Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A Change in Attitude Towards the Nikon D600

Sony α65 with 18-55mm SAM kit zoom
I'm writing this post for two reasons: (1) because 47 minutes into the first presidential debate I got so sick of Romney's smug smile and babbling answers (as well as his flip-flops on a number of key issues) that I turned off the tube panel, and (2) earlier in the evening I'd stopped by the Best Buy at the Mall at Millenia to handle a Nikon D600, and came away totally turned off to the camera.

The Nikon D600 is not worth $2,100. It is the most poorly made camera in that price bracket that I believe I have ever held. The plastic coating is thin and chintzy looking. The pop-up flash should never have been added to the body, as it's thin and flimsy. While I was standing there gently toying with the battery cover it popped off the body into my hand. When I looked at the overall battery compartment I was appalled at the cheesy all-plastic design and construction. I know what some marketing droid at Nikon probably thought: they're going to buy a vertical grip, so why put in the time and effort to make it robust? Add to that the open connector on the bottom next to the battery compartment that is supposed to electrically and electronically tie the two together and I'm left with questions about the so-called moisture- and dust-proof capabilities of the camera, as well as the camera's ability to handle constant use. I was able to hold (briefly) Matthew Robert's D800 up in Toronto. That camera exuded far more quality than the D600. The D3100, D3200, and D5100 cameras sitting nearby embarrassed the D600 by having the same levels of quality for about a quarter of the price. To add insult to injury the D5200's camera compartment was better built than the D600.

While I was there I gave a look at the Canons and the one lone Sony, an α65. While I berate the Canons I had to admire the handling of the T4i as well as the EFS 18-135mm kit zoom lens on the body. Physically, the 18-55mm was the best built of all the kit lenses (the D600 had no lens mounted on it). It was solid and smooth in operation, and reasonably bright in the viewfinder, with quality that comes close to rivaling more expensive lenses. When I picked it up and focused the T4i was quick to acquire focus lock in that environment (although not quite as fast as my stolen E-3). The only real knock against the T4i is when using live view; it was as slow as my stolen E-3, and even exhibited the same behavior; flip up the mirror, focus, expose, then drop the mirror down. That takes a long time. I can understand a five-year-old E-3 doing this, but not Canon's latest Rebel that was released this year. Overall the quality was top notch, equal to the D600 comparing body-to-body.

And then I picked up and played a bit with the Sony. The focus lock speed was simply breath-taking. I fell in love all over again with the focus squares that lit up in green indicating which ones were being used to determine focus. Because this is an SLT camera, it's always in live view. Triggering the camera to take a photo was nearly instantaneous. And it's overall build quality also matched the Nikon.

With the Canon and Sony I liked the way the grip felt in my hand. With the D600 it felt cramped.

I came away from my first physical encounter with the Nikon D600 irrationally angry, more than I have with any other camera in a similar situation. I think what hit me was I was almost ready to spend $2,100, sight unseen, on the D600. I'd certainly bought into the hype sight unseen. Now I'm going to re-re-consider my choices and my prior decisions, and widen the field a bit. The Nikon D600 has definitely been taken down off its pedestal and out of consideration.

8 comments:

  1. Bill, what do you mean with "open connector"? Like "a hole in the sealed casing with elevtric connections exposed to the elements"?

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    1. Yes. A thin rectangular hole running parallel with the back edge, sunk into the base, with an exposed rectangular connector at the bottom of this rectangular hole sticking back out.

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    2. Fifth picture from the top, the long slit at the lower edge,I suppose?
      http://www.letsgodigital.org/de/34159/nikon-d600/
      Its hard to believe, that they "weatherproof" a camera and leave such an opening. Water will creep anywhere, thats its nature.

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    3. That's interesting. Yes, that is the exact location. At the store that piece was removed. The slot was open. I guess the question was how it wound up being open at the store and where the cover went. The photo of the cover doesn't look at that good.

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  2. Wow. Thanks for the heads-up Bill. One more camera without in-body IS is out of the game then...

