Is Camera Design Important?

The soon to be introduced Nikon Df has raised a heated debate among our readers. That is understandable, of course. Because Nikon is bold enough to charge $2750 for a camera that is basically a retro D610 with a D4 sensor, with some of the functionality removed on purpose. But let’s put the price question aside for a moment and focus on the design part of any camera, modern or otherwise. Remember the old Nikon FM2, a true classic. Remember the success of the Olympus PEN and the Fujifilm X series. And at this point, let me raise a provocative question. Does a camera have a soul?

Nikon Df with Leather Case

A silly question, isn’t it? How can a camera have a soul? It’s just a piece of plastic, glass and metal, copied again and again. It is a tool. But that, that is the real pickle. As I wrote in my Mamiya RZ67 Pro review, the best part of film photography – and something digital has severely lacked in comparison – was the involvement in the process of it all. Film – at least with manual film cameras – makes you slow down, makes you think about every single step you take. Makes you take every single step on your own, consciously, carefully. Want a setting changed? Rotate a dial. Turn a knob. Feel the physical feedback you camera gives you, hear it click in a sort of satisfying manner. Forget to do so and there is no LCD screen at the back to check the result prematurely, no way to know beforehand if you screwed something up. And at first, running away from such complexity is a relief. After-all, digital cameras offer so much room for mistakes and complexity of film photography is certainly not for everyone! It is like eating out at a restaurant after a long home-made sandwich diet. But as the time passes, some (not all) start to miss the sandwiches and the perfectly served, neat restaurant food becomes tedious. You want the involvement back. “Make an ordinary, daily, routine activity that bit more special, personal, intimate and meaningful, simply by making it slower”. Slower and less rational.

I am not done with analogies just yet. A painter needs inspiration to work on his newest masterpiece. Inspiration he can find in all sorts of things, good and bad. The former might include an early morning sunrise, a beautiful light touching the roofs out on the street. A music note, a storm. Someone walking by. For the result to come together perfectly, everything needs to be just right. Because all those little details set the mood, set the tone for thoughts and, in doing so, add depth to your work. So, perhaps the painter needs an old, battered brush, too, as part of inspiration. It is not perfect, but the painter knows it so well, he can do wonders with that brush, he feels better using it. A writer needs his typewriter. Yes, he can use a modern computer and save time by doing so. But a novelist is no machine. He can not simply start writing. He, too, needs the mood, the thoughts. And so he will wait for the right time of day (or night), for the right state of mind. And he will use his favorite typewriter that he loves the sound of so much, if that typewriter adds to the right mood. It might have a key missing. It might be more exhausting to write with. But he will take it over a laptop any day, because that typewriter is necessary for the right state of mind which, in turn, helps write better. Much better.

On the face of it, the typewriter is so much inferior to a laptop. A laptop can do the exact same thing, only better. On both, you press a key which prints a letter. So, in other words, you could write the exact same thing on both machines just as successfully. And some novelist would not care for the typewriter at all, because the laptop is just a tool. Just like a modern camera is just a tool. It can, very successfully, get out of your way and let you do your thing. But other writers need the old, cumbersome approach to feel better, and by feeling better achieve their maximum creative potential. And it does not necessarily have to be a typewriter, oh no. To each his own. That is the key point.

Which brings me back to camera design. On one hand, a modern digital camera can be a simple tool meant to achieve a certain result. Much like a car that is needed to get from A to B, a D610 is capable of giving you the exact same result as a Nikon Df. But what if it is not the result that you seek most? What if, to feel the necessary enjoyment of having created something, you need to enjoy the process as much as the result? You can board a plane and get somewhere. Or you can take an old, classic car, and take a road trip. A painful one, long and tiring. But at the same time, so fun, so rewarding and unforgettable, you will gladly drive back home and never regret it. Yes, a camera is just a tool. Some need it to just get out of their way, just do what is asked of them and not draw any thought, any sort of attention to it. For others, if that tool makes you want to take pictures, makes you want to go out and spend time just wandering about, looking, observing, damn right it has to be everything you need it to be. It has to be ugly, it has to be gorgeous, it has to be heavy or lightweight, digital or film, technically brilliant or severely flawed. Whatever you need it to be. And so the design is important. It may seem shallow at first, but if you wake up one morning and notice your silvery Fujifilm X-E1 reflect light on your writing desk and it makes you want to pick it up and go shooting at 5 in the morning, it’d better be everything you need it to be, however shallow at first glance. You prefer the Sony A7 that I think is utterly ugly? Great! You just want a modern, well thought-through camera that feels comfortable in hand for long periods of time? As long as it works for you. In any case, design is important. It either adds to your creativity, or adds to it by getting out of your way.

And so we can answer the silly question. No, of course cameras do not have souls. But they do have characters. Some are just tools, others are friends. Tools you learn to love and use to the fullest. They can become personal or remain just simple technological achievements that allow you to get your result faster, more technically perfect. But even in that case, you start to love that piece of gear for what it is and what it allows you to do. You just love it for different reasons. For someone, it is the speed. For someone else, it is the look. Or dials. Or lack of any external control whatsoever.

Nikon Df is a controversial camera. It is limited, unapologetically photography-centered and pricey. There is no denying that when looking at what it offers on paper. But if you think that, consider the fact that it might just not be meant for you. Would you buy it if you had the money? If no, there’s no reason to go berserk because it is so different from what you use and what you prefer. Yes, the D610 makes much more sense in many cases. But here is a simple fact – Df will be hated and loved. And, with that, it will be crazy popular. Exactly because it looks the way it does and has those “limitations”. And exactly because of the price.


