A friend of mine and wonderful artist, John Guy Petruzzi, recently asked me my opinion on which camera he should get. The Nikon D800 or the D600. I have a D800 myself. Below is my response to him. I don’t see myself doing a lot of gear posts because I am not really a “tech fanatic” when it comes to cameras, but once in a while I will let my inner geek flag fly.
Hmmm…I actually sat down and wrote this separately and then pasted it in because I really wanted to think about this and give you the best answer I could.
The D800-D600 call is probably one of the hardest ones to make right now in the camera world. For one, they are both amazing. For another, they are also somewhat close in performance.
For me, there were two big attractions that the D800 had.
Firstly, it is pretty future-proof. It is ridiculous how big the sensor is on this camera. It is twice as big as the D4 sensor and more sensitive. I routinely shoot at ISO 1600 with no worries about noise. Before that I had a D80. Past ISO 400 everything started to break up. Just insane what you can do with this camera. It is also durable. Thing is built like a tank. Not quite
D4, but close. I can see this camera lasting me 10 years before I even think of an upgrade. I think I might actually wear it out before I need to get a new one. No kidding. It is that good.
I will say this though, it demands good glass. I pretty much only shoot primes now. A 35mm and 50mm mostly. Nikon has excellent versions of both. When I put on my crappy “freebie” zooms that came with kit cameras, I can really see the difference. Things really show up on this camera. The extra sensor size may matter too for you. I can zoom in a ridulous amount and still get clarity. Like, 12.5% zoom….so I am putting only 12.5% of the original image on a 16×20 print….and it comes out great. You just have so much ROOM in the image. Downside of this is that your computer will hate you for this. Get a good USB 3.0 card reader for one. Lexar has a good one for like $35.00. You will be moving a lot of data.
Secondly, It also works well with older equipment.
Nikon has made a lot of good glass over the years. Some it is MF though. But it is good and built to last. Also, cheaper than the AF gear. This means you can get some great lenses for little cash. Oh, and for video, which the D800 does really well (see here for an example – https://robertgosskennedy.com/video-haikus/ The one on the bottom with the snowman, ) you don’t WANT AF on anyway. It makes too much noise and wanders like mad. So, if you do video it is really nice to be able to access the great lenses of the past. And to be honest, if there is a decent amount of light, just go down to f8 and roughly focus. Having that nice fast sensor helps here too.
And of course there is the PC sync on it. You can use old flashes and lights on this camera very easily. I do a lot of studio work at times, so that matters to me.
The extra AF sensors are nice, but….Meh…I dunno. If you are doing a lot of action work, then it helps a lot. For things you can frame more leisurely, it isn’t that big a deal.
All of that said, you have to wonder what that means to you. There is a $700ish difference between the two bodies. Are the things I listed worth it? Do they matter to you that much? The D600 is a great camera. The oil thing will probably be fixed very soon. Nikon is pretty good about that kind of thing. The camera itself is great. Just a D800 Lite, in many ways. Less sensor, a few less gee-gaws, bit otherwise the same. Either way you can’t go wrong. You just have to weigh it in your mind.
Usually I go by the “rule of halves.” If the price between models is half of what the cheapest model costs, then it isn’t worth
it. Go with the cheaper one. But $1,000 isn’t there. You can get the D800 for $700 more. So it is a close call. I can tell you
that the D800 will last longer just because it has the bigger sensor and slightly more rugged build. But how much is “longer?” A
year? 5? I dunno. The D600 will give you years of service too.
Screw it, flip a coin…
Then save that coin. Because cameras are crazy expensive!