By Ellis Vener
Dateline: New York City, September 12, 2012
At a press preview in New York City, Nikon USA showed off the much-rumored D600 to a small group of journalists. The D600 is a 24.3-megapixel FX-format (FX is Nikon’s designation for their 24x35.9mm-format digital cameras) digital SLR with full-HD 1080p and 720p video that you can switch between FX and DX for a telephoto boost or to alter depth of field. According to Nikon’s Steve Heiner and Lindsay Silverman, the D600 is Nikon’s lightest, smallest, and most affordable FX DSLR ever.
The D600 fills the hole between the now discontinued 12-megapixel D700 and the36-megapixel D800 FX cameras. It’s roughly the size and weight of the DX-format D7000 body. The D600 is about 16 percent lighter than the D800 (26.8 ounces) and is a few millimeters shorter in height and width. Holding and operating it feels much like the D7000. In many ways the D600 is like a D800 Lite. Besides its 33-percent lower total resolution there are some electronic and mechanical differences.
One of the design goals with the D600, according to Nikon reps, is to reduce the need to go through different layers of menus, so some of the buttons on the front and back control dual functions. In particular the Function and the Depth of Field preview buttons on the right side of the lens mount are user programmable.
Significant features for stills and general operation:
• 24.3-megapixel full-frame (Nikon FX) resolution and a little under 11-megapixel if used as a DX-format camera. Nikon does not disclose who does the fabrication on their CMOS imaging chips, but Lindsay Silverman pointed out that the CMOS in the D600 is a Nikon design
• Processing chip uses a variant of Nikon’s EXPEED 3 processor
• Normal sensitivity range ISO 100 to 6400, plus a Lo1 (ISO 50 equivalent) and on the high end up to an equivalent ISO 25,600 in the Hi settings”
• Nikon claims a “high” signal to noise ratio throughout the sensitivity range
• TTL exposure metering in spot (4mm circle), center-weighted, and matrix metering modes
• 3D color matrix metering II for type G and D Nikkors, color matrix metering II for other CPU equipped lenses
• Metering range 0 to 20 EV
• EV adjustment range +/- 5 stops (10 stop total range)
• Shutter speed 1/4,000 second to 30 seconds, plus B. Normal Flash Sync speed (top) 1/200 second; shutter assembly life expectancy 150,000 cycles
• Nikon Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection over a -1 to 19 EV (ISO 100 @ 68˚F) range; autofocus options for SLR type shooting selectable between 39 3D tracking points, and 39, 21, 9, and 1 Dynamic-area AF points
• Live View autofocus features contrast-detect AF anywhere in frame; in Face-Priority or subject-tracking AF modes the camera selects the AF point
• Top frame rate in continuous mode 5.5 FPS when shooting NEF or JPEG format
• Dual SD media slots.
• Compatible with over 60 Nikkor lenses including DX-format lenses (some Nikkor DX zooms will fill the full 24x36mp area but not at their widest settings)
• Battery capacity approximately 900 frames
• The built-in pop up flash can also work as a Nikon iTTL commander for two groups and four channels; flash beam is sufficient for a 24mm lens in the full FX format
• The control cluster on the left side of the camera’s pentaprism has an expanded range of functions
• Viewfinder 100% view at 0.7X magnification
• 3.2-inch (diagonal), 921,000-dot wide-angle TFT-LCD preview screen
• A smaller version of Nikon’s long-established 10-pin external control connection
VIDEO: Lots of choices here including the ability to shoot Full HD (1920x1080p) and HD (1280x720p) video when the camera is either in FX or DX crop mode. In 1080p resolution you can shoot at 30, 25 or 24p frame rates, and in 720p you can record video at 60, 50, and 30p. With the camera in Live View mode video shooting is started and stopped with a dedicated button next to the shutter release. There is an HDMI port for direct to HDTV connection, and if you take the SD cards out of the camera you can stream uncompressed video directly to an external digital video recorder. If you have an external monitor connected you can have Live View both on the camera’s LCD as well as the external monitor. Maximum HD video at the highest quality setting continuous recording time is 20 minutes. The video file format is MOV, using H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding compression.
Moving pictures need sound recording capabilities, and the D600 has dual channel audio inputs with separate level meters and a standard stereo mini-phone headphone jack for monitoring. Audio recording format is Linear PCM.
Everyone loves options, and beyond lenses and Speedlights Nikon announced four new ones: a grip/battery holder, and three external connectivity options.
• MB-D14 battery/vertical grip will take either of Nikon’s re-chargeable EN-EL15 lithium-ion or standard AA batteries. MSRP: $322.00
• UT-1 Communication unit opens up the possibility for wired Ethernet connectivity and remote control of the camera. The UT-1 connects to the camera via USB 2.0 port. MSRP: $470
• Wireless LAN (Local Area Network) communication will be possible with the WT-5 in conjunction with the UT-1. Combination MSRP for the WT-5/UT-1: $1,299
• Far more intriguing is the WU-1b, a wireless Mobile adapter that will let you control and fire the camera from mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) as well as downloading to those devices. As of today mobile connectivity is limited to Android based devices but more information will be available soon about compatibility with Apple iOS devices. MSRP: $59.95.
The MSRP for the D600 body: $2,099.95. For the D600 plus 24-85mm f/3.5-5.6 FX Nikkor lens kit: $2,699.95.
Nikon’s representatives say the D600 will be available at the retail level starting September 18, 2012.
Look for a full review and user report available in the November issue of Professional Photographer.