The Nikon D800 vs the D600: Which One is the Right One For You?

I’ve had a lot of people asking me in the past few weeks about whether they should get a Nikon D600 or Nikon D800.  In fact just this week a buddy of mine sent me an email asking that very question and I thought I would share with you pretty much what I told him.

Now before I do this I just want let you know that this is strictly my own opinion. I’m not DP Review and this is not a lab report. I’m certainly not speaking for Nikon here (in fact they would probably prefer I wasn’t speaking about this topic at all) but just know that this is a strictly how I see these two cameras after having shot with both of them (I actually own a D800) so at least I can share from using both in different shooting situations.

Is the D800 the D700’s replacement?
I think one of the big things that people thought when it first came out was that the D800 was the successor to the D700 and that makes sense because the number 800 comes after 700, and that’s pretty much the way Nikon has done product intros up to this point (the D200’s replacement was the D300. The D3’s replacement was the D4 and so on). However in my opinion I don’t think the D800 is a replacement for the D700 at allâ”it is completely different camera with a completely different customer in mind and here’s how to determine if you’re a potential D800 customer (again just from my experience and point of view):

The D800 is for you if you would be a medium format customer, but don’t want to pay $25,000 (or more) to enter that rarified air (in other words you need a very, very high resolution image file and that’s the most important thing but you’re not a full-time commercial photographer or a rich surgeon). So, who really needs a very very high resolution image file? Well, first off people who are shooting things where they need to capture a tremendous amount of detail, like commercial photographers shooting products. Though the D800 is also attractive if you are a landscape photographer or you primarily shoot cityscapes where keeping every little last bit of detail is of the utmost importance, then the D800 certainly fits that part of the bill.

But there more to it than just image file size
I don’t think that’s the main determining factor on whether you should get a D800. I think the main determining factor is actually “how large do you need to make your final images.” If you only show your images on the web, you’re pretty much wasting your money because the D800 hundred’s biggest feature is the ability to make very large prints which look very, very sharp. I’m not talking 16″ x 20″ prints â” I’m talking about where 30″ x 40″ prints would be a small size print for you â” I’m talking huge posters, backlit signs in the airport, billboards, and large output of that nature, and if that’s really what you’re doing, the D800 may be perfect for you because it has that 36-megapixel resolution that you really need to make sharp prints at huge sizes.

So, is it a Medium format camera in a DSLR body?
Now, while the D800 has a resolution that is similar to some medium format cameras, I don’t want you to think the D800 is a complete replacement for a medium format digital camera (or a digital back), because while it has a similar resolution, medium format cameras definitely have their own trademark look. There’s something special about the look of a medium format image that it unique to it. So while the D800 has incredible crispness, sharpness and all the stuff that is indicative of a medium format camera, the medium format cameras still have their own trademark look and feel. Some D800s would argue this point and say that their D800 files look better than a medium format. I’m not saying the Medium Format’s look is better. I’m just saying it has its own look (and some folks might like that look better).

So what’s the downside of a D800?
While for some folks the resolution is the best feature, for others it’s the biggest drawback. For example â” I don’t think it makes a really great camera for travel photography.  For example if you shoot a simple five-frame HDR photo and you open that image in Photoshop â”  those five images open on screen at one time is about six hundred megabytes. That’s 6/10 of a gig for one single HDR image (whew!).  Now imagine you’re stitching a pano with 14 frames. Something like that just really clogs up your pipeline in huge way (you’ll be stitching that pano for an hour). I know from first-hand experience because I took a D800 to Cuba and to Paris and while the images were sharp and crisp, the file sizes were just tremendous, and storage space really becomes an issue. You eat up memory cards like nobody’s business and you eat up your hard drive space like it going out of style, and your entire workflow is much slower because working with such huge files. Again, if you need files this bigâ”no problemâ”perfectly understandable and you’re cool with all the extra headaches those file sizes bring, it’s great, but for most of usâ”working with those super high-resolution files will really be more trouble than they’re worth.

Contrast this with the old D700
I wouldn’t use the D800 for sports â” the resolution is just too high to make it practical, and the frames per second rate is just too slow, and I’m sure Nikon would be the first ones to tell you it was never designed as a sports camera. In contrast, the D700 actually was pretty decent for sports, especially if you added the battery grip which pumped it up to eight frames per second, and I used it as my 2nd body on a number of occasions and it rocked.  Both cameras are great for portraits (though you might have to do some extra retouching with the D800 files because they pick up everything, and I mean everything), but again â” if most of your images will be seen mostly on the web, I would have a hard time recommending that you by a D800.

The Nikon D600 is an entirely different story
I do see this camera as the upgraded replacement for the D700 (even though the model number is lower). Its file size is still pretty high (24 megapixels) but lower than the D800s 36-megapixels; it’s easier to work with its smaller files, it’s faster all around, and it’s got great video features.  That’s really how I see the D600 â” a better D700. Take that great D700, then add great video features, and a few extra tweaks and updates and you’ve got the D600.

You can use it for travel and it works wonderfully well. You can shoot landscapes and it’s great for that too (and the images are still sharp and crisp), and you can shoot sports with it (I actually shot an NFL game with the D600 as my second body it while was a little slow, it took beautiful shots overall and I’d use it again).  I think this is a camera that will work for almost anything that you wanted to shoot and while it’s just an evolutionary step (where many would argue that the D800 was a revolutionary step because of its high resolution and sharpness at that price point) it’s a very good step in its evolution and an improvement over the D700, which is all we ever wanted, right â” a better version of what we had. So, if you wanted to replace your D700 with something newer and better along the same lines (but with HD video), I think the D600 is that camera (and it’s about $1,000 cheaper than the D800).

So, which one takes better pictures?
Well, here’s the thing and its the big tiebreaker: where will you images be seen? If your images are seen on the web, I don’t think anyone will really be able to tell you, at web resolution, which shot was taken with the D800 or the D600 â” even large sized images on the Web will look pretty much about the same (if not identical). However the one place where these two images will really hit that fork in the road is when you print really large images. At 13″ x 19″,  I think they would probably look very close to the naked eye if not identical.  At 30 x 40 , you’ll probably see a visible difference. As you get larger in size, the D800 images will really pull away from the D600s (or the D4’s for that matter), but you’ll have to go fairly big to start to see a real difference. So, honestly, unless you’re printing really large files, I’d have a hard time telling you to choose anything other than the D600 â” it’s just that right camera at the right price with the right features for most of us.

Now, I know that since I’ve written this I will immediately hear from some photographers who’ll say “Scott, I have the D800 and it’s a wonderful travel photography camera” and then from someone else who uses it for sports and it’s perfect for them, and that’s fineâ” if you’re happy with your camera choice that’s great. Just remember this: loads of folks bought the D800 when it first came out, and I talked to a number of folks who bought it thinking it was the upgraded D700. That being said, it’s very, very, very rare to read anyone ever admit “I bought the wrong camera.” In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that sentence written online ever. As photographers, our job is to defend our purchase, and never admit we might have jumped the gun a bit, and I’m fully aware of that (and I hope you are, too). So, if you bought the D800 just to shoot Facebook profile photos for your clients, I fully expect you to tell my why you made the right choice. It’s OK. If you’re happy, that’s really all that matters.

They both have their Strengths and Differences
I shot with both cameras and they both have their strengths and weaknesses.  I think the reason why there are two separate cameras â” the  D600 and D800 is because they were created for two very different customers and that’s a good thing because instead of just having just a D700 and D3 (like we used to have â” just those two choices), now we’ve got this other camera in between (the D800) that I think actually replaces the very expensive D3x but at a fraction of the price, and I think that’s a great thing. The D3x was aimed at commercial photographers, and that’s who I think the D800 probably works best for, though those high res files may also appeal to some of us landscape and portrait photographers, too.

The bottom-line
There is nothing I hate more than reading a shootout review or article in a magazine comparing two or more cameras and at the end, the writer really doesn’t choose one or the other, they just kind of leave you with “Well, it depends on what you’re needs are, they’re both great cameras.” Well, duh. Every purchase we make depends on what our needs are. Well, I don’t want to leave you with that either, so I’m going to tell you what I told my friend. Get the D600.
I hope that helps you somewhat if you’re in that same “on the fence” situation between these two great cameras, and I hope it helps you make your decision that much easier. Cheers.
  1. Interesting read. I think a lot of people expect the newest / most expensive camera to do the best job at everything. It seems that the camera manufactures are now going towards different markets with different cameras. I wouldn’t expect a landscape photographer to as geeked about the low light capability of the D4 as I am. In the same way as I knew just by looking at the specs that the d800 was not something i wanted to shoot events with.

    1. Alan, Being a fan of your work and also a concert/dance shooter which camera would you recommend (between the d600 and 800) for this type of photography?

      unfortunately I cannot afford a D4, not even a used D3s which will be ideal for this type of photography. based on the specs and manual of the cameras i’m leaning towards the d800 mainly because the d600 uses the same focus system as the d7000 and of what i read it has some problems focusing on low light. I think that the d600 with the d800 focus system will be ideal, but that is not going to happen.
      Also, since I live in south america i don’t have the luxury to go to a store and/or rent the cameras to try them myself, in fact they do not sell these cameras down here, so i will be ordering one and have a friend bring it to me from the States,

      because of this, I have to rely on the tons of information that is around the web and make decision purely based on other people that have used these cameras, so your input will be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks in advance


      1. I cannot speak to the focusing ability of either camera since I have not shot either camera. Now that will change as i plan on getting my hands on a D600 to put through the paces as I am interested in it as a backup to my D4,. I am not interested in the D800 at all. The file size makes it impractical for my use. I shoot too many frames in a month to want to deal with the huge file size. Even the D600 at 24 MP might be too much. Right now I use a D4 as my main body and a D700 as my second body. In my opinion, the D700 might be the best camera that Nikon ever made. It was basically a D3 for $2000 less. The downside is that it doesn’t do video… But for event and concert shooting, the camera is fantastic and add a battery grip and a 32GB card and you can shoot all day, or all week, without a problem.

    2. Alan, I think that you have the right approach when it comes to purchasing an expensive item such as a high performance camera. You have to research the product and review the specifications and see if it is suitable for your needs. Also reading the reviews by knowledgeable people about the product in question is also advisable. For example, NAPP magazine often has reviews on a number of new products that are useful before buying. I believe there was a retailer who once said that an informed customer is our best client.

  2. Hi Scott, I agree completely with everything you’ve said. Recently I’ve been trying to decide between a D600 & a Canon 5D Mark III & I have two questions that I’d be grateful if you could answer. Firstly, some people are saying that the D600 is not very good at auto focussing in low light situations. Is that your experience? Secondly, what would you say is the highest useable ISO (for print)? I’m asking as I do a lot of low light/available light/night time/concert photography. Thanks

  3. Scott,

    Your blog post today and RC’s recent email to me both confirmed in my mind that the Nikon D600 is the best choice for my purposes (portraiture, travel, and wedding photography).

    Nikon’s odd model numbering system threw many people off, including me. Initially I thought the D800 would be the next grade up from the D700. Now I view it as a strange marketing logic to hook some photographers to pay the higher price for the D800 months before the more reasonably priced D600 premiered. You know, schmooze everyone into believing that the D800 IS THE next camera that you will want to pay big bucks for the model that is bigger and better, and then hit their target market with the camera and price point that is more attractive. And now that some photographers jumped to buy the D800, Nikon revealed the D600, a model that I suspect will appeal to many, many more photographers who do not need the huge megapixel RAW files that the D800 produces. Only Nikon can speak to that marketing strategy.

    Thank you again for this post, Scott! I just hope that when I buy my D600 this weekend, I won’t be reading an announcement in the next couple of months about still another new full frame Nikon model that will be even better and cooler than the D600. I just don’t want to be lured into another strange marketing logic from Nikon with this camera purchase. (Actually, I think I’ll be safe with this investment, but you just never know.)

  4. I owne a D300 and I was pretty disapointed with the D800 becouse of the high MP count. I hoped for a D700 sucessor with 16-17 MP. I need the clean high iso and the same framerate as the D700. That’s is why my conclusion is that The better choice for me is a (second hand) D700. Also I like bracketing for hdr, I don’t know for sure the D600 can handle that lke the D300 and the D700.