  1. 1) Mike
    November 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    RN: your description of this new camera is almost sensual. Funny, but yes, if money is no object and the coming reviews prove that the camera has chops, then I would definately buy. Might buy it anyway, despite not having the money. But will this camera love you back as much as you love it?

    • November 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      Now that, Mike, is a wonderful question. But then what is love without a few compromises, right? As long as its nothing too serious.

      • 1.1.1) Wilfred
        November 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm

        for that, i think, i will opt for an FM2 an start slow…

        • November 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm

          Wilfred, I must say that is a very, very good choice. :) FM2 is a lovely camera. I have no idea why someone would ever want to sell it.

          • StevenP
            November 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

            My daughter is taking a photography course, a film-based course. I was going to lend her my FM3a for the course but then I discovered that the value of the camera has doubled since I bought it 10yrs ago. Bought her the Vivitar 3800 instead.
            I love my FM3a….would gladly add another to my stable for those times I want to shoot film. One cannot argue the convenience and immediacy of the digital realm. Eventually, when I want t replace my D700 (which may not be anytime soon) I have to seriously consider the Df. The basic camera function appeals to me. Do we need the extra auto-focus points? We definitely do not need video, at least I don’t and I rarely use the flash.
            Hard choices, these are no small decisions and Nikon has certainly made things much more complex with this camera.

      • 1.1.2) michael from vienna
        November 5, 2013 at 2:51 am

        these two comments are the best thread i`ve read within the last months about photography and life, men and machine :)
        thank you

  2. 2) Rick Keller
    November 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm


    Thank you as always for such a well written and timely commentary. I agree with everything you eloquently stated. Yes, design is important, if only for the experience of creating an image, but not for the final result, which will remain the same for any given photographer. And yes, cameras do not have a soul – only the photographer that is holding it possesses a soul (or maybe not). And let’s not forget *the* most important quality of a camera, which should be ingrained in the mind of every aspiring photographer:

    “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams

    • November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm


      a familiar, likeable camera does not directly affect the result, but it affects you, and you, in turn, create that very result; a very clear reflection of your own state. :)

      Have a great day!

  3. 3) Ed holzer
    November 4, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I wonder how this camera will do vs. the Fuji X100S
    with respect to image quality?

    • 3.1) Global
      November 10, 2013 at 2:14 am

      I hope thats a rhetorical question. The image quality of the Df will only be surpassed by Canons flagship and the D800 (under 6400 ISO, above, it will be slightly worse than the D4, due to some crippling by Nikon of the supporting features afterall a camera is made with more components than one sensor).

      If you want image quality in good to available like, the D800 is the best value on the market. If you want the near best with minor crippled features, the D610is the best value on the market. If you need the best over ISO 6400 and maximum framerate, get the D4 or Canons flagship. If you want a highly crippled frankencamera made from the chopped up parts of all those things, with entry level everything, except sensor, but with no video and annoying control layout, not optional grip, and hand cramping fixed grip, in a pretty old style package and enjoy giving an extra $1000 away for no reason (other than the use of the camera above ISO 6400), then go for the Df.

      If you dont even use ISO 12,800, get the the D610 or D800 (for pro everything features except framerate), unless you love the look of Fuji and arent invested in Nikon glass, then just get the Fuji.

  4. 4) John
    November 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Balance between aesthetics and ergonomics is a necessity so yes, I think camera design is very important. I, too, would love to own a Df but the price is out of my reach and it’s mainly because I can’t justify it. I’m hoping Nikon would eventually release a junior version at a lower price point.

    • November 4, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      A junior version with the D610 sensor priced at less than $2K would be awesome!

      • 4.1.1) Donz
        November 5, 2013 at 12:36 am

        ahh, now we’re talking Nasim ; )

      • 4.1.2) John
        November 5, 2013 at 12:52 am

        I agree. With an introductory price of about $1800 ($1500 preferred) and a built-in flash, it will be quite a seller. And to ensure that it doesn’t take away too many sales from the Df, Nikon will probably release it in a Coolpix 990 body which, coincidentally, can also be ‘in my hands again’. Hey, just kidding about the last one!

  5. 5) Mat
    November 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    If this camera got a soul, well, is the soul of a sinner. This is not Leica 240 nor a Fuji x100. it’s ugly.

    • November 4, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Mat, I thought so too, at first. From the front, it wasn’t very good-looking. But it sort of grew on me. In any case, as I said a few times before, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It certainly looks better than that utterly ridiculous Sony A7, in my opinion! And is also better-balanced than Olympus E-M5, I think. I never really learned to like its design.

  6. November 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks for the your thoughtful analysis of camera design. I agree that design is important. I think photography can be a personal and emotional process. One of the reasons I use Pentax DSLR cameras is because they are a little different and I like the quality feel of them. Sometimes I just want to grab my K-5II and take pictures. Simple as that.

    • November 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm


      I was actually thinking about Pentax DSLR users and those Limited lenses when the article first came to my mind. :)

      • 6.1.1) Douglas
        November 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

        I had a chance to use the DA 35mm f/2.8 Limited Macro lens for a few days and I’ll tell you, it was the nicest lens I’ve ever used. Just a beautiful lens, lovely construction and nice feel. Just a joy to use. The original DA Limited lens have recently been replaced by upgraded versions so the originals are on sale. Wish I could take advantage but I just plunked down cash for my camera a few months ago.

