Nikon D610 digital SLR camera

Nikon's full-frame camera is a joy to use, provides excellent results

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Nikon D610
  • Nikon D610
  • Nikon D610
  • Nikon D610

Pros

  • Full-frame sensor
  • Great low-light performance
  • Feels comfortable to use

Cons

  • Screen doesn't have a hinge
  • Some slight chromatic aberration

Bottom Line

Nikon's D610 is a great value camera for anyone wanting to move from a crop sensor to a full-frame model. Its performance is great overall, and the build of the camera is solid. We like it.

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The D610 has a compact size that belies the full-frame sensor it houses within. It’s sturdy and comfortable to hold, and it packs the traditional controls and functions you’re already used to if you’re a Nikon user. It’s definitely an intuitive camera, but, most importantly, it’s also capable of producing great results for almost all types of shooting scenarios, and it can do high quality video shooting, too.

Nikon positions this camera as an entry-level full-frame model, located just under the superior D800, and a shade above the D600 — though the D610 and the D600 are very much similar models with the D610 being a little faster overall, and Nikon states that its white balance performance is also improved. Don’t upgrade if you already use the D600. It can be a transitional model if you’ve been thinking about upgrading from a camera with an APS-C sized sensor to a full-frame camera, but the catch is that you’ll also have to replace your lenses with full-frame models that are suitable for the bigger sensor.

Scroll down for sample images.

It’s not necessary to go for a full-frame camera (FX format, as Nikon calls them) if you’re already happy with the results from your APS-C based digital SLR (in Nikon parlance that’s called the DX format), but some of the benefits of the larger sensor can be sharper image quality and improved performance under challenging lighting conditions. Because the sensor is bigger, it can let in a lot more light. We tested the D610 with an AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm 1:3.5-4.5 G lens, and found the overall experience, as far as performance and results are concerned, to be a good one.

Performance and ease of use

In terms of specifications, the D610’s sensor has a 24-megapixel resolution, and this ensures your pictures will end up being huge, which is perfect if you want to print them out at large sizes. In addition, it allows you to crop images quite a bit if you want to make a smaller subject in your photos a little more prominent. Basically, it gives you good versatility and the image quality that it can produce is of a very high mark.

We found pictures to be clear and crisp, and colours captured by default using JPEG compression were vibrant, yet looked natural. You can definitely shoot RAW with this camera, just like you can with all digital SLRs, and there is even a second SD card slot that allows you to pack two SD cards for the purpose of designating one to store a RAW copy of your photos, and the other one JPEGS. You can also use the two slots for backup purposes, or simply as an overflow when the main card gets full. We used a 64GB, SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC card for our tests.

Physically, the camera will feel heavy to you if you’re not used to a digital SLR, but if you’re moving from an APS-C model, it should be no more (or perhaps a little heavier) than you’re already used to holding (depending on the lens configuration). You get a camera that feels solidly built, and which has a purposeful grip for your hand, and plenty of manual controls.

The control layout is typical Nikon, with dials positioned in prime real estate around the shooting position so that you can quickly and easily change aperture and shutter values, while ISO speed and white balance settings can be accessed via buttons residing next to the 3.2in LCD screen at the back. Exposure compensation and metering buttons are also readily available near the shutter button, and there are dedicated controls for shooting video and enabling Live View mode.

On a camera like this, Live View isn’t really necessary unless you’re shooting video, or if you want to frame a shot in a way that looking through the optical viewfinder will be prohibitive. We could have used a hinge on the screen for some high-up and low-down angles that we wanted to capture, but if you’re serious about getting odd angles with this camera, then you’ll have to get dirty or become imaginative in the way you do it. Besides, a hinge would just made the body more bulky and perhaps a little heavier.

The optical viewfinder itself offers a full view of your scene and it has a comfortable eyepiece and padding that won’t make you sore. Exposure settings can be seen along the bottom, and you can change focus position in the centre of the scene (there are 11 points) by using the thumb control just to the right of the LCD screen.

Speed is plentiful with this camera, allowing it to be useful for action shots. In our tests, it allowed us to capture up to six frames per second (fps) using the high-speed continuous mode. There is a quiet continuous mode, too, which does about 3fps. Other drive modes of note include mirror-up, which can be used to reduce the vibration of the camera (press the shutter once to lift the mirror, and again whenever you’re ready to capture your shot), or when you don’t want too much noise to be made. There is a dedicated drive mode dial located under the main mode dial, and both of these are locked, which means you have to press and hold a button down to move them. This can be awkward, but it ensures that modes won’t change by accident while transporting the camera.

Low light performance was impressive to our eyes, even when we used figures such as 3200 and 6400 (though there was some colour shift at 6400). Noise wasn’t really visible unless we viewed the pictures at their native size, and even then, the highest ISO speeds didn’t really tarnish the overall look of the photo too much. In fact, as far as image quality is concerned, there was only some chromatic aberration that was noticeable when shooting scenes with high contrast areas, such as tree branches against a bright sky.

Final thoughts

Only a few years ago, buying a brand new full-frame camera for around about $2300 (it's about $2800 in New Zealand) wasn’t on the cards, but that’s how much a new D610 will set you back at the moment (for the body only). Lenses will force that investment up, but it will be worth it for the results you can achieve with this camera. You should definitely consider it if you’re currently a mid-level digital SLR user who wants to make the next step up the ladder to a full-frame camera.

Sample images

None

None

Some typical outdoor shots.Some typical outdoor shots.

Mandatory food shot.Mandatory food shot.

Night time shot.Night time shot.

We used bulb mode to capture this lightning bolt.We used bulb mode to capture this lightning bolt.

Thanks to the large sensor, we could crop it a lot closer without losing too much overall detail.Thanks to the large sensor, we could crop it a lot closer without losing too much overall detail.

ISO 100 at the native size of the image.ISO 100 at the native size of the image.

ISO 400 at the native size of the image.ISO 400 at the native size of the image.

ISO 800 at the native size of the image.ISO 800 at the native size of the image.

ISO 1600 at the native size of the image.ISO 1600 at the native size of the image.

ISO 3200 at the native size of the image.ISO 3200 at the native size of the image.

ISO 6400 at the native size of the image.ISO 6400 at the native size of the image.

Another shot at ISO 6400.Another shot at ISO 6400.

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