  5. totally totally agree with Alan Hess regarding the choices many people are made to make… foremost, many tend to be blinded by the resolution (resolution) rating – and forgetting the sensor size or pixel density… equally true is that many may also be unclear as to their purpose or line of work and interest, so are oblivious of other features, such as being water-proof or shock-proof, whether it has a built-in gps, compatibility with other accessories…

  6. Thank you, Scott. A minor but important qualification for some when you write that the D600 is an upgrade for the D700. While the specs are better for the D600 (better than the D3s too one might say), the D700 was made in Japan whereas the D600 is not. The D700 ergonomics are superb with its high pro-like round eye view finder. It’s destined to be a classic in my view.

      1. The D700 was / is too good. They took a pro level sensor and put it in a body for $2000 less. I don’t think that will ever happen again. The D700 is basically a D3 so the upgrade to it would technically be the D4. Now will Nikon put the D4 sensor in a body and sell it for $4000 ($2000 less than the D4). I personally doubt it…. but I can dream

  7. The 1/200″ flash sync speed as well as the 1/4000″ shutter speed of the D600 might be worth mentioning. Apparently for some people that is huge (ie David Hobby).

    To me personally, the D600 looks pretty amazing and had it come out before the D800 I might have gotten it. The D800 even made it necessary to get a computer as well to handle those files… (…which, on the plus side, also runs CoD with everything maxed again!;))

    1. the 1/200 flash sync issue is actually overrated as 1/250 wasnt much better either, 1/500 th and we are actually in the game.

      by the way there are ways to sync any nikons up to 1/2500 – 1/3200 range without any expensive gear , i tried it with my old SB 24s (got 5 of them at 50$ a piece from ebay) and it works great.

      all you need is to use a sb 800 or 900 on your cam in FP sync mode (1/250) and duct tape an optical slave on the diffuser and attach a radio trigger to it (i use skyports) and use the radio receiver on the sb24.

      it should be set atleast at half to full power. the flash duration is long enough at full power and ight fall of is slow enough to cover the exposure time. you get no black shutter banding what so ever. and at that SSpeed and at f5.6 the sky looks almost too dark :-). the best thing is you can shoot at f2 or 2.8 during mid day and get great pics without breaking the bank.

      get the PW flexTT instead of sb800 and optical slave and you can even programm the delay time to fire the skyport .

  8. I would have to carry different cameras in order to photograph different situations. I like working with the D800 because it also provides different pixel formats, from: Large 7360X4912 (36.2)M Medium 5520X3680 (20.3)M and Small 3680X2456 (9.0)M. I can switch to any format depending if I am photographing large detail or small if I am just snap shooting away. It is like knowing that you have that extra power in a sports car when you need it. It is true that I had to install more, a lot more RAM memory in my computer and it is still somewhat slow. I also work with the tedious and hard to carry large format 4X5 camera and at the end when I pull those large prints out of the trays it is just worth the trouble and time. This is how I feel about shooting with the D800, it is like Grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner that we are willing to wait for all day long!

  9. I’m a Canon user, but if I had to start again, I would pick the D800. As a travel photographer, the D800 appeals to me with great noise level performance in shadow areas. It makes HDR bracketing unnecessary. I find when coming back from a trip, there are a few images that I’m really proud of and would love to have the D800 resolution for those images.

  10. I have a question Scott , I am a fashion and editorial photographer and really love the images delivered by the D3X and seems like an old faithful tool. My question specifically for Fashion and editorial work what is your recommendations between the D4 D800 and D600. i honestly cant make a decision its almost as we are still in need for a replacement on the D3X

    1. THANK YOU! I was SO tempted to also say I picked the wrong camera, but it happens. ESPECIALLY if you are having moderate monetary success with your photography, yet still learning how various bits of technology will improve your product – or not. After purchasing the D300s, I ended up testing the D700 and bought it before the D300s I ordered online, even arrived!! It was that much better FOR MY NEEDS. Thanks Scott. I wish you were a public corporation, I would own LOTS of your stock! :-) Good luck everyone.
      BTW, I don’t shoot “Weddings”, I usually am asked to shoot the Bridal Portraits however. And a 20″x30″ small wall portrait is AMAZING with the D700. From distance, I can still see dress details in the final print without worrying about sharpening or “fixing” my exposure. The dynamic range was what I bought when I purchased this unit, and it was what the major difference was that made me change my mind. It is SO true these days, that you must simply know your needs to make a good choice. I was one of the FIRST owners of the Nikon D100 but the on-camera flash was TERRIBLE (and it was for this fact that I “first” elected to not shoot Weddings), but then after much reluctance, I was asked to check out the D70, and although “supposedly” a lesser camera, it solved so many of my problems I learned about on the D100 that I ended up with about 7 of these before I moved “up” again. In addition, I ended up shooting quite a bit of Weddings because of the highly advanced improvements to the TTL system! My next camera choice after this was the D700 (I returned the D300 immediately). I still use my D70’s for my mass production work and youth sports action photos. “RAW is your Friend – Or enemy!” is my new favorite slogan.
      Sorry to be so long-winded, But I just thought it was SO important to let people know that it is TOO easy to choose the “wrong” camera these days, even moreso than it was just 4 years ago. The Mfr’s are focusing on only such a such set of feature improvements/developments at a time, that you really MUST be aware of what you need before spending $$ on the “latest” only to find that it is over-, or underkill for your intentions. Get to those camera shops, test. And don’t be afraid to try to resell equipment when you find out how another piece can help solve your problems better. After all, cameras are still just tools. I still buy Nikon D70’s online and use them for my school/daycare/prom/military ball work, and even give some as “presents” to friends that want to find out “…what camera should I buy!” :-) Thanks for bearing with my “rant” and love for quotation marks! :-) Good Luck out there…

      1. My friend read this and I think I should clarify a couple things.

        – The D70’s TTL “FLASH” system is what I was referring to above.

        – because of the relatively small resolution of the D70, I can shoot in RAW at all my mass-production shoots, along with jpg’s for immediate preview posting, and the files are STILL smaller, and run through processing so much faster than newer camera high-res files. The detail in the RAW files of this camera, in comparison to the high-Q jpg’s, make you think you are shooting two different cameras. I still have friends who try to ridicule me about using my D70 today (although I own 2 D700’s) but they see my images, and then go to ebay looking for my $50 D70’s :-)

        – I don’t do wedding “Ceremonies” or receptions. Just not my thing socially or monetarily. BUT, I love to help photographers shoot the elegant, posed, WELL lit Bridal Portraits, Cakes, and large group Bridal Party Portraits. THIS is where the D700 makes all the difference compared to smaller format cameras.

        – The used D70’s I give as gifts are very well checked out by me and a couple of my “helpers”. And because they are Nikon, once my friends buy accessories, then decide it is time for a newer unit, they only have to buy a new “camera body”. That’s why I got into Nikon to begin with. And their pursuit in improving what I was already using, is what made me stay – for now.

        – I received my D100 right on 4th of July 2002. My first D70, coincidentally, I bought one day short of exactly 2 YEARS later on July 3, 2004. It paid for itself, and the premium price I paid, during that week. SO I shot with my D100, crappy glass and aftermarket flashes for quite a while! :-) Nikon “rumors” were alive back then, and I “knew” about the coming D200, but I even compared what I needed in the D70 (or D70s by then) to the coming D200, and bought the D70.

        – I had such success with the D70 and established a teachable workflow, I had no “need” for changing cameras until I saw Jerry Ghionis’ bridal work and then, coincidentally, got to work with a medium format camera and it’s corresponding digital back. The dynamic ranges, which I was just starting to be taught about, was INCREDIBLE. So what the Phase One’s COST! :-). When I finally shot with a FULL-FRAME sensor, I was SOLD. It just took forever for me to settle on BUYING one. Then came the D700. I lost only a small shipping fee for returning my D300, but it was better than keeping a tool i likely would not use.

        –hopes this clears some things up. :-)
        Happy Hunting

  11. Thank you for telling me to buy a D600. I have been discussing with my wife and now I can tell her that there is no longer and purpose in resisting. Scott has declared and I must follow Scott’s directive. I know she will understand :)

  12. There’s also one distinct difference worth mentioning I think – the D600 is not part of NPS (at least here in Europe) and it could be a dealbreaker for some pros. At the moment, I’d really get D600 but this and the fact that Nikon developed and markets it as D7000+ (hence the no to NPS) makes it a bit of Sophie’s choice (like not to be able to click the wheel control to quickly zoom in and out of preview to see detail on focus/sharpness, because D7000 does not allow to customize it also, while all the pro Nikons do).
    Also D600 has much quieter Q/silent mode than D800, could be important to someone.

  13. Scott, thanks so much, I feel my months of research and my choice of the D600 is validated, a friend and I really struggled with this, he bough the D800, I got the D600. Now having had the D600 for a month, I couldn’t be happier with it, armed with the 28-300 VR, I think it’s the perfect travel camera and it’s almost like I can’t take a bad shot with it. Now, of course, once my wife understands why I need a bunch more full frame lenses, I’ll be really set. Great review. BTW, I moved up from a D5000 and based on your advice, I got the R-strap for the D600 and find it much easier to walk around with than I did the the D5000 and my previous strap. Still searching for the right camera bag for the D600 and maybe 3 lenses, any advice?

    1. Mark, not sure what you are looking for in a bag but I use the Street Walker Pro from Think Tank and it works great with three lenses, battery grip and the D600. Nice backpack and really tough…

    2. Mark, try the Domke bags. They’re shaped like messenger bags and aren’t as bulky as some other travel bags. Still plenty of protection and are comfortable to carry around. Oh, and they look bad ass too! You’ll find them on I have the Domke 701-83A and it fits my camera, 14-24, 24-70, and my 85. Good Luck!

  14. I’ve looked at both cameras and I’ve come to the conclusion that neither camera is right for me. I was looking to move up from my D7000, but it’s not urgent. The D600 is a full frame D7000, lacking the features I want to move up to. The D800 MP is really overkill, and the FPS is too low for sports. My solution, to hell with a new body, I’ll put the money towards new glass and see what comes out in the future. Now if Nikon releases a lower priced version of the D4 were talking, that’s the camera I’m waiting for.

    Shame I’ve got so much invested in Nikon, the 5Diii looks really good.

    1. Bob – I went from a D700 / D3s to the D800 and found a few things. I liked the D700 and D3s more. To Scott’s point – I had bought the wrong camera. The file sizes were okay with the MacPro but certainly slower, etc, (what Scott said). I photograph people, I photograph landscapes. What I found was that the D800 was a very specific camera – and it should have been more apparent to me, but it was striking in use. It wasn’t the camera that I was going to photograph ballet for the Mass Academy with. It wasn’t a great event camera (for me). It was a good landscape camera – stopped down. Strangely, I found the AF of the D800 was not as good as the D700 or the D3s – at odds with Nikon’s view and there are no doubt those who will disagree. And – this is very subjective – but it was the least fun I’d ever had using a Nikon body. In contrast, the D700 is just a fun camera to use (a joy) in my experience. As I say, subjective, but that was my experience. Perhaps that was handling. So what to do, have a stable of horses for courses would have been one way to go, but not what I wanted to do – if only there was really great AF, faster frame rates when you wanted it, a bit more resolution and even better high ISO performance. Well, there was/is. I tried the 5D Mk III and found it to be remarkable. The AF was better than the Nikon system in the 700/D3s and those were better in my experience than the D800. I read Scott Bourne’s similar observations later re: the D4/D800 and Mk III AF – good to know I wasn’t going crazy. It is super fast, but even more, it’s really accurate and consistent. There is less DR than the D800, but that benefit was outweighed by it being too specific a camera / the wrong camera for my needs. So I went through the system switch with all of my Nikon 2.8 zooms and 1.4 primes, SB-900s, etc. Unpleasant. But I’ve found the 5D Mk III to be just fantastic. The surprise is the 24-105 f4L IS – a new favorite in the middle of the wide and longer 2.8 zooms.