  7. 7) Zero Equals Infinity
    November 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Yes, there are aspects of using a camera that influence the image. I loved using my old Kodak 8″ x 10″ Masterview camera. (Note: I sold it last year.)

    The price point is a little high for me, but I get the appeal. The main problem with digital is that it takes the meditative aspect away, (at least in a DSLR.) What I would love is a real large format sensor, (something close to 4″ x 5″). One company actually makes one for scientific purposes and is looking to find a high-end photographer to try it out. (Too bad I don’t qualify as being in that .00001% part of the bell curve.) But man, that is what I ache for. This thing is 112 MP and something like 21 or 22 f-stops of DR, and it probably would cost what a house is worth, no bayer array, no filtration. (see ) With this baby, real digital large format photography would be back.

    This is just to say I get the appeal of a hybrid camera which feels like the old world, and performs like the new world.

  8. 8) Michael Switzer
    November 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    to ed holzer; the Fuji X100s is not in the same league. The Df is full frame using the same 16MP sensor as the top of the Nikon line. Also it costs about twice as much.

    to Romanas; I’m sure you been following the insanity on Nikon Rumors. Your comments were both well written and to the point. I hope you don’t mind I posted a link on NR.

  9. 9) Christopher
    November 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I agree completely that sometimes tools which are in some sense technically less proficient or featured can be a better choice for some individuals because they make use feel a certain way, and channel a certain something when using them to produce art.

    My issues with the Nikon Df are that:
    (1) It is very much overpriced as a “design premium” product. The reason a camera with less capability than a D610 costs much more is because people will pay it to be cool. I, unfortunately, cannot afford that. I think if the Df were to cost $1,999 like the D610, or heavens forbid even just $1,800, they would sell a lot more of them. This is expected but still disappointing.
    (2) The Multi-Cam 4800 39-point AF sensor is not appropriate for full frame use, and in my opinion it is a major oversight for Nikon to keep producing full frame cameras with 39 autofocus points clustered tightly in the middle of the frame. That’s not very “pure photography” design to me.

  10. 10) HomoSapiensWannaBe
    November 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Nikon can’t or won’t innovate, so we get the nostalgic Df, a parts bin hodge podge. It is operationally and ergonomically inferior to the D610. Why would I want to buy one, especially when it is so expensive? Maybe they’ll surprise everyone by quickly coming out with something like a mirrorless DX or FX with on sensor, phase detect AF and an EVF — a grown up Nikon 1 of sorts. But I’m not holding my breath for that, nor am I reserving a place for it in my near future purchasing decisions.

  11. 11) Randy
    November 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    In order for this camera to give you a true, film-like experience, it would have to conceal your results until you “processed” the images. This would force you to get everything right before tripping the shutter. Honestly, I don’t think I want to go back to that, but that’s what made photography a real craft where you worked to get the perfect image instead of editing down from thousands.

    The Df does have a gorgeous strap, I must say.

  12. 12) Alis
    November 5, 2013 at 12:23 am

    What a great text, thanks!
    I must say as you started the topic on design what first came into my mind were watches. You can buy a casio for $100 or a rolex for $20’000 both will give you the time. Yes a watch is then a piece of juewelery so my comparison is not so good, but I still feel like it’s kind of similar. I like iPhone more than Samsung because I love the design. Both phones can do the same. I like Apple more than windows (even if I’m still on window) because of the design. And lately I switched from Canon to Nikon because I just like Nikon better. No rational reason, I just prefer Nikon’s design and advertising campain, how stupid is that?!

    So, yes for me design is important… but unfortunately it’s also often more expensive and sometimes I pass because of the price. If I had the money I would buy the new Df right away…

  13. 13) Donz
    November 5, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Beautifully written piece Romanas, for what I think actually IS a beautiful product.
    But you and Nasim are correct – my needs & budget would do well out of a D610 and the other $1250 spent on putting film through my FM and FE and scanning it. WIN / WIN
    -Why buy retro when you still own the originals..?

  14. 14) Roberto
    November 5, 2013 at 1:07 am


  15. 15) autofocusross
    November 5, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Romanas, I have deliberately ignored any other comment so as not to be unduly influenced away from my original reaction to this cameras’ announcement.

    I come from a former 25 years use of 35mm film slr photography, and yes, this new thing from Nikon certainly ‘looks’ retro.

    This is the thing… where do you actually put the film in?

    Well, of course, you don’t!

    It is ‘ONLY’ a digital camera!

    In fact, a digital camera stripped of many of the features of the D800 – am I the only one finding this very odd? The camera is, as it stands, a pure indulgence for those who feel the need to spring ($ – £) for it. That is my feeling about it, sorry if it wrankles anyone who is fired up by the model, though, I cannot see why anyone would – this thing drops into the category of nothing more than male jewelery to my mind.

    Thing is, being digital, you can shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot – which is NOT the approach film users (other than pro’s who had large film magazines and were backed by rich clients) would have taken with a film camera that ‘looked’ like this one.

    I would, instead, take the opposite view. In the days leading up to the pre-launch of the D800, a well respected National Geographic photographer, Jim Brandenberg, did an interview titled something like ‘a month with the D800’. Look it up, it is fascinating stuff. To condense what he was saying for this post, however, it boiled down to him feeling he was NOT using a DSLR at all, but rather, a medium format camera, so good was the quality of image.

