Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison

Nikon just announced their new entry level full frame DSLR camera, the D600. It wasn’t a very well kept secret as leaks started getting out months ago. There was speculation that this would be a sub-$2000 USD camera but in the end the retail price at launch is $2100. Still a good price considering the sensor and other options. It looks like a blend between a D7000 and D800 both in terms of spec and appearance. Below you can see some of the similarities and differences between the three bodies.

The Nikon D600 with Nikkor 200mm f/2 lens.
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Nikkor 200mm f/2 Lens

 

I’m not gong to rehash the full specification of any camera. Nikon and many other reviews provide that info already. If you want to check into the details, here are the spec sheets for the three cameras: D7000, D600, D800.

 

What I do want to cover is how the cameras are similar and how they are different. Just taking a look at the camera, it looks like Nikon took a D7000 body and shoehorned a full frame sensor inside. Some modifications to the body were necessary, but for the most part the cameras are very similar in terms of layout.

 

Nikon D600 Front View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camra : Front View
 

Nikon D600 Right Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Right Side View

 

Nikon D600 Left Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Left Side View

 

Nikon D600 Rear View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Rear View

 

Nikon D600 Top View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Top View

 

Finally, a comparison between the D7000, D600, and D800
Nikon D7000, D600, D800 Visual Comparison : Front and Rear View

 

If you look at the three bodies, you can see that the D600 has some controls more like a D7000 and others more like a D800. Not a bad thing for a model that fits in between the two in the lineup. Users on either end of the spectrum should be comfortable with the controls, though I think it’s more like a D7000 and targeted at the consumer/hobby segment of the market.

 

Nikon D700 users who were hoping for a clear upgrade path didn’t get one. Nikon provided a clear upgrade for the D3S in the D4, but the D700 was essentially split into two cameras. The D800 a higher resolution but slower camera (which also replaced the D3X) and a D600 which is a smaller and less feature rich body. For professionals, the upgrade path is likely the D800 due to it’s ergonomics, autofocus speed, full magnesium body, compact flash storage, flash sync, max shutter speed, and shutter durability. For hobby shooters, serious amateurs, and pros who need a back up body the D600 may be the better choice. It still provides great image quality in a smaller and lighter package. Regardless, the D600 at $2100 US is destined to sell very well.

 

In terms of pricing, Nikon has a very linear price curve at the lower end of the lineup. It’s clear that they want to hit every market segment and ensure they capture every type of buyer. Having said that, the D300S seems to be the most in need of an update and without it in the lineup there would be a significant gap between the D7000 and the D600. To me, this means that a D400 will be announced in the not too distant future. It will likely carry on the tradition of a high end, high-speed crop sensor (DX) body with pro level ergonomics.
 
Nikon DSLR Prices : D3200, D5100, D7000, D300S, D600, D800, D4

 

Differences between the cameras button layouts are obvious, no big surprises for anyone used to shooting a Nikon body. There are also some significant differences inside the shells as well.

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Sensor Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels24.3 megapixels36.3megapixels
Sensor SizeAPS-C (DX)Full frame (FX)Full frame (FX)
Max Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32646016 x 40167360 x 4912
DX Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels10.3 megapixels15.3 megapixels
DX Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32643,936 x 2,6244,800 x 3,200
Sensor Pixel Size4.78µ5.9µ4.8µ

 

The D800 is clearly the resolution leader, not just for Nikon but all DSLR cameras as of September 2012 (and likely for some time to come). The D800 also holds it’s own quite well even when shot in DX mode. If you need the extra reach or still have DX lenses you get file sizes almost exactly the same as a D7000 but with the benefit of the better sensor and processing. However, no one should buy the D800 and shoot it in DX mode, use it just until you transition your lenses to FX or the odd time you don’t need the full 36mp. If you plan to shoot DX all the time, save yourself $2000 and buy a D7000. The D600 has the biggest pixels, and likely the best pixel level noise traits but that is not relevant because what matters is noise level in the final image (on screen or in print). Downsampling a 36mp D800 file to the same resolution has noise benefits. I’m sure there will be a lot of comparisons between these two cameras very soon.

 

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Frame Rate6 fps5.5 fps4 fps (FX), 6 fps (DX with grip)
U1 & U2 Modes?YESYESNO :(
Sync Speed1/2501/2001/250
Max Shutter1/80001/40001/8000
Storage MediaDual SD cardsDual SD cards1 compact flash + 1 SD card
Price$1000 USD$2100 USD$3000 USD

 

All three of these cameras have weather sealing, pentaprism (not pentamirror), 100% viewfinder coverage which is a good thing. D600 doesn’t have USB 3.0, but who cares (most people use a card reader). The biggest disappointment for many users when the D800 was announced was the 4 fps shooting rate in FX mode. That is quite slow by modern DSLR standards but somewhat understandable when you see how much data is being crunched in that time. The D600 and D7000 are a more reasonable 5.5 and 6 fps respectively. I doubt anyone will complain about those specifications, they are fast enough for any enthusiast. The d600 gets the U1/U2 modes just like the D7000, it boggles the mind why Nikon did not include this on the D800. The menu banks are a joke by comparison, I don’t even use them. Similar story with storage, D7000 and D600 both have dual SD card slots but the D800 gets SD+compact flash. Why? I get that they want to tailor to pros who may be invested in CF cards but give me a break. If you can buy a $3000 body you can likely but a couple of extra cards. With the resolution of the D800 most people will need new (and much bigger) cards anyway. It should have been dual CF, now I need to buy and carry two types of media.

 

One thing that is clear is that Nikon intentionally crippled the D600 with the 1/200 sync speed and 1/4000 max shutter speed. These may not be problems for many shooters, but for anyone serious about strobes or fast primes lenses in bright light will run into problems. Pros will likely skip the D600, even as a backup, for these reasons. Good for Nikon, bad for us.

 

In the end, the D600 fits very well into Nikon’s new FX camera lineup. Unlike the previous lineup which had the D700, D3S, and D3X the new lineup of the D600, D800, and D4 offers better pricing for most users and a better distinction between the cameras in the lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing image samples from the D600 once they start getting into users hands.

Also see: Nikon D600 vs Canon 6D: an entry level full frame comparison