  15. I have to disagree with you on this one Scott. The D600 is not an upgrade to the D700, especially for my style of shooting. I rely a lot on the AF-On button and the AF-Points coverage of the D700. There’s also the frame rate differece. For now it appears that the only sensible upgrade option for the D600 is either a used D3s or a D4.

  16. Hmm, I just don’t see it. The D600 has prosumer controls, while the D700 and D800 have profesional controls. The D600 is a terrible idea as a replacement for D700 users. It would have been nice if Nikon made a 24 Megapixel D700x instead of or in addition to the D600.

  17. I think Scott should have been more clear the D600 is an “Entry Level” FX Body. Saying it replaces the D700 is an incorrect statement as the D700 is not limited to 1/4000 shutter speed and 1/200 Flash Sync. Granted the sensor is truly incredible on the D600 though there are some serious shortfalls that weren’t mentioned. For starters the D600 uses the same focusing system (MulticamFX4800) as the D7000 to say it’s as good as the D700 focusing system is a misstatement as it’s not a fast nor as accurate. Let alone Nikon didn’t space out the focus points as they are all clustered in the middle and not spread out like the 51 point system. For consumers it will be an excellent camera for semi-pro or serious enthusiasts go for the D800 and deal with the file sizes. JMHO.

    1. Jeff: Thanks for your sharing your opinions, just remember, those are strictly your opinions, even though you state them as fact. I disagree with a number of your assumptions, and I think if you asked Nikon they would tell you straight up that the D600 is the replacement for the D700. By the way, do you even have a D600? I’m guessing by your comments, you don’t.

      1. Scott I respect you 1000%! However, your opinions are again your opinions. Like my opinions it’s okay to disagree. I have a D800 and a D3s and they of course are two totally different animals. I know people whom have the D600 and we compared – the focusing system is not as good as the MulticamFX3500 – Nikon is cutting corners to make the D600 competitive and give an “entry level” body for people who want FX at an affordable price. I didn’t say the D600 is a horrible camera it just may not be for “everyone” – Every camera sacrifices something hence all the different models. Generalizing one is better than another is misleading ;) people need to analyze their particular needs before making a decision. Scott have you shot with a D600 in sports and have gotten as many keepers as you have using your D4?

      2. “Also I owned a D7000 with that notoriously known MultiCamFX4800 and I had back focusing or miss focused shots on all my lenses problem went away when I sold the D7000.”

        Exactly! I upgraded from D7000 to D700 to D3s and now I got a D800E as well. I would NEVER put my hands on anything containing that 39/9 AF system. It really sucks!

      3. Then maybe Nikon is missing the some points as well. The max shutter speed and fps with grip are different, along with the previously mentioned metering and AF points. I guess, if you’re looking for a solid, FF camera with most of the things the average shooter needs, then I agree – save the $1000 and get the 600. But if you are a resolution junkie and need those extra features the 800 offers, then go with the 800. As far as it not being a travel camera, you’re right if you’re doing web or scrapbook images. However, if you’re going to be blowing them up or selling them, the 800 offers more – even as a travel cam. If you only plan on tossing them on the web or, in a scrapbook, why not just take the 3200 and call it a day. Not a FF, but at those print sizes, you’ll never notice. It’s all in the preferences. My quibble is not with the comments on get the 600 over the 800 because as you mentioned that’s your opinion. I just told a friend to get the 600 over the 800 as well because they wanted good res but good low light performance as well (cant afford the D3/4) and given the DXO Mark scores for the 600, why not save the $1000. The issue is with shooters being SATISFIED with the whole 600 is straight up the replacement for the 700 thing. Nikon might say that, but several features don’t line up and most pro/enthusiast shooters expect all the steps to go forward. Getting USB 3 vs. 2 is a step forward, getting more pixels is a step forward, getting after AF in low light is a step forward. 1/4000 shutter is backwards, less AF points can be viewed as a step backwards, 2 less fps is a step backwards (again with the grip). I think people wanted a D600 that had these features as standard but ADDED things like pixels, HD video, etc. For years the D700 was it’s own niche, and, quite frankly, it still sort of is. You had “affordable” FF, great low light performance, a “small” package, and excellent reliability and features. Then, you could add a grip and batter and get something pretty darn close to the D3/s for less money. It was outstanding – and still IS. Despite owning the D4 and D800 I still have my D700 and love it. Had Nikon kept this Swiss Army knife of a thing going, then people would have believed the 600 is the new 700, but with out these niche defining features, it’s more like a D7000 with a slightly dumbed down heart of the 800. I think the 700 lovers want an genuinely improved 700 and quite frankly (opinion I’ve tried to support by these comments) this AINT IT. Maybe the D400 wont run away from the D300s too far…

      4. For wedding users, who have used D700, the proper upgrade of a D700 would be one that had a rugged professional body, more controls on outside, not button sharing like D7000, decent AF like D700, and a CF card slot at least. D800 has it and D600 does not. I would have preferred 24MP ‘D700s’ upgrade because doing 1000 photos per wedding will slow me down with 36MP unless I change a bit smaller resolutions for some of the candid photos and full res. for portraits. I cannot imagine that Nikon honestly thought that D600 was logical upgrade for any professional as we always prefer something better than we had (with pro body features included, not just new sensor). Nikon, in my opinion thought most professionals would pick D800 or D4, as they marketed the D600 as an entry level enthusiast camera not pro, however, it has some interest certainly from professionals due to its very good image quality, and I would guess many pros may have wished it was the full package like D800 but with 24MP (for raw) for faster workflow. For an all day wedding shoot where I do not want to loose anything, I certainly prefer the reliability of CF Extreme cards, and still do not trust SD cards as I do not want to risk loosing anything and I have seen SD cards fail from my assistant photographers. My clients get upset when any photos are missed.
        One reason they may have put a dual SD slot in D600 so you could do jpeg and raw simultaneously on 2 cards just in case of card failure. D800 or D4 seems like the only logical upgrade right now (and using multiple resolution settings in camera during the day), however my D700 still takes great photos with the right technique and good glass. Also D600 has some quality issues like dust/oil spots to overcome I hear. Of course these comments are my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.

    2. I would happily buy a D600 over the 800 but the main bug is the physical size of the body, I have large hands and the camera doesn’t really inspire confidence.

      The D4 feels great to hold although at times I wish it was lighter!
      It seems that there is no real happy medium..

  18. I thought the pixel wars were over at twelve. Tell me how both handle low light? My pair of D300’s were in need of an update. Never heard the rumors about the D600 in the pipe. I would have waited. The D800 is a wonderful machine. At the limits of possibility for the anything out there.

  19. Thank you for taking the time to prepare and post this review Scott. I have been wanting and needing to upgrade my D80 for quite some time now for many reasons; one of them being the need for a 2nd camera body because I do love my D80 and will continue to use it when the need arises. I’m glad I waited until now as it’s given me some fantastic options to choose from. Since the announcement of the new D600, I have been back and forth between these 2 cameras but leaning toward the 600. So thank you for the added input and helping me to confirm my decision. I’m off to order that new camera :D

  20. Everybody seems to forget that you can shoot images at a lower resolution (when wanted) than the 36Mp, so for pano’s: switch back a bit on the resolution, but if the subject is too far for your lens, go full resolution.

    And second: the D800 and the D600 have different controls, it is very personal, but I like more the proffesional controls of the D800, being the same as my previous camera.

      1. err no – the 1.2 (24mp-ish) and DX (15mp-ish) crop modes produce lower resolution raw files, that is what Johan is referring to.

    1. One control that Nikon missed out on for the D800 is a custom user mode. This is available on the D7000 and I love it and absolutely miss not having on the D800. It is such a time saver to have a custom mode all set up and available with a quick turn of the mode dial. I also wish they would upgrade the firmware to allow bracketing above a 1 EV step, like they have in the D7000. It would make shooting HDR more fun and mean I spend less time throwing away unwanted exposures.

  21. Another way to look at it: Handheld? Take the D600. Tripod? Then the D800/D800E. Not to say this is the only criterion, but it’s one way to consider the difference between shooting styles. I have a D800E and a D3s and the tripod question is pretty much what determines which body goes out the door with me.

  22. Love this article, I used to be a Nikon man back in the film days but quickly turned to Canon in the digital age. I have seriously considered going back to Nikon since I saw the D600, though I was very tempted with the D800 I just don’t think 36 MP should be crammed into a 36×24. Now 36 MP or higher on a 50×39 is where I think it should be. I also agree with you on the file sizes, they are way more manageable on the D600.

    Thanks for your opinion on these two great cameras

  23. A couple other items that are repeatedly left out of the D600 v. D800 discussion:

    – Exposure metering for the D600 only uses a 2,016-pixel RGB sensor, versus the D800’s 91,000-pixel sensor
    – Autofocus on the D600 uses the Multi-CAM 4800 and 39 focus points. D800 uses Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX and 51 focus points
    – The D600 (like the D4) has the ability to disengage the exposure compensation (custom setting e4) so the EC only effects the camera meter, and not the flash. Not found on the D800.
    – D600 can only use SD cards in the dual card slots. D800 can use both CF and SD.

  24. I love the D800. The image quality is revolutionary. It is incredible for landscape work. It does, however and as you said, come with the cost of large memory and time sucking files. So for “less” quality work or when speed is more important I’m glad I have my D3s. Seems funny I’d use a camera that cost twice as much for that. I think it’s a case of deciding what work you want to do and choose the best tool for the job.

  25. A very interesting discussion! I am also on the fence in this decision.
    I am leaning towards the D800 right now. I am 100% sure that both are great Cameras.
    My main Photographic interest is UW, Landscape and Macro.
    In UW-photography the main investment is the Housing, approx twice the cost of the D800. Therefore, I will be stuck with the decision that I make now for about 10 years or so. Well, that is atleast what I tell my wife :-)
    I am pretty sure that during thes 10 years my Computers will get quicker and the memories will get faster, bigger and cheaper… So, this issue will be somewhat mooted over the years!
    While diving I do a lot of Macro. There the FX format has some pros an cons compared to a DX format. The main divider here is the depth of field! You get a nicer Bokeh, blurry background with FX, but a lot less keepers (due to the decreased depth of field in FX)! With a D800 you have the chance to use both, depending on the situation! Ok, the viewfinder gets samllish, but …

  26. I bought the D600 on the Friday after the Wednesday availability. I returned it Saturday due to the diopter control failing. I bought it again on Sunday and have had it since. Problem with early adoption is that LR and Photoshop cannot open the raw files as it is too new. Since then, LR 4.2 will open the files but the profile says, “beta” so Adobe is not through with their interpretation of the files.

    Those wondering about file size are right to be concerned. Raw files are hard drive killers due to size, so make sure you have lots of storage for your photos with this camera. Lens quality also comes into play as using old or third party lenses will show every defect in your glass with this much detail in each file. Low light capability is awesome, autofocus area is not. The AF area of the D7000 has been transferred to the FX format and seems small and centered. The D800 has a slightly larger AF area. Lack of a focus on button as on previous bodies can be worked around by assigning a different function via menu to the AE-L/AF-L button.

    Lack of patience with Nikon produced this sale. I was waiting for the mythical D400 but it is lost in the forest along with Bigfoot so far. I gave up waiting to upgrade my aging and battery hogging D200 and bought the D600. Now I have a ruggedly built bracket button capable D200, which is heavier and better built than the D600 for my DX body, as well as the latest computer as camera in the D600 for my FX body. Having said all of this, glass is still by far the best investment you can make. Bodies come and go, quality glass is usable on any Nikon built since 1960. Indeed I am using a VIvitar 19MM manual focus lens on my D600 with stunning results. That lens is over 20 years old and works just fine. Canon has changed their lens mount repeatedly over the years, so I stick with Nikon. Hope this real world advice helps those trying to decide what to do.

    Thanks, Scott for your honesty with this entry!

  27. Many different cameras for many different types of photography, a professional photographer that shoots, sports, commercial, portraits, or landscapes is going to have his or her preference or an arsenal of different types of cameras, so far a do it all camera doesn’t exist and never will, it wouldn’t be profitable, who would ever upgrade if they had the perfect camera lol

  28. I haven’t shot the D600, so I can’t really make a comparison. It looks like a great camera. I did wait until it came out before I decided to go with a D800 as an upgrade from my D700. Had the price been a bit lower, or the focus system a bit higher end, maybe… It was a difficult enough decision that I made myself a pro vs. con list before the purchase.

