Nikon D600 Raw Image Quality
We used to convert raw files used for comparison crops with dcraw (an excellent freeware raw converter), as we could count on dcraw not to apply any noise reduction, sharpening or other corrections. Lately, though, we've switched to Adobe Camera Raw with its noise reduction and sharpening options set to zero. We've found conversions made with recent versions of ACR to be almost identical to dcraw when dcraw's demosaicing option is set to match ACR's method, so we're pretty sure ACR isn't applying any noise reduction "under the hood" like it used to.
Below are crops from Nikon D600 raw files compared to raw files from other high-resolution full-frame DSLRs:
The 24-megapixel Nikon D600 with its 5.9 micron pitch competes well with the 22-megapixel Canon 5D Mark III and its 6.1 micron pitch. They both perform similarly in terms of noise, except at ISO 25,600 where the 5D Mark III pulls ahead. The D600 has better color, though. The 36-megapixel D800 comes in third in terms of pixel noise with its 4.7 micron photosite pitch, but keep in mind its resolution advantage is significant. If you resample the D800's images down to 24 megapixels, you may be surprised how well it compares. The 24-megapixel Sony A99 shows the highest noise levels of the group despite using a variant of the D600's sensor, likely handicapped by its light-robbing semi-transparent mirror. Overall, we'd say the Nikon D600's raw image quality and noise levels are excellent, among the best we've seen to date.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.