Camera Review: Nikon D610

January 21, 2014

By Dan Havlik

The biggest news about the Nikon D610, which was unveiled in October, was that that this relatively inexpensive and compact full-frame digital SLR had a brand new shutter mechanism. This new shutter not only allowed the D610 to shoot at a faster burst speed of six frames per second (fps)—compared to the 5.5 fps for its predecessor, the D600—photographers also hoped it would resolve some of the lingering problems of the previous model. While the Nikon D600 was roundly applauded for the excellent image quality produced by its 24.3-megapixel, full-frame sensor, many D600 owners complained the camera had problems with either dust or oil spots that turned up in the edges of images.

After half a year of non-answer answers from Nikon about the D600’s dust/oil issue, the company introduced the D610. Nikon wouldn’t, however, go on record saying the D610 was designed to solve the problems of the previous camera. According to Nikon, the new shutter mechanism was simply faster than the older version.

Otherwise, the D610 is close to a carbon copy of the D600.  It uses the same 35mm-size, FX-format, 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and has most of the same features of the older model, with a couple of additional tweaks. Along with the new shutter, Nikon has updated the D610’s white balance algorithm, for better auto white balance performance. While the D600 had a quiet mode, the D610 adds a quiet continuous mode, which should appeal to wedding photographers who don’t want to distract the bride and groom on their big day.

Other than those features, though, the D610 breaks very little new ground. So rather than go into an in-depth review about the D610’s design, performance and image quality I’ll just reiterate what I said in my D600 review from 2012, since it still stands with the new model. The D610 has excellent image quality; a solid but lightweight build; great HD video quality; and is available at a very reasonable price. In fact, the D610 is selling for a $100 less than what the D600 was introduced at, retailing for $2,000, body only. (Read our full review of the D600 at www.pdnonline.com/cameras.)

And now about that dust issue. With the D610, it doesn’t appear to be an issue anymore. Like most people reviewing this camera, I was on the lookout for it, performing a few tests on the D610 to see if there was a telltale accumulation of spots in the corners of a photo. I shot a white target at a narrow aperture—usually f/16 or f/18—multiple times and then compared the various images to see if I could spot some spots. In a nutshell, I saw very little spotting, not much more than you’d see with any DSLR on the market and nothing that would turn up in a regular image.

Our sample size, however, was small: I just had the one D610 loan unit and several dozen shots to compare. I was pleased to be able to compare our results with those of Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com, who was one of the first people to discover the dust/oil problem with the D600. Cicala did a more extensive test on the D610, comparing the results of 25 rental cameras, and then posting his finding on his blog. As part of his test, Cicala stacked the white targets from the 25 cameras in Photoshop, to make a single image of the dust on all the cameras. In the end, he saw very little accumulation of spots and considerably less than what he saw with the D600. Or in other words, Nikon seems to have solved the problem with the D610.

The Bottom Line

So where does this leave D600 owners? A little screwed, to tell you the truth. It’s a shame that Nikon had to produce a whole new camera to solve an issue you’d think would have turned up in pre-release testing for the D600. While that camera’s dust/oil issue is not that noticeable in regular photos and did not seem to occur in every model—I noticed no problems with the D600’s image quality back when I tested it in 2012—it has been a concern for many photographers. Hopefully, previous problems won’t scare off prospective buyers of the Nikon D610, which is an excellent full-frame DSLR at a very good price. (But I wouldn’t blame D600 owners from being a bit gun shy about this product now.)

Pros: An excellent, compact and inexpensive full-frame DSLR that seems to have resolved the dust/oil issue of the previous model

Cons: Not much else new on this camera

Price: $2,000 (body only); www.nikon.com

Read all of our hands-on camera reviews at www.pdnonline.com/cameras.