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Viewfinder D600 compared to D800


14 Oct 2012 7:44PM
At Digital Splash to-day I had the opportunity to compare both bodies, each with the 24-120 attached.
The D600 screen was brighter and "cleaner", but not as bright as a D7000 so maybe 0.5 to 0.66 stops brighter than the D800.
The D600 screen was a little more difficult to manual focus or judge DOF - indicating along with the cleaner look it is ground finer.
I did not rate the D600 build quality as the equal of the D800 (no surprise) and the D600 lags a little with AF coverage and flash sync.
Show prices for the D600 were 1,599, with the D800 28% more at 2,059.

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14 Oct 2012 11:11PM
Umm...so what are you telling us..?
15 Oct 2012 5:59AM

Quote:Umm...so what are you telling us..?

For many the advantage of a conventional DSLR is being able to see through the viewfinder Wink
DSLR (and before that SLR) viewfinders have been getting darker with reducing magnification of the viewfinder detail and less effective depth of field effect for decades.
In this sense current camera viewfinders are significantly inferior compared to say 1980's cameras.
The reason for less effective viewfinders is substantial amounts of light are diverted from the viewfinder to the internal AF and metering modules.
It is difficult to but a precise figure on what has being going on, other than a 1980's OM4ti viewfinder is more than 3 stops brighter than most current high end DSLR's - and after allowing for viewfinder magnification differences the combined difference is around 4 stops.
For anybody likely to be using f4 and f5.6 lens combinations in anything but outdoor sunshine seeing the subject through the viewfinder seems easier with the D600 than D3/700/800.
Those wanting FX and on a budget are most likely to regularly use f4 and f5.6 lenses - my advice to them is try D800 and D600 side by side - I expect many will prefer the D600 viewfinder experience.
The D800 went "the other way" with a slightly darker viewfinder and better DOF delineation (screen ground more coarse) than D3/D3s. This makes sense for highest quality technical work where the D800 excels.
Cagey75 e2
3 42 Ireland
26 Oct 2012 9:19AM
If they try both they might not think much of the D600's AF point area.
27 Oct 2012 10:53AM

Quote:If they try both they might not think much of the D600's AF point area.

Actually compared to most early AF systems the D600 is pretty good, though not as good as the D800 - understandable at the around 25% "entry to FX" price difference.
If you want to see what you are doing through the viewfinder in moderate light, or some forms of macro, the counter point is the D800 is Nikon's darkest FX DSLR viewfinder.
Nick_w e2
7 4.1k 99 England
27 Oct 2012 11:57AM
Len, what's the viewfinder like compared to the D700 (which I find to be fine), tho I understand what you're saying, I was looking at my old OM10 the other day and was shocked how bright it is compared to modern cameras. There again there was no liveview back then, in low light I find it invaluable (also for macros as you can zoom right in to the focus area).

I'm seriously thinking of the D800, possibly D600, tho the controls on the D800, look more intuitive to me coming from a D700. I really like the idea of getting high resolution panos, without stitching.
User_Removed 5 4.6k 1 Scotland
27 Oct 2012 4:13PM

Quote:, I was looking at my old OM10 the other day and was shocked how bright it is compared to modern cameras. .


Yep. I am afraid that decent viewfinders tended to go out the window when autofocus was introduced. Some technician in a design lab decided they were no longer requiired. If I remember correctly, the viewfinder of the Canon A1s that I used in the olden days had three different focussing methods in the viewfinder.

I still get by OK with the D800 viewfinder and haven't been tempted to resort to LV yet - but I do miss the proper viewfinders of yesteryear.
28 Oct 2012 8:26AM

Quote:, I was looking at my old OM10 the other day and was shocked how bright it is compared to modern cameras. .

Yep. I am afraid that decent viewfinders tended to go out the window when autofocus was introduced. (snipped) I do miss the proper viewfinders of yesteryear.


One of the trade offs of modern AF and also modern multi pattern metering is getting enough light to the AF and metering detection modules for them to work to a high standard.
In a DSLR with a mirror the light for AF and most metering options is diverted by tiny slots in the main mirror onto a sub mirror behind the main mirror. The light is then reflected down onto AF and metering detectors below the bottom of the mirror box.
I do not know how much light is diverted, but modern DSLR viewfinders are at least 2 stops darker than around 20 years ago. In addition about 35% "minus magnification" (making viewfinder detail look smaller) is a feature of modern DSLR viewfinders; together with finer grinding of the screen to help compensate for the diverted light.
My best guess is around 3.5 stops of light is diverted from modern camera viewfinders.
A feautre of Nikon is centre weighted and spot metering seems to take place at the front of the prism which is probably why Nikon prisms project further forward than Canon. This requires yet more light to be diverted away from the viewfinder.
LiveView is improving with bigger rear monitors with bigger image detail size and brighter when using depth of field preview or when using f8 lens combinations. On the other hand being able to press the back of the camera against the face and to see the subject is usually worth at least another 2 shutter speeds hand holding, and framing a subject accurately on a rear swivel screen in bright sunlight is quite a challenge.
annettep38 e2
3 188 32 France
14 Nov 2012 10:55AM
Len, thank you very much for this information. I was myself quite dissapointed by the d3x's viewfinder. Itisn't bat, better than the d2x but it could be a better magnification and brighter. I find myself having toruble with my 600mm on a dark day as it is MF like most of my lenses. That is why I have got near on everything in at least f2.8 now, apart from the 18mm prime ( yes it is still useful, no distortion Smile) and the said 600mm.
I thought it was my eyes till I looked through my F3 HP again.
dandeakin e2
7 207 3 England
14 Nov 2012 8:58PM

