Testing Nikon D600 Dynamic Range in Destin, Florida

Posted January 4th, 2013 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink

A few days ago I took the new Nikon D600 to Destin, Florida to put it through it’s paces. My kit was simple, consisting of the D600 along with three lenses; the 14-24mm f2.8, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8.

One of my goals during the photo walk was to get a feel for how the camera worked for HDR photography. The D600 will only auto-bracket three frames in a sequence, compared to 9 frames in a Nikon D800 or D4. Previous Nikon pro-sumer cameras like the Nikon D7000 and the Nikon D90 also bracketed three frames in a sequence, but they were limited to two stops of exposure variation between each frame. A new feature on the D600 is that it allows up to three stops of exposure variation between each frame, which is approaching the bracketing range of the higher-end pro cameras.

I used the bracketing function on the D600 quite a bit and configured the camera to take three images, each 3.0 stops apart. This setting “3F 3.0” is just enough spread to cover most HDR scenarios such as this image of the staircase below. I performed the HDR merge in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, then converted it to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Black and white stairwell

Black and white stairwell along the Destin Harbor boardwalk. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

Another one of my goals during the trip was to better understand the dynamic range of the D600 RAW files and see if its images are comparable to the Nikon D800. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to pull out of the D800 (see this D800 post) so I shot a few high contrast images with the D600 that would put the camera to the test. In this first shot of the fishing boat, I shot a single frame in 14-bit RAW, then processed the shot using Adobe Lightroom and the Detail Extractor filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. As I expected, the D600 has an excellent ability to capture a full range from shadows to highlights.

offshore fishing boat

Offshore fishing boat in Destin Harbor, preparing to face the storm. Nikon D600, 70-200mm f2.8.

This was a pretty good result, but I wanted to really push the camera to see what was possible. For the next image, I took a severely underexposed image of a hotel and worked it over in Lightroom to see what I could pull out. Sure enough, the RAW file on a D600 had more than enough data to produce a beautiful shot. See the before/after below.

Wyndham Emerald Grande Destin

Here’s the before shot of the Wyndham Emerald Grande. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

Wyndham Emerald Grande Destin

After processing in Lightroom 4 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4. Wyndham Emerald Grande, BMW, and palm tree. Destin, Florida. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

I’m really liking this little Nikon D600 camera. The 24MP RAW files are excellent and I’m very pleased with the camera’s dynamic range. As I’ve said before, I love the smaller camera body for travel. This camera is a winner.

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