By TJ Xie
It’s been more than three weeks since I got my D600. I have been trying to explore its potential as much as I can. Lenses I use are 50mm f/1.8G, 85mm f/1.8G, 105mm f/2.8G Micro and Voigtlander 28mm f/2.8.
In this part of review, I will talk about the high ISO performance and show some sample pictures.
Before we start, here’s a summary of my experience with D600:
1. Auto ISO setting is fantastic
2. Higher shutter speed is needed to obtain sharp images
High ISO performance
High ISO performance does not rely solely on the camera itself. Instead, the lighting condition under which photos are taken matters more. In other words, under a low-light condition, photos contains more noise than those taken in bright lighting. As such, I thought a favourable place to test out the high ISO performance would probably be a museum where lights are dimmed. Then, I decided to visit the ArtScience Museum. There is an ongoing Lego exhibition named “Art of the Bricks”.
A bit of sidetrack on my camera’s settings. I set my camera to auto-ISO mode so that in aperture priority mode, the ISO value increases automatically when I need a slower shutter than a minimum speed of my choice. A nice feature I found on D600 is that the camera is able to set a minimum shutter speed automatically. By default, the minimum shutter speed is set to the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens. For example, if I mounted a 50mm lens on the camera, the minimum shutter speed would be 1/50s. If I change the lens to a 85mm, the minimum shutter speed changes to 1/100 accordingly. In the past, I often forgot to change the minimum shutter speed when I changed a lens. This feature solves my problem.
As expected, the lighting was poor in the museum. Many of the shots turn out to have high ISO values. Here are some pictures with high ISO values:
The noise level is not visible by 3200. To me, even the last picture with ISO 4000 is acceptable. I shoot in RAW, and sharpness is always my priority, so I wouldn’t mind pushing the ISO all the way up to 6400 in order to get sharp images. And I will leave noise reduction work to my computer
Macro and walkabout
On the other day, I went for a walk in Singapore Botanic Gardens. The shots are mainly macro and walkabout photos.
For macro photos, because of the long focal length of 105mm, I was forced to use apertures smaller than f/8 to ensure sufficient depth of field. As I have described in Part I of the review, when the aperture gets smaller, the dust/oil spots becomes more obvious on the photo. However, since I’ve bought the camera, other than waiting for a solution from Nikon, I would rather find out my own solution. After a few clicks with the auto-retouch tool in Capture NX 2, the spots are not visible anymore. Here are some sample pictures for you to enjoy.
One annoying issue I have with D600 is that, when I set the camera to auto-ISO mode with the default minimum shutter speed, it appears that this shutter speed is not fast enough to prevent hand movements. This is not strange because with such a high resolution, small movements are likely to get exaggerated when the photos are zoomed in to 100%.
Again, I need my own solution. I would set the minimum shutter speed one stop faster in the outdoors or when the lighting condition is good, i.e, 1/100s for a 50mm lens. Thanks to the good high ISO perfornace, I have the luxury for the ISO value to automatically increase by one stop to compensate the exposure. Photos are now less prone to hand movements with the faster shutter speed.
It’s a great camera. I’ve not used D800 or D4, but for SGD2400, I thought I've got a good camera. I like it when my 85mm portrait lens is no longer so tight during framing, and when my 28mm Voigtlander is literally a wide angle lens now. The ISO performance is also a lot better than my previous D90. The only issue would be the occassional blurry images caused by the high resolution, but it can be avoided by using higher shutter speed.
Some people are still concerned about the dust/oil spot issue. My suggestion would be that if you mainly shoot portraits or landscapes which don't require a small aperture (if you understand hyperfocal distance, an aperture smaller than f/8 does't give you much more depth of field on a wide angle lens), this issue would be a non issue. The only scenario where this issue matters would be the macro photography. However, it can be solved easily.