These are very cursory and limited observations, likely useful
to some folks looking to choose an affordable FF SLR.
My points of reference by which I evaluate my early days with
the D610 are: Canon 5D-II and SL-1, and Sony a7-II and a6000.
Image quality, casually assessed:
Mostly I care about high ISO IQ. The Canon 5D-II is awful. The
Sonys are quite livable, and the D610 is the best. To put this
limited collection of cameras on a scale of 1 to 5, The 5D-II is
a '1', the SL-1 and a6000 are around '3', the a7-II is '4' and the
the D610 is a '5++' .... I shoulda used a scale of 1 to 6
The colors from the D610, which is so new to me that I have
not yet done any tweaking of its settings, are better than any
of the other cameras, many of which are already tweaked. As
to what "better" means .... nothing technical, very subjective,
they just look "really right" right outa the box. YMMV.
The Sonys have it over the Canons and D610. Partly this is due
to the size of the Sonys, backside controls get clustered to the
righthand side cuz there's so little room on the left. Also, the
D610 is just not as customizable as the Sonys. It is pretty good,
but I may be spoiled by the Sonys.
The Canon SL-1 is very small and clusters its backside controls
on the righthand side like the Sonys but compared to the Sonys
it's much more of a low budget camera, so it's overall control
array is rather compromised. The D610, like the 5D-II has quite
an array of backside controls, and neither camera has a really
friendly layout of all those controls. They're just kinda all over
the place. The Sonys, the a7-II more so than the a6000, have a
friendlier backside layout. And the two custom buttons next to
the shutter button on the a7-II are icing on the cake.
If you need to handhold huge lenses, the D610 is prolly your
choice [altho I never tried adding a grip to the a7-II]. My D610
came with a massive kit lens [28-300] which seems to be right
at home on that body. The whole package is pretty big but, it
all hangs together like it was born to be that way.
I find the 3 buttons scattered around on the front of the D610
to be far less convenient than Sony's approach, but Nikon has
done a good job locating them where you might intuitively
reach for them .... but you do reach. On the Sonys there's no
need to reach.
I won't compare "AF performance" cuz having no need of "high
performance" AF, all these cameras are roughly equal. Speed
and low light ability are OK with me, all around. However the
D610 does seem somewhat more "decisive" with questionable
targets in low light. It's not a huge thing, but it seems to be a
bit ahead of the rest. The 5D-II is definitely the worst. YMMV.
Online I've encountered remarks that lament about how Nikon
gathered all the AF points into a relatively centralized zone,
rather than spreading them across a much wider area. Maybe
for those who need tracking AF wider is better but for a static
subject I like the DENSITY of jamming all those AF points into
a useful central focusing cluster.
I use Back Button AF on all cameras that allow it. Being left-eye-
dominant, BBAF always puts my 'focusing thumb' in front of my
right eye, which is annoying and distracting. With the D610, AF
can be moved to the front button near the shutter button and I
have found I prefer this over a backside AF button.
Thaz it. No test lab charts, no pixel peeper files, just my early
impressions .... which I'm very consciously considering, cuz I'm
still within the merchandise return period, and this kit is rather
large and heavy. Since I've had to do this degree of conscious
and "serious" assessment, I figgered I'd share it. You might infer
from this little review that I'm basically into Sony. Thaz true !
And it would devalue the review if I tried to hide or deny it.
In case someone gets curious about my kit lens, and I again
mention that these are all early impressions, here's where
I'm at with that so far [G series 28-300 VR-II]:
Best feature: The VR is terrific.
Worst features: Rather large, kinda slow.
I spoze the large-and-slow is pretty obvious even if you're
just looking at the spec's page, but the performance of the
VR is something to experience. Double-digit shutter speeds
at 300mm are very workable. There's an extra VR mode I've
not yet needed to try out.
There's all the corner shading and distortion that you would
rationally expect from a 10X wide-to-tele lens. No miracles
on that front, but not any worse than many 5X wide-to-tele
zooms, so I spoze thaz pretty cool.
Don't know whether to credit the lens or the camera or the
accidental combination but the AF needs no micro adjusting.
And I'm rather fussy at testing for that, due to my prejudice
against mirror-dependent SLR AF, as compared to live view
AF on Sonys, which is always absolute, never needing micro
adjusting [thaz native to live view, not exclusive to Sony].
The lens hood is huuuge, and uses a rather cheap click-lock
system [all part of the single molded product] but as I don't
routinely remove it for storage, I expect it to last. YMMV.
The internal focusing focuses by shortening the FL to place
the focus plane closer than infinity. At the longer FL range
this can become pretty obvious. The "tight head shot" range
uses dialed-in FLs in the 200 to 300mm range, but the actual
FLs in that context are about 150 to 200mm. The near focus
across the whole FL range is 18 inches, which acoarst will
result in actual FLs well below 200mm.
When I added a UV filter, it went on by almost two full turns,
so the plastic filter threads on this lens are better than most.
The lens seems sharp, across nearly the entire frame, wide
open, at any FL. Thaz on my D610. Rumor has it that lenses
like this are never suitable for a recent ultra-high resolution
camera. I have no way of confirming nor contesting that, but
I've found that those who claim to have proved it specialize
in making painfully boring pictures. So, having no cameras of
huge resolving power and having no interest in boring photos
I find this lens suitable for any non-specialized use: Poor for
architecture or studio product shots, good for portraits of all
genres, most scenic vistas, events, performances, etc. YMMV.
If you want an above average kit lens with super zoom ratio,
and have an almost $1000 need for it, this is your baby. That
would seem to be a very narrow market ! If you revel in the
optical prowess of the finest prime lenses, and if you like to
discuss the finer points of balance and ergonomics, acoarst
you won't be reading this cuz you already believe that wide-
to-tele 10X zooms cannot make passably useful photographs,
and are ergonomic nightmares.
