Sun 09-Dec-12 02:19 PM | edited Mon 10-Dec-12 02:14 PM by mpage
Over the last two month I agonized over which one of Nikon's new full frame sensors bodies I should buy: The D600, the D800, or the D800E.
At last, a full frame FX body that was within my budget, or at least that I was able to fool myself into believing.
At first I was leaning towards one of the D800 bodies. Obviously if a body is $1,000 to $1,300 more expensive than its lower priced counterpart, it must be better, right? The logic seems sound to me. Also it would be great to lord-it-over the D600 guys.
At one point I was determined to get one of the D800 bodies, but which one?
Due to its potential sharper images, I considered the D800E. Nikon placed another filter over the sensor that counter acts the already existent anti-aliasing filter. The anti-aliasing filter is still there on D800E bodies; it is merely counter balanced by another filter.
But this added sharpness only reveals itself when using the best lenses, at the optimal aperture setting, with perfect lighting, with perfect focus, and probably a tripod. Then you will see the extra sharpness on five foot prints, or at 100 percent computer crops.
Sine the D800E cost $300 more than the D800, and since the extra sharpness was not a deal maker for me, I started looking at the D800.
Here is a list of my considerations that I used to choose the D600 for my particular needs. Your needs may be different and the D800 is a better choice.
1. D600 lower maximum shutter speed – D800 1/8000sec. and the D600 1/4000sec shutter Really? When was the last time you use a shutter speed of 1/4000sec?
2. Flash Sync D600 1/200sec – D800 1/250sec.
3. D600 smaller and lighter - D600 weighs just 760g – D800 900g.
4. Wi-Fi Connectivity -- Difficult on the D800 - D600 can use the inexpensive WU-1b transmitter which connects the camera to a smart phone or tablet for basic camera control, live view and photo uploads.
NOTE: The WU-1b does not have good reviews, but believers are sure that Nikon will fix problems with future firmware updates.
5. ISO range of the D600 and D800 is identical, but the lower resolution of the D600 (24 megapixels versus 36 megapixels) suggests the individual photosites are larger and hence the performance at higher ISOs should be better.
6. D600 has 39-point AF points - D800 has 51-point AF points.
7. The D800 outshines the D600 in the number of bracketed shots. You can bracket 9 frames with the D800, but only 3 with the D600. I might like the additional bracketed shots for HDR images.
9. D800 shutters are much louder than the D600 shutters.
10. D800 bodies have a stronger build.
11. D600 has USB 2 ports the D800 has USB 3 ports.
12. D800 has AF-On button on the back which separates the focus action from the shutter release – with D600 one needs to reconfigure the AE-L/AF-L button to act as an AF-On button (I do this on my D300).
13. Easy to switch between two program banks with the D600 because of the U1 and U2 positions on the command dial – Must use the menu system on the D800 to do this.
14. The video features are better on the D800 - D600 rumored firmware update may take care of this issue to a great extent.
15. The D800 is a professional camera with access to Nikon Professional User scheme - a dedicated support line, discounted training, a regular Nikon Pro magazine, and more.
16. People report dust on sensors or viewfinder on the D600. But people also report left-most-focus point problem with the D800.
I ultimately ended up choosing the D600. One of the most influential reviews that helped me choose the D600 was Ken Rockwells' D600 Review.
Rockwell wrote "The Nikon D600 is Nikon's best digital camera ever, at any price." He also argued that 24 megapixels is the optimum size for FX sensors.
Rockwell also makes a good point. In the olden film times, Nikon's best bodies were built like tanks. They were intended to be used 10 years or more under harsh condition. NOW digital bodies are disposable. It is the lenses that are enduring.
After my early experiences with the D600, I can say Ken Rockwell was spot-on.
A camera body is a tool designed for specific jobs. The D800 bodies are ideal for large prints and 100 percent computer crops, but there is a price to be paid (I do not refer to the higher cost). If you go with the D800 you must be willing to use the best shooting technique. You need to be prepared to take the extra time to shoot perfect images.
With the D800 you are more anchored to a tripod, and using higher shutter speeds than the D600. If you routinely shoot with a tripod, print 5 foot images, or concentrate on 100 percent computer crops, get one of the D800 bodies.
After considering all of the above issues, I went with the D600 for many reasons. But the ability to take high quality, hand held images quickly was at the top of my list.
I drive a taxicab in San Jose, California on the night shift. I had the D600 with me this night because my cab company hired me to create tutorial materials for GPS computer dispatch system in the cabs, and the new credit card progressing system.
The D600 was set to take hand held images of a computer display in a taxicab at night. I determined the best settings were manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/200sec, at f4, using the 50mm 1.4g lens, with the camera set to ISO 1600. Here is a sample of one of those images:
I got a call to pick up a regular customer who has a little dog who sites on his shoulder, like a parrot. I only had a few moments to reconfigure the D600 and get this shot.
I think the D600 made it easier to get this shot than would have a D800 body. It was at 1:30 a.m. on a dark street in front of a dimly lighted bar. I needed to change the camera's configuration quickly and hand hold it at night in dim lighting situations. Ken Rockwell was right. The on-camera speed light workes great.
The D800 may be the better camera, but it also makes it harder to get good shots, more work. If you need it, get it. But if you do not need it, give the D600 a close look.