Nikon D610 Review
The Nikon D610 boasts professional camera features in the lowest cost full-frame DSLR on the market. Its large 24 megapixels CMOS sensor is capable of shooting continuously at 6 FPS and capturing full 1080p HD video. The durable body of the D610 features an extra large 100% coverage viewfinder and weather-seals against dust and moisture.
This high-end digital camera is designed for efficiency with dual control-dials and over twenty direct controls. It also emphasizes video with a sophisticated full-time autofocus system, external stereo sound input and video manual-controls.
The Nikon D610 offers an extremely capable upgrade from a cropped-sensor DSLR to the next level in image quality. Its larger sensor is highly advantageous in low-light and allows for a shallower depth-of-field for creative photography.
This detailed digital camera review takes a close look at the Nikon D610 in terms of features, ergonomics, usability, performance, image quality and controls.
Nikon D610 Key Features
- 24 Megapixels CMOS sensor
- Full-Fame Nikon FX format
- Standard ISO 100 - 6400 range
- Expanded ISO 50 - 25600 range
- Customizable Auto ISO
- Built-in Dust-Reduction
- JPEG, RAW or JPEG+RAW Output
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS 16:9 HD Video
- 1280x720 @ 60 FPS 16:9 HD Video
- PASM exposure modes
- 1/4000s - 30s Shutter-speed, plus Bulb
- EC, ±5 EV, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
- FC, -3...+1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
- Matrix (Multi-Segment), Center-Weighed, Average & Spot metering
- AEB, 2 or 3 Frames, ±3 EV, Irregular steps
- Flash Bracketing, 2 or 3 frames, ±3 EV, Irregular steps
- Exposure Fine-Tuning, ±1 EV, 1/6 EV steps
- ½ or 1/3 EV Exposure & ISO steps
- Built-In HDR, 2 shots, 1-3 EV steps, 3 blending levels, single image or series
Focus & Drive
- 39-Point Phase-Detect autofocus, 9 cross-type
- Single-Point, Dynamic-Area or Auto focus-point
- Single-Shot, Continuous or Automatic focus-drive
- 3D Tracking AF with OVF and Live-View
- Contrast-detect AF for Live-View and video
- Face-Detect AF in Live-View
- Optional AF-Assist lamp
- 6 FPS Drive, Max 100 JPEG or 14 RAW
- 3 FPS Quiet Continuous Drive
- Customizable Self-Timer, 1-9 Shots, 2-20s Start Delay, ½-3s Interval
- Quiet-Shutter with delayed mirror-return
- Immediate, 2s Delayed or MLU remote mode
- Mirror-Up and Exposure-Delay, 1-3s
- Multiple-Exposure, 2-3 shots, optional Auto Gain
- Internal-Timer, 1-999 times, 1-9 shots, 1s-24h interval, delayed start 1m-23h59m
- Time-Lapse, 1s-10m interval, 1m-8h capture time
- Optional Autofocus Fine-Tuning
- Dual IR remote receivers
- Wired remote connector
Since the Nikon D610 is nearly identical to the D600, other what is highlighted in green above, this review covers changes and performance only. If you already read the D600 review
Nikon D600, this is all there is to know.
- Improved Automatic White-Balance
- AutomaticTwo types: Normal & Preserve Warm Colors, Preset, Kelvin and Custom4 Memories WB
- White-Balance fine-tuning, 2-axis, 13-steps
- 6 Built-In Picture Styles
- Automatic or Manual Sharpness, 10 steps
- Automatic or Manual Contrast, 7 steps
- Automatic or Manual Saturation, 7 steps
- Manually Adjustable Hue, 7 steps
- Manually Adjustable Tone-Curve, 3 levels
- Virtual WB Bracketing, 2-3 frames, 3 steps, 2 axis
- Virtual Active D-Lighting Bracketing, 3 frames
- Optional High-ISO Noise Reduction, 3 levels
- Optional Long Shutter Noise Reduction
- Optional Distortion-Correction
- Optional Vignetting-Correction
- Optional Active D-Lighting (ADL), 4 levels
- Optional Dust-Off reference photo
Viewfinder & Displays
- 100% Coverage viewfinder, 0.7X magnification
- 3.2" LCD, 920K Pixels
- Illuminated top LCD status display
- Single-Axis Digital-Level in viewfinder
- Dual-Axis Digital-Level in Live-View
- DOF-Preview in viewfinder
- Optional DX cropping frame
- Optional composition grid
- Sound-Level monitor
- Dual control-dials
- Combined configurable AE-L/AF-L button
- Optional Easy ISO or EC control
- Independent AEB button
- Modal exposure-mode dial
- Modal drive-mode dial
- Customizable Function button
- Customizable DOF-Preview button
- Direct Video-Recording button
- Live-View trigger
- Focus-Point lock
Body & Construction
- Nikon F-mount
- Weather-sealed body
- Metal tripod mount
- Built-in pop-up flash (GN 13)
- Hot-Shoe for external lighting
- Built-in microphone, 20 levels
- Stereo sound-input mini-jack
- Dual SDXC memory card slots
- Proprietary Lithium-Ion battery
- 1080i HDMI output
- Optional GPS unit
Capability - What can it do?
