This is my real world review of Nikon’s new Df dSLR retro styled camera. These are my preliminary photos with the camera over thanksgiving with a short comparison to the Nikon D4. Actual paid shoots and real world tests to be added in the coming week.
I’m temporarily breaking my own rules with this camera review. Usually I wait to have a few shoots under my belt before I write up a review, but seeing as it’s Thanksgiving and I have a few days before my next sessions I wanted to post my initial thoughts. The quick? This camera will get you the raw image quality of the D4, but it’ll get you there in totally different ways. This camera is definitely trying to tug on your nostalgic side and it does it extremely well. Note that none of the images from the Df are RAW processed images. Because the Nikon Df is so new it isn’t updated to work with Lightroom yet. So, some of the images are processed JPEGS and others (most) are completely untouched SOOC jpegs.
The retro design of this camera definitely works to its advantage. There is a black and a silver version. I think the silver looks more interesting. I find myself loving it more and more with every sound of the shutter. It has a very satisfying “crunch” sound to the shutter.
Speaking of which – here is a video sampling the loudness of the shutters. The Df is so much quieter and that makes me SO happy.
That being said… it feels solid. It’ll take a few good hard drops. It’s also weather sealed so you don’t have to worry about a bit of rain.
In my hands it feels very portable but not too small. I think it’s the perfect size camera body for a system that uses F mount lenses. Any smaller and you start to lose a sense of command with your equipment. Any larger and it’s too heavy and D4-like. For subjects of your photographs it’s a lot less intimidating than a giant D4 with big lens pointed at your face. Trust me, I love small camera bodies (example Leica M) but the leica cameras are able to also use smaller lenses. That’s not possible with F mount lenses so in my mind this is as good as it gets in the size category.
The beautiful viewfinder and rear display work a bit better than the D4′s. Perfect for traveling.
Another point of contention for some is the single memory card slot. Yup! It’s only got one and it’s annoying, but I don’t mind. Haven’t ever had a card fail and for a travel/personal use camera that this targeted for it’s much more convenient to have SD than compact flash. The memory card inserts through the button door just next to the battery.
It’s an incredibly tactile camera. So MANY BUTTONS! It’s crazy! They’re buttons for nearly everything you could want. Shutter, aperture, iso, focusing, mode changes, on and on and on. You can also set the shutter button button to a 1/3 setting and use the traditional thumb wheel to change shutter if you prefer the “normal” way of doing that. There’s a lot to customize and I’m still learning exactly how I want this camera to operate, but I love all the options.
So, here we get to what matters! This camera does in fact have the same sensor as the Nikon D4 and its output is virtually the same. Refer to my Nikon D4 review from last year for more info about the sensor.
High ISO at 12,800 is not problem. This is a straight out of camera jpeg with absolutely no noise reduction in camera or otherwise:
and here is another at 12,800 in a different environment:
So, image quality wise it’s definitely on par with the nikon d4. Here are two 12,800 iso photos for a comparison. However keep in mind I am not able to process these images the exact same because I don’t have the ability to use RAW files in lightroom yet with the Nikon Df as it’s too new.
and here is a crop of yet another photo at 12,800 to show you the insane detail it keeps:
A big issue some people had with the Df was it’s different auto focus system. It’s 39 points and it’s definitely enough for me. It’s also got 3D tracking which is perfecto. In general I have found the auto focus to be excellent! What better way to test it than on a young bouncy kitten?
12,800 ISO SOOC:
You can see an example of the responsiveness of live view from the video above. Bottom line is that it works really great except that you can’t see what the exposure of the photo will look like without holding the aperture preview button on the front. Kind of annoying, but not a deal breaker for me.
This camera is a bit of a new direction for Nikon. They’re really playing towards the feeling of making a photo. The knobs and buttons, the size and portability, the SOUND of making an image… and it works. It feels so very satisfying. More of this in the conclusion, but it’s somewhat similar to what I concluded in my review of the newly released Nikon 58mm f/1.4
(Click images below to view them larger)
I’ll probably re-write this conclusion after more time with this camera, but my first instincts are that it’s going to be a big hit for nikon fans. I have no doubt Canon users will be drooling for something similar. I think the last time Nikon released a similar spot in their product line – the D700 which had the small form factor with the D3 sensor – they cannibalised their sales of the D3 too much. The Df is purposefully not a replacement for the D4 but it’s not targeted toward the same purposes. It’s lacking professional grade niceties like dual slots, 1/8000 shutter, 12 FPS, bigger battery, video, more focus points, HDMI-out, etc. etc.
Shooting with the Nikon Df is much more about the experience of making the photo, the feel of it, than it is raising the bar on image quality and features… and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve tried many cameras that tout really amazing image quality with very small form factors. The A7 has very little appeal to me because it just doesn’t look like a camera I want to use for very long. When you make a living (or just shoot a bunch!) from making photos it can become hard to get excited about going out and shooting for yourself, but it’s essential to do it. It’s the best way I know how to get the wheels turning in different directions and recharge my creative batteries. Having a camera that makes me feel excited and involved while making an image is important. BUT that’s a really hard thing to explain so I’m going to stop trying and just suggest you try one for yourself. The cost of this camera is really high, but I blame the sensor quality for that one. They could have put in the D800 sensor or perhaps something even less expensive than that, but as I’m spoiled with the versatility and ISO capabilities of the D4… I’m glad they didn’t.
Side note – I also find that when subjects see a camera that looks classic (like my M, M9 or now the Df) they feel a bit more engaged in the process of making a photo, which is a huge advantage. It’s one reason why I love my Leica M so much and why I might find myself using it a bit less now that I’ve got the Nikon Df.
I’ll leave you with a few full resolution JPEG images with no processing what-so-ever in camera, software, or otherwise.
12,800 iso in darkness sample: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4854870/never%20delete%20review%20high%20res%20samples/high-sio-nikon-df-sample-3.jpg
Light weight, tactile, and satisfying. Perfect for personal, portrait, and travel photography.
Price$2749 (body only)
In my bag?For personal work and travel