Nikon D600 - Review and User Experience - Part 1







Before getting into specifics, tests, comparisons etc. there are two things about the camera that made an immediate impression and I'll use this post to discuss those.

1. THE PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

This isn't just about the price of the D600 but Nikons recent pricing of its new cameras, which is becoming much more competitive than it once was, and the release structure. When this camera was first available some of the quoted prices were way too much, making it not very much less than the D800, which struck me as crazy. However it has come steadily down since then. Initial rumours were that it would be 24MP 35mm sized sensor for around £1500. It is now close to that and I would expect expect the price to fall still further in the run-up to Christmas.

One thing I did like was that the camera was announced and then available to buy shortly afterwards. This is how it should be. The rumour > leaks > announcement > review > pre-order > limited quantities available cycle has now got ridiculous. How much of this is orchestrated by the companies and how much its impossible to keep things quiet because of the number of people involved is difficult to estimate. But how many others think that this is becoming REALLY tedious. I'm personally now completely ignoring these immediate post-announcement reviews with pre-production cameras and jpg. samples taken from the few battered cameras that are couriered around the world to sites who make their living from "being nice" to the companies who send them cameras. The hyperbole, the fanboy (or opposite) speculation, and above all the general innacuracy of whats written is becoming ridiculous. Its usually worse with some retro "lookaleica" and its currently in full swing with the Sony RX1, which is assumed to have a similar sensor to the D600. The latest headline is "It is my expectation that the Zeiss Sonnar 35/2 will outperform the Leica 35/2 Summicron-M" Yeah Yeah. OK I'll sell everything I own on your say-so. Then of course, you actually read the piece and discover that the person making the above assertion hasn't actually even had his hands on a camera!! Unbelievable but true.

Real world use, with a production camera, latest firmware and Adobe ACR support, and I might sit up and take notice. Dpreview pointedly don't review and make a judgement on a camera until all of those are in place and thats why I take them seriously.

So Nikon impressed me with this speedy availibility, and they also have impressed me with their policy of releasing a lot of camera at a realistic price. The D800/D800E, D3200 and now the D600, strike me as examples of that. The D600 is cheaper than the Canon 6D and Sony A99, and more importantly you can check out raw samples and actually buy one. Now I've not always been an admirer of what Nikon do and the prices they charge, but there seems to have been an encouraging change in the last year or so. Whether this is a response to the global economic situation or just that a bit of insight and common sense has descended onto planet Nikon, who knows, but its welcome none the less.

2. THE SENSOR

When I looked at the first images I took with the D600, I got exactly what I was expecting. I wasn't the slightest bit surprised. It is after all a Sony sensor, and it is now actually quite difficult to buy a camera without one of those inside it. OK, thats an exaggeration, but Sony is now the sensor of choice in an awful lot of cameras and probably by far the majority of cameras currently sold. 

Does anyone else apart from me, think that this means that a lot of the output from digital cameras is starting to look very similar? Sure there are differences in pixel density and noise levels with the different sizes, but in terms of overall look, colour and contrast etc. I'm beginning to think there is far less "individuality" for want of a better word, than there once was. 

I'm not knocking Sony sensors, I can't really since I buy lots of them, but there does seem to be more similarities than difference between digital cameras than there once was. Sure, there is Photoshop to give your images the distinct "personality" that you might want, but the basic starting point seems to be becoming the same. Its like Sony are setting some kind of default standard for how a sensor renders images, because of their market domination. 

What of the alternatives? The Kodak CCD of the Leica M9 is gloriously sharp with wonderful colour depth, the Fuji X-Pro 1, which despite all sorts of reservations about the camera and raw processing, does to my mind have a sensor that produces files that (in a good way) "look different". Then there is Canon, less to my taste but definitely a "Canon look", and Samsung, again something slightly different.

This is not meant to imply any kind of judgement about what these ubiquitous Sony sensors are like. This is not a discussion about whether they are better or worse than the competition, just that they seem to be everywhere and they seem to be "homogenising" everything. Whether thats a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion, and I'm certainly undecided on that. But one thing it does do is take the element of surprise out of trying a camera out for the first time. I looked at my D600 pictures on the screen and I basically saw something that reminded me of the NEX-5n, NEX-7, A77, D7000, D5100, D800, D800E, RX100, OM-D cameras that I've used before.

I guess then that its no surprise that I've fallen head over heels in love with the Sigma DP2 Merrill. Love it or hate it, its certainly different.


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