Nikon D600 vs D800 vs D700 Comparison – Full Frame DSLR Cameras

September 14, 2012

Nikon D600 camera on a black background

Nikon has done with the D600 what Canon has done with the EOS 350D,  but this time with a full frame camera body. The Nikon D600 will certainly is one of the most attractive 35mm DSLR cameras on the market due its affordable price. The D800 costs around $900 less than the D800. This puts the D600 in a reach of many enthusiasts and professional photographers. If for any reason you always wanted to have a full frame DSLR but the high cost of such camera put you back, now this type of camera can be in your reach. In this article I will introduce to you the D600 and be comparing the D600 vs, D700 and Nikon D800.

Before we dive in to the comparison, I assume that some of you might want to know what are the advantages that Full Frame DSLRs have over APS-C?

 

Full Frame vs APS-C

There are many reasons why enthusiasts and professional photographers prefer using a camera with a 35mm sensor vs APS-C. As you know, Full Frame sensors are significantly larger than APS-C, and APS-C are larger than Micro Four Thirds.

Sensors, Full frame, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds

Full Frame vs APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds sensor size comparison

 

Full Frame sensor have several advantages over smaller size sensors:

  1. Take full advantage of wide-angle lenses – Full Frame crop factor is 1x, so don’t get a crop of the image when using a 35mm compatible lens
  2. Be able to achieve shallower depth of field (considering the same focal length, distance from subject and aperture opening)
  3. Higher sensitivity (depends on the pixel density) and less noise in your images (aka better high ISO performance)
  4. Higher Dynamic range
  5. Bigger and brighter optical viewfinder

 

However full frame cameras have some disadvantages, which include: a higher price (Sensor is more expensive to make), lenses are larger and heavier and also can be more expensive and you get less reach compare to crop factor cameras. APS-C is also a good option for those who shoot macro and wildelife, while full frame is the main choice for landscape photographers.

So what I’m actually saying is that Full frame DSLRs have their advantages, but some photographers might find APS-C DSLRs better fit for their shooting style, and prefer getting an APS-C camera instead.

Until now, many people needed to a long time until the price goes down for a specific model before they can purchase it for a lower price. The Canon 5D Mark II is now around $200 lower than the D600, but it’s an older model, and as you know we already have the 5D Mark III which is much more expensive (costs around $1400 more than the D600).

The thing is that many people have preferred to purchase a APS-C camera and invest more money on a better lens.  Some of them also bought 35mm lenses so when they upgrade to full frame camera in the future, they can still use those lenses to their fullest potential. So the Nikon D600 is in the reach of many photographers, not only pros, but many enthusiasts that waited for such camera with that price tag. The D700  costs around $800 more than the D600, so it’s still at a relatively high price point. Some people considered buying a used D700, but now with the D600, they might change their minds.

 

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Nikon D600 – Affrdable Full Frame DSLR

The Nikon D600 is an enthusiast full-frame DSLR camera and it’s also the smallest among Nikon’s full-frame DSLRs. It’s like a combination of the D7000 and the Nikon D800. The perfect camera for the passionate photographer who want to takes is creativity to its limits, exploring a new world in digital photography one that mostly pros live in, or at least those who could afford getting their hands on one of Nikon’s excellent FF cameras.

Nikon D600

Nikon D600 - Full Frame DSLR

The Nikon D600 features a 24.3 megapixel FX CMOS sensor (FX = Full Frame, DX = APS-C), EXPEED 3 image processor, 39-point AF system, 1080p movie recording, ISO 100 to 6400 (5- to 25600 expandable), 100% coverage viewfinder, 921K-dot 3.2-inch LCD and all ina a compact and lightweight body, the smallest and lightest among all Nikon FX DSLRs – oh, and the least expensive of course :)

The Nikon D600 was designed to give enthusiasts exactly what the wanted, and emphasize on features that they can find useful, and cutting at features that won’t be deal-breakers.  The Nikon D600 isn’t a revolutionary camera, it’s juts not. It’s a FF camera that should give you what you always wanted from this type of camera:  great high ISO performance, 100% big and bright eye-level optical viewfinder,  high resolution no in the expanse of high ISO performance and all the nice features that you get with APS-C cameras.