    As to the D800, on another photography blog a few weeks back, the camera was compared to a Ferrari that routinely just gets driven a few blocks in city traffic. Where I live, the mountains of western Colorado, and often shoot, the high deserts of Utah, the camera serves more like a good crossover SUV. Which is to say, I don’t usually need all those pixels, but they really, really come in handy on the fairly frequent occasions in which I’m separated from what I want to shoot by impossible obstacles such as a gorge, a set of rapids, and soon meadows of shoulder-deep snow. The ability to crop substantially and still get a great image with a D800 mounted with a 70-200, and maybe even with a teleconverter, is a lot cheaper for me than investing in one of Nikon’s super-telephoto lenses. And given all those pixels, I expect good results, at least from the camera if not me, when the occasion comes for me to use Moose Peterson’s technique of going into DX mode to get extra reach for a landscape or wildlife.

    While I don’t always need the 4-wheel drive on my SUV, I’m always happy for the high ground clearance it provides. I feel the same way about the extra dynamic range that I believe the D800 offers over the D700 it replaced.

    It also works fine for the admittedly not hyper-fast sports I shoot: kayaking, mountain biking, rugby and rodeo.

    1. Not true! Necessarily. There is no logic to the argument “if you have to ask yourself whether to buy X or Y you must buy X”. Maybe buying X is correct for some, but for others Y will be better.
      In this case I am asking the obvious questions regarding 600/800, but asking questions is the means by which we find answers – so no, i will not buy the d600 just because someone else says that I should!
      I want max detail, IQ, and cropability (especially when I’m up a mountain in a gale and don’t want to change lenses). so D800e probably for me. But I’m still pondering the D600!

  29. Can anyone who actually owns a D600 comment on the “factory supplied sensor dust.” I returned the one I bought because of this “defect” I guess I’m old fashion spend $2100 only to find poor quality control

  30. Scott thanks for the comparison, I am not a pro and decided to go with the D600 and you have reaffirmed by purchase. So far it has done everything I needed and the prints are turning out great. Also thanks for all you do for the Photoshop users, your training site has helped me greatly in speeding up my learning curve.

  31. Great post Scott. I value your opinion. I just replaced my D300 with the D600. I have wanted to upgrade to FX and was very excited when the D600 was announced. I am not concerned that the D600, D800, D800E and D4 all have the same insides, that they are all the same cameras designed and produced at the same time with the same insides, differing only in exterior casing and when Nikon chose to announce them and that they produce the same images with the same processing power, the same LCDs, the same green-shift problems and identical AF controls. I am not concerned that the D600 may be a D7000 with more megapixels or a D700 replacement. I am not concerned that the D800 is better in many aspects. Lastly, as Nikon shooter I am not concerned about the upcoming Canon EOS 6D. The D600 is the perfect camera for me and meets all my needs and expectations.

  32. Being a D800 owner and having written a book on it (Nikon D800: From Snapshots to Great Shots – shameless plug) I can tell you that I am asked this question all the time. I have not used the D600 but asked about whether or not to buy a D800 my answer is that it really depends. It certainly is not the camera for everyone. If you are a wedding shooter and you do a lot of photojournalistic shooting, I wouldn’t want to use this camera. Most wedding shooters I know are shooting well over a thousand images per event and I can fit around 700 raw images on a single 64GB card. I would however use it for the formal shots, especially those that might end up as big prints above a fireplace. If you shoot landscapes, you will love the great detail in your images but, like Scott said, be prepared for some huge files if you are into HDR or panos. If you shoot wildlife, you will probably love this camera because it has some amazing detail, but not necessarily if your subject is one that moves a lot. The slow frame rates will mean a lot of missed photos. If portraits are your thing, be prepared to do a lot of retouching because the skin detail is crazy and maybe more than you want to deal with.
    One other thing to consider when considering a D800 is the condition of your computer system that you use for processing images. You are going to require a lot of ponies under the hood and a lot of RAM to work with all those pixels. I use a MacBookPro Retina that is maxed on processor speed and RAM and it handles things without a problem, but my older MBP gets a little choked up with those huge files. And there’s one more thing to consider and that is storage. These files are huge, even in their raw state, which means you will need to give some serious thought to your storage needs. I only store my active shoot on my MacBook because I am afraid I will run out of disk space. Archiving isn’t always something you think about when purchasing a camera but it should be with this one.
    All that being said, I really love my D800. The image quality is fantastic and if you are currently shooting with a DX cropped sensor, there’s just something about shooting with a full frame that brings a new quality to the images.

      1. No, just for JPEG. I wish if it is available for RAW. The other alternative is shooting DX to reduce the size but it is useless.

    1. Good recap of what Scott was saying. I wasn’t thinking about wedding photographers but that’s a good example! You wouldn’t want to have those large size for weddings for sure! I’ve never shot a wedding, I don’t want to but hats off that’s another world of photography for those photographers.

      Everything mentioned here I recommend to the new photographers reading this to squeeze into proposals because not many people understand the value of the photography when you give that price…

      Need to tell them they’re also paying for storage space, slowing down the memory / there’re a bunch of blah that they don’t see that goes into making the photos…it’s not just snap snap snap wo-la!

  33. I love my D800 for most things. I upgraded from a D5100 that I bought last year to see if I would enjoy photography. (Turns out I do very much) I enjoy tweaking the mega-big files in photoshop, and watching my computer churn away processing HDR images. Then I took it to my first football game that I had to cover :( Not that I expected it to be perfect, but i was disappointed. The next day I bought my D4 which is great for action. The D800 makes a great 2nd camera for football because if the action is anywhere in the frame, with 36 megapixels cropping isn’t too bad. Also the FPS can be bumped to 6 shooting in DX mode using the optional grip. Your lesson was learned. Use a scalpel for surgery, use hedge trimmers for landscaping.

  34. I own the D800 and love it. Having said that, if the D600 had come along first I would have gone with it and been happy. I was upgrading from my 5 year old D200. Needed a new PC regardless and the new set up handles the files just fine. I shoot 99% landscape. Love the video quality too.

  35. As a wedding/event photographer, I wish my D800 had a “Small Raw” button for the candids and photojournalistic images and the “Large Raw” for the formals and outdoor images.

    1. The D800 offers a lot of options for file size. It’s unlikely ever that dancing at a wedding reception will have a shot that is blown up over 8×10. For that I switch to Fine Small JPEGs which are still 9mp. But my other 12mp FX camera sees the bulk of the night time shots in that I can shoot in RAW still for appropriately sized file sizes.

  36. Where is the D710….still waiting. D800 is overkill, and as someone said below, its like a D7000…lacking needed features. I will not buy either one and will wait till Nikon does the D700 right.

  37. I don’t understand the reason why the D600 was born, neither I understand why people want to buy it. The D800 has a better AF and other goodies that makes it simply better – for just 25% more dollars.. (approx. 2000 vs 2500). If I want to switch to 36x24mm, I would continue saving also the last 500 more bucks that are needed, to get the D800. If you are afraid of the image size, just shoot in S or M size! Even when you don’t use the fully 36MP The D800 has the better performance in my oppinion.

  38. Fully Aggree – but the only issue with D600 I see is the CAM4800 Focussing module; It seems to be the same (sluggish one) as in D7000 and was the reason for me to switch finally to D700; Hopefully Nikon improved it – With D7000 I had a lot of mis-focussed pictueres – my D300 and D700 were much more reliable in that aspect

    cheers and thank you for the blog

  39. Hello Scott. I actually ordered the d600 from B & H and when it finally arrived, I never even opened the box because I started to hear about all the sensor dust/oil problems from many different sources. lens has best review of the problem. I sent the d600 back. Now I am trying to decide about waiting for Nikon to remedy the sensor issues with the d600 or get the d800. I am an enthusiast but love that “medium-format” look. Is the d600 sensor really a problem? Thanks

    1. I don’t really see the oil/dust problem as an issue as long as a sensor cleaning will get rid of it. It may be a pain in the butt, but I would probably buy it from my local camera dealer as opposed to online because they offer lifetime sensor cleanings for any camera bought from them.

    2. Quick fix to the issue: set the intervalometer to 2×999, take the shots, then clean the sensor. Should be enough to get that excess oil off the shutter. Worked on mine anyway. I’m 2×999 shots closer to the 150,000 rating of the shutter but whatever.

    3. I’v had repeated repairs due to the oil/dust issue. Nikon has been great about working with me on it, and after many letters and calls, they’re giving me a refund on the D600 and I’m upgrading to a D800… The D600 is great, but I’ve spent so much time and effort fixing all the rogue dots in 1000s of pics I can’t take it anymore. I have a D300s, and I agree with David Levin’s points about the feel, and learning curve. They dropped a few of the features that I love on my D300s going to the D600, which are present on the D800.. After spending the last 6 month with a D600, I couldn’t be happier that I’m moving on to the D800. The D600 felt like a step back, per the whole “pro” feel of the camera (compared to the D300s). But, I will say for 99% of people (especially semi-pro dslr users), the D600 is the best camera on the market. Here’s a link some Aurora Borealis photos I took with the D600

  40. I look at it like this…for any serious tripod/landscape work, go with the D800. For any travel or action photography (i.e. photojournalism, hand-held “touristy” pictures, or following the kids at the amusement park), go with the D600. They are both top-shelf cameras, and most photographers can’t tell the difference between the two if looking at raw images produced by them…at least until you get into the very high image sizes (which the D800 was created for).

    I love the D700 for its “all-around” jack of all trades usability, and for it’s tank0like rugged construction. The D600 is much lighter and easier to carry around than the D700, and the D600, at least in my opinion, produces slightly sharper images (all other things being equal). I do wish the D600 went up to 1/8000 shutter speed.

  41. I bought my D800 as my D300 upgrade (DX to FX). I shoot a lot of Macro Photography, and something that I Notice with the D800, that you do not mention, is that you can take advance of the 36 megapixel, when make an agressive zoom in a macro photograph when it comes from a 105mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor Lens, for example. So I think that another use for the D800 is the Macro Photography.

    Finally, I want to admit, that the camera that I really need is the D600, but I thought that the Nikon DSLR Line it was going to be: D300 – D400- D800 – D4; and this is the basic reason why I bought the D800, but I am really happy with my D800.

  42. Is there any way Nikon can issue a firmware upgrade for the D800 to allow for smaller RAW files? Is that possible? Can a hack be created to allow for the D800 to take smaller RAW files? Just wondering.

    If not, I wonder if Nikon will be revealing still another new pro model upgrade that is very, very closely aligned to the D700’s body and that adds features to continue the pro camera line? As of now, the D600 is not recognized as a pro body according to Nikon Professional Services. So, now I’m not seeing the D600 as a replacement for the D700, unless Nikon gives its blessing to truly consider the D600 as a pro body. Any thoughts?

    I’m still riding the fence (actually vacillating on which to buy to upgrade from my D300S to enter the FX camera body choices with my FX lenses for portraiture, travel, pleasure, and weddings). Sometimes I keep thinking that Nikon will surprise us all with a new firmware for the D800; sometimes I keep thinking another pro body will be announced very soon.

  43. I do not agree that the D600 is the replacement for the D700. The product name number for the D600 is correct in my opinion. It is a entry level version of the D700. Sure some things are a lot better than D700 technically and image sensor vise (even the D3200 or whatever it is called is probably technically better than the D700) but body vise the D700 is a professional camera and the D600 is not. Im not saying you cant take professional pictures with the D600 though :-)

    For me a AF-ON button is critical. I cant use a camera without a AF-ON button because that is how I have focused for several years. I’m sure the AE-L button can be reprogrammed as a AF-ON button though just like it can on a D7000 but the button is placed too close to the viewfinder which makes it really hard to use at least when shooting in portrait. I have experienced this problem myself on my D7000 which I think is a great little camera but I rarely use it mostly for this reason.

