I have been using a secondary camera body on assignments for almost 2 years now. The purpose of the second body is for redundancy, in case my primary camera, the D3, fails.

The D610 has performed the role of a secondary body spectacularly. The image quality is stupendous; better, than the D3, I would say. Sensor tech has definitely marched on. Despite the additional 12 megapixels, high ISO performance is better in the D610 compared to the D3. Dynamic range is incredible (shadow details can be recovered with very little noise penalty, hence the term, ISO invariance being used to describe the images). Video is very decent. Of course, the lack of a powered aperture like that of the D800 lineup bugs me to no end (more on that later). So, if all is rosy, why passing of the buck?

Camera ergonomics cannot be overlooked for events shooting. Having done this for several years now, that is still the reason why I keep the D3 around despite it being an outdated body. In order to keep the haptics while upgrading the sensor, I will need to shell out another 2-3k over the D610 for the D4/D4s. I simply cannot justify the cost.  The form factor of the D3, coupled with the excellent button placement and the overall responsiveness, makes it a pleasure to use. The weight may be a problem in the long run, yet, it gives me a reassuring feeling when I use it for events.

ISO Invariance :+2.5 stops of exposure looks perfectly useable at normal viewing size on the monitor
100% crop, note the lack of conspicuous noise even in the deep blacks

The D610 falls short in this regard.  Several issues contribute to this. The lack of a 51 point AF system forces me to use the focus and recompose method, something which makes shooting with fast lenses a real pain. Having to do this when using large aperture lenses gives me alot of problems with accurate focusing. I have far more keepers with the D3  when using my Sigma 85mm f1.4 HSM.

39 pt D600/D610 AF Array vs the 51 pt array found in “pro” grade cameras

Also, the grip of the D610 could be deeper, I  feel some finger cramp when using it with my Nikon 70-200mm VR I. Make no mistake, the D610 is not an uncomfortable camera to hold, objectively. In comparison, however, I rarely have issues when using my D3 with any lens due to the deep and comfortable grip (despite the heft of the camera). Lastly, as mentioned previously, the lack of a powered aperture which allows for real tie adjustment of the aperture while in live view makes getting the shot harder at a pinch. All these reasons, combined, lead me to my replacement camera, the D750.

More on that in my next post.