    On a lesser scale, I use, and adore, the D5200, at a 24Mp output, which, coupled with decent lenses, provides truly stunning images. I don’t stand before a gorgeous landscape, set it up on a tripod, take VR off, attach a cable release – AND THEN BLAST 200 SHOTS OF THE SAME SCENE AT 5 FPS! No way! I take the same time as I always did when using film, getting the composition as perfect as I can, getting the iso as low as I can, to maximise the quality, and then, take maybe three or five shots bracketing them, not so I can HDR them later, but so that I know that one of them will hopefully have a perfect exposure, compared to the others.

    Use of any camera, in this way, does lead you to think that it has a soul. It has taken ten years and many head scratching scientists to evolve DSLR technology to the state where it now rivals medium format. So I say, go with the technology, but, don’t feel bound to blast away taking hundreds of shots, and ending up with a handful.

    Sometimes I am out with my kit, and I try to imagine I am still using film. I remember the high costs of processing and printing back then, relative to today. I take maybe 15 – 25 shots on a two hour walk, less sometimes, and go with the mindset that ‘the roll of film’ in my D5200 only has 36 shots on it, just as in the days of C41 35mm film. This is a self discipline thing, and, I don’t need a camera that looks like it was made in 1968 to help me get into that mindset.

    If I see anyone walk by using one of these, I have to be honest, I won’t say anything, but, I will be chuckling on the inside at the folly of spending all that money on a body, instead of superior lenses.

    Just my take, you are free to crucify me — apply here!

    Nevertheless, a thoughtful article Romanas, and I hope I am forgiven for some of my comments


    • November 5, 2013 at 4:50 am

      Do you get the same feedback from that D5200? It is a great camera, of course, and as I said, to each his own. :) The Df gets as close to film as it can while remaining digital.

      And I realize how many crooked glances a Df owner will receive from photographers who “know better”. And the smart people will simply ignore them. Again, this is a product you buy with your heart. Some will buy it to be “cool”, but those people buy any camera to be cool and talk numbers. Others will buy it for themselves. :)

      • 15.1.1) autofocusross
        November 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

        Hi Romanas,

        Well, truth be told, I have only owned the 5200 for around three weeks, having owned the 5100 up until I bought it.

        It’s therefore early days to get feedback from friends and family etc, as our weather, plus a major bathroom refurbishment project, is keeping me a bit limited. That said, I have of course used it on indoor still life, portrait, and macro, and the results are way better than I will probably ever need – the enlargements can go huge and still look great.

        We all know the arguments we have between ourselves, and even, as an inner conflict when choosing a new camera. I gave up trying to impress others long ago – these days I strive to get the best image quality I can afford while keeping a roof over our heads – which is why I didn’t spring for a 600 610 800 800e etc. I also felt, with lots of film SLR experience, that setting up the camera may be slower than the 7100, but then, my usual choice of subject does not demand cat like reflexes and lots of dials – the 5200 pushes out truly great images, if used properly, and it has remarkable low noise on top of the very nice high resolution it achieves. I rarely depart from the iso 100 – 400 range anyway, but it is nice to know I have some leeway in the camera for the rare moment I need to go higher.

        All in all, when I look at the D5200 I feel very happy with my choice. It delivers the image quality, it has lots of features which are quite easy to use once you’ve got into the menu system, and most of all, if it should break, get stolen, or get mislaid somehow, it is not the end of the world, as the price is such it can be replaced – although, I do wish the D5300 news had broken before I bought it – with the anti aliasing filter removed I can’t help but wonder if it’s image quality is better – but, no matter, I am delighted every time I pop my memory card into the computer to view the latest efforts :-)

        Thanks again for the article, even if I won the lottery tonight, I would still buy on image quality as the most important thing, after all, it is the images we look at when the camera is put away in the gadget bag… is it not?

        Regards, Ross

        • November 5, 2013 at 6:07 am


          that is the difference. All the things you listed in your above comment come down to one – the result. Df is about the process. You never said you enjoyed holding your D5300, changing settings, you never said it added to your creativity by helping you get in a certain state of mind. You do not care about the process much, just the result. Perhaps your state of mind does not influence the result. And that is fine. Of course, Df is not for your needs. Great. :) But for someone else, it is what they needed. I can understand both camps. There would be a lot less arguing about Nikon Df if everyone could understand both sides.

          • Autofocusross
            November 5, 2013 at 8:25 am

            Hi Romanas, I didn’t want to be misunderstood…

            While I said the image is the most important thing, clearly, a camera I can use naturally, with ease, is important too. I approach my photography with creativity and am weighing up a scene before I ever move my eye to the viewfinder. I could easily use either or both cameras, and have no particular opposition to this Df model.

            You assumed I had no pleasure in using the D5200 but I never said that, the opposite is true. When the D5100 arrived two years ago, I spent a week with it learning how to switch between focus modes, shooting modes, focus points, etc etc. Once that was learned, I used it with enormous pleasure, like all cameras should be, for their owners, it became an extension of their hands, so that using the controls became second nature, so that I could think about the image, and not concentrate on the technology so much. I feel the same now about the D5200, as it differs very little in operational ways to the D5100 I have since sold.

            If people want to get a Df I would be the last to discourage them, if that model would make them better photographers, but, the end game is, a good photographer is a good photographer, and the camera plays a minimal part in his or her greatness – These things have evolved to the point where you really can’t buy a bad camera (factory or component errors like the D600 excepted) – so we should stop looking for the next model hot off the production run, and make the best of the excellent cameras most of us either have, or aspire to.