The D600 it is an evolutionary camera, because it brings Full Frame cameras to the reach of more photographers. I also think that as the bottom of the pyramide shrinks and more people ditch their APS-C DSLRs in favor of mirrorless and large-compact cameras, it’s time to make them an offer that they won’t resist. At least for that market segment that might be convinced to choose an alternative to an APS-C camera. Nikon invested a lot of money to be positioned (alongside Canon) at the top in the DSLR market. They should make anything possible to keep that market share as higher as possible and for the longest time possible. Releasing a FF camera for a sub $2500 price is certainly a good way to keep customers from choosing the alternative (CSC, large-compacts), which is not Nikon’s strongest part at this time.

 

Nikon D600 Battery Grip

The Nikon MB-D14 battery grip is the official multi-power battery pack for the Nikon D600. The D600 vertical battery grip can operate with  either EN-EL15 batteries or six AA (Ni-MH, Alkaline or Lithium cells) batteries.

 

MB-D14, Nikon D600 official battery grip

MB-D14, Nikon D600 official battery grip

Nikon D600 Price

You can check the latest and updated Nikon D600 price here on Amazon and B&H Photo Video.

 

Nikon D600 vs D800 vs D700

OK, it’s time to take a look at the both the Nikon D800 and D700 and see what are the differences between those FF cameras and the new Nikon D600. This side by side comparison table will give you a good understanding about how those three cameras differ.

Nikon D600, D700, D600 cameras side by side

Nikon D600 the most compact Full Frame camera in Nikon's DSLR lineup

Nikon D600Nikon D700Nikon D800Notes
AnnouncedSep 13, 2012Jul 1, 2008Feb 7, 2012
Body ContrductionMagnesium alloy top and rear, polycarbonate front-plateMagnesium alloyMagnesium alloyD600 construction is less durable than the D700 and D800. That's one of the features that was changed to keep the price low.
Sensor24.3 megapixels
35.9 x 24 mm Full Frame FX
CMOS

EXPEED 3 image processor
12.1 megapixels
36 x 24 mm Full Frame FX
CMOS

EXPEED image processor
36.3 megapixels
35.9 x 24 mm Full Frame FX
CMOS

EXPEED 3 image processor
The D700 carries an older image processor. Both the D800 and D600 have Nikon's latest EXPEED 3 engine
ISO100 - 6400 (50-25600 boost)200-6400 (100-25600 boost)100-6400 (50-25600 voost)All have the same native ISO range, but both the D800 and D600 have ISO 50 in expandable mode
RAWCompressed or uncompressedCompressed or uncompressedCompressed or uncompressed
Picture ControlStandard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, LandscapeMonochrome
Neutral, Nine User-customizable Settings,Standard,Vivid
Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape
Memory CardSD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I compliant)

Dual Card Slots
CompactFlash© (CF) (Type I, compliant with UDMA)

Single Card Slot
SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I compliant) + Type I CompactFlash memory card (UDMA complient)

Dual Card Slots
D800 has dual card slot for two SD cards, D700 has just one for CF and D800 has two slots, but works work with CF + SD cards, one slot for CF other for SD
AF SystemMulti-CAM 4800FX

39-point AF (9 cross-type)
AF-assist illuminator
AF fine adjustment

EV -1 to +19 EV Detection range
Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX

51-point AF (15 cross-type)
AF-assist illuinator
AF fine adjustment

EV -1 to EV +19 Detection range
Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX

51-point AF (15 cross-type)
AF-assist illuinator
AF fine adjustment

EV -2 to EV +19 Detection range
Nikon D600 similar AF module as the D7000, but its FX rather than DX, which means it's larger. Should be more accurate for fast action. D600 has less AF points than the D700 and D800
LCD3.2-inch Fixed
921K-dots
170° viewing angle
100% Frame coverage
3.0-inch Fixed
921K-dots
170° viewing angle
100% Frame coverage
3.2-inch Fixed
921K-dots
170° viewing angle
100% Frame coverage
D600 has the same LCD as the D800 with automatic monitor brightness control using ambient brightness sensor
Eye-Level ViewfinderPentaprism

