexy and empowering to hold (probably) is exactly the reason why I will endeavour to go through my life without ever doing that. I'll make do with a "Go forth and multiply" camera and lens. I'm not immune to the pleasures of that. I like the way people move out the way to let me take my shot, I like the way that at weddings, people parted in deference as if there was a neon sign on the camera saying "Stand back, here comes the Pro" If I'm out with a m4/3 camera and along comes someone with a monster DSLR and big lens, whats my first thought? "Gosh that must be really heavy and bulky to carry, I'm so glad I brought my much smaller, lighter CSC" Hell no! Its "Why didn't I bring MY big camera?" There is something reassuring about a Nikon.
Nikon make pretty good cameras. Over the last two years or so I've bought a lot of them. I was going to write that Nikon have never really made a bad DSLR, but then I remembered the D2X. A camera that can only be explained by Nikon wanting to let Canon take most of their Semi-Pro / Pro Market customers away in order to effect some complicated tax avoidance scheme. Nikons aren't fashion accessories. They say "I'm a photographer, and I'm serious" That is the ones that Ashton Kutcher didn't advertise. (I am in fact trying to get those ads some kind of cult status here in the UK. However it seems that our inherent good taste will prevent that from happening!) I've always thought they should get Gwyneth Paltrow to do a few. But then I'd never have any money in my bank account ever again. By the way, I always try to avoid using the phrase Nikon or Canon man unless I'm being derogatory. Its nice to see a lot more lady snappers working as press, sports, social photographers and I must say its good to see them with the large DSLR outfits. But thats enough about my fantasies!!
I've just noticed that the heading of this piece has "Lets get sensible" in it, so I guess I'd better start.
The Nikon D600 is a great camera. But then you probably knew that already. Its lighter than most of the high-specification Nikons, its a nice price, it has all the usual Nikon handling advantages, its fast, efficient, takes a decent picture, and its got a rather nice red flash on the handgrip. The sensor is a good one, despite my ramblings about Sony sensors all producing the same pictures. There is nothing really to dislike. I've written often enough that when I'm out shooting with a Nikon, I think about the pictures I'm taking and not the camera. The D600 is no different. In many ways its actually quite boring. But then in a lot of photographic situations, boring is good. I'm not sure I wanted to be recording one of the most precious days in many peoples lives, their wedding day, with a camera that had a "personality". I've used Nikons for so long that I can almost use one in total darkness. (Not that the pictures would be any good!) The menus are like they always have been, and yes the D600 does have the odd different layout, but there is nothing fundemental that long term Nikon users won't be able to get to grips with.
If you are looking to upgrade your D700, this is a no-brainer and you probably have one already. If you have something like a D7000 and you are wanting to up the pixel count and experience the pleasures (or otherwise) of a 35mm sized sensor, then again its an easy choice to make. It does of course take all your Nikon lenses, unless you have got something very old or very bizarre, and of course you have a wide choice if you feel like upgrading.
I still don't "get" the Sony RX1. Why would I buy one of those when I can put my 35mm f/2D lens on the D600 and then take it off and attach my 28-300mm? Sure its lighter and smaller, but see above comments regarding that. The D600 will go about its business, efficently and I'm presuming, reliably for as long as I have it. Its not the prettiest, and Canon aren't the only company who could do with re-employing their design department, but Nikons are pretty much most peoples idea of what a camera should look like, it seems. Ever watched a movie where a character uses a camera? How many of them are Canons? Hollywood knows the score. "We need to establish that this actor is a photographer. Give him/her a Nikon."
Well, there it is. And there was actually the odd phrase or two which might be described as "sensible". I'm actually not sure why the D600 is having this effect on me, by which I mean that I seem to be seriously disinclined to actually go into analysis / testing / comparison mode. I see this as a good thing, and probably the best recommendation I can make for the camera. I knew before I bought it what it would do, I knew it wouldn't disappoint, I knew that I could trust it, that it would work well and that it would take great pictures. And so it has proved. Anyone who has used (most) Nikons in the past knows it too. There's nothing to prove here, no reputation to establish. Unlike Sony, who to my mind try too hard to convince photographers that their DSLR's (DSLT's?) are really good by shoving every technological trick they can come up with into them, Nikon don't really have that much to prove. With the odd exception, they know how to deliver the goods. They also seem to have come up with this magic winning formula, which everybody else will struggle with. Make it better, Make it cheaper. And thats pretty much the hardest marketing strategy to compete with.
Boring tests to follow. (Or Not)