    Another thing that is important to me is a great viewfinder and you cant even compare the viewfinder in D800 and D600 and I need to be able to attached this rubber thing that blocks out some light.. whtever it is called, which I only can on a D800.

    I’m all about the physics of the camera when I buy a camera and not so much about the technical things because any DSLR you buy today will take awesome picture quality. 4 fps or 5 fps.. what’s the real difference? For sports and action it is sure too slow but for travel and everyday shooting it is more than enough. And sure 24 MP would be far more than enough for me but 36 is okay too.. hard drives only becomes cheaper and cheaper.

    1. Roger, you might disagree with the numbering scheme, and you be waiting for what you think is a replacement for the D700, but I think you’re out of luck as far as Full Frame Nikon bodies be released (no insider info, just what I’ve learned from research and history).

  44. Call it fate, but I’m looking to upgrade (don’t laugh, I currently rock a D90) and have been in the throws of an internal D600/700/800 debate… could Nikon make it more confusing? I came to look at your ‘gear’ page and THIS is your post of the day?!?! LOVE IT! Instincts were saying D600 and now it’s been confirmed :) And I agree with the previous poster when I tell Santa ‘Scott Kelby said’ I know he’ll agree ;)

  45. Great post! I was one of those guys that admitted I may have made a mistake buying the d800 because of the large files size. Then I learned about the compressed DNG feature in Lightroom 4. Now I can have all the detail and capabilities of a raw file but in a nice small jpg sized file. Honestly I can’t really even tell the difference between raw and the compressed DNG file on print or web. I would love to hear your opinion on this feature in Lightroom. Thanks

  46. I think there’s one thing Scott missed in his review. The D800 gives you more leeway to crop a shot in tight later and still have a useable image- one that can still be blown up relatively large. I did some extreme crops recently and it worked out nicely. The less megapixels you have to work with, the more difficult that becomes.

  47. Probably the first time I’ve disagreed with you Scott! Though, you know a lot more about this stuff than I do. Anyway…

    The D800 is the upgrade to the D700. On everything but pixel count, they’re similar.

    Stick the D800 into 1.2 crop mode and you get 5fps, same as the D700 (and 24mp same as D600). Downside is that you lose a little on the wide end but you kinda get more on the long end. You still get 15mp with the 1.5 crop. With the grip it goes to 6fps, which is still a couple fps slower than a griped D700, but not too bad.

    Do you not like the crop modes?

    1. One of the reasons to buy a D600 or a D800 is for the full frame sensor. If you want a cropped sensor, then the D3200, D5100, D7000 etc all out there for a lot less..

      1. NIKON, INC: Are you reading what D800 owners are screaming for? Just release a firmware that will enable D800 owners and that would-be D800 owners would love! Give them an option to obtain in camera smaller RAW files at will– whatever size that would be mathematically correct! Give an additional choice of file sizes for the D800 RAW shooters! Make the D800 a greater upgrade for the D700 lovers! Make the outstanding D800 stand up to the more moderate RAW image sizes that Canon has in their comparable camera line-up! All (or most) Nikon owners will be happy you did! Then the company’s sales revenue for the D800 will climb even higher! Release an updated firmware, Nikon! It’s a win-win!

      2. If you shoot in 1.2 crop it gets you a 24ish mp raw, 1.5 crop 15ish mp raw – what’s the issue?

        I mean if Nikon made a full frame shot into a smaller raw it would be interpolated, so not raw data…

  48. I agree with the comments above re the differences beyond the sensors. I’m still struggling between these cameras, the sticking point being the body of the D600. There are some tradeoffs compared to the pro-level D700 and D800 bodies that trouble me. It’s not as simple as just the sensors. The 600, in my opinion, is a pro sensor in a consumer body so the decision also includes ergonomics.

  49. Nicely, Nicely done Scott.
    What I love about you and your reviews is the LACK of any negativity. Too often in the photo (blog) world it’s “This sucks, that sucks, blah blah blah.” Thanks for Keeping It Real!

  50. Good comparison Scott (and good discussion starter too!).

    I have the D700. Love it. It is getting a little long in the tooth and is ready for a replacement, but neither the D800 nor D600 fulfil what I am looking for. So rather than ranting on about what’s a replacement for what, and which camera is lacking whichever setting, I’ll simply continue using my D700 to take great pictures until a model comes out that fulfils my needs.

    Or I’ll just by a D4. ;)

  51. Thank you very much for this post,

    From past few days I had a fear that I would have made a bad choice by purchasing D600 instead of D700, after reading this I am relived and happy that i made a good choice.

    Scott I would be very glad if you could answer this question.

    I mainly shoot wedding and portraits, initially as budget was an issue i went with the kit lens (24-85 3.5-4.5) but I am not happy with its performance, can you please suggest me any good lens for this camera, which replaces the current kit lens. I like the 50mm but it cannot be used at all times.

    Thanks and regards

  52. There is another class of people that may have bought the D800 and its high pixel count because of the stunning “croppability” it offers. I find the ability to crop a 36MP image by a 1.5x factor and be still able to work with 15MP a huge advantage over any other full frame camera. You can effectively mount a 300mm and use it as a 450mm while still getting 15MP. For wildlife photography, it’s an awesome feature. The D800 can act as both a FF and a APS-C camera. You can get reach when needed and capture amazing details when shooting landscapes for instance. Sure, the file size is big, but nowadays HD space has become so cheap, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Personally, if I had today the choice between a 36MP or 16MP D800, I’d choose the former without even blinking.

  53. To say you prefer the D600 is quite different than declaring the D600 the camera to get.

    Yes, they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and every single shooter has unique needs as well, which is why other reviewers wisely point out the pros and cons, then let savvy users make up their mind as to which is best for them. Only sycophantic sheep pick their camera based on the opinions of online opinion merchants like Ken Rockwell, Thom Hogan, and yes Scott Kelby.

  54. You’re an amazing writer Scott! I’ve bought several of your Photoshop books in the past and will keep buying for every new version that comes out. I’m buying the D600 on your recommendation and hoping you will write another book especially for it.

  55. Hi Scott!

    Nice review! I have rented the D600 and tried it out over a number of weeks shooting a couple of weddings, events, portraits etc. I was (and still is somewhat) considering it as an upgrade to my D300 and while there are lots to like (ISO performance, video, FX size, dual storage etc) I found that the autofocus system to be just a little bit less robust (especially the spread of the AF points & the reduced number of cross type sensors which become really noticeable in low light situations); and the white balance was off a lot more often than one would expect in broad daylight when in auto mode. There was also the question of control buttons ergonomics (AE/AF buttons, instant 100% zoom image review etc). I wish they had brought the D600 close to the D300/D700 in terms of controls but I guess that would have seriously impacted the sales of the D800 … unless the premise is true that there are those out there who really need 36MP & would choose that over a 24MP “D700”.

    Yes, the D600 might be a better choice for lots of us when pitted against the D800 but there is a huge gap there between the D600 & D800 that a lot of us were hoping would have been filled by Nikon.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.


    1. I agree!! I have the D600 and really like it. I wasn’t in a position to do a lot of upgrades to my computer to handle larger files, and what I was really needing was better ISO performance of which the D600 and D800 are closely matched, so it was kind of a no brainer for me… get the camera you need and save a thousand bucks, HOWEVER, the small focal area drives me a little nuts when trying to shoot full body or if I want to compose my image with the subject in the lower/upper left or right. ANNOYING! I’m not going to sell it and run out to get a D800, its still a great camera, but if I had it to do over I think I would go with the D800 for that reason alone.

  56. Dear Scott,
    I think you are right on. I was going to purchase a d800 but I am mostly a travel/street shooter and the file size ( and the camera ) were just too big for me. I am surprised you don’t mention the incredible DR the D600 sensor has… just incredible! There IS a dust problem with the sensor by the way… mine has it… but I will just have to wait until Nikon finally owns up to it and get it fixed.

  57. Sync speed? The D600 does it all until you need to overpower ambient, then it’s not so good a choice at 1/180s. The D800 is exciting because it treads on medium format territory and does it at 4 frames (or 5 with the right parts) a second. A couple of years from now, we’ll be firing that image size at 8 or 10 frames per second. Better yet, it is doing it with a great dynamic range and high ISO performance that had really only been seen previously on a Pentax K-5 in anything remotely approaching this size, capability, and price range. That’s pretty impressive.

    1. just like there is a different “look” from an iPhone to a point and shoot, or from a DX format to a Full Frame.. its all about Sensor size. the larger the sensor dictates a look, not a resolution. a MF camera if even shot with a 22mpx digital back will still look more professional than a 36mpx D800. this Comes from how much of the scene it receives. if you stand 5ft away from a window that is 2ft by 3ft.. you will see a certain amount of the world.. if that window was 6ft by 9ft you would see more of that world. that is the difference. you know those old photos from the 40’s and before? you know immediately from first glance if real or photoshop. even if editing is spot on. those were shot with MASSIVE 8in X10in large format cameras. portraits were taken with 200mm lenses from about 10ft away, its all about the format size. Another thing is that it brings the background closer and theres less distortion when using a lens length that provides same angle of view. so if i put a 50mm on my DX camera, a 65mm on FX camera and a 90 mm on the MF camera, i will get the same angle of view. however, each lens brings in the background somewhat closer and causes there to be less distortion. I use a Mamiya 645 with a Leaf 33mpx back and the D800 to shoot comercial fashion and editorial for magazines, so the complexities of skin tone play a vital role in what i do. all the pixels in the world will not help with COLOR. FX cameras only record at 14 bit. MF record at 16 bit. the color complexities and accuracies of that alone is the $20K difference. But this is cant really be seen until a print is made or seen on an IPS screen. BUT, i will say that MF cameras are almost never used past 400 ISO, so its a very specific niche. The D800 has really changed where and when i can shoot. Sure, at low iso, nothing compares to the MF. but can only go up so high. Its all about time and place and when to use what, not better or worse. The D800 is truly unbelievalble though.

  58. I bought the wrong camera. I always feel that way right after I purchase a new camera. Call it buyers remorse. But then I start to use it and it becomes “mine”. An extension of my arm and my vision. So I upgraded from the D200 to the D800. So much better in so many ways, and yet so much more challenging! What I can tell you is that in the first 6 months with my D200 I took a few hundred pictures, and with my D800 I’ve taken over 1,000 (yes, taking up lots of hard drive space with all those raw files). The true measure for me, is that I just love taking it out for a walk, I miss it when I don’t have it with me, and don’t mind the soar shoulder that comes with a day of lugging it around. All in all, it’s made me a better photographer.

    Now, back to the “right” vs “wrong” camera… The “right” camera for me doesn’t exist… yet. It’s a D4 with size and weight of the F3hp, the pixels of a D800, the iso range of a D6 (*wink*), the auto focus of a yet to be determined excellent auto focus camera (because none are perfect today), the ease of use of a rangefinder, coupled with the 10-800mm f/1.0 lens with no CA, no distortion, perfect balance of micro-contrast and sharpness, pancake profile and a feather weight. I’m taking pre-orders, and they only cost about $100.

    1. Andrew,

      Here’s a tip to help eliminate the sore shoulder: Consider getting a Spider Holster. Check out the single camera version at . I have one and haven’t had a shoulder and neck problem since I started using it. On a D-Town podcast, Pete Collins showed it off, and in a subsequent PhotoshopUser Magazine a few months ago, a favorable review was published. You might want to check it out. It WILL save your shoulder!

  59. The problem with this review is it does not address things like sports, action, birds in flight, differences in AF performance for moving subjects, low light focusing. Because of this it is difficult to throw a blanket over one camera or another and say this is for you. So would you say someone that works in say low light theater or stadium sports that the D600 AF is better (sure we know FPS could make a difference. I would of preferred something like (for example), if you print big, landscape, portrait is better for D800, sports low light photography and quicker AF, beginner, lower end lenses, those on a budget, D600 because saying the D600 is better kind of devalues your opinion.

  60. Scott I really enjoyed reading your comparison. For someone new to this hobby you laid it out so simply without all of the jargon and spec by spec comparison that one can’t help to being more informed about these two options. Really appreciate it and feel a lot smarter for having read it.