            For some, it is the journey, not the destination that counts. For me it is both – the camera being the journey, the image being the destination.

            Good luck

  16. 16) Rob Neal
    November 5, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Hi Romanas

    This one looks like a great travel camera. Smaller and lighter than the D4 but with D4 sensor and picture quality. Very tempting.
    However, given recent quality issues with newly designed and released Nikon’s I think I might wait a while before being tempted.
    Don’t get me wrong it looks good and I hope it has nil quality issues but Fuji X series reputation for quality and listening to their customers and providing performance improvements through hardware upgrades whilst Nikon denied any issues with their products has to make you think if your after retro, manual dials and fun.
    Am travelling through Europe next year, don’t want to lug my DSLR and lenses around all day so am hoping that an XPRO 2 will be released by then.



  17. 17) Flemming
    November 5, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Nice piece, Romanas. I fully appreciate how narrowing the scope can improve your vision.
    The strong sides – and limitations – of the mother of retro in the film days, the wonderful Konica Hexar, kept me from going digital for quite a while for just that reason.
    Am I the only one who’s a little worried, that Nikon is now making lenses as fashion accessories? Really – another 50/1.8G to match the look of Df?!
    Hopefully the optical engineers will get back to work and make modern style remakes of all those lenses that match the Nikon Df-retro look just a little too perfectly. 20/2.8 and 24/2.8 to mention a few of the sweet little oldies – you don’t look sharp enough, I am sorry to say.
    And don´t get me starting on what’s missing in Nikon’s DX line up. Why they so purposefully try to strangle their cash cow is beyond me. After all – DX is still paying the party…

  18. 18) Paul
    November 5, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Good post, Romanas. I especially like the bit about cameras being “friends”.

    My FM2 is an old friend and we’ve done many miles together, but it’s getting harder and harder to find decent labs in South Africa and I work for a newspaper, so I’m truly grateful for the digital age (and how’s that for a contradiction in terms, lol?)

    That said, I don’t get the same buzz with my D7000 as I did banging away on the FM2. The Fuji X100S has restored the balance slightly – all those manual controls and great IQ.

    But what I really wanted was a digital back for my FM2. Will the DF be it? Let’s see, although at $2700 I’m not going to rush out and buy one.

    What this launch has really done is remind me what a great camera the FM2 is, and that I should be using it a lot more, and sod the hassle of schlepping film to the one lab left in our city …

    (And, yes, some of my best writing is done on an ancient Olivetti portable. But, yeah, I don’t think I could do my daily work on a typewriter :-)

  19. 19) Kjeld
    November 5, 2013 at 4:37 am

    No, Your Camera don´t have a soul. It is just a Tool – but when You have learned to use it properly it hopefully passes on Your soul.

    Speaking of “Retro- soul” is just a recall. In my case I used a Leica M2 in the early 60´s so it was absolutly “necessary” for me to get a Fuji X-pro 1. :-)

    In the era BDA we had a decade between new models ie Nikon F to F5. Now a new model is comming in every 6 month and we know for sure the next 2-3 versions is ready to produce.

    ADA everything is about faster AF- higher ISO and more pixels and the trend is supported the vast number of Sites like this on the Internet trying to make a businees or just be where “it all happens” :-)

    Is Camera Design important ??? Of cource…. I can´t live without a viewfinder…

    But like everything else Design is not static. It goes in circles not only like we have seen in the Retro-style in Cameradesign but also in the amount of Retro-presets introduced with “old look” films, instant grain etc. to get a more artistic look ???
    So why do we need high-end Cameras where all the Bells are ringing like Nikon D800, Canon Eos 5D Mlll and more when we deliberately “spoil” the result trying to go back in Time

    Perhaps it is a sign of people looking for the lost soul in Photography.

  20. 20) William Latham
    November 5, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I am old enough that I have been shooting more years with film (slides mostly) than digital. While I currently shoot a Canon 7D, I still shoot like it was film. Digital back preview, I only use it for gross exposure and focus checks. I can’t stand to sit in front of lightroom and look at the machine gun approach. Too tedious.

    What does this have to do with camera design? My first real digital was a used Nikon D1 that I bought for $250 and used with my manual focus lenses. It was great since it was like shooting film without the waiting for processing and scanning. When that was stolen, I looked at a used D2x and a D300 with a battery grip. I was on the fence, not because of the picture quality, but rather how it felt in my hand. I liked the D2x MUCH better even though most people couldn’t tell the difference, which unfortunately went counter to image quality in this case. I ended up with the Canon when my wife bought it for me to replace my D1.

    What does this tell me? Ergonomics can be just as important as any other specification. I shoot 100x better with a (D)SLR than with any live view. Why, it is just more natural for me. Point and shoot, it better have an optical viewfinder. I want tactile buttons and wheels for what I change, not menus. I want simplicity.

    What I really want is a digital film back for my F3 with motor drive.

    Yes, manual focus, yes no matirx metering, aperture priority when things change too fast for manual. I don’t need a preview screen (never did) and yes I did get plenty of bad pictures, but that teaches you. It is not the camera that makes the picture, it is the photog behind it. I want digital film where I set the ASA and select a white balance/color space that corresponds to ectechrome, velvia, or whatever “film” I wish to shoot today. Why is there the huge popularity of film emulation add-ins? Maybe because digital strips the “soul” from the process.

    Sorry for the rambling, but while things change, it is not always for the better.


