The Nikon D610 is the camera last year’s D600 was supposed to be, with a redesigned shutter mechanism that eliminates the dust-and-oil spot issue that plagued its predecessor. The new D610 retains the affordable full-frame DSLR price point, and also the excellent image quality, great ergonomics and handles, and robust feature established. With only a few other small upgrades, such as nearly six frames per second continuous burst shooting, a new Quiet Continuous mode and tweaked Auto Light Balance, the D610 may not seem such as a major step up from the D600. But in fixing its predecessor’s glaring flaw, the Nikon D610 is now a camera that earns a whole-hearted recommendation for photographers looking to make the jump to a relatively inexpensive, full-frame camera.
Nikon D610 Price
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Nikon made full-frame picture-taking more affordable than ever with the launch of the D600 prosumer DSLR. Today, the company is back one year later with a slightly upgraded model — the Nikon D610 — featuring a new shutter mechanism that not only boosts the camera’s constant shooting rate but also eliminates the persistent oil-on-sensor problem that marred the D600’s otherwise high-quality images.
Boasting the same 24.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, optical viewfinder with 100% coverage, and 3.2-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor as its predecessor, the D610 also features a new quiet continuous shutter mode and improved auto white balance. But arguably the best feature is that the Nikon D610 is usually $100 cheaper at the start than the D600, listing at US$2,000 body only or US$2,500 paired with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens.
While the upgrades to the Nikon D610 may seem like relatively minor tweaks, at least one of them puts to rest a serious issue that many owners reported with the D600, which we investigated in our review of the camera last year. We found the same dust and oil spots inside our D600 images that others found, most likely from the shutter system splattering the sensor with oil, and perhaps even flaking paint.
The dust and oil were not noticeable in most images — at least, not unless you really looked for them — but Nikon acknowledged that there was indeed an issue with the D600. The company, however, did not issue a recall or a fix, instead urging owners who uncovered the issue with their devices to contact Nikon to have camera serviced. Regarding anecdotal evidence from owners, the problem seemed to go away after a few thousand shutter activations.
Despite this oil-on-sensor issue, we still highly recommended the D600 for its considerable imaging prowess and great overall performance, so we’re very excited that Nikon has designed a fresh shutter mechanism for the D610. Although Nikon would not move on record to say that the new shutter was utilized to fix the problem, we’re self-confident that this is the case.
In addition, this brand-new shutter is a shade faster, allowing the D610 to attain a claimed 6 frames-per-second continuous shooting burst rate at full resolution, where the D600 maxed out at 5.5fps. The D610 also includes a new Quiet Continuous Shutter mode — found on the Mode dial as position “Qc”, between the pre-existing “Q” single-shot Quiet Shutter setting and the self-timer — that allows for more discreet burst shooting at 3fps.
The third and final upgrade to the D610, according to Nikon, is improved Auto White Balance. The company says that this uses an advanced algorithm designed to reproduce even more natural-looking colour, also from artificial light sources.
Nikon D610 Performance
The first set of numbers above using the optical viewfinder measure shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. This generally removes the issue of distinctions in lens focusing acceleration and actions how fast the camera can measure and work on focus details. In this metric, the Nikon D610 is definitely slightly slower than standard for a prosumer SLR. The D610 required 0.260 seconds for full AF when using Single-point (centre) AF mode (our default full AF lag test). Enabling the flash elevated lag a bit to 0.295 seconds. The D610 required 0.335 seconds when using the 39-stage Auto-area AF mode, also slower than average. Constant AF, manual focus, and prefocused shutter lag occasions were all 0.054 seconds, though, quite fast for a prosumer SLR.
