So about the Nikon D600 …

The Nikon D600 is a hell of a camera. When the D7000 was released in September 2010 many people said: ‘If I could have that camera with a full-frame sensor …’ and now we have it. Consumer size, weight and and features with full-frame sensor quality that will probably beat the D800 in all areas bar resolution.

Problem is, the D7000 came out in September 2010. It’s now September 2012. Nikon is to be saluted for listening to its customers, but frankly it’s too little too late.

Nikon sat in silence as its customers cried in outrage at the price and specification of the D800 – the camera nobody asked for. It sat in silence as thousands of customers bought the D800 thinking they had no other option. They could have released a roadmap, but they didn’t. They don’t do that. They have an infuriatingly Apple-like approach to product development, and they wanted to make sure that everybody who could stretch to the price of the D800 would buy one before they unveiled a cheaper (and for many customers better suited) option, despite leaked photos showing that the D600 (or at least a prototype) was in production shortly after the D800 launch.

In addition to this, they’ve made a couple of omissions from the D600 that are downright miserly. Nikon draws imaginary lines between pro and enthusiast functionality that has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with price and market segments.

One such example is the inability to quickly check sharpness with the press of a button. On the D7000 and the D600, you have to press the magnification button four times in, then four times out, to check focus, and even then you’re not entirely sure what your magnification is. Unforgiveable. Another is the slower flash sync – presumably a limitation of cheaper/smaller shutter design, and absence of a sync port because hey, it’s not like us amateurs ever use studio lighting :-/

Being fair, it is a full-frame DSLR in perhaps the smallest package yet, which is something to get excited about. But our expectations of small and light have been revolutionised by cameras such as the Sony NEX-7, Olympus OM-D, Fuji X-Pro1 and the upcoming Panasonic GH3 (man, have you seen that thing? It looks like a mini D4 with the grip on. Want.)

Sensor technology, too,  has undergone a revolution, which means you don’t need a D4 to get clean files in low light, especially at the sizes most of use to print and publish to the web.

That leaves the fairly niche ‘depth of field’ defence, where full frame has the edge in that it produces shallower depth of field than a smaller sensor at the same f-stop and field of view. (This is due to wider focal lengths being required to capture that field of view on a smaller sensor.)  The fact that Nikon devotes a chunk of the D600 brochure to ‘bokeh’  shows just how thin the case for full frame is getting with enthusiast photographers.

More importantly than any of this, these other manufacturers are packing pro features into miniaturised bodies. The OM-D and GH3 are fully weather sealed and have a vertical battery grip.  While Nikon is busy stripping features from its non-pro cameras, Sony, Olympus and Panasonic are giving us everything we ask for in a package that beats the D600 on size, weight and price. They’re not worried about protecting their pro market – they don’t have one.

There is also the boredom factor. The D600 is not unlike my D700, which was not unlike my D80 before that. Not only is Nikon slow at product development, but it’s also fairly unimaginative. Yes, the Nikon 1 system is awesome, but it’s also shrewdly positioned to be pretty much unacceptable to an enthusiast. If you shoot Nikon, you’re stuck with the traditional SLR for now, and SLRs are done with evolution. (Unless you’re Sony of course. Nice work on the A99 guys.)

If I had any sense I would buy the D600. I’ve invested in one of the best systems in the world with lenses, flashes, a gps unit and remote. Starting again would be excruciating, at least in terms of expense, and in photography you are punished if you don’t shoot Canon or Nikon. Try hiring lenses for another brand. Try tethered shooting in Lightroom with another brand. Try getting third-party TTL support for another brand. You get the picture.

Nikon has me by the balls. But I’m a masochist, and that GH3 is coming …

UPDATE: Rumours of a Canon 6D – direct competitor to the D600 – abound. Apparently the Canon will have wifi and GPS built in. Oh and it’s lighter, too. Just saying.
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