    • 20.1) Autofocusross
      November 5, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Hi Bill,

      I agree with you. A viewfinder it HAS to be. I have the best of both worlds in a way, the articulation of the live view screen on the D5200 allows very low tripod use, for plant photography etc. That said, 95% of my images are taken through the viewfinder, which is great.

      I suspect your desire for a digi back for the F3 is that you are so familiar with the camera, it would help you to capture more ‘keepers’ than perhaps you do now, with a newer, less familiar camera. Am I warm?

      Not sure about manual focus, not with my eyesight! but I do remember the skill from my SLR days, sadly, a Canon user back then! (forgive me).

      I made the point elsewhere, that, maybe what is going wrong with photography, is the constant updating of models, and new models added to the ranges etc. It seems you barely get to know how to use the camera you have, before an upgrade is launched, tempting us to jump.

      Still, it remains a great hobby, nonetheless.


      • 20.1.1) William Latham
        November 5, 2013 at 8:42 am

        Familiarity is part of it. I started with my parents Canon AE-1, moved through a couple of Nikons, and ended up back with Canon. While I love my 7D, my F3 is still my favorite. I still prefer manual focus with an “E” type focusing screen (I think, 45 deg split prisim and microprisim). Autofocus just doesn’t do it for me. My ex-wife got a F4 but I just didn’t like it.

        I do need to get a right angle view finder for those low shots though. And I wish the threaded cable release port was still standard.

        It is funny though, I get more keepers when I consciously shoot like it was film rather than like digital, so it is not familiarity, rather how I approach the shot. That is the most important aspect anyway.

  21. November 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Great article, I like how you talk about the soul of photography. When I heard about this camera I fell in love and have called it a shooter’s camera. As someone who was taught photography on film, where every press of that shutter counted, I’ve felt digital can make for sloppy shooting. We don’t think of every shot, as if planning each and every exposure carefully because there were only so many shots on a roll of film, and we had to pay money for every shot we took. There was something to be said about having each picture being as important as the last. You were limited and had to make each shot count! Granted, this is still a digital camera, but I really think if I had the chance to put my hands on it, it would bring me back to every shot that counted with my old Nikon film camera, taking me back to when photography was but a craft. Call me nostalgic, call me old fashioned, I LOVE this marriage of old and new. I would not trade my D3s or D700, but, I could see me using this as a fun travel camera and backup.

  22. 22) alexis
    November 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Great article, Romanas! When I think back over all the cameras I have owned, mostly Nikons from theF2 on, each had a different feel a different way of shooting. It is an aesthetic that moulds our perception and as such influences and informs our photography. I shot very differently with my F2 than with my F4, Digital has changed me again.

    if photography is just a job, then get the camera that is suitable for the job and get on with it. If photography is an artform then choose your brush wisely for it will inform and transform your world view.

    I gave my F4 away, (to a niece who was attending Emily Carr) and I didn’t miss it. But my F2, they will have to pry out of my cold dead hands.


  23. 23) wacky donut
    November 6, 2013 at 1:40 am

    I have been waiting so long for a lyrical bizarreness.

  24. 24) Autofocusross
    November 6, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Alexis, I know what you’re alluding to, and we do subconciously adapt a photo technique to each camera, as they do differ in operation, yet, that said, when I moved up to a DSLR after rekindling my interest in photography after a 10 year lull, I found I had to re-learn skills I though I already had – for example, matching the focal length to the shutter speed to avoid camera shake, compounded by the crop sensor x1.5 factor, and many other things, such as avoiding noise through sensible iso settings etc.

    I knew my film SLR, a Canon A1, backwards, and thankfully, forwards as well! Adapting to my first proper DSLR the D5000 was quite a challenge. The shooting style was different at first, to my days behind the lens of the A1 – due to all the new technology I needed to digest and absorb, and then, understand and use. It did take me a good 3 or 4 months and two holidays to get to the stage where I was using it as automaticallly (naturally) as I did my trusty old Canon. From there, my psychology, and my images, changed for the better. Looking back, silly as it may sound, I was in some ways a little intimidated by the D5000. This was due to the myriad of things to know, compared to film, where you did your best to focus, and meter a shot, and let the processors develop and print the images, and adjust them on their supercomputer linked printing machines.

    I can honestly say, my skills in ACR, Photoshop, DXO Optics Pro, and use of the camera, has improved exponentially, but it has been a difficult journey fraught with much trial and error along the way.

    A year ago I moved up to the D5100 due to the resolution jump – this time around, it took me less than a week before I forgot what was in my hands, and could give composition, focus point and exposure my full attention instead.

    Four weeks ago, or thereabouts, I decided the 24Mp of the D5200 was for me. The resolution jump, and the reviews swung my decision, there was nothing wrong with the D5100, nothing at all. Again, a few days in use and I was up and running with no learning curve difficulties. What I am saying here, really, is that if you are a frequent photographer, the camera you have, adapts to your style, sooner or later.

    I didn’t have the money to shoot countless rolls of film to capture just one perfect shot. Back in the late 80’s it cost approx £1 ($1.50 US) for every three shots you took. That was buying the film, and getting it processed and printed. Digital has changed me in some ways. Now, I am happy to bracket important shots (in fact, you must do this!) and reel off six or more shots doing just that. But, the influence of my film days still makes me conservative with the shutter button, and I always try to get the shot in the bag, with the first attempt. Of course, action / sports has a different psyche, you turn up expecting to shoot 2 or 3 hundred images, using 5fps or more settings, but, talking about still life, macro, landscape etc., the measured approach works for me. I feel a bit of a failure if I needed to take 10 shots to get one good one.

