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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Aaaah. This site is the reason I want to switch to Nikon. and you guys just won't stop teasing me.

Can you post a couple of NEF files?  Were these shot in RAW or JPG?

Sorry, for the sake of speed we only shot jpg

Chris Rylee's picture

 D600 .NEF support probably won't show up for a little while!

the D600 ISO 12,800 is the wrong link.   It's linked to the D800 image

Thanks, just fixed it

Chris Rylee's picture

Lee, Patrick, thanks guys! You got these up quick!

Greg Abramowitz's picture

The D600 shots look seriously impressive to me.

Patrick Hall's picture

Thanks, I tried to bring my A game :)

Mark Jones's picture

What about the 1-click to zoom to 100% when previewing images?  That's one of my favorite features and I'm worried it won't be included since that feature is also missing from the D7000.

SERIOUSLY!!! i want to know if it does this as well....if you can assign the center button to zoom during handy on the d300, and i do miss it when i shoot with my d7000...actually, i shoot my D7000 more, and when i pick up the d300, i'm reminded of how i wish it was the same on the 7k....LEE, can you confirm this???

It doesn't do this unfortunately. Maybe a firmware hack?

I'd check for you but we are driving out of the state and it's all packed up in the trunk. I'll try to write up a full review next week.

you said you shoot a lot video. does D600 have manual controls in video mode? i can't find that information in specifications

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah it has manual controls in video mode.  The only "live" control it lacks is have to set the aperture and then hit live view unlike the D4 and D800 which let you change it live.  Kind of a pain if you plan on shooting anything less than wide open

luisfaustino's picture

Ah, just use old lenses with aperture rings :)

What about shooting in Live view in Aperture priority mode? You may need to preset your aperture out of Live View mode and then turn Live View Mode on. And I believe adjusting the EV values would change shutter speed appropriately. Also, if you want an alternative to having Aperture control using the camera, or any camera, use a lens with an external aperture ring, you have to create a slip to block the camera's "button" that the aperture or lens would press when locked on the camera.

Kishore's picture

The d600 looks awesome for the target group, but serious shooter should consider the d800 for its megapixels and ISO performance.

I'd love to see how good the weather sealing is.  Do you think Patrick could arrange a boat and y'all could toss it over the side to see what happens?  I'd be happy to come along if you need another observer. :)

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't think any Nikon camera could survive that.  Honestly I think the weather sealing should be fine...this camera feels much more like the D800 than the D7000.  Maybe it's in the middle, more like a D300s with the layout of the D7000.  I don't think I'd have a problem using the D600 in light rain.  

I'd love to tag along for this Nikon D600 swim, haha! 
If you look at the BTS video that Florian Schulz made,, he gave the D600 a nice workout in some tough conditions. Also, Corey Rich ( ) used it above 21,000 feet above sea level and neither photographer had issues with it. I'm excited to get my D600 on Tuesday.

Patrick Hall's picture

knock on wood, out of the 10 DSLRs I've owned over the last 7 years I've never had a single one of them break or malfunction.  I only wish I could say the same for my lenses!

 I'm really just trying to get you guys to take me out on a boat.  I can bring beer.

Are the file sizes smaller on the D600 vs. the D800?

Patrick Hall's picture

yeah of course.  I can't give details right now but they are much smaller.  

I sold my DX equipment in the weeks leading up to the D600 release. I had really planned for it to be my next camera but a few features - namely the autofocus remaining the same as the D7000 and the 1/200 and 1/4000 shutter limitations - were underwhelming.

My solution was to buy the D800. Luckily, they are in stock now so I had no wait time. For $800 more, I consider it money well spent. I also do alot of high ISO work, so the results of your quick test just tip the scales even more in favor of my decision.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'll have to test the D600 AF this weekend at my first wedding with the new cameras.  Honestly I found the D7000 to autofocus way faster than my old D700 I sold a while back.  The D7000 seemed to snap in focus while the D700 gave me a lot of trouble at times (esp before that first firmware upgrade).  I will say the D4 and D800 AF has been the best yet especially with the new Tamron 24-70 2.8 lens.  I don't think I've ever seen a faster focusing setup that those cameras with that lens (including my Nikkor 24-70s).  

Thanks for the test! It looks like I'll stick to my D3s/D800E combo!!!
Neither D4 or D600 worth to ''upgrade'' from D3s if you need a low-light performer!!!

I agree, when they start making larger sensors that incorporate larger pixel senor sizes above 8.45 microns, then I'd consider selling the D3s and shelling out some cash. These new cameras they're coming out with, are taken a given size of the sensor, and making the pixel sizes smaller to obtain higher MP counts while making it more affordable, it's the Canon move if you ask me. 

can we see a video iso test? i know that the web compression will influence the final product, but it will atleast give us some idea relative to the other cameras on the market.

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