100% Coverage
0.7x magnification
Eyepoint: 21mm
Diopter: -3 to +1 m-1
Pentaprism

95% Coverage
0.72x magnification
Eyepoint: 18mm
Diopter: -3 to +1 m-1

Pentaprism

100% Coverage
0.7x magnification
Eyepoint: 17mm
Diopter: -3 to +1 m-1
D700 has less coverage than the new models, D800 and D600.
Shutter Speed30-1/4000 sec30-1/8000 sec30-1/8000 secD600 shots at maximum 1/4000 sec shutter speed, twice slower than the other models.. Another feature that was changed. Many people might not like that limitation, am I right?
Exposure Metering Sensor2,016-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II91K-pixel RGB sensor 3D color matrix metering IIID600 has a more advanecd metering system than the D700, but both D700 and D600 falls short from the D800 which h is much more advanced
Built-in FlashPop-up

External via hot-shoe
Pop-up

External via hot-shoe
Pop-up

External via hot-shoe
PC Sync PortNoYesYesShouldn't be a deal breaker. If you need it, but the Nikon AS-15 adapter, comes with built0in hot shoe
Flash SyncX=1/200 s; synchronizes with shutter at 1/250 s or slower (flash range drops at speeds between 1/200 and 1/250 s)1/250 secX = 1/250 s; synchronizes with shutter at 1/320 s or slower (flash range drops at speeds between 1/250 and 1/320 s)D600 1/200 sec sync speed. One third of a stop difference between D600 and the other models. 5D Mark III is also limited to 1/200 sync, just to let you know
Continuous Shooting5.5 Continuous High
1-5 Continuous Low
5 and 8 with battery grip.

Tip: search for 8 fps Nikon D700 trick to see how to shoot 8 fps without the secondary battery
4 and 6 with optional battery gripD700 shoots faster than the D800, D600 with a nice 5.5 fps.
Exposure Compensation±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
Exposure Bracketing2 to 3 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1, 2 or 3 EV2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV
2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EVD600 lacks the ER flexibility of the D700 and D800
Video1080p30,25,24
720p60,50,30,25

H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding

Built-in monaural or external stereo mic.

sensitivity adjustable
N/A1080p30,25,24
720p60,50,30,25

H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding

Built-in monaural or external stereo mic.

sensitivity adjustable
D600 offers same flexibility as the D800 in shooting videos
USB2.02.03.0D800 supports the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 / Micro-B conenctor
Battery Life900

Lithium-Ion EN-EL15
1000

Lithium-Ion EN-EL3e
850

Lithium-Ion EN-EL15
D600 operates with the same battery type as the D800. D600 excellent battery life
Dimensions141 x 113 x 82 mm (5.55 x 4.45 x 3.23")147 x 123 x 77 mm (5.79 x 4.84 x 3.03")146 x 123 x 82 mm (5.75 x 4.84 x 3.23")D600 more compact
Weight760 g (1.68 lb / 26.81 oz)1074 g (2.37 lb / 37.88 oz)900 g (1.98 lb / 31.75 oz)
D600 weights less

 

As you can see, we lose some features in favor of a cheaper price, this includes: body build quality, AF system and light metering system less advanced than the D800, relatively slow 1/200 sec flash sync, less flexible Exposure bracketing, a viewfinder slightly smaller than the D800, slower shutter speed than the D800 and shutter lag of 58mm compare to 42mm of the D800.

I personally think that for most people, the D600 would be the perfect Full Frame camera to upgrade to, better than the D700 but a bit behind the D800 ins some aspects.

 

Nikon D600 Sample Images / High ISO Image Quality Analysis

magnifying glass on image, inspecting qualityDpreview has already posted some D600 real-word sample images, including high ISO sample images. fotospekter.si posted high ISO sample images comparing the D700 vs D600 in terms of image quality.