The Nikon D610 features a revised shutter-mechanism which is the only physical change from its predecessor. While it provides the same 1/4000s-30s shutter-speed range, it delivers a slightly faster 6 FPS continuous drive mode, versus 5.5 FPS for the D600. Its improved dampening also offers a new Quiet Continuous Drive.
Quiet Continuous mode runs at 3 FPS. It is marginally less noisy than the full-speed 6 FPS drive, so it cannot be used discretely in quiet environments. It does make some difference though. This new mechanical shutter is a little more robust and closes tighter than previously which makes sure the D610's sensor does not get as dusty as its predecessor's.
Nikon also improved the automatic white-balance performance of this DSLR. It should deal better with artificial lighting and give more neutral results. Given their similarity, the D610 replaces the Nikon D600
Nikon D600 which is likely to be available at the lowest price-point of any full-frame DSLR, while quantities last.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Ultimately, it is the image quality that makes a camera worth buying. For a digital SLR, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, contrast and exposure are properties of the camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness depends on the weakest link. So, the camera cannot capture more details than the lens lets through. Conversely, a lens can transmit a greater amount of details than the sensor can capture.
A high-resolution full-fame DSLR like the Nikon D610 is particularly demanding on lenses and it cannot show its highest image quality without a suitably sharp lens. Compared to a DX DSLR, an FX model does not really resolve finer details but its greater field-of-view uses the weakest outer-portions of a lens. After trying several lenses, both the Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm F/2.8 IF-ED
Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm F/2.8 IF-ED and the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED
Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED were up to the challenge. These lenses are among the very best and well worth their price.
The Nikon D610 produces extremely clean images with less noise than any DSLR camera. This performance holds extremely well at high ISO too. Images from the D610 are virtually noise-free until ISO 1600 inclusively. ISO 3200 shows a slight amount of noise but still not enough to reduce print sizes.
The highest standard sensitivity of 6400 gets a little more noise which is visible at 100% but does not show in medium-sized prints, say 12" x 8". In good light, the same can be said of ISO 12800 which remains completely usable even in low-light for medium prints. The maximum expanded ISO of 25600 displays obvious color-noise. However, considering a resolution of 24 megapixels, even that sensitivity makes very nice prints at typical sizes.
Image sharpness is highly dependent on the lens which is the most likely cause of soft images on the D610. Keep in mind that most lenses need to be stopped down 1 or 2 stops from their maximum apertures and the D610 has a greater diffraction limit than DX cameras due to its larger pixels. One may stop down to F/16 without issues. Even at the optimal aperture, this DSLR never shows critical sharpness due to its anti-alias filter.
In-camera sharpening is set on a 10-point scale, with the default being overly soft. Setting Sharpness to 5 delivers the maximum sharpness without artifacts but leaves images looking very slight soft when seen at 100%. One can always apply their own sharpening if shooting RAW.
The Nikon Matrix metering of the D610 is generally good and consistent with standard lenses. It often chooses conservative exposures and rarely blows out highlights. On the flip side, it does produce more under-exposure than average. The system seems more influenced by the center of the frame than ideal which may cause over-exposure when only a small portion of sky is showing for example. The D610 supports a customizable metering offset of ±1 EV in 1/6 EV increments that can be set independently for each metering mode. This is great since Spot and Average metering work exactly as expected.
Image parameters provide a good amount of fine-grain flexibility in terms of color rendition. There are six picture styles offering various degrees of realism. Vivid is not as extremely overdone as on previous Nikon models but still visibly over-saturated. The Standard and Natural styles are closest to reality with natural colors somewhere in between. The most realistic results were obtained in Standard style with Saturation at -1 and Hue at +1.
