Camera review: Nikon Df – the steampunk Nikon D4
The anachronistically retro styling of the Nikon Df (B&H / Amazon), along with the digital trappings, really makes this the steampunk D4. Especially so since it has the same top-notch sensor as the Nikon D4 (affiliate)
If you have used a film camera, and specifically one of the F-series cameras, this camera will catch your eye. It’s obvious that Nikon is aiming at the same sector of photographers who found the Fuji X100s (affiliate) so appealing. That vintage look and styling definitely brings a certain cool factor into play. I bought the original Fuji X100, and then the Fuji X100s partly because it looked sexy. It looked like a fun and eye-catching camera, that also happens to be a serious machine.
Now we have the Nikon Df, and it takes all your Nikon lenses and accessories. Perfect for those photographers who would find this styling interesting, and already have an array of gear. I really think this camera is meant for the connoisseur – someone who wants a camera that is stylish looking, and a superb image-making tool.
Yup, it’s all quite interesting. But let’s have a look at how the Nikon Df (affiliate) performs and handles in actual use. At the same time we’ll see how it stacks up against the bigger super-awesome Nikon D4 (affiliate)
You can order the Nikon Df now from Amazon. It comes in a Silver and Black style.
Nikon Df controls, dials and knobs
When you look at the rear of the camera, it should look very familiar to any Nikon DLSR owner. The controls and buttons are placed in a consistent manner. This means that anyone who tries the Nikon Df for the first time, should have an easy time figuring the camera out.
Nothing there that you can see on the back needs explanation. As you may notice, the metering modes have moved to the back. I would guess that that is because it is a relatively modern addition to cameras, and wouldn’t fit or make sense on the top deck.
The view of the top deck is where the basic settings are revealed.
On the left-hand side, you have the ISO setting (via a dial that locks into place), and the Exposure Compensation dial (which also locks into place.) Both these dials are easily adjusted. They have a soft ratchety sound when you change settings. The ISO can be changes from L1 (50 ISO) all the way to crazy-high ISO settings, past 12,800 ISO. (No, I haven’t ventured there yet with my D4.)
One negative for me about the ISO there, is that you can’t see the ISO setting from the exterior of the camera when you’re shooting in the dark. You have to change custom function d3 so that the display in the viewfinder shows your ISO (instead of Frames Remaining), and then you can see your ISO in your viewfinder. This makes most sense to me, especially since the frame counter is visible on the top LCD display.
That brings us to the right-hand side of the top deck.
There is the obvious shutter speed dial. Typical of the older generation film cameras, the shutter speed is in full stop indents. If you need 1/3-rd stop indents (and this really does make sense with digital), then you can lock the shutter dial to the 1/3 Step setting. Now you can adjust your shutter speed via the rear dial, just like any other Nikon DSLR. The shutter dial has a loud ratchety sound. Sadly, nowhere near as slick as the Fuji X100s controls.
The large knurled knob on the front of the camera (right next to the Df logo), is the aperture dial. This dial is not as smooth as it might be, or as I would’ve preferred it. It too makes a loud ratchety sound, unless you use two fingertips on it to rotate the dial.
As an aside, I never quite did adapt back to Nikon’s layout after shooting with Canon cameras for several years, so I use custom function f7 to change main & sub dials’ function around. Now the shutter speed is adjusted with the large knurled knob on the front, and the rear dial is the aperture dial. This is just preference, and is typical of how everyone can customize modern cameras to their own taste.
There is also the Drive settings, with the usual selection of options from Single to Continuous High, Mirror Up and Self-Timer. There is also the Q setting, where the camera is quieter with the mirror return being delayed. To my ear, this setting doesn’t help all that much to dampen the impact of the sound in quiet surroundings.
On that topic – the Nikon Df shutter is quieter than the gatling-gun loudness of the Nikon D4. That’s a bonus.
The exposure mode dial needs to be lifted and locked into place to change exposure modes. That’s fine by me, since I rarely stray from Manual Exposure Mode.
Then there is the small info panel, showing you the shutter speed and aperture and frame counter.
That’s pretty much it, and it all makes sense.