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  3. I've probably shown the D600 to fifteen or twenty people over the past week, everyone I work with has been checking it out, and one – a Canon user – has been practically glued to it. I've used it quite a bit, and drilled with it for about half an hour today with your experience in mind. Your reaction is an outlier from what I routinely hear.

    • The port on the bottom of the camera is supposed to be sealed with a tight rubber cover. On the one you used it has either been removed to prevent it from walking off or it should have been. It's a good enough fit, with an overlapping edge, that it won't be a problem in the rain or if the camera gets splashed. The D800 is the exact same, and the D700 had an "L" shape cover in the same style. I usually just leave mine off, but would cover it or use the battery pack in the rain.

    • Nikons have a removable battery door. I don't know why, since no accessories need the door to be removed, but you can put the door at a 45 degree angle and it will come off with a light tug. If the D600 that you tried did this, it's not a defect; if it came off otherwise, then it has been damaged. Coming from Olympus, especially the E-1 with its all-metal and all-interlocked construction the D700 and D800 have both been a step down in terms of construction quality, but it has made no difference over the years of using those cameras. I won't stick the Nikons in a fountain, which I've done with my E-1, but they're good enough.

    • If you pop the flash up and flex it, it will twist. The D800 is the same, but the 7D will not. But I'd never noticed that until I tried it today, and can't say that I'm concerned.

    I'd happily put the D600's build quality up against the 5D2, which is its closest competitor in terms of price, although it beats the Canon in photographic matters. Yes, it's essentially a D7000 with a brain transplant – and it has put up the third-best-ever sensor results from DxOmark, assuming you count the D800 and D800E as different cameras, and no, despite also having a 100% pentaprism it's not as well-built as the D800. But you could buy both the D600 and the D7000 for what one of those cameras cost – which option costs Nikon more to make?

    Of course, Sony knows a thing or two about camera sensors; DxO ranks the NEX7 in a tie with the 5D3, D3, and D3200. I've used it and like it, and it's not significantly bigger with the 18-55 than a m4/3 with the 14-42. And the Olympus E-M5, with the best-ever 4/3 sensor, is ranked by DxO between the original 5D and the Nikons D90 and D5000, which is nothing to sneeze at. And I'm sure that the sensor isn't everything.

    You need to like the camera(s) you choose. There's no argument about that. But the D600 is better than what you've seen.

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    1. Your reaction is an outlier from what I routinely hear.

      Sometimes "outlier" is my middle name.

      ...you can put the door at a 45 degree angle and it will come off with a light tug.

      And that's what I remember happening.

      If you pop the flash up and flex it, it will twist. The D800 is the same, but the 7D will not.

      My E-3 didn't either, or at least not as much.

      You need to like the camera(s) you choose. There's no argument about that. But the D600 is better than what you've seen.

      You're right about that. The reason I go into a big-box store like Best Buy is precisely because it's out and it gets hammered on. It's one thing to judge a camera that's kept behind a counter and pulled out, another to look at one that's been aged at an accelerated rate by the constant rough handling of thousands over a short period of time.

      Perhaps I'm being unfairly and overly critical. But it's a lot of money to spend, regardless of brand, at this level. And your D800 did feel better in my hands, a lot better. And it costs much more than the D600 like you said. I knew I should have never touched that camera...

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    2. "Its a lot of money to spend..."
      Oh yes and the question is also, how many more cameras do you intend to buy? If you Know that a body and three lenses are all you will want for the next decade, go for it. If its - in absolute terms - far to much money to spend on one single camera, then dont.

      Oh well, thats what the brain says. The other part doesnt stop to remind one that the last shirt will have no pockets.

      At least, thats the way with me. So I just spent $ 190something on two basque berets (a french and a spanish one), to be delivered from New Zealand. Even thoug I already own a dozen and still have only one head. Granted, not the same price range, but thats about 20% of the months net wages. I still dont regret it and am sure that you will decide wisely and be happy about it.

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