Best full-frame DSLR: 8 cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony compared

Top pro and consumer models rated

Best full frame DSLR

Price: £1,450/US$2,000/AU$2,380 (body only)
Specs: 24.3MP, Full HD video: 1080p, 39-point AF, ISO 50-25600

The Nikon D600 certainly doesn't qualify as a cheap camera, but it's currently the least expensive full-frame body on the market. At a glance, it looks almost identical to the Nikon D7000 but, on closer inspection, the layout of the control buttons is a little different and the D600 is slightly larger.

Its physical size is a close match for the Canon 6D, both cameras being diminutive for full-frame cameras.

Build quality feels consumer-class rather than fully professional. The body is a mix of magnesium alloy and polycarbonate, the latter material being used for the front of the camera, into which the metal lens mount is fitted. This isn't quite ideal, but there shouldn't be any issues taking the strain of big, heavy full-frame lenses.

Nikon is keen to point out that the D600 has the same level of weather-proofing as the pro-class D800.

Best full frame DSLR

Further similarities between the Nikon D600 and D7000 are that they both feature fairly new 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensors and 39-point Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus modules. The number of AF points here is much more generous than the Canon EOS 6D's 11 points.

However, compared with the Nikon D7000, all of the D600's AF points are much more tightly packed around the centre of the frame. It's quite similar to the Sony a99 in this respect.

The Nikon D600 makes the most of its 24.3MP resolution and Expeed 3 image processor. These combine to deliver high-resolution images with a respectable maximum continuous drive rate of 5.5fps. That figure is considerably faster than the D800's pedestrian 4fps. Images are noticeably sharper when viewed straight out of the camera than with the D7000, marking a further distinction between the D600 and Nikon's similar APS-C body.

Metering is fully consistent and autofocus is assured. When using the same lenses, autofocus is a little more accurate than with the D7000, although it can be a bit ponderous in near-dark conditions, where the 6D works slightly better.

Outdoor images

Best full frame DSLR

Like most entry-level and mid-range Nikon cameras, the D600 produces particularly punchy images, with plenty of saturation.

Resolution

Best full frame DSLR

Full ISO 200 image, see the cropped (100%) version below

Best full frame DSLR

The 24.3MP Nikon D600 edges ahead of all the Canon cameras, especially in the sensitivity range between ISO 100 and ISO 1600.

Noise

Best full frame DSLR
ISO 6400

Noise starts to creep in at ISO 3200, but the Nikon D600 produces very finely detailed images at high sensitivity settings.

Colour error

Best full frame DSLR

The Nikon D600 scores quite well for colour accuracy, but green hues can be strident and saturation is often boosted.

Image test verdict

Results are punchy, with bags of contrast and saturation, but noise is more noticeable than from most competing cameras at high ISO settings.

Read our Nikon D600 review