  61. The D800 makes me a better more efficient photographer. There have been numerous times I have my 24-70mm mounted to my camera and need to zoom in to capture the shot but can’t get my zoom lens on fast enough or simply don’t have it with me but the D800 is forgiving. Because of the 36mp on the D800 you can zoom in and crop the image and still print extremely high detail images. It is absolutely amazing at what you will see in images that I simply could not dream of with my D700 that I replaced. The D700 was amazing but if I did not have the zoom lens on when the shot required it the results were difficult to overcome.

  62. I am certainly in the minority here….I sold my D700 for a D800 and haven’t looked back. I cannot understand the issue with file size….for Pete’s sake, the camera allows you to shoot in many variations of lower resolutions, and for increased speed and manageable size, in DX mode.
    For events, I use it at 20MP…for portrait shots, architecture and scenery, then i use the 36MP.

    I recently shot a sports event and I used both the FX and DX mode depending on the reach I needed with the same lens!
    For bird photography, I used DX mode and get 15MP and faster speed…a little over 5FPs. Sometimes focus tracking is more important than FPS…what is the point when most are out of focus.

    The low light ability of this camera and the dynamic range is amazing. I am still accepting how much I can push the images in post processing.

    This is a camera you have to get comfortable with. I am not there but the creative range it allows me to exist within is enough for me to love this camera. My only complaint is the fact that I still have not been able to make quick adjustments to sensor area use and fx or dx format mode. I probably need to read up more on this camera. This camera is nothing short of amazing…so much in one body!

    1. I don’t see it that way. With my full format camera I’d use good quality FX lenses. I couldn’t just switch to DX mode to reduce file size without getting an odd focal length. When shooting sports with a 70-200 2.8 this might work, though. But for me, it makes more sense to use an FX only when needed (such as low light) and a second DX camera (for me D7000) for sports. So for me, a D600 and a D7000 makes more sense than just a D800. Shooting weddings I use both.

  63. Scott, I was one of those people who was on the fence when your post on this subject first came out last Friday, and I was strongly leaning toward the purchase of a D600 since I wanted a new D700. I tried out the D600 along with the D800 in a few camera stores and a big box store, and I read many reviews of both the D600 and the D800, but here’s the important thing among all of the points you and others posted for anyone considering a D600 or a D800: What feels right?

    A few years ago, you told your viewers on one of the early D-Town TV podcasts, if my memory serves me right, that you chose Nikon over Canon because you just like the way the shutter sounds. In my mind, it was that comfort thing that got you to buy a Nikon camera. (Oh, I’m sure there were other selling points and factors that went into play, but you told everyone what you liked the most about a Nikon.) Similarly, I think that deciding on one of these two new Nikon models is that internal comfort thing tells us which one we should buy. Sure there are external influences such as your opinions and other credible comments and reviews, but until a photographer puts his/her hands on a D600 or a D800 to test drive it, that comfort thing just cannot be truly realized.

    Since I’m a D300S owner yearning for a new D700, the D800 was the right fit for me. I was so close to buying the D600, but I had a personal epiphany in my third store visit after trying out the D800 and the D600. What made me decide on the D800? The ergonomics of all of its features– they’re all so similarly placed to what the D300S has. And since I own a D300S, the learning curve has been lowered for me. The D800 is a beauty and allows me to use it easily since I know where the buttons are, just like the D300S. The D600, although it’s quite a nice camera, just did not have the same feel as a D300S or that of a D700. It felt awkward in my hands.

    Sure, we have to ultimately look at what each camera can produce, but with everything considered and employing a modified workflow and being very selective with resolution/sizes when shooting (like what Raj wrote about yesterday), the D800 is the right fit and, in my mind, the best replacement for the Nikon D700.

  64. Thank you for your review of these two cameras and the comments shed a lot of light on the topic as well. One thing that I have not seen addressed is the importance of individual pixel size between the two cameras. The D600 pixel is 5.9 nanometers and the D800 pixel is 4.9. Notwithstanding the fact that the D800’s total MPs is significantly more than the D600, would the individual pixel size difference create a better photographic color with the D600?

  65. hey Scott thanks forI the great post. When the D800 first came out, I REALLY wanted one. But, the price and the fps was really holding me back. I waited and waited and almost got one just before the D600 was released. When the D600 was released, I realized it fit my needs more than the D800 for just the very reason you explained here.

  66. It’s also the perfect step-up for crop frame users coming from a D7000. The controls are almost identical and so it was a natural progression for me (except for the inexplicable flipping of the + and – playback magnification buttons — screws me up every time!). Overall, as a serious hobbyist, I love my D600 and I’m happy I didn’t fork out the extra thousand bucks for the D800. You gave your friend excellent advice in my opinion.

  67. Just got the D600. Incredible machine for my purposes. I gotta say, though: I still ogle and drool over the D800 when I see it. But I use a 2009 macbook pro and editing already takes long enough. I’m a landscape shooter so the autofocus system is not important to me. The biggest prints I make are 17*29 (and they look great). I have a promote control, so my bracketing and time-lapse capabilities are far superior to the D800 alone. So i just need to keep telling myself: “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice,” “you made the right choice” but I still want to own the D800… this must be that materialistic desire to own the best, regardless of your own needs, or what 1000 dollars means to you…

  68. Mr.Kelby I agree your point of view 100% and resume about the product line 600/700. I’m sure first of all to review product it should be viewed the way how the consumer will use camera. Because difference in technical usability is concern only the way you use camera. So most outstanding advantages are FX sencor, new body, new technologies which stay above d700 :)

  69. Well said and well written, I do believe that the D600 is a better choice for general shooting, but I have been using a D700 and a D3X for years so it is a no brainer, however the build quality of the front and rear of the D600 is not for the working outdoor pro. It is a unibody rear construction and a plastic front where the lens mount is attached much like the D7000. I am waiting for the, 16, 18 or 24 MP Fully sealed, All Magnesium body like the D300 and the D700 and then I will jump for an Awesome backup camera to replace my D700, I am also a Camera Repairman besides being a working Photo Pro.

  70. i dont normally comment on these discussion sites so here we go and this is my opinion:::i used my nikons stricly for work as i dont enjoy photography as much as i used so it’s just a job for the for the d800 it might as well be a great camera and i have a few fellow photog who use it,im in the market for a another body,my current bodies are the 700 and d3 which i love using a lot but i woulndt mind having slightly higher pixel but the higher iso and the frame rate are wayyyy more important to me::so here we go i think the d600 is great camera but as a pro shooter i cant shoot anything this slow and plus the flash sync is terrible at 200 at times you need to be higher to knock off those ambient lights on the carpet and the d800 is a great one too but really 36 mpix and the agency are complaining about 12mpix being too big and most of the time i have to resize all my picts which is a pain in the a$$ my guess is nikon only made these camera just compete against canon and for the actual upgrades maybe we’ll have a d700s or d710 and we already have the d4…the D800 no way is for professional,no pro shooter is gonna want to deal with a slow shooting d800

    and hardrive killing camera cause when its time to upload your picts they have to be downsized…the d600 and d800 might the best studio dslr for now,but they’re not geared toward pros who roamed the red carpet if you are a papparazzi dont even look at these two cameras i hope nikon would stop teasing us with high mpix toys and get down to real pro camera like a 16mpix 10 fps in a d700 type bodies and keep the buttons where they need to be and bring back that focus point selector button like the old d700,d2xs,d2h,d3,d3s and even the d300 if it aint broke dont fix

  71. Ok Scott, I’ll admit it. I bought the wrong camera! Bought (and sold) the D800 at launch and now have a shiny D600 which I love. All your comments here were spot on for me (a jobbing UK freelancer and dance photographer). I think I was hoping that the D800 would kinda’ force me into a more measured, contemplative way of working but, of course, that just didn’t happen. As you say the pipeline also got very choked and I found myself using my DX back-up body nearly all the time. The D800 just didn’t have any “snap” to it – and ultimately couldn’t keep up with the demands of my work.

  72. Scott,

    Please TELL Nikon I said they must send you a larger Christmas gift if they didn’t! This was a very interesting post! I’m sure D600 or D800 if you didn’t have it after this article you prob went and got it late November/Cyber monday or under the tree for Christmas.

    I’m going to upgrade my camera pretty soon and the D600 sounds like the camera for me. But I’ll wait a couple months to see what the fuss will be about the D600’s when Nikon releases it. I’m still rocking with the D300’s and for what I do it’s been feeding me and keeping the condo cool.

    I’ve been in the music world last year (Any great musician (lifestyle) photographers I should know about please? Hit me in the comments! Not concert etc. because Brad you’re the man in that Dept. I know.), this year I have a goal to balance both creating music and creating photographs now that I’m ready. Expect more comments and to see more photos (more songs) as well from me.

    No matter the advert’s uproars about the D700 / D800 / D600, at least all the talk is about Nikon and not the lame Canon losers….I meant users my bad. (How about D600/D800 vs Canon’s frontline’s competition for an article!)

    Happy New Year to all!

    Alike this article, fervently,

    Sir/Don Dwayne D. C. Tucker II / King Tuck / D. Tucker a.k.a. Dwayne Tucker from DwayneTucker[dot]com

    Miami, FL | Nassau, Bahamas

  73. I think this excellent post and the thoughtful comments miss one possibility. A D710 or D750 is on its way and will be a sports shooter’s dream. The D600 and D800 are not built for a sports shooter. There is now a gap in this “lower FX” range. And Nikon has set it up beautifully by creating a D6xx, D7xx and D8xx category all for different shooters with different needs. And at price points that slowly step us up in cost. Will the introduction of a D710/750 piss off a lot of D800 and D600 owners? You bet. But Nikon doesn’t care about this. I think we’ll hear about a new D7xx camera by summer, once the D600 and D800 sales have mellowed.

  74. Please change the title of the section “which takes the better pictures” the person takes the picture not the camera it’s like saying ” which oven bakes a better cake”

  75. Good article, both are great camera’s in their own rite. However the purchase of a camera also comes with “bragging priveledges”. For those folks wanting to massage their egos, by all means go for the D800. If all you want to do is take great pictures (and save $1000.00) buy the D600.

  76. Thanks Scott,

    I’ve been thinking from moving up from a fantastic Nikon D90 (a dinosaur, or as a Nikon mechanic told me: a left over from a previous decade!) to the D600 or D800…(If it wasn’t for the pixelcount and FX, I’d be staying with my D90!)

    Now, I just have one little question or thought…

    I own Photo Zoom Pro 4… Love, what it can do (Blowing up pictures from my D90) and hate it for what it can’t… (making magic happen from snapshots from my iPhone) but this piece of software for me eliminates the need of the D800…. Am I right here? I can pretty much blow it up as far as I want. Of course there will be some pixel freaks here with serious problems as to what I just stated… but really… Isn’t 24 enough, with the right software?

    Furthermore, don’t we come from an age where 16/17 ml was enough…. for even a professional? And weren’t we astonished by the large print from these camera’s?

    To be honest this seems a bit like discussing wich one is better, a porsche or a porsche convertible! Both great cars…

    Thanks Scott….

    PS: When can we expect a 7 point system book for Lightroom?

  77. Thanks. A great article. It’s about making a informed decision . Dont rely on someone with limited experience opinion, so that we can blame others for a wrong choice.

  78. Thanks Scott. I am with you on that D600. I actually learnt this from the Camera shop during one of my trips to the rental shop. I was seriously considering the D800 but after a few discussion with the Nikon expert at the shop. I was totally convinced that D600 will perfectly serve the purpose. Yes, the HD Video is a plus and i’m loving it!

  79. Well. I bought the D600 ane returned back. It was just not enough. Later I bought the D800E. I am in love with it. This is a real camera anything else is second.

  80. Thanks from me for this article as well! Given my financial situation there was no budget to purchase a D800 so it was the D600 before Christmas when B&H had that special offer.

    Although I can’t compare, I can say that I am also very happy with my purchase and that especially the transition from a D7000 (which I still have a a backup body) was very smooth.

