For the past couple of weeks many people on this board have been telling those of us that are not overly enthused about the 6D but are still wanting to go full frame to "Jump Ship to Nikon". Well... I decided to dip my pinky toe into that water and rented a D600 and the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8G.
I received it late last night (wife missed the Fedex guy). First impressions: body feels lighter than my 7D but still well made; lens is damn heavy. I put the lens on and proceeded to go through my normal rituals of learning a new camera. This is where trouble started.
I was expecting the control layout to be different... but I wasn't expecting it to be retarded. It's as if someone was throwing darts at a picture of the camera to decide where to put buttons / functions. There is no central "theme" or purpose behind the design at all. Let me go through a few functions to demonstrate:
1. AF selection. This is the worst offender.
1a. Manual Focus. There are two places to choose manual focus vs AF. On the lens _and_ on the body. They both have to be set to AF for AF to work.
1b. AF mode selection. There is a stupid button down by the barrel on the front left (if you are holding the camera to your face) _on_ one of the AF/MF switches that you have press and hold and twirl one of the two control wheels (but which one?) to select AI Focus, Single, Continuous and the other control wheel (but which one?) to select an AF point selection mode.
The first problem there is that you have to use your left hand to change AF modes! How the hell do you do that with a big 400mm+ lens while you have the camera to your face?
The second problem is that it's not clear which wheel changes which thing. On my 7D anything controlled by the wheels is on a button by the LCD (which, first of all I can press with my right hand while holding it to my face) and it is obvious (because of the label on the button) which wheel controls which option. This is a small thing because you will ultimately remember which wheel is which... but it's this lack of thought that permeates the whole way this camera works.
Now... as for the AF modes themselves... they suck compared to my 7D. I love being able to toggle through AF point selection modes _while my eye is to the camera_ and use the joystick to move it around on my 7D... it is EXTREMELY fast. On the D600 that's not really possible (because of the button location) but even if it were there are really only _two_ AF point selection modes: Auto and Single Point. Now, there are some "restrictions" you can put on Auto... but it's still basically Auto. Compare to my 7D where I can cluster, I can do point expansion, single point, full Auto, etc. Even worse: the D600 doesn't have Orientation Sensitive AF Point Selection! I really don't understand that and it's one of those things I love about my 7D. I could go on about how limited the AF system is for quite a while but I'll stop there.
2. Everything looks cheap. This is harder to put down in words. The LCD on top looks like an old 80's LCD watch and the menus on the back screen look like they would be more at home on a $100 P&S. For instance when you hold down (yes you have to hold it down) the exposure compensation button (which is in a random position next to the LCD) and twirl one of the wheels (which one? and why?) to set some exposure compensation it shows you a big 80's style watch number instead of the cool pointer that you move left and right on a 7D. It's a small thing, but it just leaves me feeling that they were cutting corners...
3. Finger gymnastics. As I've already pointed out, to change any settings you have to _hold down_ buttons with one finger (or even another hand) and twirl a random wheel. But it gets worse. To change shooting modes you have to hold down the lock button (I know some people like that, and that there is even an free "upgrade" you can get for your 7D that does this, but to me it's just a pain) AND you have to hold a release button to change "Drive Modes" while twirling a tiny ring around the shooting mode selector. All of this adds up to sore finger tips and sore fingers. Seriously, I shot for hours last night with this thing around my house and as I'm typing this my fingers are sore! I have rather big hands, but even for me it is uncomfortable to hold down some of the buttons and locks and twirl wheels. This is not too mention the fact that the grip is uncomfortable (it has a pretty sharp edge just under the front twirly wheel that digs into your finger when you have a heavy lens on like the 24-70 and it's smallish... which means I am gripping pretty hard with my fingers instead of my hand unlike my 7D)
4. ISO. Why in the holy hell of the world is the ISO selection button (that you have to HOLD DOWN and twirl a random wheel to change the ISO) on the back bottom LEFT of the camera? Again... you cannot do this with one hand. You canNOT do it while holding the camera to your face. One other quick hit on ISO: Why does it BLINK at me in the viewfinder that it's on Auto ISO? Why? Why blinking? Right in my eye! I truly don't understand.
5. Drive mode selection "ring". I mentioned it earlier... but it warrants it's own section. Why is drive mode (Single shot, Continuous, 2 Second Delay, Remote, Mirror Lockup) selection a _physical_ ring that you have to press and hold a lock button and twirl? This is dumb on a number of fronts... but I think the most egregious is that it mean that I can't set the drive mode to one of the user defined settings (U1, U2). On my 7D I have a "Fast Action" user setting (which is the last one BTW... so I can just crank over the mode dial and I know I'm on it... the Nikon mode selector spins all the way around so you have to actually take the camera away from your face and LOOK at the dial to know where you are) that sets continuous focus and highspeed continuous drive (among other things). You CANNOT do that on a D600.
I could go on for longer about stuff I don't like... but what about things I like about the way the D600 works?
1. The on/off/LCD light switch switch integrated into the shutter button is cool.
2. Minimum shutter speed with Auto ISO is really nice.
3. Max ISO selection is good.
All griping with no pictures on a photography forum? Yes. I haven't shot anything worth posting yet (just around the house last night and my office this morning). I'm headed into the mountains this weekend to put it to the Landscape test... and I'll post back with my findings. From what I can tell on the back screen the image quality looks really good (which is why I'm doing this in the first place). But can the IQ overcome the inequities in the functioning of the camera? We'll see....