Specifications of the Nikon Df
- 16.3 Mp sensor, same as the Nikon D4 sensor
- EXPEED 3 image processor, same as the D610; D800 and D4 (and related cameras)
- native ISO range: 100 – 12,800, which is further expandable to ISO 204800
- Multi-CAM 4800 Autofocus Sensor, with 39 AF points. (Similar to D610)
- exposure metering via the intelligent Scene Recognition System with 3D Color Matrix Metering II
- Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.7x
- Diopter Adjustment – 3 to +1 m
- Display Screen 3.2″ Rear Screen LCD (921,000) – similar to Nikon D4
- ISO range: 100-12800 (Extended Mode: 50-204800)
- Shutter speed range: 30 – 1/4000 sec
- external flash is connected via hot-shoe or PC Terminal
- max flash sync speed is 1/200
Note that even though the max flash sync speed is a 1/3rd stop slower than that of the D4 and D800 cameras, this doesn’t have as much effect on flash range as you’d expect. More about that in this related article:
The Nikon Df – what’s missing?
- No video. Yup, no video mode at all. This will tie in well with photographers who insist they don’t want or need video, and just want a more pure picture-making machine. But there is a Live-View mode, so I suppose it might be technically possible for some enterprising photographers to record the Live-View feed via the HDMI cable? Even then, using a DSLR with video capability would be easier.
- With no video mode, this also means no Time-lapse mode.
- There is no Battery Info in the Set-Up Menu.
- No second card slot. This could be a serious omission for professional use.
- A dedicated Flash Exposure Compensation button is missing from the exterior of the camera. I found this one of the flaws of the D2x / D3 / D3s cameras – you couldn’t adjust FEC from the camera body. You could with the D700 and other bodies. It was only with the D4 that the FEC could be controlled directly from the body, instead of reaching for the back of the speedlight. [ correction / clarification – You can actually adjust the FEC with a button on the back of the camera. It’s more clumsy than a dedicated button on the front of the body of the camera where fingers can easily reach it by feel.]
The Nikon Df – what’s new? (aside from the obvious)
The Retouch Menu has some extra effects – Fisheye; Color Outline; Color Sketch; Miniature effect; Selective Color.
That’s it really. Not much new was added. With the camera being a stripped down, more lean stills-only camera, it wouldn’t make sense to swing the other way and add a host of other features.
Initial reaction (from others) to the Nikon Df
The strikingly handsome look of this camera (for this day and age), set off unprecedented reaction amongst photographers on the internet. There was immediate interest in this camera which looks so
unique sexy. News about the sensor quality obviously meant this was a serious camera.
Yet, there was also the (expected) negative reaction somehow. Without the camera even hitting the streets, there were howls of outrage. “Worst camera that Nikon ever made.” “This camera is a joke.” “Over-priced.” Even F-stoppers got in on the act with the hyperbolic, “the Nikon Df represents everything wrong with photography.” Wanting to own a (very capable) camera because it looks interesting, is seen as a negative? Somehow you can’t be a capable photographer and a camera enthusiast.
So much abuse even before anyone as much as held the camera. But that is what is wrong with photographers (on the internet) – it has somehow become cool to be critical and cold. But enough of this little soapbox – back to the camera. It is beautiful. But how does it handle?
Ergonomics – how does the Nikon Df handle?
This section could also be called: the Nikon Df vs Nikon D4. My main system is based around the D4 bodies, and I am very used to them, and love their ergonomics for the most part. The one thing that is a major flaw with the D4 (and previous versions), is that the Quality and WB buttons are right next to each other. Yes, you think you’re adjusting the WB, but instead, with a slip of the thumb, you’re changing from RAW to Small JPG. But I digress .. back to the Nikon Df.
Right off, I have to admit to being ambivalent about the ergonomics of the Nikon Df. Nikon cameras have rapidly developed from the F3 to the F4 and the fantastic F5 … which then became the basis for the D1x; D2x; D3; D4 progression. Each incarnation improved in some ways on the previous generation … right up to the point now where we have the very sleek Nikon D4 (affiliate) as their top camera.
Similarly, the top Nikon bodies such as the Nikon D810 (affiliate) and Nikon D610 (affiliate) have excellent ergonomics, shaping the box-with-a-lens structure as best possible to the human hand. Controls fall just right under your finger-tips.
And now we have the Nikon Df (affiliate) a throwback to a previous era. It looks great, but the handling is clunky. You have to reach with your fingers for the shutter dial at the top … unless of course you wisely settled for the 1/3 Step setting, and use the front and rear dials. Being so accustomed to modern cameras, I found the Nikon Df slightly awkward to use when shooting.