    A bit further down I found a remarkable confession I can so very well identify with: often my decisions to purchase something are not driven by what I need but what I want and what is considered “best” in the market! So yes, I still do want a D800! I was having a coffee the other day and a guy (a tourist in his late 60s I would guess) at the next table put his D800 with a 24-70 on the table and had a picture of him and his wife taken by his friends and I was drooling! So the D800 remains an object of desire for me but certainly not a tool I need to get the job done. I do a lot travel and landscape photography but have no need for 36MP and sadly don’t work for National Geographic or Magnum etc.

    So if you have to make that decision, think of what you want but buy what you need and invest whatever you haven’t spent in some decent lenses. If NG or Magnum comes knocking at your door get yourself whatever makes you happy!

  81. Well, i own a D600 and a D7000. Yes they are 2 completely different cameras, but since the D600 is probably the best option to those who want to upgrade from DX to FX, here are my 2 cents: (not going to repeat what everyone says about its spec performance)
    The autofocus will annoy you and you will notice right away the lack of coverage! Lots of recomposing which can throw off your focus when shooting at large appertures. Even when shooting with its crop mode, the focus points cover less area of the screen than on the D7000. D800 wont solve this problem, but it definitely gives you some more coverage.For sports photography, it will make your job challenging! This is a downgrade from the D700, not an upgrade!
    For landscape, it lacks bracketing latitude. It only gives you 3 exposures, which for a camera of this level, it is desapointing. Yes, you can use your EV or even costumize the U1 U2 to get 9 different exposures out of 3 3frame bursts, but you shouldnt have to. This is also a downgrade form the D700, not an upgrade
    The button layout of the camera is very similar to the D7000. This is also a downgrade from the D700 which, just like the D200 D300 D800 and all “semi pro” cameras, have way more options with dedicated buttons than the D600. For example, to change from single point focus to continuous, you have to press and hold a button, and than change the mode using one of the dials. Same happens for metering and number of focus points sellection options. This is a downgrade from the D700, which you wont find on the D800 since they kept the “hundred series layout”. Put it this way: if youre racing a car, would you prefer to drive stick shift, where you need to press the clutch to change gears, or would you prefer to change gears just by using the stick, instead of having to also press the clutch?!

  82. Hello everybody.

    First, thanks Scott, for what you do for the photographic community.

    I’m a professionnal photographer based in France and also work as a trainer for Nikon ( and I assume that, Canon manufacture brilliant camera as well ), and please be kind with my english.

    I’m trying to share my experience and why I choose the D800 over D600.

    I was a D700/D3s user, what I loved in those camera was firstly, the AF ( speedy and accurate ) and the viewfinder ( large and crisp ) , and the feeling that the camera provide. I work with both manual and AF lenses and, it’s a important point here, I’m wearing glasses.

    The weakeness with those cameras, as you know, is image resolution. If you have to shoot moderate commercial or portrait, they must be a little bit undersized ( that was the D3x’s garden ).

    But for wedding,coverage and sport, almost perfect.

    The 1st time I took the 2 cameras in hand, the award was for the D800, definitely.
    Because of the viewfinder and AF, they are better than the D700’s.
    The feeling, the bkt’s button new location.
    I can’t imagine, working every day with a camera, having a worse viewfinder than its predecessor.
    Of course, it’s a slower camera than the D700, the autonomy is less.
    And the files are so big!
    But, I thing we’ve got a good point here, with the 1,2x ratio. With that fonction enable, we’ve got 24MP files, lighter faster and enough for a large part of the situation, with one benefit for human coverage. We’ve got a picture frame, “like” a telemetric system.

    So I wish to have, like a big part of people here, I guess, a Nikon Camera that should be a D800 with the D600’s sensor and speed inside. That should be the One.I think.
    But we haven’t. Insteed, we have two amazing camera, but with different goals.

    Have a nice day.

  83. Am I the only person who has no interest in video? I am a wedding and high school sports shooter ( my only source of income) currently using a D700 with a D300 as backup. I don’t need nor do I want to pay for a feature I will most likely never use. I will keep using the D700 until Nikon makes a camera I NEED!

  84. My investigation of DSLRs began relatively recently, so I’m still learning and I have no experience with any Nikon DSLR model. I have loved my F2 dearly for 40 years now, but digital has come so far and using film has become problematic for a variety of reasons, so I’m looking to make the jump to a serious digital camera.

    I want something that will work with my assortment of AI Nikkors (some of which were non-AI I had modified “just in case” that might come in handy some day, and now, decades later that day has arrived ;-) and will provide the same angle-of-view as they provide on my F2.

    So that limits me to four options, starting with the D600. My first instinct was to go for the D600, as I’m not a professional and don’t need the ultimate in anything, but once I began seriously pondering the possibilities a good DSLR would open up for me I started seeing uses for the outrageously high pixel count of the D800, and I don’t anticipate many, if any, situations where I’d need more fps than the D800 offers.

    But the real deal breaker for me with the D600 was the widely reported dust problem. It’s been documented and Nikon has acknowledged it in a recent Service Bulletin. I don’t care what percentage of D600 owners experience it, I just know I’m not going to risk being one of them. I know Nikon will clean it, but I’m not going to spend $2K on a camera fully anticipating I’ll have to send it in for service. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Is the D800 more camera than I need? Almost certainly, but the same is probably true of the D600, and the same was true of my F2. But the whole point of photography for me is to enjoy it. I never used my F2 to its fullest potential, but I’ve loved it for 40 years. I’ve loved the pictures it took; I’ve loved the way it felt in my hand; I’ve loved just looking at it. I loved it when it was light with a 24mm attached, and when it was heavy with a motor drive and 300mm attached.

    Now I want a Nikon DSLR I can love and that maximizes my possibilities, and so far the D800 is looking like the one that will deliver on that score.

  85. Okay, I’m waaay late at getting into this discussion, but after using the D600 for …what? … close to 7 months now (got mine within a few days of the official release date) and over 10k shutter releases (not spraying and praying either), I have a couple of things to say and can give a bit of a long-term review which might be helpful to those of you who are still labouring over the decision of which model to buy. But first, I’m an avid amateur (who is periodically paid a pittance for his photos) and while I shoot a lot in a lot of different settings (street, landscape, portraiture, a bit of studio, live music, events but not weddings), I really don’t know much about pro-grade cameras. I’ve only ever owned a D70 and a D7000. That’s it. I’ve never so much as picked up a D3 or D4 or D700 or even a D300s. I’m familiar with all of these models and drool over some of their specs, but I’ve never used one.

    I’ve also heard all the stuff about the D600 dust/oil problem (never experienced it) and the bunched up focus points (doesn’t bother me, I use single focus point and recompose mostly). I’m really happy with my D600 buy, even though it seems to be a really unloved camera! I often have people who don’t shoot nearly as much as I do and who don’t seem to take very great photos (I’ve checked) come up to me and make comments about my camera, like I’d made some terrible mistake not shelling out for the D800 instead. I’m not the best or most experienced photographer in the world, I’ll admit it, but people (including a couple of small time event organizers who hire me) seem to like my photos and I have three friends who have printed a couple of my shots (at 24″ x 36″) and hung them on their walls (proving not that I’m a great photographer but that you can blow up a 24 megapixel shot quite nicely).

    I thought long and hard about upgrading from my D7000 to the D800 but I had many of the concerns mentioned in both your article and in the comments. I was also on a bit of a budget so I jumped at the D600 because I really wanted full frame so that I wasn’t always trying to figure out what 70mm, for instance, really translated to. :)

    Here’s what I’ve found:
    – the D600 is a really EASY transition from the D7000, except for the minor annoyance that the + and – playback buttons were reversed for some inexplicable reason. I often shoot live bands with both cameras and this one thing makes me a bit crazy when I’m switching back and forth.
    – the high ISO capabilities of the D600 way surpass those of the D7000. I often shoot in divey little clubs which are very badly lit and I’m regularly shooting at 3200 to 6400 ISO (and then cleaning up the noise a bit in Lightroom) and producing very clean shots. To my eye, these shots are much cleaner than anything the D7000 produces and if I’m not mistaken the D600 scores a tad higher than the D800 on high ISO comparisons.
    – the continuous burst mode of 5 or 5.5 fps (or whatever it is) is plenty fast for a live band or photojournalism style shooting, though I can’t speak to sports or wildlife. Most of the time, though, I don’t use it. When I do, however, I find that my buffer and SD card bog down fairly quickly even though I’m using fast cards. I’m shooting in RAW though and it may be better in JPEG or it may be better with CF cards as are used by the D800.
    – despite all the interweb noise out there about how it doesn’t have a rugged pro body, my D600 has been through everything. It’s been knocked by drunks in bars, it’s been exposed to dust and sand, I often shoot fires in Detroit and change lenses (quickly and carefully) with smoke and ash in the air. It’s been drizzled and even rained on. All this and no problems. I take care of it, but I also use it hard and treat it like a tool, not something to baby. You probably wouldn’t want to buy mine used, but again, no problems.
    – it feels great in my hands with the battery grip (but again, I’ve never used anything other than the D70 and D7000 with grip). It feels solid and heavy enough without being too heavy. I would love the simplified controls of the D800 (like a dedicated ISO button and a dedicated AF-ON button!!), and since I never shoot in anything but RAW and manual I don’t care about fancy jpeg modes. But this is where it really says to me that it was meant as a full frame camera for hobbyists coming from the D7000.
    – the 24 megapixel files allow me lots of latitude when cropping without bogging down my 4meg ram MacBook Air 11″ (which is what I do all my Lightroom editing on believe it or not!!). I use a one terabyte external hard drive to store my pics because even at 24 megapixels you are making some honkin’ big RAW files and monster TIFF files for printing. Storage space has gotten pretty cheap so the larger files of the D800 don’t present that much of a problem in terms of storage, but when I’m editing quickly I do notice some minor delays on my computer — I can only imagine that would be worse with larger files.
    – most of my photos get shown on flickr, facebook, and 500px at 72 dpi and around 1200 pixels along the long edge, so 36 megapixels is pure overkill. But I haven’t run into a problem yet with the limited printing I’ve done, either. I’m looking at a shot right now which I took of an abandoned place in Detroit and which was printed at 24×36 and to my eye it looks pretty good! But what do I know — a pro might think it’s crap.

    And yet, and yet…. I still want a D800 which is what brought me here. Weird, huh? I think sometimes it’s just a bad case of G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome). Let’s face it — not ever being quite satisfied is part of the game and there is no one camera which does everything. But overall, I’m VERY happy with my purchase and for those of you who are thinking of upgrading from a crop-frame dslr like the D7000, I really don’t think you’ll regret buying a D600. If you’ve been using a pro-grade camera like the D3 or D700, you may feel very differently, so that’s what I took away from Scott’s piece: most of us amateurs and avid hobbyists will be plenty happy with the D600 and should work on our skills more rather than feeding the G.A.S. Having said that, my plan is to sell the D7000 next year (when it will be worth next to nuthin now that the D7100 is out!) and buy myself a D800 (probably a month or so before some D800s or D900 is announced just to make me go insane). But I’ll be keeping the D600 for live music and event photography where I’m taking and editing lots of shots. Hope this helps someone out there. :)

  86. By accident, I took a look of Mr. Kelby’s equipment. Guess what, there was (one?) D800 but no D600. I think, there’s no need to comment that but I suppose, that Mr. Kelby addresses his mainstream audience; if one was searching after a review, (s)he would better buy D600. Those who don’t need an review would buy rather D800. :D

  87. I like what you said about people defending their purchases in generall! Actually I found myself acting like that several times. I hope there will be no need to defend myself for buying the D600 (arriving today :D ) even though I’ve been warned about that sensor spot topic.

    1. Oups and here they are: my own spots on the sensor resisting every air-blower.
      According to the retailer he sent me a D600 he got one day before (end of April 2013) directly from Nikon. The D600 seems to be a great camera with a big problem.

  88. Really enjoyed the comparison and review. I am debating the purchase of a Nikon D800 and am on the fence. I own a Nikon D600 and am considering a 2nd Camera Body (D800) one to use as a primary and the D600 for the wife and as a backup 2nd camera. I like the quality of the D600 thus far and am curious if the additional quality and features of the D800 are truly worth the additional $1000. A couple of things I like about the D800 compared to the D600 is he viewfinder cover and the front mounted remote shutter release port, kind of minor thing but much more convenient for doing landscape and long exposures. Looking for an opinion on which purchase to make. Thanks for any input.