Quote:
If you want to see what you are doing through the viewfinder in moderate light, or some forms of macro, the counter point is the D800 is Nikon's darkest FX DSLR viewfinder.



The following is a quote from this D700 vs D800 review:

http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/45171/nikon-d800-vs-nikon-d700

"We also noticed -particularly when attempting landscape shots - that the viewfinder [of the D800] was a lot brighter and colours appeared more saturated. It's also 100 per cent coverage as opposed to the D700's 95 per cent. This makes a big difference to those who like to compose everything in the finder, which is the majority of professional photographers."

I've never handled a D800 so have no idea who's correct. Does anyone have any thoughts?
15 Nov 2012 9:16AM

Quote:
I've never handled a D800 so have no idea who's correct.


It depends what is being compared to what Smile
The D800 screen is about a third of a stop darker than the other pro grade D3/4 Nikon 100% viewfinder FX bodies.
The D800 screen is easier for judging depth of field, indicating it is ground coarser.
I have not compared D800 to D700. The D700 viewfinder is 95% allowing a more concentrated beam of light equivalent to an extra half stop brightness - all other viewfinder conditions being equal - which they might not be.
The D600 as I mentioned in the OP is definitely "cleaner and brighter" and about half a stop brighter than a D800, indicating the screen is ground finer as judging DOF is more difficult.
Different photographers have different viewfinder needs - I prefer judging DOF through the viewfinder making D800 the front runner for me. Some are less interested in DOF than others and use mainly slow aperture lenses. They could prefer the D600 (also 100%) viewfinder.
To some extent LiveView can be a better way to assess DOF, particularly when working slowly on a tripod.
Taking viewfinders in general there are 5 factors affecting brightness.
The first is the light transmitted by the lens - which is constant with lenses of f2.8 and smaller aperture lenses. The viewfinder imposes a second limiting aperture from about f2.2 (F100) to f2.8 (D300). With f2 and f1.4 lenses the effective viewfinder aperture can be a factor.
The second is the "spotlight effect" in much the same way as a spotlight head on a flashlight compared to a soft box results in a narrower but brighter beam of light. This is part why pro grade Nikon DX bodies are around a stop brighter than pro grade FX. I have never owned a D700 but a 95% viewfinder requires about 20% less light (half a stop) less light than a 100% viewfinder.
The third is the amount of light diverted at the sub mirror (or in the prism housing) to work metering and AF. As AF and metering gets more complicated more light gets diverted making viewfinders darker. This is why there is a comment in this thread noting the 2 or more stops brightness difference between some film era cameras and modern DSLR's.
The next is viewfinder characteristics. Pentaprisms in some entry level cameras are cheaper to make but handle light less efficiently. By reducing viewfinder magnification (typically 70% in FX and 94% in pro level DX) camera makers can increase apparent screen brightness.
Last there is the nature of the screen and how it is ground. In the film era pro grade bodies screens were often coarse ground which reduced brightness but dramatically improved judging depth of field. Today screens are relatively smooth to part offset metering and AF light losses - and not particularly good for judging DOF.
dandeakin e2
7 207 3 England
15 Nov 2012 11:55AM
Thanks, very interesting.

I've always found the D300 & 700 view finders to be pretty similar in terms of brightness.

I've found both very difficult for manual focusing at f1.4.

I'd rather have them optimised for viewing DoF , rather than brightness.
okay...in simplistic jargon, is my darker than D7000, D600 optical viewfinder the norm than...?
3 Dec 2012 7:22AM

Quote: is my darker than D7000, D600 optical viewfinder the norm than...?

Generally speaking - yes.
Modern DSLR screens are usually much darker than film era cameras - because a lot of light gets diverted away from the viewfinder eyepiece to work multi-point AF and matrix type metering in modern DSLR's.
DX is generally brighter than FX.
Screens can be made relatively clear and bright but less good for judging and depth of field, or darker and better for judging depth of field.
You make the choice. My presumption is Nikon have put the darker type screen in the D800 because D800 users as a group are more likely to assess depth of field before taking a picture; and a brighter type screen in the D600 because D600 users as a group are less likely to consider depth of field as an aid to how a finished image might look.
Going back to high end film bodies some had the option of user interchangeable clear screens for macro, all ground glass screens, or split image types.

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