The Auto-Focus is solid. No complaints there. For everyday photography, you wouldn’t notice a difference compared to the D4. You certainly have enough AF modes to choose from.
One thing I should note – I have large hands. And as they say about men with large hands – we need large cameras. With a smaller camera, most of the weight of the camera and lens is borne by my fore- and middle-fingers. So the (smaller) camera hinges against the center of the palm of my hand. This means my camera-holding hand quickly starts to cramp. I really do need a larger camera like the D3 / D4 / Canon 1D series, because then the grip of the camera hinges against the edge of my hand, and there’s less torque that 4 fingers now have to deal with. This is a huge factor for me in choosing a larger camera, or a grip for a smaller camera.
The Nikon Df is a small camera. (5.6 x 4.3 x 2.6″) It is smaller than the Nikon D610 (affiliate). So for me, it would be an uncomfortable camera to use for extended periods. For professional work, I need the size of the Nikon D4 (affiliate) or similar sized cameras.
The Nikon Df as picture making tool
I took numerous photos with the Nikon Df, getting a feel for the camera, and testing it out. The image quality is superb. Just as good as my Nikon D4. Stellar!
Since no one really wants to see series of test shots of my garden and random objects in and around my house, I met up with Elle for a late afternoon photo session. This and the photo at the top were taken about an hour before the sun went down. Shooting towards the sun, we had this lovely open available light. This next image and the top image were taken in the same place.
- 1/200 @ f/2.8 @ 400 ISO (Cloudy WB)
- Nikon Df (B&H / Amazon)
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II
Aside from slight skin retouching, these are the out-of-camera JPGs.
And here is the pull-back shot. Trees and a car-park and a road. But by using the tight compression of a 70-200mm lens at 200mm focal length, you can be very selective about the background. You can also shift slightly and change the lighting, by letting the sun just barely peek past the person you’re photographing.
So really, a 70-200mm lens is an essential part of my camera bag.
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (affiliate) / Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (affiliate)
This next image was photographed in front of a convenience store where we stopped along the way. Elle is lit up by the fluorescent lights in front of the shop and the display signs and some of the lights in the car park. I shot rapid sequences here to make sure that I did get a few images where the skin tones were good and the lighting even. (Fluorescent lights tend to show a cycling variation in light, changing intensity and color.)
The background consists of cars moving past in the street behind us, as well as lights from the cars being parked in the parking lot. The red light to her left, is my own car, where I had the emergency lights switched on to help give color to the background. The pull-back shot is revealing.
Elle holding the Nikon Df that I used to photograph her. (I took this shot with a D4 I had with me, specifically for pull-back shots.) Yes, she really stood there for the image above. With an 85mm lens used wide-open, the background will melt away into a lovely blur. You can make pretty much any place be an awesome background with this lens.
- 1/320 @ f/1.4 @ 2,500 ISO (3700K WB)
- Nikon Df (B&H / Amazon)
- Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
If you’d like a less expensive option, the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G (affiliate) is a superb lens too. You’d get a very similar effect at f/1.8
Custom function settings of the Df – my preferences
- custom function c2 – Standby Timer
Change the camera to not switch the display off in an annoyingly short time. 1 Minute should be better.
- custom function c4 – Monitor off delay
Similary, set longer times for the camera to keep the image up on the LCD, and the various displays up.
- custom function d3 – ISO display
Let the display in the viewfinder show your ISO (instead of Frames Remaining)
- custom function d9 – LCD illumination.
This setting is very handy on the other Nikon bodies. When you touch any button, the LCD displays light up so you can see your settings. With the Nikon Df, it is less crucial, but still nice not to have to reach for the button that lights up the top LCD display.
- custom function f2 – OK button
Change the Playback mode to show the enlarged image when you hit the OK button.
- custom function f4 – Assign Fn button
I like this button to disable the flash.
Whether I would heartily recommend this camera, really depends on your intention with the camera, and what you expect from this camera. In a sense I am ambivalent about this camera. The image quality is truly first-class. Best of the DSLR herd, along with the Nikon D4 and Canon 1Dx. That in itself sets it apart from the vast majority of cameras.
In terms of handling, I do think the vintage styling makes the camera more clunky to handle and control than it needed to be.
The smaller body would be difficult for me to use for extended periods. Conversely though, this means it would be a great walk-about camera.