Automatic white-balance is very good and cancels out color-casts under most conditions. The two Auto settings vary in how they deal with the warm color-cast typical of tungsten lighting. One setting tries to correct it while the other does not. This is even better than on the D600 which is much improved from previous generations.
Dynamic-range is awesome. Given the full-frame CMOS sensor and its moderate resolution for a DSLR, this is entirely expected. The latitude of the D610 can only be seen in RAW images since its over 14 stops of dynamic-range cannot be stored in a JPEG image without gaps. With larger pixels than the D800, it can actually surpass it. DxOMark normalizes results with respect to resolution which is why it gives a slight edge to the D800 and the D800E but on a per-pixel basis, the D610 cannot be beaten yet.
The Nikon D610 is a very fast and responsive camera. It speed is characterized by the following performance numbers:
- Power On: Instant. Excellent.
- Power Off: Just under ½s. Awesome.
- Autofocus: As little as ¼s, up to 1s with a slow lens in low-light. Generally good.
- Focus Confirm: Nearly instant for both autofocus and manual focus. Excellent.
- Shutter-lag: Instant followed by extremely short black-out. Extremely good.
- Shot-to-Shot Speed: Just over ¼s. Very good.
- Instant Review: About ½s. Good.
- Playback Mode: ½s. Good.
- Shooting Mode: Instant. Great.
This camera features automatic distortion correction based on pre-programmed lens data. Due to the nature of optical distortion, parts of the captured image get cropped, making precise framing impossible. Enabling it also slows the D610 down by adding almost ½s to the Instant Review delay. Plus, It reduces buffer-depth for JPEG images by half. Distortion Correction has no impact on RAW files.
There is also an optional Vignetting Control feature which does not affect camera performance. Unfortunately, this one is not profile-based and simply applies the selected level of correction. Options are Off, Low, Normal and High. While vignetting is actually very easy correct in software without detriment to image quality, we cannot recommend using this feature. Vignetting varies by lens, focal-length and aperture, so it would be considerably too much work to keep adjusting Vignetting Control according for constantly changing parameters.
The 39-point autofocus system used on the D610 is generally fast. It does slow down in low-light, particularly at close focusing distance. Slow lenses also slow it down since they give less light for the AF system to work with. In continuous autofocus mode, the camera manages to keep up well with moving subjects in moderate to good light. This is a good performance but not as stellar as top-of-the-line full-frame DSLRs.
Battery-life is reasonable, achieving 900 shots-per-charge according to the CIPA standard. Keep in mind that, as usual, this number accounts for 50% flash use but not video recording and extra use of the rear LCD.
Same conclusion as for the D600, only we knew exactly what to expect this time.
The Nikon D610 clearly macthes expectations. This full-frame 24 megapixels DSLR delivers stunning image quality and a rich feature-set at a the same low-price as the D600 when it was introduced. The D610 excels in terms of image noise and dynamic range while delivering a solid performance in terms of white-balance, color accuracy and speed.
Nikon even managed to keep the most important professional features in this camera: a 100% coverage OVF, weather-sealed body, dual control-dials, dual axis digital-level and dual memory cards. The Nikon D610 also squeezes in a built-in flash next to its industry-standard hot-shoe.
The usability of this DSLR is good and even more so after the extensive customization it supports. There is a large number of external controls to provide direct access to most important functions. While video thankfully gets it own mode, there are a number of oddities with it and Live-View upon which it is based. The real bonus feature though is time-lapse video which is unique among DSLRs and immensely helpful.
Outside of those few quirks, the D610 has very few issues. Metering could stand to be more reliable but it rarely over-exposes. It is also more sensitive than usual to light entering the viewfinder. For vibration-free captures, a remote trigger is recommended given that Exposure Delay mode is only accessible via the menu system.
The Nikon D610 manages to deliver excellent results with the right lenses and it does so quickly and efficiently for the most part. For those going full-frame or upgrading from a previous model, this DSLR should be at the top of your list. Even at its price-point, there are very few features to miss on the D610. Plus, any remaining budget can be wisely invested in high-end Nikkor FX lenses to see the true potential of the Nikon D610.
Nikon D610 Facts
SLR digital camera
|24 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 50-25600|
|Nikon F Mount|
Sensor-Size: 36 x 24mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
Extra Large Viewfinder
|Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe|
|6 FPS Drive, 57 Images||Stereo audio input|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3.2" LCD 920K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity x 2|
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