  89. Thanks for explaining to me why the Nikon D600 is better. Now I am able to more intelligently choose the camera that i will be happy with and at the same time fit my needs. I love your Camera Books, they help alot.

  90. Great article, Scott. I spent months researching whether to get the D800 or D600 and your article was the best thought out that I came across. That said, I ended up with the D800. I’m not saying it’s a better camera, I just wanted to share my perspective as to why I chose the D800.

    I’m a professional shooter, shooting mainly people on location and animals for a shelter that I volunteer for. My other bodies are a D7000 and a D3. The D7000 has a nice tonal range, but is not good at higher ISOs. The DX crop mode on the D800 is almost identical in MP to the D7000 and is much better at noise, so the D7000 is going bye-bye. When shooting animals, particularly dogs running at full speed, the 6fps on the D700 was acceptable, but the percentage of actual usable frames is not nearly as good as on the D800 with it’s better focussing system (which actually has 6fps with the battery grip or 5fps without in DX mode). My understanding is that the focusing module on the D7000 is quite similar to the D600.

    The majority of the time 36mp is overkill for what I do. I suspect that I will use the 1.2 crop mode mostly. One thing that most people have not mentioned is that at 1.2 crop you get 5fps on the D800, only a half frame behind (and what am I going to do with that half frame anyway, I might as well delete it) ; ). You don’t really lose much in focal length, but an added benefit, at least for me, is using the crop frame in the viewfinder. I’m used to shooting with Leica M cameras and I always seem to get different kinds of photos with those cameras, partly, I assume, because I’m using the frame markers in the viewfinder and can see what’s outside of the capture area and can make a more informed decision on what and what not to include in the framing. I do have clients that require large prints from time to time and having the 36mp when I need it saves me from having to rent.

    You mentioned that the D800 might not be great for travel, but I actually think it would be great. It’s basically four cameras in one with the different crop modes. You can shoot in 36mp, 30mp (with the 4×5 crop mode), 25mp, and 15mp. One body and a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm and a small, lightweight 2x teleconverter and you have anywhere from 24mm to 600mm.

    Just a thought about the size and weight difference – bigger and heavier is better for me. I can always get a higher percentage of sharp photos with the D3 than with the D7000. Heavier cameras are just more stable when hand held. I’ve had to switch bodies during a shoot for this very reason and it really did make a difference. I’m used to the big old film clunkers with the huge, heavy motor drives. When I’m shooting I honestly don’t even notice if the camera is heavy or not. To me, giving the client the best I can produce trumps my comfort every time.

    I do think the D600 is wonderful, and will most likely add it as a second body, partly because they have the same look and image quality. One of the biggest improvements I noticed about the D800 over my other bodies is the amazing tonal range and subtlety of color variations. So much so that I have come up with some personal projects that can really take advantage of those qualities, things I wouldn’t have considered before.

  91. Ok, so here goes i got a d600 and enough has been said about file sizes and quality, My real pain is the crammed 36 points coming from a d90 that had 11 points evenly spread this is a pain for shooting in 3d mode as they struggle to find focus in both my lenses a 20mm 2.8D and a 80-200 2.8 ED old version. but then i started using AFS instead of AFC and if you know what you are doing where to focus, getting the right lenses mm and such, and when to take the shot youll be fine although it does take some adjustment. I honestly dont understand why nikon did this all crammed thing it really bugs me. If i was to advice id say get the D800 just because of this, since it can make you lose a great shot the market tendency is to have more potent computers bigger hard drives so youll get a camera ahead of its time

  92. I too am this dilemma. however there are three reasons why I personally may go for a 600
    1. No IR remote release (I swear by that when shooting landscape from a tripod)
    2. CF/SD instead of Dual SD
    3. Weight

  93. The spots on the sensor really depreciate the D600. It’s an amazing camera IF you could ignore this problem. I bought a D600 in May delivered from Nikon 2 weeks before and I have only trouble since then. Don’t buy it now – or ignore me and realize it yourself.

  94. I have a 600 and having faced the “oil” patches issue, i pretty much lawyer-ed Nikon into giving me a replacement, After much assurance, the problem continues to exist on the new piece too! I’m planning on suing them before a consumer forum and teach these morons a lesson. Like someone rightly said, there’s a visible difference between a made in Thailand and Made in Japan!

    The other big issue is, as a wedding photographer who shoots in RAW and uses his FX lenses, I simply CANNOT use a D800 with 70mb files, that would be nuts! So where do I stand? Somewhere between scratching my head, suing and exposing Nikon or moving to Canon!

  95. Can I just add an important point that everyone should consider. I have a D700 as a back up camera and have recently added a D600 with the plan for it to take the place of the D700 as my back up to my D3S. One thing that people need to be aware of, is that the D600 does not have as good a focusing system as the D800 or even the D700. Also, it doesn’t have the same number of 51 autofocus points, meaning there is less opportunity to get the focus point exactly where you want it in the frame.

    As a back up its fine, but I have had my D600 hunt a few times in lower light, where my D700 has nailed it first time. Great picture quality though and video is amazing.

  96. Awesome, thanks! I had been on the fence until a couple of weeks ago when I decided I’d end up getting the 600; now I won’t have a little voice in the back of my head doubting my decision…it’ll just be telling me laffy taffy jokes instead :p

  97. Thanks a lot for the honest review. Really appreciate it. Especially the past paragraph you recommend D600 was fantastic. People really looking for strong recommendations from experts. Thanks again.

  98. Great post Scott. As a D800 owner I marvel at your comments about the D600 and think oh so true. I may purchase a D600 as a second body backup and retire my trusty D200 (yes, my dinosaur D200!) Im just not into upgrading bodies that often. Money better spent on lenses. But I figured it was time to advance in technology and what a difference it makes.

  99. Want to crop photos? Go with the best res. Interestingly enough, if you’re shooting wildlife at a distance, that may be the D7100. If the D7100 sensor were full sized, it would be 55mp. However, in a full-sized camera, the D800 will give the best crop.

  100. Its been too many years since I looked at new camera bods. My two bodies will be the D7100(sports, macro) and the D600(landscape, architecture) as soon as I feel the ^%$# dust/oil problem is behind us. Investing in FX glass only for both rigs.

  101. Oh no. Read your review and now all the comments and my head is spinning.
    I have a budget. Starting from scratch again and would like the d800. At this time I can afford it so do I go for it or save money to put towards something else and get 600. Will someone just make the decision for me.

  102. While I respect Scott Kelby’s opinion greatly, I’m going to have to beg to differ on his D600 recommendation. I bought one the other evening and while the IQ and DR were phenomenal, the autofocus for moving subjects was lousy. Great landscape, travel or family photography camera, but it doesn’t measure up for sports or low light photography. As I love sports photography, back the D600 went.

  103. Thank you Mr. Scott Kelby, indeed It’s the ONE AND ONLY faithful review, overview and unbiased opinion of two great cameras. As you said, all (yours excepted) reviews leave readers at loose end with the reviewer sitting on a fence ! You have won me !
    Thank you very much for the decisive words !

  104. Did they fix the dust/oil on the sensor problem on the D600? I want to like this camera but I don’t want to spend $ on it if I’m going to have issues. Every review from Adorama to B&H to Amazon says stay away. D800 is prob too big for what I need. Maybe I’ll just go with the D7100 & wait on the sidelines for an updated Full frame without oil splatter issues

  105. The “oil issue” on the old Nikkor 55mm AI lens pushed the price well below it’s true value & allowed me to snap one up for $125, sharpest lens I’ve ever used. Now please just keep up the talk on this camera’s ‘dust issue’, I’m waiting to snap one of these baby’s up too when the price keeps dropping like it has. Thanks..

  106. Why I like you is that you are honest and nobody else knows as much as you. Though I am 86 I can still stand upright. I shall go for the 600. Thanks. By the way I am stuck with all your books.!!

  107. I just got back from a four day photo shoot in Glacier with 40 other amateur photographers. As near as I could see there were only 4 of us with D600 cameras with a lot of D800 and a few D3, D4 cameras. The biggest difference was watching the D800 users changing from various programs. With the U1 and U2 custom setting I could preset my camera for say sunrise shots and quickly switch to handheld low light for the moose that walked by. The D800 folks were still changing settings while I have my shots and back on the tripod. On the computer screen at the evening review all photos were very good. I was always there before the D800 users because I could download a days photos in about 1/2 the time. I was told repeatedly that the D800 was a better choice, but I made the right choice with the D600.

  108. Hi Scott, I have a financial question. My money is limited so I have this problem. In your opinion am I better off buying a d600 and a new full frame lens or for the same price buy a d800 body and use all my current lenses that I use with my d7000? Would the new lens make a lot of difference to the clarity? I am just starting to sell my work printed as larger images.

  109. Great post! I’m tied between both of these camera but leading more towards the D600 to be honest. One question and I hope you can answer it but how does the D600 handle noise? I shoot with a D7000 at the moment and really looking to upgrade to full frame and the D4 unfortunately is out with my budget :(

      1. Cheers David, not really interested in FPS to be honest as I’m not an avid sports shooter ( and if I do I have the D7000 as long as it’s not dark lol ) so D800 it may well be. Thankfully I’m in no rush so will keep researching.

  110. Hi Scott !! Your article is an eye opener for guys like me, absolute beginners ! You saved me a 1000 bucks & precious time. Thanks mate, The lobster`s on me !

  111. I am another of those folks wishing for a 24 megapixel D800. I shoot portraits with a D700 but I always crop to 4×5 post and sometimes square which loses a lot of pixels. For that reason I would like a bump up in pixel count.

    I prefer the pro controls, focusing system and autoexposure system of the D800 but have concerns regarding the file size. I have read that, for the D800, Nikon recommends shooting at a higher shutter speed than you are accustomed to for any given focal length to avoid blurry images. I already shoot at 1/250 using my 70-200 outdoors, so I am wondering if I am going to have problems with a D800 because I am bumping up against the shutter speed limit for fill flash.

    I use a large scrim with a battery powered studio strobe for fill so no high speed sync for me. I am also up and down ladders and weaving between stands holding reflectors etc so a tripod is impractical.

    Even indoors I shoot older Speedotron packs and heads that have a flash duration of 1/250 second.

    If I go with a D800 am I asking for trouble? Any thoughts are much appreciated.

  112. Scott,
    thank you for a great, decisive, and detailed review/comparison of the D600 vs D800. I am moving to FX for the first time (off of dx models 300, 300s, and 7100). So I have been doing a lot of research to help me with this transition. This review has been the most helpful of all the ones I have read so far. Thanks again!! Regards, Dominic

  113. D600 is is a great deal right now as you can now get them lightly used for about $950-$1000! Thanks to the sensor dirt issue which affected some early batches of this camera, many people are scared of their perfectly good D600s and are dumping them at ridiculous prices.

    A 20+MP FF DSLR, with one of the best sensors in the market ( Its way ahead of 5DMkIII in my opinion ) and you can have it for for less than a grand!
    The best thing about D600 is the amazing high ISO performance, decent file size, light weight, dual cheap SD card slots, separate flash/Ambient light compensation, and tons of shadow detail. I also like to use it on DX mode for non critical pics ( like cocktail hour, dance, etc). 10MP DX is perfectly good for wedding photography.

    One can have a supremely capable kit for just $2000.
    Just buy a D600+ Tamron 24-70mm VC.
    You can now shoot at ISO 12,000 at F2.8 1/15 sec handheld!

    I think every Nikon user should own at least 1 D600 as a backup.

  114. Scott’s doing some serious exaggeration here. 5 photos for an HDR taking up 600 MB? My D800 files after converting to DNG are usually in the 30-50MB range. So for 5 of them that 250MB tops. He claims stitching a 14 frame pano would take an hour? Not even close. I recently stiched together a 40 frame Brenizer and it took about 15 minutes. That was on a Macbook Pro. A beefy desktop would be even faster.

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