On a side-note, this camera shows again that there’s a gap in Nikon’s line-up – I do believe there’s a need (and a market) for a true successor to the D700, and a direct competitor to the Canon 5D mark III. A D700x with a D4 sensor. That would please a lot of people.
As it is, Nikon Df (affiliate) is priced on a similar level as the 36 megapixel Nikon D810 (affiliate). Different cameras for different needs and tastes. Ultimately though,the Nikon Df doesn’t touch the Nikon D4 when it comes to being a responsive camera where the controls fall right under your fingers and everything is easily accessible. But then, you can buy two Nikon Df bodies for less than the price of a single Nikon D4 (affiliate).
But it could similarly be argued that buying three Nikon D610 (affiliate) bodies for the price of one Nikon D4 (affiliate), would be a better strategy in terms of having back-up.
Since the Nikon Df brings such excellent image quality at a relatively reasonable price, this might make a great back-up camera to the D4. The completely different layout to the controls would slow me down thought, since I like working with cameras which are exactly the same – then I don’t have to think about placement of controls.
As mentioned at the start, I do believe this camera is meant to appeal to the connoisseur – someone who would love to use and own a beautiful retro-styled camera, with a top-class sensor. This camera is meant to look good! And why shouldn’t we proudly show and use the cameras we are using. And no, I have never taped up my camera to be all ninja-stealth. I don’t intend to ever.
So would I recommend this camera? Yes, maybe, perhaps. There’s that ambivalence again. This really is a camera that you’d best try out in a camera store and see if it appeals to you, and feels good in your hands. It will certainly look great in your hands – and your images too.
34 Comments, Add Your Own
1chaim meiersdorf says
I love your honest evaluations. I would love a successor to my trusty D700 but I don’t know what to do without either getting into overlarge files or a very heavy and expensive camera. The D610 sounds reasonable but it does not have a pc sync. Should I look for another D700 with low mileage until Nikon comes out with a solid replacement for the camera? I feel that Nikon is not taking care of its loyal customers.
2Leighton DaCosta says
I have a question on those that ask for a “true” D700 replacement…. What would that replacement have that the Df doesn’t have? Aside from ergonomics, 1/8000s shutter speed, (maybe) 51 pt focusing, and dual slots, what would that replacement have that the Df doesn’t have already?
I think that considering this IS at the same price point as the D700, and that this is supposed to be a new “class” of Nikon cameras, is it a stretch to see that future versions of this body to be mirrorless, offering room for all that is listed above? I can envision a world where there is a Df(x/s/m/v/j/n) that is FX mirrorless, larger battery allowing for video to be practical and dual card slots, but also in the range of $500-1000 more than the DF, offering a “true” alternative to a D800E/5DmkIII in regards to performance and size.
2.1Neil vN says
What keeps the Df from being a true D700 replacement? Mostly ergonomics and layout of the camera.
I’m curious as to why you don’t think the D800 is the successor to the D700?
3.1Neil vN says
The massive file size, for one.
Following the lineage of how the D3 and D700 compared, the D700 successor should have the same sensor as the D4.
3.2The Rev says
Why D800 isn’t a replacement for the D700:
1. Its too specialised. 36mp files too large for all but the most up to date software. Over specified for general every day photography. (Yes I know the quality can be reduced – but why pay for 36mp and only use 16?)
2. Slower FPS, not as suited to sports photography as the D700.
3. Out resolves all but the most expensive lenses. I for one don’t need the extra quality, and don’t want to update my lenses to take advantage of it.
My ideal kit bag would be BOTH a D800 for detail and a D700 (or its successor) for general everyday work. OR indeed a D800/700 sized do it all camera, and a smaller than Df Fx carry everywhere ‘street’ camera for F lenses. Had hoped the Df might be the later of those two.
Why I won’t replace my D700 with a Df:
1. Loose out on FPS. (5.5fps vs 8 fps with battery grip on D700)
2. Loose out on AF specification – 51 vs 39 points (I appreciate I probably wouldn’t notice most of the time – but why would I buy a camera that is more expensive and less capable, even if only on paper.)
3. ‘Updating’ from 12mp to 16mp doesn’t really make sense either, though I have no quibble with the D4 chip and actually I think 16mp is quite enough for my needs – which are still adequately met by 12mp in the D700 – so why would I update?
Why I won’t buy a Df (Yet) as a D700 back up/second body/street camera.
