My take on the D600 as a professional tool

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Antithesis, Jun 22, 2013.

  1. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've been waiting for a camera like the D600 to come along for a long time. Small, compact and sports an amazing, full-frame sensor. I know it's been out for some time now, but I've recently been renting a pair of them for weddings, etc., and have really been enjoying them. I figured it's been a while since I've posted on here, so I thought I'd post my thoughts for anyone who is on the fence. I've been using the cameras professionally, putting anywhere from 500-3000 photos on them per shoot. My background is a photo editor for a post-processing house, so I get to look at images from pretty much any and all current cameras, so I have a frame of reference for Image Quality (from d7000's all the way up to Phase One MF backs). That's where I'll start:

    Image Quality (IQ):

    I'm sure I'm beating a dead horse here, but the IQ of these 'consumer' cameras is really just astounding. The last generation of Nikon full frame sensors seemed to do weird things with some tones of blue/purple, and always seemed to render a bit of a lifeless image that required a bit of extra oomph in Lightroom (mainly the D3 and D700). It's only really noticeable when compared to the 5D mk2/3 (basically the wedding industry 'standard' cameras), which I consider to be the benchmark for 'perfect' color. The D600 edits very similar to the Canon's, which is a good thing. Skin tones look realistic, rich and gorgeous.

    As far as Dynamic Range and depth is concerned, this is one of the best cameras I've had the pleasure of working with. Many modern cameras do very well here, but being able to pull back the highlights or bring up the shadows in seemingly impossible amounts is just amazing. Highlights that look mostly blown out can often be brought back down with little to no banding. I love it.

    FYI, I am referencing RAW quality. Jpeg's aren't terrible off this camera when processed in Lightroom 4 or later, but you should never, ever be shooting Jpeg (unless it's an absolute pinch, but you knew that ;))

    High ISO:

    I typically like to shoot mostly natural light whenever possible, only resorting to flash when there is literally no light sources. I was able to comfortably shoot up 4000-6400 ISO, and not really even feel like noise reduction is necessary. I'm sure the camera could be pushed farther, but I rarely find myself needing to go over 3200 ISO at >f/2 unless it's time to bust out the flash. I like the look of a bit of grain, but such a densely pixelated sensor gives a pretty smooth, film-like grain that is not as obtrusive (and even pleasing).

    Handling:

    The D600 is definitely small if you are used to any pro-level body. I like its size for using small, fast primes, which is typically what is on my camera 95% of the time. I really enjoy pairing the body with the new 50 f1.8 AF-S, which I consider to be on the best autofocus 50's I've used (other than the 50 1.2L). The camera feels tiny when attached to a big telephoto like a 70-200, and can feel woefully unbalanced. If you like big zooms like the 24-70, this is probably not the best camera for it in terms of ergonomics.

    The autofocus is very, very good. I shot a Canon 5D mk2 for a while, and a mk1 before that, and it's just a joy to have the camera actually focus in very little light. On my last wedding, I was able to focus on people I could barely see through the viewfinder. It struggles with certain colors (blues in particular), but is usually spot on. I like to use the center point and the AF-ON button (actually labeled something else, can't remember what it was, but it's in the same spot). Focusing and repositioning really helped my keeper rate by an order of magnitude... highly recommended, I started doing it a couple years ago and will never go back to picking af-points.

    The deal breakers for me are the teeny, tiny little buffer and the enormous file size. The buffer just feels soooo small, and seems to unload painfully slow. You have to be very, very conscious about "machine-gunning", or you'll end up missing a lot of important shots. I've tried to slow down my shooting in general, but sometimes it's necessary to fire off a lot of images. The buffer fills in fifteen shots (under three seconds if you are really railing on it) and the shooting rate goes down to about a shot per second for several seconds or more. It is incredibly frustrating. It feels like an eternity when the bride is staring at you, wondering why the **** you aren't shooting. I was planning on buying two D600's and sticking with them until they fall apart, but after several shoots, I really think the small buffer is going to bite me some day (i.e. miss the kiss or something else important).

    And then there is the file size. This is more of an I'm-a-cheap-bastard gripe, but I shot 128gb of data in one wedding while shooting conservatively, even with the buffer preventing an additional 10-15% of my shots. Memory cards are cheap, that's not the issue, but two weddings is quarter of a terabyte. That is just cumbersome, even with the low cost of memory. I'd need a full raid tower after a year, constantly swapping out drives. Anyways, /endrant. The concern of storage space and burning through a dozen terabytes of storage is the main reason I've never considered the D800 either.

    Conclusion:

    I really love the D600. It's a great camera, though less so for professional use (which I know is not its intended purpose). I'll probably stick with a D700 as a main body until I can afford a D4, and use the a D600 as a backup body and for fine-art or studio use. Basically, where the buffer is less of a concern, and burning through well over a 100gb of memory won't be an issue. For an enthusiast-level camera, I don't think there is (or has been) a better camera. It is basically perfect. Images can be seen here, for those interested: Tracy & Dale?s Wedding ? June, 15th 2013 ? Vieques, PR | epandrsn

    Hopefully I helped at least someone in their decision making process :thumbup:


     
  2. Solarflare

    Solarflare No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Whow ! Good photos !

    My own D600 is currently "married" to my 70-200mm f4. I also carry a 28mm f1.8 around, just in case I really need wide.
     
  3. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    3000?

    dude


    If you deliver 3K shots then I'd keep 3K but I only keep a copy of what I deliver. After everything has been said and done of course.

