November 10, 2012

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:

, 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?

Link: Upcoming Firmware Updates for D600 and D800 -- Nikon Rumors

Your Comment

21 Comments

Any word on a d800 firmware upgrade? Would love to see the ability to change the volume while recording...

November 10, 2012

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Lev

I know this probably isn't the setup you have in mind but wouldn't you be better using an external preamp and altering levels there?

November 11, 2012

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Graham Kay

Already using one... either way it would be nice to have those controls while recording.

November 11, 2012

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Lev

I'm a D800 user wondering if Nikon has been able to address the moire issue of the D800 in the D600. I'm already about 90% of the way convinced that I'll add a D600 to my kit, and if Nikon adressed this problem I'd be all in. No too hopeful, after reading Will Vazquez's comments about aliasing in his comparison video.

November 11, 2012

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Markus

Unfortunately, from what I've seen in sample footage, the D600 still has some ugly moire issues (although perhaps not as bad as with the D800).

November 11, 2012

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Swested

I purchased a D600 upon release and am loving it. Granted this is my second camera, and my first was a D5100, but the low light performance, 5D Mark 2/3 comparable image quality, and "cheap" full frame awesomeness make it a winner in my book - even with the couple of bugs this rumored update will address. :-D

November 11, 2012

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Brian

Love the D600, but with its 24Mbps h,264 video codec, it is really crippled. Thats a deal breaker for us video folks. Canon 6D has their 50Mbps codec and Panasonic Lumix GH3 has a whopping 72Mbps codec. It is a real shame that the upcoming firmware doesn't address this, and it forces you to use an external recorder to get the quality you need for grading and also mixing and matching with RED EPIC and Arri Alexa footage.

Anyone think that Nikon can pull a rabbit out of a hat and surprise us with a high bit rate codec?

November 11, 2012

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Ramos

Ramos high Mbs does not mean better image quality. h264 is a compressed video codec. It is quite possible that a a better, more efficient codec can produce a superior image at a lower Mbps than an inefficient codec, whether of not this is true of the D600 I dont know. But I do know larger mbps rates dont necessarily mean better picture.

Also surely if you have an Alexa on set you can afford a recorder for your B cab?

November 12, 2012

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Alex

@Alex,

I would suggest there is a reason that Canon and Panasonic both have higher data rate codecs and that reason is simply better image quality. 24Mbps H.264 is simply no better than some very low end camcorders with fixed zoom lenses. As far as tethering to a recorder....no one really wants to do that these days with small rigs like a 5d, 6d, d600 etc.

If Nikon bumped up their data rate to 50Mbps via a firmware update, I believe the D600 would truly be the holy grail of DSLR

November 12, 2012

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Ramos

Agree with you - higher bitrate is no guarantee of image quality - and i personally don't see enough difference between internal record and Ninja to justify the expense and complexity of workflow for most of my type of projects. The big payoff with the D600 vs. my D7000 is that I can get comparable shallow depth of field with the D600 at a higher f stop - reducing the need for ND filtration - the bane of DLSR video in my opinion.

November 13, 2012

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This would be a nice update. I sold my 7d and bought the d600 a few days after it came out. I'm more than happy with it so far. I've intercut footage with it and the FS100 and while the d600 isn't as sharp, it's quite good. I also like the 2 sd card slots ... and the price.

November 13, 2012

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Tom

Sold the 7D as well to purchase the Canon D600. Main reason besides the full frame was the clean hdmi and being able to use some of my cherished old nikkor glass. I do agree however that a 95% hdmi out kills the advantages to this affordable full frame dslr. The workflow of having an external recorder (pix240i being my recorder of choice) is a necessity so I'm crossing my fingers on this firmware upgrade... Otherwise Nikon can have their camera back!

November 15, 2012

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I am looking at buying either the D600 or the D800. I am leaning towards the D600 only if Nikon fixes the HDMI output. Otherwise I'll have to spent another grand. It is your move Nikon.

November 15, 2012

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Heh . . . something tells me that if you're going Nikon anyway, they wouldn't mind seeing you spend an extra grand.

November 19, 2012

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I own the D600 and love it. It's a great DSLR even just for photography. Excellent image quality. But I really got it for the video capabilities. I'd been using a Sony NX5U until now, so having more control over depth of field and the low light capabilities of a full frame sensor are really nice. I have heard rolling shutter is a bit more prominent on Nikon than Canon, but I haven't been able to test that, and don't see any egregious rolling shutter artifacts when I shoot, though it is there if I start swinging the camera around, of course.

I can work around the lack of aperture control in live view, but it is a hassle. If they fix that I would be very happy. The 95% framed HDMI output is an issue I didn't know about when I bought the camera. This, I think, is a must-fix. I really want to get the full resolution when I start outputting to an external recorder through HDMI.

November 19, 2012

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I have discovered that you can adjust adjust aperture in live view or movie mode provided your lens has an aperture ring, and this also applies to AF-D lenses.

To do this with chipped lenses, such as AFD lenses, you will need firstly to nominate the lens ring as the aperture selection tool in setting f5.. S and P modes will only work if the aperture is returned to the highest f stop on the lens.

I actually quite like using the aperture ring on the lens, as I always get the command dials muddled up. Once you set it up this way the command dial becomes inactive though it's easy enough to switch it back.

Another fix is that you can also adjust the aperture in live view or video within the remote control release mode, using any lens, regardless of whether it has an aperture ring. This works very well if you are using liveview on a tripod.

November 25, 2012

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I've been in touch with Nikon's European Support over the last week or so regarding live view aperture control, and they have given me no reason to expect this to be addressed in a firmware update.

Today they stated that the D600 is an extremely capable consumer DSLR that replaces the D7000 at the top of this range and

"the ability to smoothly adjust aperture during LiveView and video recording was only a feature that was recently introduced with the release of our most recent Pro range bodies - namely the D800 and D4 - and hence it is not too surprising that the function was not included in the lesser specified D600"

They went on to further imply that I was a knobhead for not researching their product adequately (at least that's my interpretation). I tend to agree! Should've waited for the GH3.

Love the camera and handling, but exiting liveview to change aperture is even more stupid than not including wifi in the body. It's gotta go!

December 17, 2012

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Andy Cox

Coming from a Canon 60D with Magic Lantern to a Nikon D600, I have to say that the footage coming out of the Nikon D600 is easier for me to work with in post. Granted, this is not a fair comparison since we're talking cropped vs. full frame sensor. I notice that the equivalent ISO on the two cameras seems quite different with the Nikon always delivering a brighter image than the Canon at the same ISO. Seems to be the case with the D800 as well in the comparisons I've seen. It is disappointing that Nikon delivered the sill 95% HDMI feed and the lack of a simple histogram is baffling. Hopefully this also gets added in that rumored firmware update. If you're like me and primarily shoot stills but also want decent video, I think the D600 is awesome. But if you're primarily film making and don't have a huge budget this probably isn't the best choice in a camera. But to keep things in perspective, if I'm going to shoot an interview style video, I prefer the footage out of the Nikon D600 vs. the Canon 60D.

February 4, 2013

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Any word on this firmware update?

February 28, 2013

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I read somewhere that Nikon said that the D600 update is not going to happen. :(

March 30, 2013

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I guess they were wrong because Nikon released the firmware updates for D600 and D800. Unfortunately they did not include a fix for the previously rumored Live View aperture bug.

http://nikonrumors.com/2013/04/02/nikon-releases-new-firmware-upgrades-f...

April 2, 2013

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