1. The Df isn’t a stripped out to essentials camera, its actually a retro styled but full specified DSLR.
2. Its almost the same size/weight as a D700.
3. As the review suggests its ‘retro’ (rather than ‘manual’) controls are a little to ‘clunky’. Another review said it was more suited to ‘slow deliberate photography’ – I can already do that with the D700, and the rest!
I like the direction Nikon have taken with the Df . – moderately sized but very capable Fx chip. Great ISO performance. Manual control. Historic lense compatible. lighter body. It makes a welcome change from the current direction in cameras – more and more Megapixels – more and more modes – more reliance on electronics EVFs and the rest. But the Df not the ‘break through’ camera I was hoping for, certainly not the revolution the D700 was. But then maybe when I see and use one I might think differently.
You’re right. Anonymous people on the internet do tend to be experts on everything with regard to camera design, marketing and performance. :-) Every one of them claims to know exactly how to make the camera companies succeed. It’s a little bit comical, but mostly very annoying, which is why I don’t take part in the gear discussion forums very much and pretty much quite any sort of public social media surrounding photography. I just want to enjoy it and go out and shoot for myself and I don’t care what anyone else thinks :-)
Very fair and honest review. It seems to me that Nikon has goofed this product a bit by making it “not professional enough” (ex: no second card slot, inferior AF, etc.). The appeal is in the styling. If they would have made this a top notch camera with D4 sensor & AF & everything else awesome, D700 folks would be more excited about it. I like it but probably not enough – especially as we wait for the X-Pro2.
I really appreciate your unbiased, thorough reviews! Sad how people have to sift through garbage reviews to get at what’s real. The Df, IMO, is aimed for connoisseurs/enthusiasts or anyone who can afford a retro styled walk-around camera with suburb image quality. So many reviewers are either blind or have some hidden agenda making it frustrating for us to read but thankfully there are sites like yours! Not only are your reviews unbiased but you keep your content about photography & not equipment which is refreshing!
Anyhow, do you really think the D700x could be a reality? I’ve been holding off on purchasing full frame b/c 1, the D4 is way too expensive & large for what I need & the D800 has too many MP’s for my computer to handle (although there are work arounds, it’s a bit overkill, although definitely filling a need). I too felt that Nikon should release something as a direct competitor to the 5Diii. My wait would be over if that camera were to become a reality!
I’ve never posted here before, even though I frequent your site almost daily. Just wanted to say a big thank you for your posts which truly give me a better grasp on photography.
7Patrick Ng says
Personally, I think if Nikon were to make one with a crop sensor, they would sell a lot. Let’s face it, many of us are in love with the design because it brings back fond memories.
7.1Neil vN says
What would the advantage be of a crop sensor version? (Aside from lower cost?)
Excellent review as usual!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and views. I always enjoy your reading what you write.
An excellent review, a review that in a concise and obviously knowledgable way pinpoints the pros and possible ambiguities of this camera. I used a Nikon FE2 at the time and I was perfectly happy with its performance and its layout etc etc. And it never let me down when the conditions, climate and otherwise were quite challenging.
Likewise, I would hope this would be the case with the the Nikon Df.
Therefore there is some nostalgia involved when making a choice for or against it.
10Jay Loden says
“[…] I do believe there’s a need (and a market) for a true successor to the D700, and a direct competitor to the Canon 5D mark III. A D700x with a D4 sensor. That would please a lot of people.”
Neil, I think you hit the nail on the head there. I know I’d buy one!
I currently shoot a D800 and D600 and working with them side by side I much prefer the D800’s controls and handling. However, 36MP is really overkill for a lot of things so I tend to shoot the D600 often for that reason. A D700x with the D4 sensor and body & controls similar to the D800/D700 would be the ‘goldilocks’ solution for me.
Thanks for the review & thoughts on the DF too.
