I had been eyeing the D600 for a couple of months. I had been stuck on a decision point about going to the full frame sensor. All of my prior bodies have had cropped sensors which give a wildlife photographer a little extra reach with the lenses without shelling out extra cash.
What I really wanted was the new EXPEED 3 image processing that is all the rage with the D800 (out of my league). The D3200 has the EXPEED 3 processing system, but quite frankly I’m not up for another intro body. The camera is only packaged with the 18-55 kit lens, which I already have and really do not want another.
Nikon released the D5200 which is a nice step up from my D5100, but what I don’t like about the D5100 is that it is too menu driven. I have to dig through menus and screens to change simple things like ISO or metering mode. In my line of work, I see it, I shoot it. That Painted Skimmer just isn’t going to wait for me to poke at my camera as I try to get it set up for the shot. Seconds count, 30 to 40 seconds wasted on a stet up change, well, why even pull it out of the bag? That bug is gone.
The second problem with the D5200 is that Nikon has released it everywhere except the US. Perhaps they have a boat load of D3100s, D5100s and D3200s that they are trying to move in the States. Who knows? I cannot wait for the hope of getting a D7000 upgrade with an EXPEED 3 and cropped sensor.
No, it is time to step up to the plate and get a camera that is designed to be controlled. Then for some reason, just before Christmas, the D600 + the 24-85mm zoom package went on sale. It was like getting a free lens. Now I’m getting tired of image quality hits with the compact zoom lenses, but since they priced the package, I bit on the bait…hook line and sinker.
All this pre-ramble outlines why I did the following study and why I’m subjecting you to it. I’m expecting a very wide dynamic range from the EXPEED 3 processing system. I’m looking for more subtle darks, distinctions in the highlights that go beyond my older D80 and the D5100 cameras.
So the day before we flew out to California, I had a new camera and when I got the my in-laws, I was just Jonesing to give this bad boy a test. My mother-in-law has established a little meditation spot with a Christmas flair. When I saw that, I started to salivate…the ultimate test! It has candle lights, tungsten mini-bulbs, a white porcelain figurine, a cream colored angel, colored LED cold candles. Now this is a true test of photographer and camera. Now the caveat here is that I was not using a tripod. I jacked the ISO up to 800, set the lens to f/7, Aperture Priority and Center Weighted Average metering with Auto White Balance. No flash, no external light. Just what’s in the scene. Okay D600, what are you going to do with that?
Looking a little closer, you can start to see the real challenge of the photo. (Mind you, I was not using a tripod, so the angle’s face is a bit soft.)
The camera is really starting to impress me. The figurine is white, the angle’s dress retains the creaminess, the LED lights are really good and the photo is coming out as I intended.
Look at a tighter crop, at ISO 800, the image is really clean. I’m a happy camper.
Okay, what next?
Here is an antique Chinese cabinet. Now for this shot, to get what I wanted, I cut the exposure down by 1-1/3 EV. This keeps the meter from trying to turn the scene into 60% gray. Okay, I handheld this shot, 1/20th of a second, f/5.6, ISO 3200. (Gadzooks! I’ve never shot anything in my life at that high of an ISO!)
This is exactly what I saw! Crop in close and take a look a the noise. Unbelievable! I shot this hand held, ISO3200 and this is what I got! Now you never saw the real item, but let me tell you, the camera just nailed it. You can see some grain in the blue-black areas, but it is not objectionable.
Not to shabby!
Now give it a little post-processing noise reduction and this is what you get.
Finally, a peacock feather side light with Halogen lighting. ISO 400, Auto White Balance against a mustard colored wall. Whatcha going to do with that, D600? I’m not going to go in too tightly because I hand held this at 1/8 second. Not fair. But I’m really pleased in the gradient of colors.
Okay, am I telling you to go out and buy this camera? Hell no. I chose this camera for my reasons and so that I can push myself in new directions with my photography. I will still be using my D5100 + 300mm F/4 combination. I took a lot of great dragons with that camera last year. I will do so again this year. My D80 will be used for bang-around, low resolution work. I have recommended the D3100 and D3200 to folks that are interested in investing in a nice Nikon instrument. I’m not familiar with the D7000, but if they come out with that 24Mpx, crop sensor successor, I’m going to be all over that like a goose on a June bug. I need that extra reach provided by a crop sensor and if they throw an EXPEED 3 processor in the camera, it will be a great compact wildlife tool.
On top of that, I’m a Nikon guy. I’ve got friends that shoot Cannon and Pentax. There is a camera out there for everyone!