D600 review for birds and sports

Joined
Mar 12, 2006
Messages
2,156
Location
Arlington, VA
I was able to shoot with the D600 during 3 outings last week when I rented the body for 5 days. I am thinking about upgrading from my D300 that has served me very well over the last 4+ years. I like renting bodies to try them out to gage the improvement. I rented a D800 earlier in May and enjoyed comparing the D600, D800 to my trusty D300. I primarily shoot nature, birds-in-flight, field sports and the usual family stuff and my biggest needs are good high ISO and AF performance.

D600 ergonomics

I was initially concerned that the body would feel flimsy or too small to be comfortable compared to my gripped D300. After shooting with D600 without the grip, I can say that it feels very solid and not too small. I have average to slightly big hands and want the camera body to feel substantial in my hand. When I first starting with the D50, it felt small. The D600 felt solid and substantial. I was also concerned that the lack of a dedicated AF-ON button would be a problem. I repurposed the AE/F-L button to initiate AF and never missed the dedicated button. I don’t normally use exposure lock so this won’t be an issue for me. For others who regularly use exposure lock and want AF initiation separated from the shutter release, this may be an issue. The magnification buttons for reviewing images on the LCD and changing AF modes with the front left button and command dials were awkward but I got used to it after a while. Overall, the D600 felt and performed solidly once I became accustomed to the new button placement. For those who want to have the controls as close to their other bodies, be advised of the different controls.

High ISO performance

When I shoot night soccer matches, I need to be at ISO1600 or higher to keep SS above 1/1000. The D300’s performance above ISO 800 is not very good. I’m happy to say that the D600 was fantastic up to ISO 3200. I’m not really able to compare the D600 to the D800 for high ISO with any confidence but I don’t feel that the D600 did any worse than the D800 in my experience. Both did excellent. The odd kid shots at the local gym in dungeon lighting were usable too.

D600 at ISO 3200 1/1600 f/2.8
DC-United-vs-Columbus-Crew-7-XL.jpg
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D800 at ISO 3200 1/1250 f/2.8
DCU-v-COL-16-May-12.jpg
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D600 at ISO 6400 1/400 f/2.8 (dungeon lighting)
D600-review-1-XL.jpg
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Autofocus

Here is where I was skeptical. I was pretty confident that the AF would be better than my D300 but I really want the best AF I can afford to handle BIF shooting which can be challenging. I’ve never shot with the D7000 but online reviews left gave me the impression that it was not in the D800/D4/D3S league.

I’m still not quite sure based on my limited time with the D600 but it did fine. I won’t way that it was as good as the D800 but it got the job done. For soccer, it nailed it. I had as many keepers with the D600 as I did with the D800 in the same conditions. For BIF, I’m not sure. I got sharp shots but my subjects were not very cooperative to really get a good feel. As of now, I would say that it is in between the D800/D4 and D300 for BIFs, which is pretty much what others are saying. I would really like to hear more from other BIF shooters using the D600. I do plan to rent the D600 again in a few weeks and hopefully will have some good weather and cooperative birds to evaluate it.

D600 ISO 640 1/2000 f/8
Conowiingo-2012-4-XL.jpg
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D600 ISO 1000 1/1250 f/8 (7:30 in the morning with fog. The file was very workable in PP)
Conowiingo-2012-2-XL.jpg
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D600 ISO 400 1/1600 f/8
D600-review-2-XL.jpg
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D600 ISO 400 1/2000 f/8
D600-review-3-XL.jpg
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Overall Image Quality

Very good. For the night soccer games, I’d say that the D600 files were at least as good as the D800 for producing web quality images. You can’t crop as heavily when shooting birds but the slightly higher FPS is nice to have. I did see the green light on for longer than normal when files were going onto the card and the FPS did slow down as I hit the buffer limit a few times. I wasn’t using a very fast SD card, which didn’t help.

Summary – the D600 is a very nice camera. I didn't notice any dust or oil issues but I wan't looking too closely for it either. High ISO and IQ were excellent. Once I get a better feel for the AF for moving subjects such as birds, I’d say that the D600 is about perfect for my needs. Sure, I’d rather have a 24MP version of the D800 with 6+ FPS but Nikon decided not to give us that camera. Maybe in 3 years. For now, if you want excellent high ISO, IQ and close to top of the line AF, the D600 should make you happy.
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2011
Messages
365
Location
Ft. Worth, TX
you have some great images very well done.
I agree with you on the camera I also shot soccer and wildlife not so much birds, but my experience has been really good and I love the high ISO performance and I have had no issues with the AF system. so far so good and I just went over 10K images. shooting racing
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2006
Messages
2,156
Location
Arlington, VA
Thanks Mike. If you get a chance, take a stab at some birds in flight. Ducks, gulls or geese near a body of water are good enough. The AF's ability to lock-on and track birds is the only unresolved issue in my mind.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2006
Messages
2,076
Location
Ontario, Canada
These are fantastic Chris. You should post them on your other thread, "Monsorovs review of the D600 AF" since AF issues are the main discussion.
 

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