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Nikon D7100 or D600 Which is Better? Full frame or Crop

Nikon D7100 or D600 – a photographer’s dilemma

by | 7 Apr 2013 | 1 comment

The DSLR arena, while nothing compared to the flamboyant and cut-throat mobile phone market, is nonetheless a dynamic battleground, and in it, Nikon is a name to be reckoned with. Arguably the top camera manufacturer in the world, the Japanese manufacturer releases only a limited number of models per year, and each release is covered well by both, media and enthusiasts.

2013 kicked off with the long-awaited release of Nikon D7100.

The latest model has been much-anticipated amid camera enthusiasts and aperture junkies, who have been eagerly speculating about this new flagship in the semi-pro DSLR category. However, now that it is out, D7100’s release and initial impressions have been somewhat underwhelming.

So which one is the the better overall DSLR – Nikon D7100 or D600?

D7100 is more of an update than a cropped sensor revolution. There are multiple similarities between the newcomer and the model it is replacing – the beloved Nikon D7000, launched way back in 2010 (which I have been using for a few years myself). For example, both D7000 and D7100 benefit from a 100% accuracy penta-prism viewfinder, which is nice and bright and a joy to look through. Similarly, both models are made of weather-resistant magnesium-alloy with rubber and plastic and they look, measure and weight almost the same. D7100 outcompetes its predecessor in terms of the number of focus points, screen size and resolution, video resolution and ISO performance. Most noticeable though is the price hike of 100%, which is a significant consideration for a photographer on a budget.

But we are not here to compare the D7000 with its successor, but rather with another heavyweight in the Nikon’s DSLR line-up – the Nikon D600. Similarly, it is not fair to compare the good old D7000 with D600, with the D600 being newer, more powerful and considerably more pricey.

However, the price difference between the new D7100 and D600 is very minor, setting them up nicely for a comparison. As of writing this article, the D600 retails for around £1200 in the UK, while the newcomer D7100 is only a hundred less at £1100. And while the price and many features of both cameras are very similar, there is one major difference that puts the D600 on a whole other level – it has a full-frame sensor.

Granted, the D7100 has only just been release and its price will dip soon enough, but nevertheless, the striking price similarity begs a few questions – is the D7100 really worth it? Is it not better to go the extra fraction of a mile and get a full-frame camera?

Released only last year, Nikon D600 arrived with a bang and conquered minds and hearts of millions of semi-pro photographers who consider upgrading of a full-frame camera. Not only did it prove to be a fantastic performer, more importantly, for many photographers it is an affordable foray into the full-frame world.

What’s more, when D600 stepped on the scene, it was so affordable and feature-packed, that it was immediately pitted against other heavyweight full-frame cameras, like Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D800.  Some even argued that with its arrival the days of the Cropped Sensor were numbered. Although, there are many who would rather save by purchasing an APS-C sensor camera and instead opt for better optics to complement it. This is a matter of choice.

In case you wonder, bigger sensors are more expensive to manufacture, thus the cameras sporting them are significantly more expensive. However, there are undeniable benefits that come with that higher price tag. One such benefit is bigger pixels, which translates to more light hitting each pixel and, therefore, making the sensor more sensitive to light.  The other clear advantage is the 1:1 Focal Length Ration, which means that you can forget Nikon’s 1.5 and Canon’s 1.6 focal length multipliers when determining the effective focal length of your lens on a cropped sensor. Instead, your 50mm lens is a 50mm lens, and a 35mm is a 35mm. Neat and simple.

When comparing D600 and D7100, you will immediately find many similar or identical features. For example, both cameras weight 760 grams, have a magnesium-alloy weather-resistant bodies, 24 megapixel sensors and EXPEED 3 Processors. The ISO performance of the two is also very similar, meaning super clean shots up to ISO6400, and moderately so at ISO128000.

One area where the D600 arguably lacks is in the number of Auto-Focus Points, and, more importantly, their distribution. D7100 uses a 51-AF point system with 15 Cross Type points, which are extremely well distributed, covering the viewfinder almost entirely. On the other hand,  D600’s 39-AF points, with 9 Cross Types, are for some reason all condensed around the middle. Less viewfinder coverage effectively means more focusing and recomposing, which is not major inconvenience, as most photographers do so anyway. Still the AF points distribution is notable disadvantage.

One other notable difference of the D7100 is the absence of Low Pass filter, also known as the “Smoothing” filter. This is however, a double-edged sword. As the name implies, the Low Pass filter is responsible for smoothing the overall image and reducing the effects of moiré. Without this filter, images are sharper and more detailed, but on the flipside, it adds the risk of aliasing, or moiré. Both, D600 and D7000, have this filter, meaning that while they are moiré-resistant, they also suffer from overall softer images. The removal of the filter from the D7100 could be seen as both, an advantage and a disadvantage.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, if your budget is even a tiny bit flexible, you should by all means go for the Nikon D600. Not only is it a great all-round performer, it is a full-frame getaway to the professional photography. The D7100’s features and improvements, such as more AF points and absence of the Low Pass filter, simply cannot be justified by its ridiculously steep price tag, especially when compared to the D600. With its long list of features, outstanding image quality and affordability, the D600 easily competes with the likes of D800 or Canon 5d Mark III, which are top-class DSLRs.

And the winner is…

WinnerNikonD600