Nikon D600 Optics

Below are the results of our optical tests with the Nikon D600 and the bundled optional Nikkor AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR kit lens. The test images shown on most other pages of this review were taken with very sharp references lenses, so we use this page to explore kit lens quality.

Lens Test Results

A 3.5x wide-angle zoom, with average performance.

24mm @ f/8 85mm @ f/8

The Nikon D600 is available bundled with a Nikkor AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR "kit" lens. This optically stabilized lens possesses an optical zoom ratio of about 3.5x, and because the D600 has a full-frame sensor, there's no conversion to 35mm equivalent required.

Sharpness and contrast at wide-angle are pretty good at f/8 across much of the frame, though corners are a bit soft. Chromatic aberration isn't an issue since the camera suppresses it (see below), however some flare is visible around the building's white surfaces. Sharpness and contrast at the 85mm setting are also good at f/8 over most of the frame, and the camera continues to do a good job suppressing chromatic aberration. See below for comments on macro, geometric distortion, performance wide-open, chromatic aberration, etc.

An large minimum coverage area, with soft detail. Flash throttled down well.

Macro with 24-85mm
kit lens (85mm @ f/8)
Macro with Flash

As with zoom performance, the Nikon D600's macro performance will depend entirely on the lens mounted. However with the 24-85mm kit lens set to 85mm, the D600 captured a large minimum area measuring 5.92 x 3.95 inches (150 x 100 millimeters). Detail is soft in the center at f/8, with additional softness in the corners. (Most lenses have some softening in the corners at macro distances.) The flash did a very good job throttling down, resulting in a good exposure. The flash also had no trouble clearing the lens as there is no detectable shadow, though coverage is a little uneven with the corners of the image a little dimmer than the rest.

Geometric Distortion
Higher than average geometric distortion at wide-angle and telephoto.

Barrel distortion at 24mm is 1.1 percent
Pincushion distortion at 85mm is 1.0 percent

The Nikon D600's 24-85mm kit lens produced about 1.1 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle, which is higher than average and noticeable in some of its images. At the telephoto end, there's about 1.0% pincushion distortion, also higher than average and quite noticeable. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Note that the Nikon D600 offers automatic Distortion Correction. See below for details.

Chromatic Aberration, Corner Sharpness & Vignetting
Low levels of C.A. (the camera suppresses it). The lens produces some pretty soft corners.

Aperture: maximum
[email protected]/3.5: Upper left
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Moderate blurring
[email protected]/3.5: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp
[email protected]/4.5: Lower right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Slight blurring
[email protected]/4.5: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration in the corners with the D600's 24-85mm kit lens at wide-angle (24mm) is moderately low at wide-angle with just minor magenta fringing, and the center of the image shows very little C.A. The camera does a pretty good job at suppressing much of the lateral C.A. produced by the lens (see below). At full telephoto (85mm), C.A. is low in the corners, and very low in the center.

Corner Softness. Wide-open at full wide-angle, the 24-85mm lens that came with our D600 is moderately soft in the left corners, with the upper left corner being the softest. Softness extends pretty far into the frame as well. The right corners are a little sharper, and the center of the image is fairly sharp, with good contrast. At full telephoto, all four corners are a little sharper than at wide-angle, and the center is reasonably sharp though contrast is lower.

Vignetting. Some moderate vignetting (corner shading) is noticeable at full wide-angle despite Vignette Control being active (see below), as indicated by the darker corner crop. At full telephoto, vignetting is again noticeable.

Aperture: f/8
[email protected]/8: Upper left
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Moderate blurring
[email protected]/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp
[email protected]/8: Lower right
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Minor blurring
[email protected]/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp

"Stopped-down" to f/8, corner sharpness at wide-angle improves compared to wide-open at f/3.5, though some corners are still a bit soft. At full telephoto, sharpness improves when stopped down to f/8, but results still aren't tack sharp. At both ends, vignetting improves noticeably.

Lens Corrections

The Nikon D600 includes the ability to automatically correct or reduce geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and lens shading (vignetting), as JPEG images are captured. Raw files are not corrected, but are tagged for correction by a compatible raw converter. Movies are not corrected.

Geometric Distortion

Barrel distortion at 24mm is 0.6 percent
Pincushion distortion at 85mm is 0.1 percent

Above, you can see with Auto Distortion Correction enabled, the kit lens shows significantly less distortion (+0.6% at wide-angle, -0.1% at telephoto) than with it disabled (+1.1% at wide-angle, -1.0% at telephoto), though extreme edges are cropped away in the process. The default Auto Distortion Correction setting is Off.

Chromatic Aberration

In-camera JPEG Uncorrected Raw
[email protected]/3.5: Upper right
C.A.: Moderately low
[email protected]/3.5: Upper right
C.A.: Higher and brighter
[email protected]/5.6: Upper right
C.A.: Low
[email protected]/5.6: Upper right
C.A.: Also low

Above, you can see significantly higher lateral Chromatic Aberration at wide-angle in uncorrected raw files, though the difference at telephoto is less dramatic because C.A. is fairly low at telephoto to begin with. Chromatic Aberration correction is automatic with no option to turn it off.

Lens Shading

[email protected]
Normal Off

The Nikon D600 offers three levels of Vignette Control: Low, Normal, High, plus Off. Mouse-over the links above to see the difference the Normal setting makes at wide-angle when wide-open at f/3.5 (the worst-case scenario for most lenses). As you can see, corners are brightened without affecting brightness at the center. Vignette Control does not apply to multiple-exposures or DX-format images, and may increase the appearance of noise in corners. The default setting is Normal.

Overall, about average performance on the Nikon D600, though quite respectable for its $600 list price especially with the D600's lens corrections applied. You can see more detailed test results from another copy on our sister site:

If you can afford it, Nikon's excellent AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G will likely perform noticeably better on a high-resolution body like the D600, but it isn't stabilized.


Nikon D600 Viewfinder

Viewfinder Test Results

Very good accuracy with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor in Live View mode.

70mm, Optical 70mm, Live View LCD

The Nikon D600's optical viewfinder proved quite accurate, with just under 99% coverage when tested with our Sigma 70mm f/2.8 reference lens. The camera's Live View LCD mode is a little loose, with just over 100% coverage in our measurements. Still, very good performance.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D600 Photo Gallery .

Buy the Nikon D600

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