Nikon D610 Review – The Nikon D610 arrives as the successor to the Nikon D600. We take a closer look to see if it's the camera the D600 should have been all along in the What Digital Camera Nikon D610 review.
Just under a year later and we have the Nikon D610, with its arrival suggesting that Nikon wants to draw a line under the bad press the D600 has received in some quarters and start afresh.
Nikon D610 Review – Features
Compared to the D600, the Nikon D610 sees only three obvious improvements over its predecessor – the burst speed has been beefed up a little from 5.5fps to 6fps, there’s now a new ‘quiet continuous’ mode that shoots at 3fps, with the noise of the shutter release dulled for those times when you need to keep a low profile, while the camera’s Auto White Balance has had some attention for improved colour rendition in artificial lighting and more realistic skin tones.
While there are only subtle changes from the D600, it still features a mightily impressive specification. This includes a pixel-rich 24.3MP full frame CMOS sensor that supports a built-in 1.5x DX crop mode, so if you’re currently have an APS-C Nikon DSLR, you’ll still be able to use your DX-format lenses, albeit at a reduced resolution of 10.5MP.
Combined with the EXPEED 3 image-processing engine sees the D610 offer a native ISO range of 100-6400 that can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of ISO 50-25,600. This means it delivers an identical ISO range to the D800, but falls a little behind its closest rival, the Canon EOS 6D, which offers an expanded ISO equivalent to 102,400.
There’s a generous pro-like 39-point AF system, with the central 9 points cross-type variants for improved AF acquirement, as well as being capable of locking on to your subject in conditions as poor as -1EV. And because the AF system is hooked up to the D610’s Scene Recognition System, 3D focus tracking is possible, which sees the D610 utilise a predictive system to track your subject as it moves round the frame.
There’s a decent optical viewfinder that delivers a 100% coverage and a solid 0.7x magnification, while at the rear you’ll find a 3.2in display with a resolution of 921k-dots and as we’ve seen before, the screen is designed to adjust to the surrounding brightness.
Thanks to the built-in flash, the D610 offers wireless flash control that allows you to trigger remotely positioned compatible flashguns for more creative lighting out on location, with the option of TTL or Manual control.
Like the D600, wireless transfer of images is supported via the optional WU-1b Mobile Adapter, but it’s a same not to see this facility integrated into the D610.
Nikon D610 review – Design
With the Nikon D610’s internals staying pretty much as they we on the Nikon D600, its no surprise to see the exterior remains pretty much identical too. The top and rear covers are constructed from magnesium alloy, which leaves the remainder formed from high-impact polycarbonate plastic. While it doesn’t quite deliver quite the same robust feel as the higher-priced D800, its still sports the same high-level of weather-sealing to protect it from dust and moisture, resulting in a hardy but lightweight shell.
The D610 is a nicely proportioned piece of kit, with a comfy generously sized handgrip that even when clasped with large hands, won’t see your little finger dangling over the underside of the camera. It’s also logically laid out, with both existing Nikon users and those who have been tempted to jump brands having no reason to not feel at home with the D610.
Along the top-plate you’ll find a fairly uncluttered mode dial, with the release mode dial underneath it that now includes the additional quiet continuous shooting mode. Both feature a dedicated locking button to avoid any unintentional dial turning during shooting, though we’d have liked to have seen something a little less fiddly for the release mode lock.
The D610 is dotted with a plethora of external access points for a range of shooting controls, with large and comfortable buttons to press, while the dual front and rear command dials fall comfortably to the hand and are easy to turn.
Nikon D610 review – Performance
While the Nikon D610’s 39 AF points are grouped relatively closely together in the centre of the frame, that’s the only major grumble here. The Mult-CAM4800 unit works well, acquiring lock-on quickly without any hunting, even in relatively poorly-lit conditions, while selecting the desired AF point is done via the D-pad at the rear – in some situations it might be desired to reduce the active AF points down to 11 should you want to move around the frame quicker.
We have to say the sophisticated AF tracking options at your disposal when AF is set to continuous work impressively well. You’ll have to spend a little time learning the system – there’s a choice of nine, 21 or 39-point Dynamic AF modes on top of the 3D Tracking mode, but the set-up for you will depend on how erratically your subject may be moving.
Combined with the slight boost in frame advance from 5.5fps to 6fps, the D610 makes a sound case for itself when it comes to shooting action, sustaining that pace for 15 Raw files or 40 JPEG files with a Class 10 SD card.
AF in live view is a bit of a different story, with the AF performance being pretty sluggish – you’ll find it’s useful for close-up work where you have time to consider the shot, but if you intend to track your subject, it’s not really a realistic expectation. This is not a unique problem for the D610 as most DSLRs struggle in similar circumstances, but it’s worth considering if you intend to shoot in this way a lot.
