The First Real World Nikon D600 ISO Test

The First Real World Nikon D600 ISO Test

I was planing on eventually buying a D600 but when I saw yesterday that they were "in stock" and ready to ship from Amazon, I bought one. I'm a Prime member so I get free 2 day shipping but for just $3.99 more they gave me over-night shipping. Patrick was over at my place packing for a wedding this weekend when the camera came in and we decided to quickly compare the cameras ISO performance to the D800

Let me first start off by saying that the D600 is significantly bigger than the D7000 (in a good way). It fits in my hand much better, but I am still looking forward to putting a battery grip on it. We put a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 on a tripod and focused the camera in live view at F2.8. We then stopped the camera down to F5 and shot 4 shots with each camera from ISO 3200 up to "hi 2.0" which is ISO 25,600. In our test both cameras performed almost identically, producing fantastic looking shots at ISO 12,800. Once we went up to "hi 2" the noise became pretty severe but in many cases (especially black and white images) these files are still totally usable.

Full Res Nikon D600 Images:

D600 ISO 3200

D600 ISO 6400

D600 ISO 12,800

D600 ISO 25,600

Full Res Nikon D800 Images:

D800 ISO 3200

D800 ISO 6400

D800 ISO 12,800

D800 ISO 25,600

My biggest beef with the D600 so far is that you cannot change the Fstop while in live view. I shoot a bunch of video and that is going to be a big pain. The button layout and the rotating nob up top is also really cumbersome but I've learned to live with that since I've shot with D7000s for so long. I was hoping that the D600 would perform better at high ISOs since it has less megapixels but that doesn't seem to be the case. What do you guys think about this cameras performance? Is it worth saving $900 and buying a D600 or should you pay a little more and get the D800?


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Thanks for the review and test. How does the D600 compare to the D700?

Lee Morris's picture

The D800 is slightly better than the D700 so I would say the D600 is also slightly better. Plus you get double the resolution which is huge. 

 Technically, you get double the pixel count.  If you want to double the resolution, you have to quadruple the pixel count (it has to double both horizontally and vertically).

Tam Nguyen's picture

Well technically resolution is pixel count, since they both have the unit of pixels.

Also, if you let
- a be the width, measured in pixels
- b be the height, measured in pixels

We have a x b = S, with S being the surface area. In this case, S is also resolution.

If we wanted to double S, we'd just have to either double a or b:

2(a x b) = 2S

So technically, you'd only need to double either horizontally or vertically.

 What you say makes sense.  I'm just repeating what my local Nikon rep told me once.

Von Wong's picture

Tam ur such a nerd haha

Tam Nguyen's picture

 Whoops, forgot to say QED after my proof :)

your wrong.. but hey... pat your own shoulder as much as you like.

yeah well a misleaded nerd often...

no resolution is not just a pixel count. 

it´s a common error by none technical people... but ask any engineer and he will tell you what "resolution" is.


Note that the use of the word resolution here is a misnomer, though common. The term “display resolution” is usually used to mean pixel dimensions, the number of pixels in each dimension (e.g., 1920 × 1080), which does not tell anything about the resolution of the display on which the image is actually formed: resolution properly refers to the pixel density, the number of pixels per unit distance or area, not total number of pixels. In digital measurement, the display resolution would be given in pixels per inch. In analog measurement, if the screen is 10 inches high, then the horizontal resolution is measured across a square 10 inches wide. This is typically stated as "lines horizontal resolution, per picture height;"[1] for example, analog NTSC TVs can typically display about 340 lines of "per picture height" horizontal resolution from over-the-air sources, which is equivalent to about 440 total lines of actual picture information from left edge to right edge

You are both right.
We have "pixel resolution" which is the number of pixels (h x w) - Tam is right, Then we have "Spacial Resolution" which is the number of pixels in a given space (e.g. pixels per inch) - sasasa is right.

So basically if you are going to put someone down and call them a misled nerd, then you should make sure they are wrong before you say it.

and considering you love using wikipedia, here is the link:

Edit: I see you added this link. Maybe you should have read it.

another proof you are wrong:

"None of these pixel resolutions are true resolutions, but they are widely referred to as such."

technically (and im an engineer) the pixel number without a given length or surface area is not a resolution.