The Nikon D600 produced amazing high quality images, even at high ISO settings. What I’ve notices is that the D700 has a better high ISO performance with NR Off, and that’s probably do to its smaller pixel density (the D700 has 12.1MP). On both the Nikon D600 and D700 ISO 1600 very good, even with NR off!

I’ve also checked some D600 high ISO test shots on imaging-resource.com, and was very satisfied with the high ISO performance overall.

In general, the compromise that you make between high ISO performance and details is worth it. Most enthusiasts and professional prefer shooting in lower ISO and utilize all the necessary accessories, camera settings, lenses and software to make the image look clean and clear. However, it happens that from time to time you need to shoot at higher ISO, and the D600 produces very good quality images at those high ISO sensitivity, not WOW, but certainly very good quality images. I would of course pass them through a noise reduction software to make them look cleaner.

So the Nikon D600 has very good IQ at high ISO, but I still wanted a Nikon D700 or even Nikon D3s -like performance. Maybe I ask too much. After all the Nikon D600 result in high ISO images that are far better than what you get with APS-C cameras like the Nikon D7000, D3200, D300s and other models from other manufacturers.

I also compared some D800 images (not D600 – not yet available on dpreview) vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and I found the 5D MKIII to produce better looking images at high ISO. I mean ISO6400 looks amazingly clean, made me wanna see how the D600 compare to the 5D Mark III at high ISO. I will of course wait until Dpreview uploads lab image samples to their comparison app so I can compare the two.
Considering the price of the Nikon D600, it’s just a magnificent camera. Having said that, In my mind I still think that some enthusiasts already considering getting the Fujiilm X-E1 (APS-C sensor mirrorless camera), which costs around $600 less.  It’s worth metioning that anyone who picks a FF camera buys it for a good reason. It’s not that you just go to the store and decide to purchase a FF camera. Those who buy a FF camera buy it because they want to take advantage of its features.

I’ve read many commends and opinions in Blogs and forums and it seems that people are more than excited in what the Nikon D600 has to offer. If you have the Nikon D7000 or the Nikon D300s and searching for a camera to upgrade to, the D600 seems the most logical upgrade path, but you should understand the implications (ie. using non FX lenses, focal length multiplier, etc.).
I will close this comparison with a Nikon D600 Sample video.. Enjoy!

 

 

Conclusion

It’s a good practice to understand the cons and pros of the D600 compare to the D700 and D800. I recommend going over the specs comparison table and see if there is a features that you really need and its lack on the D600. For some people a 1/4000 sec shutter speed can be a deal breaker, for others it won’t bother because they don’t really take advantage it. I personally think that for the majority of enthusiast that already have an APS-C Nikon DSLR, the Nikon D600 is the perfect camera to upgrade to. Also for those who shoot with a Canon APS-C and search for an affordable Full Frame camera to buy. I am not suggesting or implying that Canon ASP-C enthusiasts shoot sell all their gear and buy the D600, but the Nikon D600 is indeed looks like one of the best option for enthusiasts that want to explore the Full Frame world.

The Nikon D600, in many aspects, is a better camera than the D700. Nikon really made a big change with the D600, forcing the competitors to come up with a D600-like model that costs less and their upper-level Full Frame offering. If you ever dreamed shooting with a Full Frame DSLR and couldn’t afford getting one, this is your chance.  Whether you are into lw light shooting or landscape photography and already have some Nikkor FX lenses, the D600 is just one step away.

High ISO  image quality, viewfinder, LCD, video recording, size and weight of the camera, the D600 was designed to impress every serious photographer who want to take his photography to a anew level. The D600 is not for anyone, and some people might prefer staying with their APS-C cameras in order to enjoy the focal length magnification advantage and stay with their current DX lenses that they already invested in.

I hope that this comparison article give you the knowledge that you need in order to make a decision. I will write more articles that are more specific to the AF performance of the D600 soon. Worth mentioning that the D800 has another version called D800E, the same camera without the anti-aliasing filter, but it costs more and might not fit to everyone to the increase amount of moire in certain type of images and in videos.

Buy Nikon D600 (body only) from B&H

Buy Nikon D600 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens Kit from B&H

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