Nikon Df – A mix of Old School and New School


Nikon has announced the Nikon Df. Imagine a classic SLR camera but instead of it being filmed based, it’s all digital on the inside. This Full Frame (FX) DSLR definitely has a sexy look to it. It’s hard not to smile and have a nostalgic feeling when you look at it. On the inside it’s all digital.

16.2MP FX-Format Sensor and EXPEED 3 Image Processor
The 16.2 megapixel full-frame (FX) CMOS sensor and EXPEED 3 image processor work in tandem to produce overall high image quality with notable detail, dynamic range, color accuracy, and low-light sensitivity to a native ISO 12800, which is further expandable to ISO 204800. This still image-only camera is also well-suited to working with moving subject matter with a top 5.5 fps continuous shooting rate using either the viewfinder or when working in live view.
AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition Lens
Included with the silver Df body is the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition lens; a fast normal-perspective lens that features a complementary design with enhanced knurling on the focusing ring to emphasize the manual shooting capabilities of the camera. When using autofocus, a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) is integrated into the lens to enable fast, precise focusing that is equally quiet and smooth. One aspherical element is also incorporated into the optical design to help minimize chromatic aberrations and maintain high image sharpness and clarity.
39-Point Multi-CAM 4800 AF Sensor
Benefitting the exceptional image quality is an apt AF system that employs 39 distinct AF points, including nine cross-type sensors, to quickly acquire focus in a range of lighting conditions, from -1 to +19 EV. An intelligent Scene Recognition System, typically reserved for exposure metering, benefits the focusing performance by analyzing and identifying subjects to suit panning and tracking-based shooting styles. Depending on the situation, 9, 21, or 39 point arrays can be selected from and seven centrally-located points are compatible with f/8 or faster lenses, extending the auto focusing abilities of the longest lenses used in conjunction with teleconverters. When using this phase-detection focusing method, selectable AF-area modes include: Single-point AF mode, Dynamic-area AF mode, 3D-tracking mode, and Auto-area AF mode.When working in live view, a contrast-based AF system is employed to acquire focus precisely and can function in continuous, full-time servo mode to better-suit working with moving subjects. Four distinct AF-area modes are available when using the contrast-detection focusing method: Face-priority AF, Wide-area AF, Normal-area AF, and Subject-tracking AF. Additionally, benefitting working with manual focus when in live view, the image can be magnified up to 19x for critical examination and easier focus confirmation.

Scene Recognition System
The intelligent Scene Recognition System with 3D Color Matrix Metering II utilizes a 2,016-pixel RGB sensor to evaluate and analyze all aspects within a scene, including brightness, contrast, subject distance, and the scene colors, to quickly determine an accurate exposure and white balance setting to best render the scene at hand. The information gathered is also checked against onboard reference images to ensure consistency from image to image in regard to exposure, white balance, i-TTL flash settings, and subject-tracking AF performance.
Other Camera Features
  • Picture Control modes can be directly accessed via a dedicated button and allow you to set predefined looks to imagery in-camera, and include Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, Vivid, and user-customizable settings.
  • Active D-Lighting helps to preserve both highlight and shadow details when working in contrast-rich scenarios, such as backlit lighting. Utilizing the EXPEED 3’s processing power, a more controlled image will be produced with brightness values closer to how they are naturally seen. This mode is suitable for working with moving subjects.
  • Built-in HDR works to extend the tonal and exposure range of a single image by recording two separate exposures and blending them together in order to gain greater highlight and shadow details with an extended range of mid-tones. The smoothness of the edge where the two separate exposures meet can be adjusted for more apparent softness to benefit images with a greater range of encompassed exposure values. This mode is best suited for working with stationary subjects.
  • The accessory terminal supports the use of the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter to enable remote, instant transferring of photos to Android and iOS mobile devices for sharing online. The GP-1A GPS Unit is also supported, which automatically adds locational information to images’ metadata for geotagging applications.
  • Spot White Balance enables precise, selective control of the white balance setting by simply pointing and metering a pure white portion of the scene in order to set the proper color balance when working in live view.
  • One memory card slot is available and accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC type memory cards, including UHS-I SDHC and SDXC cards.
  • An in-camera virtual horizon can detect both rolling (horizontal inclination) and pitching (forward or rear inclination) directions and display an electronic level on the LCD when working in live view. The rolling direction of tilt can also be displayed within the viewfinder.
  • Supported languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Ukrainian.


The Bottom Line

I guess the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this camera was “hey, Nikon just came out with a ‘designer’ DSLR”. It looks nice, the specs are decent, but it’s not on my wish list. It’s on my “would be nice to have” list. The price is probably the biggest stumbling block. It’s more than a D610 and less than a D4, however the specs don’t really make it worth the extra bucks for me and since I have both a D600 and D4, I don’t really have a need for one in the middle. Could I sell my D600 and Df? Sure. However, then I’d lose the ability to capture DSLR video, that’s kind of a deal breaker for me. If you’re strictly into still photography AND you’re looking for a cool looking full frame DSLR this is it. You can pre-order yours here.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. What do you think of this camera? Are you ordering one? Sound off in the comments below…

One Reply to “Nikon Df – A mix of Old School and New School”

  1. Just read your article and would like to add my voice to the conversation by sharing a comment I posted on the Fstoppers website. First of all though, I need to apologize for the long comment but I promise my intention is to get Nikon (if they follow your blog) to shake things up a bit cuz I feel that camera manufacturers nowadays, except for the improved image quality and low light performance (and maybe the high megapixels) of their cameras, are stuck in a situation I would say similar to what all smartphone manufacturers were doing before Apple broke the mold with the iPhone.

    So please stick with me.