    Funny old world?

    I will always thank Nikon for that D5000 though, it was, in a sense, a bit like buying a college course along with a camera. It taught me so much about digital, and that camera though not perfect by any means, gave me some great images, and also, when I bombed, it gave me the chance to study what went wrong, and adapt for the next time a similar shot / situation appeared.

    I don’t know if many will see any sense in spending the huge asking price for this new DF model remains to be seen. It is a homage to the cameras of the 70’s, but, taking my earlier comments into consideration, it is still ONLY a digital camera, and, in many respects, quite poor value for money with the D800 / D610 already in place. I just hope this won’t be bought by film SLR users converting to digital, thinking that, because it ‘looks’ like a film camera, it will be closer to that genre in use. Clearly, it will not. You will still need a good grounding in ACR / Lightroom / Photoshop etc, and, more to the point, in the use of Digital photography via that camera.

    I’m certain the DF will make great images too, Nikon wouldn’t put the brand at risk on anything less than very- good- to- excellent, but if I was standing at the dealers counter with three thousand in my wallet, I have to admit, the D800 would be attracting most of my attention.

    Sorry to ramble on, I hope some of you found the experiences I had of some interest.

    • 24.1) Pat Corl
      November 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      I liked listening to your ramblings. I can relate to your story from my shift from film to digital (my first was a D80 followed by a D300, then D700 and finally a D3s). It really was a bit overwhelming at first, there was so much new to learn about new focus systems and new metering systems and white balance and all those other features, what would be useful and what wasn’t, for what I do. Yep, in the end, the Df is just another digital camera and we need to watch it’s reviews and maybe try it out.

  25. 25) Terje Myller
    November 8, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Crazy popular? Maybe, only time will tell. My guess is the opposite. Too pricy, too retro, even too plasticky. And the obvious lend towards fashion? Fashion doesn’t last long in a rapidly changing marked. I’m coming from the days of the F3, and I still enjoy dials and knobs (love my X100s), but the Df top is too crowded and busy even for a guy like me. It needs to be put to the test of course, but I really can’t see it being great from a functional, working point of view.

  26. 26) OC Mike
    November 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Romanas, please allow me to say that your writing is absolutely wonderful. Now, to the subject.


    1. The number of photographers who can afford a full frame camera is a very small percentage of total camera sales. The D800 and D800E have saturated the market. The rest are using APS-C sizes.
    2. Go to and you will see many wonderful pics and even some great ones. Go to and you will see the best of the best. But look at the pics of the old, geriatric D700 and you will see wonderful pics as you see with the D4. But look at the D800 and you see SNAPSHOTS AND JUST PLAIN AWFUL PICS? Who are these new D800 owners?
    3. Anyone who owns a 51 point camera is not moving DOWNWARDS to 39 points! Ain’t gonna happen. No way.
    4. Your beautiful words notwithstanding, no one but a FOOL will pay that much to move up. No one will pay that much to move down. And no one will pay that much to move laterally. No one but a FOOL
    5. Nikon was well aware of the two new Sony full frame mirrorless cameras to be released. Nikon and Canon control 80% of the DSLR market. So, what does Nikon do? This? Underachievement par excellance.
    6. $800 more if you do not need to buy lens and thousands more if you want a could of good ones f you don’t have a quiverful. Who can do this? Only a FOOL.
    7. If someone thinks this is the road to better pics than what they are getting now, then, they will be surprised when the nirvana pics they take will turn out looking the same as before.
    8. Vintage appearance with less capable cameras only produce greater pics with knowledge and technique that you can do with the proverbial Brownie in the hands of a pro.
    9. How does the D600 spot trust and the D800 left side focus trust go when spending nearly $3K for camera, memory cards and filters? The truth is…it won’t be successful! No kidding.
    10. Lastly, feeling, emotion and a love for your new camera do come into play. But paltry pics will quickly deflate that balloon. But I enjoyed reading your wonderful words :-)

  27. 27) MartinG
    November 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    There a lots of different types of FOOLS out here who will probably take a different view. The DF may be just what some of them are looking for. The dials appeal, the style is ‘different’ and the sensor. I have looked at the noise tests and frankly they are more than enough to make FOOLS of those who think this camera is just about appearance.

    At the price being asked a camera does need to provide a ‘point of difference’ or ‘special feature’. The DF sensor is the same as the D4. (A much more expensive camera). As a D800 owner (who would never post ANYTHING on pixel peeper- apparently they are all fools there!) I wondered about Nikon’s decision to make the D4 a 16mg sensor camera. I have however been able to use a D4 a couple of times and it is very impressive. Forget the dials, the DF sensor alone is worth it.

    Mike, you may be right, but your analysis is based on speculation only. None of us have used the DF yet. What is that saying about FOOLS rushing in again? Maybe only fools will buy the DF but I am willing to speculate that lots of them will be very very happy with their images, based on my experience using that glorious 16 meg sensor which the DF shares with the D4.

    The dials are just another form of user interface. As I remember it, those dials allowed lots of information to be successfully communicated very well during the film era.

    Perhaps Nikon is not run by fools at all. To find out, we will have to wait and avoid ‘rushing in’.

    • 27.1) Red
      November 10, 2013 at 10:43 am

      “The dials are just another form of user interface. As I remember it, those dials allowed lots of information to be successfully communicated very well during the film era.”
      Yes, but it might have passed you by this is not a film era.

