Being a die-hard Nikon user, I always monitor any new announcement from that Japanese camera company. During the last few months, Nikon has announced four new cameras, the D4, the D800/D800E and the D600.
Now, clearly the D4 and the D800/D800E are professional level cameras, the first one characterized by the word “speed”, while the second one characterized by its huge resolution (36 Mpixels). The question is: who’s the target market of the D600?
Let’s see what bothers me with the D600.
Spec-wise, the camera appears to be perfect. Nikon raised the sensor resolution to 24 Mpixels, i.e. double that of the D700 I currently own. Actually, 24 Mpixels is the maximum resolution I would be willing to upgrade (if I was looking to upgrade my D700), anything higher for me, is a waste. I do not print bill-board size prints, and even if I was, there is no reason to go any higher than what the D600 offers. It features twin SD card slots, which is a great safety feature if you are interested in backing up your pictures as soon as you shoot them. It also has two dedicated “shooting adjustment banks”, U1 and U2, which is great (why not U3 and U4?!? I would need at least two more setup banks for my kind of shooting). It also has several other interesting (read: wanted) features, but there are things that Nikon left out. What are these?
First, and for me that’s an important omission, there is no AF-On button, at the rear of the camera. Yes, the camera allows you to set up the AE-L/AF-L button as an AF-On button, but then you can’t lock exposure, per wish. Those of us who are used to using the AE-L and AF-On buttons at the rear of the camera, this is a serious handicap.
Second, all AF sensors in this camera, are gathered in the center of the viewfinder. It appears as if Nikon took the D7000 AF system (the D7000 is a DX camera) and incorporated it into the D600, which is a full-frame camera. This arrangement limits the camera capabilities to track your subject movement, if it moves outside the central viewfinder area. Not good!
Third, the camera doesn’t have a PC flash connector. For some of us, this is important. Why did Nikon left this out, is anyone’s guess.
Fourth, and this is a major one. On previous generation cameras, the AF selector at the front, allowed you to select between Manual focus, AF-S and AF-C. On the newer cameras, the selection is only between AF and MF, but in order to select between AF-S and AF-C you have to go into the menus! That’s a huge step backwards for me.
Fifth, the shutter and its flash sync speed. Not very important for me, but for some people, the difference between 1/250th of a second and 1/200 of a second is very significant. See Strobist article on this issue at http://strobist.blogspot.gr/2012/09/nikon-d600-think-twice-before-you-jump.html .
Sixth, while Nikon gives us the twin SD cards slots with this camera, one has to question the type of card used. Typically, a pro (or an advanced amateur) user of previous Nikon cameras, has a large collection of CF cards. Why didn’t Nikon stick with that standard and decided to go with SD cards?
Finally, and while I understand that Nikon had to play catch-up with Canon, the video mode. Why did Nikon included a video mode in this camera?
Well, the answer to all of the above is simple: the D600 is NOT targeted to the professional market or the advanced amateur market. It is targeted to those people who own a DX Nikon camera and want to upgrade to something full-frame. It is clear that the issues mentioned above, affect mainly professional or advanced amateur photographers, but not the consumers, not those who were very happy with their D90 or even the D7000 but want to upgrade to something more … serious. For these folks, the D600 is the perfect camera. They already have the SD cards for it, the D7000 owners even have batteries for the D600, they do not care of the flash sync speed, nor do they use PC-connected flashes, and most probably they never shoot fast moving subjects, so the AF issues mentioned above do not affect them. And of course, consumers love video, hence its inclusion in the D600 features list.
And now the obvious question is: a D700 owner, what does he upgrade to? And the answer to this, is the D800. Nikon wants people to upgrade to the D800/D800e. And for some people (pros mainly), this is the right path to upgrade to. Pros have the top Nikon lenses, which can do justice to the D800 resolution, and most of them would welcome the increased Megapixels. But what about advanced amateurs?
I for example, can not find any camera in Nikon’s new line, that would make me switch from my three years old D700. I do not need the additional megapixels, I only print up to A3 size, so the additional resolution means nothing to me. Add the fact that with such huge picture files, I’ll need a new, faster computer to process them, with more disk space than my current one, which makes the upgrade an expensive proposition.
So thanks Nikon, I am sticking with my D700, which I personally consider the camera with the best features/price ratio and which still covers my needs perfectly.