I'm definitely not an engineer, but wouldn't the [almost] identical sensor size of the two full-frame cameras provide the length/surface area you're looking for? So the increase in pixel count over an unchanged area would increase resolution. I assume that's what everyone was getting at.

Ofcourse, more pixels, same sensor size means higher resolution.

What was being said is that two times the pixels is not equal to two times the resolution.

Double resolution on an AREA (not line nor cube) will always mean four times as many pixels.

All this is although cocluded already but i went for a summary ;)

Tam Nguyen's picture

 "Double resolution on an AREA (not line nor cube) will always mean four times as many pixels." <~~~ you wanna elaborate on this? I'm confused. Can you prove that my math above is wrong?

This is easy understood with an example, lets say you and an given area of 4 square inches. Lets call this area A1. Lets say that each square inch is a pixel.
This area was build by a= 2 inches (vertical) and b= 2 inch

If you want to double the area, you will have to multiply A1 times 2= A1x2= 4 square inches x 2= 8 square inches
Ok, if you double a, or b, same result, you have double the area, but more resolutions means more pixels in the SAME area. And the shape of that area is constant. Now lets call the initial A1 area, the standard area to report the so call resolution of the camera (p.e. 4megapixels, 8 MP, 16 MP.... You name it) remember they use the same base of area to report the number of pixels.
Now, if you want to put the double of pixels in the same area, and in order to maintain the same ratio, a=b, you will have to put 4 times the pixels, if you don't do that you will have and area with double of pixels and 2 empty spots.
Conclusion: More pixel located in the same are will means more resolution.
Double the amount of pixels in the same area is not possible because a square configuration must be kept.
4 times the amount of initial pixels will kept the square area intact.
Your math is correct, your conclusions are not.

I bought the D800 when it was first released and I'm glad I didn't wait for the D600. The D600 had real potential to be a Canon killer, and although it's not a bad camera at all, it's not quite what Nikon needs to truly be on the top of the photo and video world. If only this same camera were more in the $1,600 price range...

Lee Morris's picture

I think the issue is that if it were that cheap then people wouldn't buy the D800. Nikon made the D800 so good and so relatively cheap that people (including me) sold their D4s and bought 2 D800s. If the D600 was $1600 I would probably buy 5 of them and would return my D800s. 

So at this price point, how do you see the D600 affecting D800 and D4 sales?  Also, do you think a D300s replacement might be on the horizon?  I mean, realistically there's not much reason to get that instead of the D7000, so there's effectively a big gap between the D7000 and the D600.

Lee Morris's picture

I have one buddy trying to sell his d800 already but I will keep mine. I think it's priced righ to not seriously effect d800 sales.

I would love it if you guys also threw in a D4 in there! Same setup, framing and settings! It would be a nice comparison... Especially as both the D600 and 800 have been given better scores than the D4 in high ISO over at DxOmark..

well said Lee

 Lee, by any chance did you see if the shutter speed and aperature dials can be locked in manual mode so they can't be accidentally moved while studio shooting. i haven't found any info on the net about this yet. this is my only last criteria for getting the D600.

Lee Morris's picture

Yes, it does lock similar to the Canon 60D. This is a huge improvement because I was always bumping the D7000 out of the correct mode. 

 Interesting. I've never accidentally switched modes on my D200.  :)

My D70 never bumped modes but my D7000 mode dial is both taller and looser and it bumped modes all the time coming in and out of a holster bag or on my shoulder.

I found my friends 60D cumbersome when having to switch modes.

Maybe I wasn't clear, I need to know if after setting the shutter speed and aperture while in Manual mode. you can hold a button somewhere on the body and "lock" the dials from changing the exposure settings (f stop/shutter speed). Like the D3s and D4 does. I know the D800 does this too.

luisfaustino's picture

Yeah, D3 has dedicated button, D800 has a menu item. D600 should have it too me thinks.