A PAINFUL REVIEW
Welcome to my Nikon D610 camera review, and this is probably one of my most expensive review. Why? Because I baptized my D800E in sea water and it went into a coma. Repairs will cost a whopping $500++, and I chose to buy a new camera instead.
Oh well, bad accidents do happen, and please do take extra care of your gear. For now, I might as well do a review on the D610, and share why I chose the D610 instead of D750 or D810 as a replacement.
Not the best, but still amazing and a hair behind D800.
More plastic than metal. Well, it’s still solid, and it’s lighter. Not weather sealed.
Rather “standard good Nikon” ergonomics design. Missing a few useful buttons though.
An excellent full frame for this kind of price? It’s a steal.
Great price, great performance. The term “entry level full frame” is underrated.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE SPECS AND WORTHY CONTENDERS
So the Nikon full frame family is growing. But yep, I am not going to compare the “entry level” D610 against a “top of the cream” D5. I am just going to compare it against the D750 and D810, plus, I am going to share why I got the D610.
|Price (USD)||About 1100 (Got mine for 1040)||About 1550||About 2500|
|Dynamic Range||14.4 Evs||14.5 Evs||14.8 Evs|
|Color Depth||25.1 bits||24.8 bits||25.7 bits|
|Dimensions (mm)||Approx. 141 x 113 x 82||Approx. 140.5 x 113 x 78||Approx. 146 x 123 x 81.5|
|Weight (grams)||Approx. 760 (camera body only)||Approx. 750 (camera body only)||Approx. 880 (camera body only)|
|Media||Dual SD cards slot||Dual SD cards slot||SD / CF cards slot|
|ISO Range||100-6400 standard, 50-25600 expanded||100-12800 standard, 50-51200 expanded||64-12,800 standard, 32-51,200 expanded|
|AF Points||39 AF Points||51 AF Points||51 AF Points|
|Max. shutter speed||1/4000 sec||1/4000 sec||1/8000 sec|
SO WHY DID I GET THE NIKON D610?
I know, some people thought I was “downgrading” from D800 to D610. But in terms of image quality, the D610 is on par with the D800, less a hair – see the DXOmark comparison here. Plus, it is also neck-to-neck with the D750. Downgrade? I doubt.
Sure thing, the D750 comes with a 51 points AF system, a better ISO range, built-in WIFI, and tilty filpy screen. But is it worth to pay the extra $500? Nah. I hardly shoot beyond ISO 3200. I have used manual focus lenses before, so 39 points is good enough. Plus, I can live without the WIFI and flip screen anyway.
What is important, is that Nikon did not cut down on the image quality of the D610, and that is all I need. As for the D810? That is too much of a price to pay for a small upgrade…
BUILD & ERGONOMICS
When I first got the D610, the first thing that stood out was the red ring. Yes, also the very familiar “Nikon design”, “Nikon ergonomics”, and “Nikon buttons layout”. This is my 5th Nikon camera, and things don’t seem to have changed much.
I am not complaining, because the learning curve for me is zero. For you guys who are new to Nikon, rejoice. Because for many years, I never had to do finger yoga to change the settings on a Nikon. That means, Nikon has done their buttons layout right.
This has to be one of the most “plastic” full frame that I have owned – Nikon sure took most of the metal alloys away to lighten the camera and price. Nope, not that it’s bad. It still feels solid in hand, and there is no “hollow”, “it’s going to break” feel to it.
As for the rubber grip, it does feel good and a slight improvement over the D800. But there has been a problem that plagued Nikon cameras for ages – The rubber expands over time. Not a major problem, and it can be easily fixed with a little “scissors surgery” plus industry strength double sided tape.
Nope. This camera is not weather sealed. Don’t take it out in the pouring rain, it is not going to survive. That said, the D610 has some weather proofing; It has some degree of weather sealing, but not as much as the D810 and D5. It will survive an occasional light rain and dust.
P.S. D800E is weather sealed, and it did not survive sea water. So… you know. Weather sealed or not, avoid getting any form of water inside the camera.
The best I can explain is – The design and layout of D610 is almost the same as D7100 and D750. Good grip, good button layout, and I am mostly comfortable with it. But of course, there has to be one or two small misses in every design.
For the D610, it is a missing back focus button. Yep, it’s a shame as a full frame, and how much will a button cost? Secondly, the buttons for changing ISO and white balance are oddly placed at the bottom left of the camera. Otherwise, the D610 is ergonomically comfortable.
SHUTTER OIL DISASTER
I am sure that some of you guys have heard about the shutter oil issue on D600 – The shutter “spits” oil onto the sensor, and leaving oil stains behind. Exactly because of this issue, Nikon released the D610 just about a year after that.
With a new shutter design and minor improvements, I have not encountered any oil issues thus far. Regardless of that, minor dust and oil stains will still build up over time. Nikon does honor their warranty though, so you can rest easy with this.
IMAGE & FOCUSING
Now for the million dollar question, how well does this “entry level full frame” fare in terms of image quality. Well, I can only say – amazing. Except for the megapixels, I would say this guy is on almost on par with the D800. Note, you click on the sample images below to visit my Flickr account – where you can view the full size image.
Let us start with the auto focus system first – It is fast, quiet, an so far 99.9% accurate… That is with a gold ring 16-35mm f/4 Nikon lens. But one thing that I didn’t like, is that all the AF points are stuck to the middle of the frame. UGH. Be prepared for some focus and recompose with this camera.
All the sample images are taken with the D610. Click on the image to visit my Flickr page – where you can see the full EXIF and full resolution.
ISO NOISE PERFORMANCE
An ISO monster, with clean images from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. Usable images from ISO 2000 to ISO 6400… beyond that is just, meh.
“Entry level full frame”? Don’t be tricked by that term. The D610 is an all-round excellent performer, and it is very well priced. Sure thing it does not have an AF system nor ISO range that is as good. But those can be easily overlooked, and it has excellent value-for-money.
I am not saying that D750 and D810 are bad in any way. If you are into sports and action, that 51 points AF system will come in very handy. Plus, the both of them do have merits in a few other ways – ISO range, WIFI, 1/8000 max shutter speed, 36.3 megapixels, etc… But is it worth your money? You decide.
The D610 is now what I call “full frame without all the bells and whistles”. Excellent image quality, sufficiently good AF system, good ISO performance, and that is all that I ask for as a landscape photographer.
- Excellent image quality.
- Solid build, good ergonomics.
- Affordable full frame camera.
- Value for money.
- Missing back focus button.
- AF points all stuck in the middle of the frame.
- Not an ISO monster like the D810 (who will want to shoot in ISO 51200 anyway?).
- Not weather sealed.