    Here goes…

    I think this camera is beautiful with great craftsmanship, that it would be good for travel, street photography or just for the pleasure of taking good picture and I agree that it will probably satisfy the nostalgia of some photographers who started out with Nikon film camera.

    Yes, after all is said and done: photography is all about THE FINAL IMAGE. I certainly appreciate good, beautifully executed craftsmanship and I believe a good camera is the one that serves to create the best possible image while integrating seamlessly in that process. However this is not achieved by simply having manual dials and a “retro look” which seems to be “in” right now but that’s only just form over function. Spending the past 4 years (or so) developing this camera is somewhat a waste of time, resource, energy and focus. This camera has nothing revolutionary about it and showcases a lack of vision and the wrong priority for Nikon to pursue. Like you said, it is just a “would be cool to have” camera

    Rather than spending 4 years trying to snap a Nikon FM top on a D600/D800 body, a better focus/priority for Nikon (and other manufacturers) would be to better integrate the technological advances available today into their cameras that would improve the image making process (or at least not get in its way). Per example here are 5 points that I think should be a no brainer priority but that camera makers are still making people beg for.

    1- Image Quality and Focus engine/sensitivity

    The D4 (and I’m sure Df), D800 and D600 are amazing cameras not just for their low light capabilities but also for their image quality and dynamic range. Nikon has also compared the images coming from the D800 to Medium format (and I think it’s safe to say that even those who were naysayers when the D800 was first announced can now say this camera is definitely a breakthrough for Nikon), then why not provide a more full fledged solution? Why not bring 16 bit image processing to DSLRs and improve the resolving power of their current lens lineup? I’m sure a lot of Medium Format photographers would have no hesitation pulling their D800 instead under certain conditions knowing that image quality (as far as color accuracy especially skin tone reproduction) would be as good if not better than their MF cameras (not to mention the weight and ergonomics of the DSLR).

    What good are low light capabilities if your camera has a hard time focusing? So Nikon needs to improve the low light focusing capability of their cameras while not necessarily adding more focus points (I think 51 focus points are more than enough) but rather spreading those focus points more throughout the image area instead of having them all tightly packed in the center of the frame like on the D600. Also an improved focus screen with focus peaking or split image focus confirmation (for manual focus like on old film cameras or the Fuji X100s) would definitely improve a camera’s usability in nailing focus (manually). And no i’m not suggesting to completely drop optical viewfinders in favor of an all electronic one: I love my optical viewfinder.

    2- X-Sync Speed.

    It’s absurd that today, DSLRs are still stuck at an X-Sync speed of 1/250 of a second (even less on some models). I don’t wanna have to worry about time of day, sync speed or HAVING TO gang multiple speedlights together (in FP high speed sync) to have enough power and fast recycling time when I wanna shoot wide open while also combatting bright sunny conditions. Why not build leaf shutters or some sort of electronic shutters into every new DSLRs while also adding some built in neutral density capabilities similar to the fuji X100s? I think David Hobby has been screaming this from the top of his lungs quite enough now: faster sync speed virtually increases the effective power and usability of speedlights or any strobe for that matter.

    3- Radio Triggering

    I LOVE Nikon’s CLS system mainly the ability to control every speedlight from camera position. I think in it’s time, it was truly revolutionary but it’s long (too long) overdue for an update. Joe McNally does wonders with it, but It’s ridiculous that this system still relies on line of sight. In fact at times Joe has had to use some contraption like attaching 2 or more SC-28 cables together to get his master speedlight off camera so the remote speedlights could see it. Canon has already updated their speedlights with radio transmission. Pocket Wizard, Phottix, Radio Popper and other manufacturers have already demonstrated the ability to transfer Nikon’s triggering signal over radio triggers, WHY oh WHY is Nikon still numb on this subject? Even some relatively unknown Chinese company named Godox has developed a bare bulb 300 watt/second (Sunpack 120J style) manual speedlight with remote power adjustment over radio (all with High Speed Sync to boot). I consider that an advancement. And while we’re at it, it’s time that the CLS system be updated to more than just 3 groups (the Godox flash mentioned above has 16 groups).

    4- Wifi and GPS

    Why not completely integrate GPS (useful for location scouting and file cataloguing based on place) and WiFi (for full wireless tethered capture) into every camera (professional or otherwise)? I don’t mean the dumb down version available with the WU-1a/WU-1b adapters or the expansive option available for the D4. Every smartphone today has WiFi and GPS built in (as standard equipment), why can’t a (big) camera at least allow me to take an iPad on an outdoor shoot (especially now that the new iPad air has desktop class 64 bit processor) and have clients and art directors follow along on their own iPads (or any other tablets) without me being first tethered to a laptop via a wire? A tether cable increases the risk of accident (amongst other inconvenience) not to mention all the additional abuse/hazard a location shoot can subject your laptop to including water, excessive dust, etc. Besides, taking a laptop on location also involves bringing additional (heavy) grip equipment to support it.

    5- Flash Power

    By now I thought Nikon with such a beautiful system as the CLS would’ve thought about producing more than just 50 Watt/second speedlights. Sincerely, I thought they would’ve come up with some sort of Monolight already. I tip my hat to PROFOTO for their new B1 (though I wish it was less than $2000 a pop). Seriously Nikon?!?!?!

    And if I may add one more thing: impeccable quality control should definitely top the list cuz it’s unacceptable that an otherwise great camera be plagued by a flaw that could’ve been caught on time with good Q C. I’m talking about the D600. What’s worse is Nikon being silent about it for a long time, then suggesting that merely cleaning it could/should resolve the issue, customers having to pay shipping to Nikon to have the camera fixed for something that is Nikon’s fault and only to release the D610 a year later (which is what the D600 should’ve been in the first place).

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