11Frank Solle says
For a certain age group of shooters this camera tugs hard on our photographic heartstrings as it harkens (yes, I’m talking about the age group that would use a word like harken) back fondly to earlier days of using film cameras ranging from old range-finders to SLRs – Kodak Retinas, Ziess Contaflex, even an old hand-me-down Balda I accidentally left on top of my car and drove off (don’t ask) come to mind – along, of course, with the earlier Nikons this is based on. But now we’re spoiled by modern ergonomics and other digital improvements, and for good reason – they make shooting that much easier. Neil’s point of being confronted with such different controls, no matter how familiar they may seem or, after some use, become, makes the Df less of an option for either a back-up or primary camera – unless one can afford two, which brings me to my second point of contention, the price point. Tug as this may on the old heartstrings, my grip on the pursestrings, in today’s economy, is a tad tighter. But oh, I am drawn, and, oh, I do want one, would like one. While I am in the market for a back-up camera, I could purchase a refurbished D600, to go with the one I currently have and maintain shooting continuity to a ‘T’, AND, pick up a Fujifilm X100s and fulfill my retro yearnings and still have something left to tighten the pursestrings around. Just don’t let me view those Df teaser videos anymore or I may just succumb to pure photography.
11.1Leighton DaCosta says
I so agree with you Frank. I have used the D800 regularly, and the first time used to shoot a wedding, regressed to a D700 that I had to borrow after that. The one thing I loved about Nikon design was that whether or not you were picking up a D3s or a D300s, your controls and layouts were the same. This seems to be a good camera for a wedding shooter who needs the range of a D4, but not all the muscle. It does give that shooter who was sitting on the fence of getting a D4, the choice of getting 2 Df’s, similarly to many who have made the same decision with the D800.
The Price point IS hard to swallow. When I bought mine it was a more logical decision than buying a a7R because of the lens situation. I am strongly wanting to develop a flow with it to see if it will be merely a travel camera, or truly a camera that I can use on the fly for weddings and such.
I love my D700, even though the rubber are wearing and falling off. The Df looks beautiful, but the handling is also important. I’d love to have a D4 as I also have big hands, but as an amateur I can’t rationalize that much money. The D800 is also a great camera, have rented one a couple of times for weddings, but I agree that the 36MP us overkill.
Thanks for the review on the Df. I would love to have one as a carry around with say my old 50mm, but I’m not sure how much that’s worth to me when my d700 craps out on me. :-)
As a D300s owner wanting to upgrade to full frame there is nothing in the Nikon range that interests me apart from the D4 that is sadly way out of my price range. At the moment my heart lies with a 5d mkIII.
I generally like the look and feel of vintage cameras. In my opinion, Fuji X cameras are the best implementation at this moment. I see the Df as a overprices D600 in a vintage-looking casing. The D4 sensor is fine, but all other specs (including the 150.000k rated shutter) is taken from the pretty mediocre D600. For one third less on the asking price it may be an option. At the current price, the D800 is the much better deal – I will keep mine.
15Paul Hodgson says
Thanks for the review, very interesting.
Since you were shooting jpegs I’m curious what picture control was used?
15.1Neil vN says
Standard, as was set up as the camera defaults.
16Scott T says
Nice review and I completely agree with you in two regards. No second card slot, along with holding the camera is kinda blah. Finally had a chance this weekend to put my hands on one, and I agree, the grip is no where near as comfortable. I like to be able to grip the camera, yet when holding the Df, I’m only able to get 3 fingers around the grip, as my pinkie drops below the bottom of the camera. It’ll be interesting if they come out with a grip for the camera, but I do not think that’ll be possible, as I did not see any “contacts” on the bottom of the camera. Unless it’s part of the battery compartment, when, if, a grip slides in. Yet, one might deal with these shortcomings when PetaPixel posted the DxOMarks of the Df, claiming better image quality than the D4 at half the cost. Nikon, you could have made this so much easier for those looking to upgrade, yet I have mixed feelings as well. Ugh!!!!
Am I crazy for considering a Df as a primary wedding camera? The lack of a second card for backup is the only thing stopping me at this point.
My reasoning is that I have small hands, even for a woman. I really want to move from DX to full frame but have found ergonomics/weight to be a major issue. I’ve rented a D3, D800, D700, and a D600 to see how I like them. The D3 I could barely grip at all, certainly not for 6+ hours of almost non-stop shooting, and the weight alone became an issue especially when paired with heavy lenses. I shot a wedding with a D600 a while back and found it to be ok– 9 hours of shooting but I could definitely feel the strain in muscles and my fingers were stiff from the grip.
Thus the appeal of the Df– small grip, light, AND the added benefit of that beautiful D4 sensor. My logic is this is an even better D4 sensor for half the price and less weight than the D4/D800/610. Thoughts?
Great Review of the DF; and Jen, you’re not crazy!
