Short of heading into the I-could-have-bought-a-nice-new-car-with-this-money medium format cameras, full frame offers the most resolution and flexibility in photography. The Nikon D610 bridges the gap between the camera giant's APS-C DSLRs and heads into the full fledged, serious professional full frame cameras. Flaunting more features than, say, the Nikon D7100, it doesn't quite have the speed or megapixels as the more advanced (and pricier) full frame options, but suffice it to say, the Nikon D610 appears to be plenty of camera for most shooters.
The D610 replaces the not-so-old D600 that suffered from oil sensor issues, depending on who you ask. The manufacturer offered free repairs to D600 owners and then promptly introduced the D610 to fix the issue as well as add in a few marginal updates. There's a slightly higher burst speed, thanks to a new shutter, improving the 5.5 fps to 6. There's also a 3 fps quiet burst mode that's not available on the D600. And while you can find the D600 for a few hundred dollars less, the D610 starts out a list price less than it's predecessor. But overall, the D610 contains a lot of what made the D600 so popular.
With all of these features wrapped up into one camera, it's hard to tell—can the Nikon D610 perform well enough for even a professional to use? We completed a Nikon D610 review to find out—here's what we found after spending a few weeks with this camera.
Nikon D610 Review: Body & Design
Full frame cameras are notoriously big. While the Nikon D610 is certainly no small camera, it's just a bit larger than the D7100. And while the more advanced options like the Nikon D810 and D4s offer more features, the D610 offers more portability.
Users moving up to full frame from the D7100 or one of its predecessors will find the design of the D610 quite comfortable. A small screen at the top of the camera displays all your shooting settings; the control wheels and shortcut buttons at the top and back of the camera adjust settings like metering, exposure value, white balance, shutter speed, ISO and even file type without having to go into the menu. The same settings can be viewed in the display at the bottom of the optical viewfinder as well. A mode dial is at the top left with a wheel-type control for continuous shooting settings, while that screen and shutter release take up the real estate at the top right.
Again, the back of the camera Nikon users will feel comfortable with because it's not a brand new design, but that's okay, there's no need to change something that works well. For those new to Nikon or DSLRs in general, all of the shortcuts are labeled and easy to find with some practice. Menu and shortcut buttons are to the left of the large LCD screen, which includes a nice protector to prevent scratches. The menu navigation is to the right, along with the video and still mode switch and the live view.
For a big camera, the large grip helps keep it comfortable in the hands. The exterior feels well-built and durable. The Nikon D610 results in images with pretty big file sizes—so the dual control slots come in handy too.
Overall, the Nikon D610 has an excellent, comfortable design. I'm not a big fan of the new mode dial on all of Nikon's DSLRs from 2013 and 2014—the middle button has to be pushed to change the mode, so it can no longer be adjusted with a single finger. Since I've never had any issues with the mode dial on older models, I find the change slightly annoying, but nowhere near being a deal breaker. For such a big camera, the D610 is really well designed.
Nikon D610 Review: User Experience and Performance
The Nikon D610 enters the realm of professional cameras, making it much more equipped than your average camera. There's of course manual modes (which is how most of our test shots were taken). There's auto and a handful of the most common scene modes like sports and close-up, but chances are if you're looking at a $2,000 camera, you're not too excited about scene modes. The two custom user slots on the mode dial to save frequent settings are a nice feature that advanced users will appreciate as well.
The D610 is the slowest out of Nikon's current full frame options, but it's by no means slow. Burst mode hits 6 fps, which won't excite the sports photographer much, but is sufficient for a lot of uses. New to this model is a quiet 3 fps mode. It's by no means silent, but less intrusive than the full fps and something that will come in handy for wedding photographers. The D610 can shoot a whole lot of JPEG images at that 6 fps speed without stopping—until the card is full, that is. When shooting RAW + Fine, the camera will shoot about a dozen images before stopping. It's ready to shoot again in two seconds, but not another 12 shots that quick. The longer you wait between bursts, the more shots you can take in that second set.
There's no issue with shutter lag here either. The D610 will snap single shots about half a second or less apart with a manual or fixed focus. With autofocus on, time between single shots is about a second or less.
The autofocus points are mostly concentrated towards the center of the frame, but pick out the subject pretty quickly. If you're moving up from an APS-C camera, make sure to note that the full frame sensors have a lot more depth of field to them. The camera took a little bit of getting used to before I really nailed some sharp photos, but it was a depth of field issue, not an autofocus one.
The most impressive thing about the D610 is the range of professional features for the price. Considering the full frame sensor, it's one of the more affordable options, and yet still offers a lot of features for even the professional. Features like time-lapse photography and multiple exposure are included. High dynamic range with auto bracketing is also built-in, though it's not available while shooting RAW, unfortunately.
Nikon D610 Review: Image Quality
Edited RAW file from the Nikon D610
The Nikon D610 has a solid design and excellent performance—but the best part about this camera is the image quality, no question. That full frame sensor is a big step up from the Nikon D7100 and the difference in image quality is obvious.
My favorite aspect of the D610's images is the color reproduction. I used this camera on an outdoor family portrait session and I loved the colors in the final results. The D610 has solid results using just automatic white balance, but there's also presets, custom and temperature settings, so you'll get the results you want.
Detail reproduction is also quite good. You'll get more with the higher resolution D810, but there's still a good level of detail and texture there. Lines and edges are sharp as well, though that will vary some based on what lenses you use.
Noise reduction is decent, thanks to the large sensor. It creeps in around ISO 800 when viewing a 100 percent crop—keep in mind this is a small portion of a high resolution image, and ISO still isn't too noticeable here when viewing the entire image. Low light images turn out pretty good, with the solid noise reduction and large sensor. Even in low light, detail is preserved quite well.
|ISO 100 (100% crop)||ISO 125||ISO 160||ISO 200|
|ISO 250||ISO 320||ISO 400||ISO 500|
|ISO 640||ISO 800||ISO 1000||ISO 1250|
|ISO 1600||ISO 2000||ISO 2500||ISO 3200|
|ISO 4000||ISO 5000||ISO 6400||ISO HI2|
Nikon D610 Review: Sample Images (Unedited JPEG)
Nikon D610 Review: Sample Images (Edited RAW)
Nikon D610 Review: Conclusion
The Nikon D610 is a very solid camera. I had very little to complain about and was happy with most of the images I shot from this camera.
What it is going to come down to is whether or not the D610 is right for your shooting style. I shoot portraits and some weddings occasionally, and the D610 would work well for that. The D810 is going to offer quite a bit more resolution for those that make very large reprints. And of course the D4s has both more resolution and faster performance for professional sports shooters.
The just announced Nikon D750 throws an interesting curve to the mix as well. The D750 will have similar image quality, if not a bit better with the upgraded processor. It also adds wi-fi and a tilting touchscreen, and the prices for the two cameras aren't too far off. Because of this, I wouldn't be surprised if the price of the D610 drops some during the fall of 2014, as it has from a few sellers already. Before you buy, just make sure to compare prices on the two, because the D750 offers a bit more and the prices aren't all that far apart at the moment.
Canon's similarly priced competitor, the EOS 7D Mark II isn't a full frame camera–but it does offer quite a bit more speed with a 10 fps burst that is likely to be more enticing to sports shooters, even without the full frame sensor. Sony's full frame option, the a7, is also found in a similar price point, but the trade-off for the smaller size is a short battery life and finicky autofocus.