I can remember when this camera was rumored, and all the different things that people said about it. I remember thinking I was interested in the camera because it looks like the cameras of old. With the construction, the dials, the function and ect It’s definitely an old school design, with an old school “Photos only” vibe which I think it’s kinda neat. But this isn’t your granddads camera. In fact, fact this would be like having your granddads 1963 Corvette, but with the internals of the 2014 Stingray. It’s got all the great qualities that your granddad’s camera had but with all of the modern day conveniences and abilities. Yowza. What a combo. It is the first camera in Nikon’s lineup for some time that can even take full advantage of AF-I lenses, while at the same time using modern day AF-S, G, lenses like in the photo below! The Nikon Df is definitely a throwback, a throwback with a purpose and Nikon is making a Statement that in this world of video we need to remember that Stills are important too.
Full Disclosure says that No, I am not being paid to review this camera. In fact, I asked about doing this one as opposed to vise versa because I was/am that excited about this camera.
So wow. First off let me say that all the buttons are exactly where you think they would be. If you’ve ever used a F2, F3, FM2 or any other body of that generation you’ll feel right at home with this camera. Heck, even if you used an old minolta film body you’ll probably feel right at home; they didn’t vary THAT much. The bright and shining point is the fact that it’s got the D4’s 16 megapixel sensor in it. Not a toned down version either, the real bonafide D4 Sensor. That means you can basically hand hold this thing in the dark. Goodbye wondering about if you can get the shot, and hello creativity of the moment. Shoot AnyTime.
That’s Nick from Roberts Camera, all ambient light outside of a Chinese takeout place here in Indianapolis. Shannon and I had him and his wife over for dinner and he brought me the Df for this review. The camera is a little bigger than I expected, and it’s definitely bigger than the F2, FM2 or ect. By about 10% as I can figure but that makes sense since it’s got all of today’s latest and greatest in there. Cmos Sensors and 900k+ pixel LCD Screens take up space, and so that extra little bit of size is understandable. The camera has the D610’s AF system in it, and honestly it works really well on the full frame. In fact I was surprised as to how fast the AF snapped into place on both the included 50F1.8 and even my 200-400F4. (Yea, that happened). I was not disappointed with how the camera performed in a variety of instances, both in ambient light and in a lighting provided by strobe type environment. All of the buttons and dials are right where you want them, and even if you decide you don’t want to go completely retro with the controls; you can set it to use the command dials like on any current Nikon DSLR. The shutterspeed wheel on top of the Nikon Df is only marked in full stop increments (1/200th, 1/400th, 1/800th ect. If you want to in third stops you need to turn it to the third stop part of the dial, and use the command dials. I’m more than ok with this. Something I’m really ok with is the fact that this selection wheel rotates all the way around. Back on the old film bodies it was all the way to one side, and then all the way back. This one rotates freely, which signifies to me that that the controls are mostly just symbolic of how cameras used to be, and function truly with modern components. Another clear sign of this is that the dials on the top left of the camera can be programmed like the function buttons. Way to go Nikon on a camera that is truly customizable to the users needs or wants. Speaking of customizeable, Nikon didn’t forget everyone who has all of their current gear either. The Nikon CLS System works with the Df very well, and in fact I used the SU-800 and SB900’s to shoot more than a few photos while I had the body in my hands.
Here’s the shocker for you Measurebaters out there. Supposedly the Nikon Df is better at low light than the D4. DxO Mark who is known for all kinds of very scientific measurebating says so. To me that says that a D4s may be on the horizon, with similar improvements as an incremental upgrade like when the D3s replaced the D3. How much of an improvement can be seen in the real world, I don’t know as in the time I had the camera I was shooting more photos than technical tests and frankly; with this camera that’s the only way it should be. This camera is the first DSLR in years that omits the video function. That’s a beautiful thing because it allows you to just shoot photos. Like I said earlier in this post; hello creativity of AnyTime.
So I’ve spoken really highly of this thing, and I do think really highly of it. There are a few (ok only one really) minor things that I’m not all that thrilled about. The camera is great. It’s awesomely great, and if I had the disposable income I’d have bought one already. I can see lots of people buying them as upgrades to their D700’s in the future because it’s everything the D4 is, except in a smaller more accessible photo centric package. Nikon finally fixed the mistake that they made with the D700. When the D700 came out with the D3’s sensor it cannibalized the D3’s sales because it was an equivalent camera (even capable of 8fps with the grip) and people were buying them in droves. I don’t blame them; I owned one and it was great. The Nikon Df though gives the user all of the important still image components, without a lot of the extra cost pro components. Things like the 10fps, the epic battery that lasts for 5K shots, the vertical grip and ect. For most people who will buy the Nikon Df, that’s just fine too. Really though for me, I would only change one thing about the camera (which in tern would change something else). If I were Nikon I would have produced the camera exactly as is; except with a D3s sensor in it, which in turn would have dropped the price by $500 or $1,000. I have no idea how feesable that is considering sensor production is stupid expensive and I’m sure they don’t have lots of factories pumping these things out considering that in the lifespan of the D4 they aren’t going to sell billions of them. Really the D4 sensor is what makes the Nikon Df cost prohibitive to quite a few currently. In a year or so when prices come down, refurbs come out, and used bodies hit the market I’m likely to buy one; but not at the $2749 price point for a body and no lens. For that money I personally would buy a Nikon D800 and have D3 like High Iso quality at 36 megapixels feeling none the wiser. That being said when high ISO matters, and when it comes to photograpy, just photography and photography any time and place. The Df is absolutely the clear winner. Which is also why with the D3s sensor and a price of $1749, or even $1999 Nikon would probably sell the ever living bejeesus out of them. (Honestly it appears they are selling the living bejeesus out of them anyway so I must really just be a cheapskate).
(Nikon Df, 1600ISO, Nikon 60mm AF-S Macro, 1/250th@F22. Single SB900 set to 1/4th power triggered by SU-800 on the camera’s hot shoe. White balance set to 2550K for the cool blue look for the Ice on my car window)
SO there you have it. The Nikon Df is a winner. I would love to have one, and someday I probably will; but for now am going to hold out for a bit and see what happens. If you are in fact looking to get one you should go check them out at Roberts Camera here in Indianapolis though. They have one on display and you can even play with it before you buy; plus their staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. Even so much that you can chat to them on their website while shopping online now, and yes it IS a real person you’ll be talking to! Not a computer!
The Nikon Df is a big winner, and I can’t wait to be able to get one. Until then though, More soon.