As well as the 6fps burst shooting offered by the D610, the other new feature is the Quiet Continuous shooting mode. This will be a welcome addition for social and wedding photographers, but don’t expect it to be silent – while the noise of the shutter is dulled, it’s still relatively audible and may still be too loud a clunk in some situations.
One of the benefits to moving up to full frame is the size of the viewfinder, and the D610’s is noticeably larger and brighter than those found in the majority of APS-C DSLRs. There’s a handy on-demand grid overlay that can be set-up too, aiding composition and helping to battle slightly wonky horizons when shooting.
In isolation, the D610’s 3.2in screen looks impressive, with detail rendered nicely and a decent amount of contrast displayed. While good, the overall effect isn’t quite as punchy as some rivals, while a more useful 3:2 aspect ratio would have been more use.
Perhaps the biggest question though is whether we would experience any dust or oil appearing on the sensor after prolonged use. To find out, a test shot was taken against an illuminated white background down in our studio before rattling off just over 3,000 images before another shot was taken under the same conditions. Reviewing the images at 100%, we’re happy to report that both shots exhibited no signs of any oil or dust deposited on the sensor.
Overall then, while it does have its little niggles, the D610 is a very satisfying camera to shoot with. As we’ve said, the majority of controls fall to the hand nicely, while the fast AF, solid burst shooting and large viewfinder all add to the experience.
Nikon D610 review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
As with the D600, we found the camera’s Auto White Balance performed very well, and was well-judged in most scenarios. As we’ve seen with other recent Nikon DSLRs, there’s also an Auto 2 mode designed to maintain warm lighting colour under artificial light should you want to retain the mood of the scene, rather than a more neutral result.
The D610 doesn’t feature the complex 91,000-pixel 3D Matrix III system that’s found in the D800, the 2016-pixel RGB sensor used by the D610 performs well overall.
If we’re being picky, we’d have liked to have seen a similar feature that’s provided by the D800 whereby the camera’s metering automatically detects and prioritises the exposure of a face in a backlit scene while we did find on the odd occasion that it was necessary to dial in -0.3 – -0.7EV to retain highlight detail in relatively contrasty scenarios. That said, the D610’s metering performance is still very strong.
While there’s still an AA filter used by the D610, the level of detail achievable from the 24.3MP full frame sensor is still very impressive. Looking at results from our resolution test chart and Raw files at the base ISO of 50 sees the sensor resolve down to 32lpmm (lines per mm). While it can’t quite match the 36lpmm achieved by the D800, its still very impressive and edges out its closest rival, the 20.2MP Canon EOS 6D, which resolves down to a 30lpmm.
Both Raw and JPEG files at lower sensitivities display smooth and detailed results with no noise visible to detract from the final result. Its only at ISO 3200 that image noise becomes apparent, with subtle luminance and colour noise beginning to creep into the image, becoming a little more pronounced at ISO 6400, though still more than useable.
While in-camera processing can be an issue at higher sensitivities, resulting in a waxy look, the D610’s JPEG files hold up very well. This is thanks to fairly light processing processing being applied that sees detail holding up relatively well, though for best results we’d recommend shooting Raw and send a little time in post-processing to achieve the better result.
Nikon D610 review – Verdict
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to be cynical about the Nikon D610, with its very minor updates hinting at what many people see as it simply being a marketing fix for the somewhat tarnished D600. While to some extent this may be true, the D610 is still a fantastic piece of kit.
With the excepiton of Wi-fi connectivity that some may have liked to have seen, the specification is incredibly comprehensive, with no major gaps to deter those who are thinking of upgrading.
The build quality and finish is very good, with the blend of magnesium alloy and high-impact plastic delivering a sturdy but relatively lightweight feel.
In use it delivers the goods, with a sound AF system and logically laid out controls, while the full frame chip will deliver highly detailed and rich images. All-in-all then, it’s a very well made, well-thought-out and high-performing DSLR that should be very tempting at the price.
Nikon D610 Review – Sample Gallery
This is a small selection of images taken with the Nikon D610. For a wider selection of images, head on over to the Nikon D610 review sample image gallery.
Nikon D610 First Look
In a surprise announcement, Nikon has just this morning unveiled the D610, successor to the popular D600 which was released last year.
While it sports the same 24.3MP sensor as the D600, the shooting speed has been upped to 6fps, and a new Quiet Release Burst mode allows for shooting at 3fps in near silence – a boon for wildlife and street photographers.
The D610 also inherits several characteristics of Nikon’s D4, including the Expeed 3 image processor and AF sensitivity.
Given the abundance of previously existing Nikon technology in the D610, this release may be a response to the dust/oil issues that have plagued the D600 since its release.