Soon after the introduction of the D800 and D800E rumours started to surface that Nikon was going to introduce a second high resolution full frame camera . They caused quite a turmoil at some places like DPReview, since the rumours said the camera was going to be sold at an extremely low price, about $ 1500,- Although NikonRumors often has been quite correct, this rumour was at least partly incorrect. The D600 got introduced at a price which was 33% higher than the rumoured one. Still it’s a quite competitive price. It is in fact the cheapest full frame camera at the moment.
There is some serious competition though: the price of the D800 is not that much higher, just 21% at least here in the Netherlands. In the UK the difference seems to be even smaller.
Now this price difference is a little misleading: at the moment, the D800 is sold at 90% from the suggested retail price, the D600 at 100%. If you compare the list prices, the D800 is 35% more expensive, so you can expect to see this difference back in the shops in a couple of months. As a matter of fact, since the D600 is in a different market, the price might even go down more than the D800. If you compare the price with that of theD800E (i.m.o. the D800 you should buy) then the price difference is larger and makes more sense, because the D800E is still at 100% SRP..
So much about the least interesting but probably most important aspect of the camera: its price.
What about the technique? Is 24 MP more than enough to make excellent pictures and is 36 overkill bought with noise and slow frame rates? I’ll answer the first question in separate article in depth, but in short no, for most use cases it’s: the more, the merrier when it comes to megapixels.
As you can see here, at pixel level the D600 is slightly less noisy at 6400 ISO (for both the maximum real ISO sensitivity) than the D800E.
However, if you judge them at the same size, the D800 has a slight advantage. (Enlargment was bicubic smoother, which certainly doesn't make noise worse)
If you then sharpen the D600 picture till the point where it looks as sharp as the D800E-picture (be it with less details) then it has clearly more noise than the D800E. (Smart Sharpen 100% radius 1 shadow fade amount 86%.) The difference with the D800 would be somewhat smaller.
To place all this in the right perspective: if you look at the pictures at 50% (from 36 MP), the difference between the two pictures is very hard to see. This simply means: both cameras are very good when it comes to noise, about 0.5 to 1.0 stop better than the D700.
Now another important technical aspect. We know that a many people condemned the D800E because they were afraid it would suffer from moiré and aliasing. (They were wrong. I made 11.000 pictures with the 800E and never encountered moiré, except when making pictures of test cards.) On the other hand we know, that the more megapixels you have, the less likely it is you’ll see M&A. Now the D600 has less megapixels, but does have an AA-filter. Could it be possible that those two compensate each other, in other words, that the D600 and the D800E have the same amount of moiré?
I expected to see something like that, but was surprised to see that the D600 has more moiré than the D800E! The D600 must have a relatively weak AA-filter, probably to make its pictures very clearly sharper than those of the Canon 5DMkIII. (Nikon did this before to make the D70 succesfuly compete with Canons Digital Rebel). The effect of this however is, that in comparison with the D800 and D800E, the more expensive cameras have less moiré. Could it be that the sensor quality of the D600 is also less in other aspects, like dynamic range? More about that Tuesday or Wednesday because tomorrow and Tuesday I’ll be at the Photokina.
Some about this and more you can hear via twitter, if you follow me. I’m