I’ve recently been working with the Nikon DF and decided to use it as my primary camera for a full wedding last week. For the last last 18 months I’ve been using my Nikon D800E, and whilst this camera produces amazing files, just too big for 90% of my work. before that I was using a D3, and again, great, but heavy and loud.
Working with the DF has been very positive, the camera was defiantly responsive enough, and performed, in real term’s better than my 800. To qualify that statement, the cleaner images at high iso and more forgiving allowance on shutter speed the larger pixels give, meant that the low light work was exceptional. But, a massive factor is how quiet the DF is compared to the D800 and D3. the shutter is more discreet in volume and tone.
I’m guessing i’m the nikon DF’s target audience, being a documentary photographer, and having spent the last 10 years freelancing using digital SLR’s and just prime lenses, yes, even a full wedding. (I much prefer shooting this way) so these on the DF body feel really good, even my larger sigma 35 1.4 art. The camera is small, light, fast enough. The files are quick to process in capture one 7 on a 2008 mac pro, and use less space in archiving.
Another issue, but that works in our favour is that the DF is less aggressive looking than the D3, so when working in close quarter, feel’s a little more human with your subject, something that is rarely considered in reviews, but a relaxed subject makes for more convincing imagery, and every little helps.
The way I feel now, when I’m shooting on location next week, the DF will be in my hand, the 800 in the bag just in case. hope this helps.
18Neil vN says
Jen … then the camera might just be the camera you want. But I would still suggest that you do hold the camera and try it to see if it feels right.
18.1Leighton DaCosta says
I agree Neil,
And thanks again for the review. I’m a pretty big guy, and love having a “man grip” on my bodies, but for the past six months during travel, I have been shooting with the NEX line and that grip is almost non existent. Pinching, not gripping. It is like going from a coffee mug to a tea cup.
If it helps, I shoot almost always with a wrist strap of some sort. I find that easier to deal with than fighting with a neck strap.
19Kevin Whaley says
As always your review is honest and thoughtful. I purchased a Df last week and at first I was disappointed with the grip because I was so used to having the large “hook” that comes with a traditional DSLR body. Normally I would bring a camera down to my right side and hold it by letting the body hang vertically and grasping the front with my fingers and back with thumb / palm. But with the Df I usually end up bringing down to my left side instead. Since my left hand is already grasping the bottom of the camera for support, I just keep my thumb and index finger wrapped around the base of the lens and let the bottom of the camera sit against the palm of my hand. This seems to feel a lot more comfortable to me and it doesn’t put a lost of strain my my wrist. Of course, the Df’s light weight helps in that regard too! I also still bring it down to my right side too now that I’ve gotten more used to the grip. I’ve found that I don’t need nearly as much to hook onto since it doesn’t weight as much but that might change once I attach a heavier lens since the balance will change.
The ergonomics may not be suited for everyone but then again no camera is. The D4 and D800 feel too big to some people and the D610 and D7100 feel too small for others. Regardless of how it looks or its size, the Df is a very capable tool and I think a lot of people have lost sight of that. For me it is the ideal camera for one simple reason: it’s one that actually makes me WANT to pick it up and shoot.
Any idea why the metering on the Df is reverse to all other Nikons? It’s kind of hard to get used to!
21Neil vN says
… because in the entire mathematical world, (+) is to the right, and (-) is to the left.
You can change it in the menu with one of the Custom Functions, to operate like you are used to.
Thanks for that! It was driving me crazy.
I’m surprised you did not use the camera enough (or, heaven forbid, check the manual) to realize there is indeed flash compensation. It is the same as every Nikon I have ever used.
23Neil vN says
Kent .. you are entirely correct. There is FEC adjustment via the camera’s body. (The button on the back of the camera.)
My clumsy writing there was due to the way I wrote this review, adding notes and impression as I handled the camera … slowly building up the review. Since there wasn’t a dedicated FEC button like on the D700 / D4 etc, I made a note of it and unfortunately the sloppy phrasing remained. I’ve fixed it now. Thanks for pointing it out.
On a side note, the D2x / D3 / D3x / D3s don’t have dedicated FEC control from the camera’s body.
Ah, and I did not know THAT. Never used one of the big bodies. Point taken, we are all accustomed to what we are accustomed to. :-).
Yes, I know I’m late to the game….but I’m looking forward to getting my Df soon, very soon :-) Miss my D700.