Best Camera Ever?

…or cynical title to encourage click throughs?

I'm not particularly into gear. I need it, I buy it, it gets serviced, it reaches the end of its natural life, I buy something else. Repeat. But this post is about gear. Probably only of interest to photographers. You have been warned. Just skip to the photos.

Obviously I use a camera. Quite often. Fairly critical piece of my kit that. My progression from the first camera I picked up has been D90 -> D300 -> D700 (with the D300 as backup) -> D800 (with D7000 as backup). So far, so dull.

I love my D800. I got one of the first models that came into the UK before I could even find a dealer to have a test drive and never regretted it. It's an amazing piece of kit. But, as it stretched way above its rated actuations, something had to give. And it gave. Off to Calumet to throw it into Nikon's Christmas repair abyss.

So, over the last month I've shot with the D7000 (surprisingly competent in studio conditions for e-commerce), a hired D4 (which I loved), a hired D800 (kinda exactly like my D800) and then decided on a whim to give a D610 a go. By 'give it a go' I mean 'buy a D610'. The D7000 isn't really a viable backup to the D800 anymore - it simply took the right batteries and wasn't completely shit, taking up minimal space as a backup in the Peli. So the D610 was purchased as a full frame backup for use whilst the D800 is having its shutter replaced. It's actually a cheaper option than long term rental of a stand-in D800. At least it was in my head. I never actually worked it out.


When the D800 finally reappears, it's likely that it will take the role of backup unit. The D610 is simply the best Nikon I've worked with. That's to say it perfectly fits my needs. Most of my work is editorial (print output), e-commerce (screen output) and retail window imagery (various printed sizes). I have yet to shoot a Times Square billboard campaign, and when I do, I'll hire a Hassleblad. For my work demands, 24MP is ample. File sizes from the 36MP D800 necessitated giving Apple and Synology a whole heap of cash just to be able to work comfortably with the huge file sizes and then store them somewhere. Even then, running a few open files in Photoshop slowed things down a little. Downloads were measured in weeks, even from the fastest cards onto SSD drives (yes, I'm aware it's like saying 'PIN number'). Sending files to clients in hi-res meant giving them options for wallpapering their house. My pile of memory cards weighed more than my lenses. You get the gist. The D800 is a superb camera. But the file sizes are ridiculous.

The 610 is a perfect balance. Image quality is as good as any camera I've used (except the £25k Hassleblad with £5k lens and 50MP sensor that delivered files that dwarfed even the D800) - tonal range is anecdotally better than the D800 with its tightly packed sensor (I say anecdotally because I have no idea how to empirically measure this kind of shit - I just go with how it looks to me). Detail, sharpness - all at least on a par with the D800. File sizes…sit in a very sweet spot. Large enough to satisfy most jobs. Small enough to be practical.

So far, the only thing I miss from the 'professional' D800 on the 'prosumer' D610 is being able to assign the 'OK' button to go to 100% zoom on the display to check sharpness. And I do really really miss that. You cannot map the button. It always - will always - take you to the in-camera image editing functions. Which pretty much nobody ever uses. Ever. It also has no PC port, but radio triggers have been invented. That's about the sum extent of it. I guess I'll see how it fares from rigorous use - but it feels solid enough and is weather sealed.

I could put up a 15 page professional review with charts and summaries and pros and cons and really poor test images of a church with 100% crop of part of the steeple showing fringing that's probably more to do with the lens than the camera, or I can just say that honestly, if you're in the market for a high end DSLR just buy it. Sandisk, Apple and hard-drive manufacturers will push you towards a D800. Nikon will push you towards an overpriced (but excellent) D4. As a working photographer, I'll happily recommend you the D610.

Just so this post isn't totally dull, here's some shots from the first shoot I did with the D610. At this size they could have been taken with an iPhone or a PhaseOne - nobody can actually tell the difference - but I know people like stuff to look at. They're all studio lit - if you want to see some natural light from the same camera see my previous post…


 Images from a test shoot at NQ Photostudio, Manchester


Photography & Styling - Jay Mawson

Hair & Makeup - Martin McClean @ Boss Model Management

Model - Ksenija @ Industry People