With a DxOMark score of 94 the camera came just behind the firm’s D800 and D800E in our sensor scores. Priced at around $2,100, about $900 less the Nikon D800, for enthusiasts the newer, lower-resolution D600 maybe the best balance between image quality and value for money.
We’ve tested and assimilated the data from a wide range of lenses numbering 70 in total to see which lenses perform best overall, bearing in mind the different imaging characteristics of the 24Mpix sensor in the D600. Like the other reviews in the series, the aim is to help readers maximize the potential of their camera and offer advice and recommendations when buying lenses.
We will reveal that when paired with certain high performance lenses, the lower resolution Nikon D600 can achieve results that are very close to that of the Nikon D800. With few real concessions to image quality, a smaller file size and lower initial purchase price, the D600 may be the better all-round choice for photographers on a budget.
We’ve tested 72 different lenses with the D600 including those made by Nikon, as well as third-parties such as Sigma, Zeiss, Tokina and Tamron. Of those, we’ve measured 42 primes ranging in focal length from 14mm to 150mm. Wide and ultra-wide lenses total 19 different models, and we’ve assessed 22 standard and short telephotos including macro-types.
Top 10 performing prime lenses we’ve tested:
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G||2199||40|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G||690||40|
|Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon||899||37|
|Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon||1840||36|
|Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon||328||36|
|Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon||599||34|
|Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon||969||34|
|Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon||1843||34|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED||2200||33|
|Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon||1005||33|
Of the 32 zooms we’ve tested on the Nikon D600, seven are wide-angle, nine fall in the standard category and a further seven models are telephoto zooms, including three super-zooms.
Top 10 performing zoom lenses we’ve tested:
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED||2000||28|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II||2699||27|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED||1800||27|
|Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Nikon||1299||27|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR||1399||26|
|Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED||1850||25|
|Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Nikon||770||25|
|Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Nikon||1699||24|
|Tokina AT-X 16-28 F2.8 PRO FX Nikon||849||24|
|Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Nikon||949||24|
While the Nikon D800 sit at the top of DxOMark database with regards to sensor scores and P-Mpix (Sharpness), if we dig a little deeper with the DXOMark body and lens combination scores some interesting results are revealed.
Each camera achieves its best score with a specific lens:
Although the D800 has a much higher pixel count, the sharpness gap is not as large as expected. However, while a high-quality lens can maintain this benefit in sensor higher pixel count, a poorer performing lens can erode that advantage. The 72 lenses that were tested on the Nikon D600 were also the same lenses tested on the D800 and 24-MPix D3x.
Given the pixel count that’s hardly surprising though there are other factors that might affect the sharpness, such as the AA filter, for instance. The scores are close enough to suggest there’s no difference in AA filter between the D600 and D3x
When the results are averaged out across the complete sample of lenses, the overall sharpness figures measured in P-MPix matches that of the D800.
In fact, there are only a few lenses that deliver higher sharpness mounted on the Nikon D800 and even then the best performing lenses provide just 12% higher sharpness from a 30% increase in Raw file size. Given the price, this all makes the D600 look particularly attractive.
|Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon||899||23||19|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II||2699||20||17|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G||699||21||18|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR||1399||21||18|
|Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon||1700||22||19|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G||2199||22||20|
If we take into account every IQ aspect and have a look at the lowlight performance, the D600 scores very well too: registering the same best and overall score as the D800. Sensor improvement explains the significant gap between D3x result and D600 results:
The best lenses for the 3 cameras are the same:
Sharpness capture is only a part of the equation however. While the D600 is tempting in that respect there are plenty of other benefits of choosing the D800 over the more affordable D600, including the 51-point AF system, semi-pro construction (including a more durable shutter) and the choice of CF and SD cards to name a few. Be that as it may, there’s no denying the D600 is a attractive alternative, especially if on a budget.
Stay tuned for the other part of the series where we’ll discuss standard (or normal) lenses, and then in our third and final part, wide-angles and telephotos.