As expected, the Nikon D610’s Live View mode adds considerable shutter lag. The D610’s Live View setting uses contrast detection autofocus, from data streaming off the picture sensor. Using the gear-driven Sigma 70mm f/2.8 prime, full autofocus lag was a rather lengthy 1.78 seconds. That’s slower than average these days, but faster than some earlier Nikons we’ve tested. With the AF-S 24-85mm kit lens, full AF lag was a little quicker at 1.54 seconds, but that’s still pretty sluggish. Prefocused, the D610’s Live Watch shutter lag was reasonably quick at 0.218 seconds, but that’s still much slower than using the optical viewfinder.
To minimize the effect of different zoom lens’ focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already place to the right focal length. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus engine), to further reduce variation, and because our checks showed that focus-dedication time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic electric motor, it wouldn’t end up being the quickest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that’s specifically the reason we measure focus perseverance speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs concentrate adjustment swiftness, which is mainly a function of the zoom lens.
Build and Handling
As you might guess, the Nikon D610 looks and feels exactly the same as the D600. While it’s smaller and less tank-like than the Nikon D4 and doesn’t have the monocoque construction of the D5300, it has a part-magnesium alloy body and feels pretty tough. There are also seals that keep moisture out so you can continue to use it if the weather turns bad.
A rubber-like coating on the chunky finger-grip on the front of the camera and the thumb-ridge on the back ensures a comfortable, secure hold. The comparatively small size of the camera means that even those with averagely proportioned hands will find their little finger slipping under the body rather than onto the grip.
It would also be nice if the adjustable options in the Information display, which are accessed by pressing the Info button twice, could be customised. As they stand they seem like an unusual collection giving a quick route to some features you aren’t likely to want to access very often.
How frequently are you likely to desire to change the role played by the two memory cards, or to customise the AE-L/AF-L and Function buttons, for example? Surely these items could possibly be better located in the custom menu while the flash exposure settings could warrant quicker access?
Nikon users will see the D610’s menu very familiar and it’s sensibly arranged. We especially like the fact that there’s a My Menu screen to which all the most commonly used menu functions can be assigned for quicker access.
We found it useful for accessing the HDR and Image Quality choices because raw shooting needs to be turned off before HDR images can be recorded. It’s also ideal for activating the Exposure delay mode (mirror lock-up) when the camera is on a tripod and you want the ultimate in shake-free pictures.
Those who haven’t set-up the My Menus screen to their own preferences may find switching it to Recent settings useful: it gives a quick path to readjust any settings that have been changed recently.
The main LCD screen on the D610 provides a nice clear view and doesn’t suffer excessively from reflections. However, because it’s fixed, if you want to shoot from a very low angle you’ll have to get down on the ground, so you may as well use the viewfinder. This is also bright and clear.
While the screen shows details well, when zooming in to focus accurately in low light the view becomes quite noisy, with considerable coloured speckling visible. This doesn’t usually prevent you from achieving sharp focus, but it is a little distracting.
Check Out: Best Nikon D610 Lenses
The Nikon D610 is a fantastic, budget-conscious, full-frame camera that’s packed with features and produces outstanding image quality. Although it’s not a dramatic upgrade over the D600 by a long shot, it does fix the oft-lamented sensor dirt and oil spots concern that plagued that camera, thanks to the D610’s new shutter mechanism. Various other upgrades are quite minimal, including a modest quickness boost to burst to capture, from a tested 5.4fps on the D600 to 5.9fps on the D610. The all-new Quiet Continuous shutter-release mode is a nice feature that is certain to please a variety of users from wedding and event shooters to nature photographers. Lastly, Nikon promises the improved Auto white balance algorithm helps keep colours looking natural under artificial light resources, though there wasn’t much of an improvement over the D600’s overly warm response under incandescent lighting in our tests.
In all other aspects, the D610 is a clone of the D600, with virtually identical image quality, comfortable controls and the same relatively lightweight, sturdy construction. While it may not be enough of an update to sway current D600 users into working out and grabbing a D610, if you’re a current Nikon shooter — or simply a brand-agnostic advanced enthusiast — seeking to make the leap to a full-body camera, the Nikon D610 is definitely the way to go. And this time, we make this recommendation without any reservations.