New Nikon D600 Firmware Update Could Make It the Best Bang for Your Buck Full-Frame DSLR
Nikon introduced the D600 back in September, shortly after Sony gave us a number of new cameras. In terms of full-frame DSLRs, only the aging 5D Mark II and the new Canon 6D are anywhere near the price range of the $2,100 D600. Unfortunately, Nikon released the camera without the ability to change the aperture in live view. While this isn't a deal-breaker for those with manual lenses, if you want to use new automatic lenses, it's a real problem. Another issue for filmmakers is that the camera does not display a full picture in live view in order to make full use of recording the HDMI output. A new firmware update, however, may fix these issues and make the D600 a contender.
Here is what Nikon Rumors said about the firmware update:
Nikon is currently working on new firmware updates for the D600 and D800 cameras. The D600 update will contain a fix for the Live View aperture bug (currently you cannot change the aperture in Live View during video). The D800 update will fix the focus priority bug (with AF-ON in Live View changing the aperture causes the screen to turn dark).
While this is still a rumor at the moment, it would be huge for people who are in the market for a full-frame DSLR for filmmaking, but would like the flexibility that the D600 offers over similar cameras from Canon. While they call it a bug here, it's hard for me to believe that they didn't realize the camera was operating this way when they started shipping it, and much like other Nikon DSLRs, you must exit live view in order to change the aperture. Unless you have manual iris lenses, this makes shooting anything in an uncontrolled situation rather difficult. The Nikon D800, on the other hand, does not have this issue.
The other big problem with the D600, which may or may not be addressed in this new firmware update, is the fact that the HDMI output only fills 95% of the screen. Just like Canon's 5D Mark III, the live view output is window-boxed (though that will change when Canon releases the uncompressed HDMI firmware upgrade for the Mark III next year). Even though Nikon has made the HDMI output on the D600 recordable, having to zoom in post to fill to 100% makes the 8-bit 4:2:2 capability a lot less useful. We've talked about it before, but here is a video showing that issue:
Will Vazquez, who posted this video above, also did a test comparing the Nikon D600, D800, and D800E:
As you can see, the D600 looks like it is resolving a little less detail than the D800, but it's also almost $1,000 cheaper, and far more useful in lower light since it only has a 24 megapixel sensor, rather than the 36 megapixel behemoth in the Nikon D800. I personally really like the image coming from the D800 out of any of the DSLRs I've used, but the ISOs can't be pushed very far, so it's a far more useful camera for controlled lighting situations -- unless you can apply some serious noise reduction.
If you want to see what recording the HDMI can do for your camera, Ron Adair, a Nikon user, posted this video a while back where he recorded the HDMI output from his D800 with an Atomos Ninja:
Ron has also been in talks with Nikon about the 95% issue on the D600, and it definitely seems like they want to correct it, rather than it just being a way to differentiate the D600 and the D800 -- so we could certainly see it fixed in the next firmware update.
While the 5D Mark II is the cheapest DSLR currently (and exceptionally cheap used), it still goes to standard definition out of the HDMI when you hit record. This makes monitoring from an HDMI external monitor almost pointless. When I owned a Mark II, this was this biggest issue I had with the camera, so the D600 (with firmware updates) and the Canon 6D might be far better options as they give much higher quality HDMI resolution -- which is certainly helpful when you're dealing with the razor-thin depth of field of a full-frame camera.
What do you guys think? Does anyone own a D600 and if so, do you like it so far? If you don't own one, and Nikon fixes the aperture and HDMI issues, does it look like a far more appealing camera?