    Saves quite a bit of space.

    External HDDs are cheap too. Plus archival blu ray discs Blu-ray 200 Year Single Disc
    hold 25Gb, last 200 years and if you're worried about keeping up with them a safe deposit box can be had for not too much either.

    Try an 800, take one as a backup and shoot in the 4x5 crop (1.2 gives you about the same size file as the D600) if you're really worried it but I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.

    Enjoyed the shots.

    mike
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Antithesis, you sound like a shooter who could use a D3x, to get you a 25- to 29-frame image buffer in NEF mode. Prices on them are dropping every month.
     
  5. DarkShadow

    DarkShadow Birdographer Supporting Member

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    Nice review,write up.Thanks for making me drool even more:lol:
     
  6. Gavjenks

    Gavjenks TPF Noob!

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    That's a really good idea. Never thought of this, and it's probably cheaper (though not quite as secure of course) than cloud storage if you want to store ALL your photos and have frequent access to them. And considering you get the rest of the box to put document copies in blah blah too.
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Not sure why so many people think that cloud storage is all that "secure". I'm old enough to remember "Digital Railroad"...the cloud service that went teats up with just a few days' notice. Additionally, with widespread hacking now the norm, I'm not sure that web-based storage brings with it the kind of "security" that off-line, vault-based physical storage brings.

    The dingbats that owned Digital Railroad told everybody they were closing up shop, then gave customers a 24-hour window in which to (desperately,desperately TRY to) download their archives. After that...their stuff just "disappeared".

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10078042-2.html
     
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  8. DarkShadow

    DarkShadow Birdographer Supporting Member

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    Totally agree with Derrel.Cloud storage is more convenient and for the most part secure but in no way more secure then offline. Heck one security software dev that I can recall was hacked on there own website and there has been others.Then of course where fixed quicky but still,if some one wants in bad enough there in.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  9. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This. Being in a vault will keep your files safe even from practically every tornado recorded. You can even keep a copy of the software that's needed to retrieve the data if you want to be extra cautious. Film is pretty archival but I have an uncle who was a pro for over 40 years. One fire and every negative he had was lost. One fire and he was out of business (truth to tell he was ready to retire anyway), he couldn't even sell his work for stock.

    If not held tightly and watched closely electrons tend to float away. I guess it all boils down to who -and what- you're going to trust. ;)
     
  10. Gavjenks

    Gavjenks TPF Noob!

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    Regarding hacking: I can't imagine there are many high end hackers interested in pirating some random photographer's backup images from photoshoots. And if you are storing more sensitive information, it is fairly trivial to encrypt stuff before uploading it to a cloud, with algorithms these days that are FREE, and that the government can't even crack. So they might have access to your files, but your files are just random garbled 1's and 0's.

    For those interested: http://www.truecrypt.org/ is a fantastic free program for encryption.

    Regarding persistence of data when relying on corporations to still exist: Yes, I know that an online service provider can potentially go teats up with short notice, but so can your bank... and safety deposit boxes are not FDIC insured. So I think the risk of that happening is fairly equal in both cases. Yet with a cloud, you don't have to worry about fires or natural disasters (because data is distributed), etc., and you do with a brick and mortar building. Thus, all in all, I think the cloud is the slightly more secure choice.

    Also, in either case, it shouldn't be your ONLY copy of the files. So if the company does go teats up, you just shrug, and make sure to upload your other copies to a new service as soon as possible, to regain redundancy again.

    Buying your own building somewhere and squirreling stuff away in an underground vault with insurance on it might be more secure than any corporate solution, but I would argue not really a practical option for most normal people.

    An average joe's triplicate backup plan would be more like:

    1) House / normal computer you use every day has a copy
    2) CD or bluray or HDD backup or whatever, stored at your place of business. Cheap, convenient, and both your house and business are unlikely to burn down or be robbed or have computers crash at the same time.
    3) Safety deposit box or cloud storage.

    I'd say either option in #3 is somewhat more secure than #1-2 on average, both in terms of access/theft (unless you're storing your photos inside the drywall or something) and in terms of persistence of data / protection from disasters.


    Convenience may or may not be true, depending on the service.

    A safety deposit box requires you to wait until the soonest business day, at which point you can retrieve all your files at once for free (no cost beyond your normal annual fee).

    Cloud services often have different plans that offer tradeoffs between liquidity of data and monthly fees. If you choose one that has cheap storage but high access costs, such as Amazon glacier, then the convenience is way Way WAY lower than a safety deposit box if/when you need those backups. In order to not incur hundreds of dollars of access fees with Amazon glacier, for instance for 30-100gB of data, you'd have to retrieve it over the course of months, in tiny packets at a time.

    Alternatively, if you choose one that has convenient retrieval and low access costs, then it certainly can be more convenient than a safety deposit box, BUT you will likely have to pay more for it than a safety deposit box annually.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  11. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think I'll probably get a Blu-Ray burner and keep them in a fireproof safe. I need a safe for my gear anyways, as I live in Puerto Rico so it makes sense. Cloud storage is not realistic with my current internet speeds, and not having a tangeable storage space makes me nervous. Hell, anything that is not an actual print or negative might be unusable some day.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2013
  12. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm actually just going to pick up a second hand D3 this week and shoot on it until I can afford a D4 next year. I feel like a D4 and a set of gold-ring primes is sort of my goal in terms of gear, and I won't really ever feel obligated to upgrade from there (unless Nikon finally decides to release a worthwhile super-fast 50mm).
     

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