As to REAL ergonomic glitches, you hafta learn to avoid the
focus ring when gripping the lens to steady it. The focus ring
remains live for MF, even during AF, so you might accidentally
undo the result of an AF activation. Unfortunately, the MF ring
is exactly where you naturally grip the lens to steady it or to
aim this fairly heavy package :-(
Still learning more, but I've finally decided it's a keeper,
greatly due to my latest discovery. High ISO IQ is much
better than I had initially seen in simple test shots that
included varying degrees of dark shadow, where noise
looks more noticeable and uglee. Since I took it out and
used it for the real-world subjects and conditions that I
actually work in, I'm verrrry impressed.
Well, the additional good news is that even above 6400
where noise gets plainly visible, it looks very much like
film grain, "sprinkled" about rather uniformly. For me, a
noise issue is bad when its effects don't relate at all to
the image. Thaz why I say this looks like film grain, cuz
it "belongs" to the image. It doesn't look imposed on the
image but looks like it is a product of the image, which
make sense visually.
Blotchy color clumps are almost totally absent and what
little are in evidence are subdued. It's mostly just the
grainy look, right up thru 25,600 ... which is lower than
max ISO on many new cameras, but at least the high ISO
on this camera is usable all the way up. No way would I
relegate it to only emergency use, or only for very small
web page images. It may look like Konica 3200 ISO color
print film, but looking like film is waaaaay ahead of the
uglee inappropriate noise I've had from other cameras.
Don't misread me here. 5-digit ISO shots are NOT clean.
But they are not plagued by weird, distracting artifacts.
They're afflicted only by familiar, photographic looking,
There is a high ISO glitch to the D610. Exif data for ISO
is blank for ISO over 6400. When reviewing results, you
can't double check whether it's at ISO 8000 or 25,600 or
somewhere in between :-(
Here's ISO 25,600. Considering that it does look more or
less like Konica 3200 film grain, it's hard to complain cuz
this is 3 stops faster than that.
Kevin and Brian DG E1 0076 WM.jpg
Another observation. Initially, I was very disappointed that
unlike older Nikons [and maybe some other new ones, but I
don't happen to know], the D610 does NOT offer in-camera
tiffs. I 'd always thought that was a very cool Nikon feature.
OTOH: jpegs from this camera are almost tiff-like compared
to my other cameras of similar MP count. My Canon and Sony
jpegs are not even half the file size of the D610 jpegs, with
all cameras set to max jpeg quality. The file size advantage
is evident when editing. The larger files tolerate much more
tone manipulation without getting all peppery or developing
uglee jpeg artifacts.
Except for all the weight and bulk I'm growing to appreciate
this camera ever more every day. I have yet to experience
toting it in a more svelte form by mounting some lens other
than the Lenzilla that came with it. Thaz intentional, cuz I'm
either gonna enjoy it WITH Lenzilla, or return the whole kit.
Thaz cuz I depend on the VR, and all my small lenses lack VR,
and if I hafta buy a midsize nonZilla lens that has VR it kinda
screws up the very outstanding bargain price the put this kit
in my hands in the first place. I'm keeping in mind that I did
not in the least NEED a new camera. This is an impulse grab.
And thaz the value of this "review". Unlike most reviewers,
I'm not proudly or happily presenting my "new baby". Quite
the contrary, You are sharing in my "keep it or don't keep it"
decision about a discretionary purchase I can afford, but that
still represents more money than I can casually throw around.
Well, by now decision time is over, the return period
has expired, and it's a keeper. I'm not suddenly some
kinda Nikon Fanboy, not turning flips about it, but I'd
have no hesitation to recommend that anyone needing
a one-lens "do everything rather well" package to look
closely at this package .... unless size and weight are
really significant barriers.
Here's a result of a very typical situation for me. It's
at ISO 640, wide open at 300mm, and very dependent
on the VR for shooting 300mm at 1/15 sec. It's prolly
an actual 160mm due to the FL shortening effect of
the IF at this distance, but you can see that the VR is
very effective for an otherwise near-impossible hand
held situation. You can also notice that altho there's
no DoF wide open at max zoom, the AF is dead on.
I did not hafta do any AF micro-adjustment with the
body and lens combination that I received. Acoarst,
thaz a sample size of one, so be aware YMMV.
Have a look-see:
Nick D610 test 0102 WL.jpg
300mm at a bit better shutter speed. Still no DoF.
It's at high ISO and cropped to "4/3" format cuz it
was still too far away for 300mm.
Yellow Jackets D610 0124 WM.jpg
I think this now wraps up my CASUAL review
Body and lens deliver beyond expectations at a fairly
competitive price, and the only negative aspect that
may be a complete deal breaker for some users is the
old SLR buggaboo ... bulk and weight.
Editing OK?: Ask First
Constructive Critique?: Yes
Nice review, always interesting how personal preferences (button location, omission of specific function) can sway a review. I've never seen a Nikon model that converts to a tiff, granted I've only been a Nikonian about ten years; but not having that function wouldn't be a game changer, it's all those pesky little things (# of focusing points, ec range) that give me issues. Even having to go through the menu to make changes, rather than through a back button; doesn't bother me so much. Again, it's probably all about personal preferences.
I expect to be inconvenienced. I do not expect a flawlessly
integrated cybernetic extension of my physical self. But it's
clear that many feel entitled to at least a 95% near-perfect
version of that goal. And thaz just the ergonomics. When it
comes to IQ and other performances criteria [night vision
etc] their sense of entitlement is equally extreme. I wrote
it for pragmatists with realistic expectations.