      • 27.1.1) MartinG
        November 11, 2013 at 12:45 am

        I had noticed that. It does not invalidate the point. There is more than one way to do stuff.

        Just because we are in the digital era does not mean a that digital thinking is the only way to go. Remember digital watches? DIals are easy to read, look at car dashboards – dials are more common and logical there. Why? They are great for quick scanning.

        I am not saying I see them as a reason I would choose a camera, just that I can see that they would be pretty useful as a feature and I would be happy to use it.

        Try it, if you don’t find it works, buy a 610.

  28. November 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    It may not be “the film era”, I don’t see what that has to do with a user interface. I don’t like having to stop and look at my camera for the various buttons and menus. Before someone jumps on me about programmable function buttons, I have them programmed on my cameras. The reality is, you still have to look. In my film days I KNEW those dials and could use them blind and watch the changes in the viewfinder. So, for me, I can make more changes without having to move the camera from my face. I do animal photography and chance losing moments every time I have to look at the top or back of the camera. I see the dials as simplifying. Let’s just agree that the camera format may appeal to some types of shooters and their subjects. I LIKE the simplification, looks aside. The features work for my photography. I really wish I could get my hands on one to try at one of my events. The issue for me is cost. Some, like me will see the appeal of this camera, others won’t because it does not match what they want to do. I’m on old style shooter, KISS. Yet there are modes on the new cameras that make my job easier so of course I use them, this camera supports those operations. Nikon has a customer base that spans a range of photographers. Fashion, landscape, portrait, sports, event, news, pros, hobbyists, and in between. Each of these has different needs. Then you have the new “kids” who have never used anything other than digital and have a different take on “photography”. Nope, this camera will not be for everyone, but then neither is the D610, D700, D3s, D90, D800, D4. I own a D3s, and for my shooting have not seen anything I would replace it with for my job. I also own a D700 as a backup and travel body, now, for me… The DF might be more fun for that. Let’s just agree the Df is a camera that will fit some and not others, has a different interface that some will like, but we all seem to agree might be a bit pricey. It fits my shooting, I REALLY want to try it to checkout both the new “interface” and image quality for what I do. Hope someone will lend or rent in the near future.

  29. 29) Autofocusross
    November 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Pat, I respect what you say, which is based on how YOU shoot, but moving this to a more general question… when one ‘sets up’ for a shot, say, sport, in a given location, with an anticipated target, and distance, and speed, and even direction – just how many times does the photographer take the camera from his eye, change a setting, and return to shooting?

    I think the whole thing is being exaggerated somewhat – ok it is nice to be able to make quick adjustments, but then, why wasn’t the camera prepared for the shot beforehand, it is not the camera’s fault, it is the photographer’s… surely?

    I mean, in sports photography, before these superfast autofocus systems came to market – the standard method was to focus on a given point, say, at a race, and wait for the subject to come into the focus zone for shooting… are we to abandon our new focus aids and go back to that? no thanks!

    The choice of ISO, aperture or shutter speed, should have been thought about before, and of course during any photographic shoot. I never find myself constantly delving into my camera’s settings to change these things – I always try to make the right decision and stick with it. I have an exposure compensation +/- button which I can use with the camera to my eye, and that is quite enough.

    Anything else, and I would say that I messed up by failing to set the camera up properly in the first place.

    I am beginning to get tired of so many people extolling the wonderful abilities of ‘superior’ models simply because there is quicker access to some of the features. I think that pretty much all current models from the big two, from ‘beginner’ to ‘pro’ have pretty quick access to the main settings, and differ only with quicker access to the more obscure things.

    I would encourage anyone dipping into DSLR for the first time to trust the big brands, in the case of Nikon, which is the system I am using (I mean I own lenses here) you won’t go far wrong with either a ‘D’ 3200, 5100, 5200, or 7100. Any of these will give you excellent images, the 5200 actually beat (by a marginal score) the far more expensive 7100, which may not surprise you unless you knew that the 7100 is a newer model… so if it is image quality you are looking for, it kind of even things up for the ‘beginners’.

    Let’s face it, photography, especially action photography (which includes wildlife) is often a matter of capturing an unexpected moment – and it makes no difference how quick you can change your ISO or the focus mode – if you are not prepared when that fleeting moment occurs, the ability of this body Vs that body to change settings makes the whole thing, to me anyway, laughable.

    For fun I shoot landscapes and macro, but I do shoot weddings – there, I am usually set up with a fill in flash, my autofocus set to matrix, and an aperture of F8, shooting at iso 100 – for landscapes, often, the tripod comes out, the aperture drops to f11 or even f16, the VR switch on the lens is switched off, and the cable release attached. More often than not, the 1 second delayed exposure is on too, to avoid mirror slap.

    In both scenarios, I set up the camera beforehand. With weddings, it is all about glances between the happy couple. You HAVE to be ready, and on the ball, there are no second chances, so, fiddling with the camera is not helpful to creating great shots.

    I hope all this over emphasis on a camera’s abilities to change settings will eventually die out, and we folk can forget all that and just get on with creating great images with these superb cameras.

  30. November 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I do set up before the start of the event, however I usually need to make minor adjustments. I shoot in a lot of outdoor, or pole barn rodeo arenas where the animals move from one end to the other and you shoot from sharp sun to deep shadow constantly, run after run. I don’t have “when one ‘sets up’ for a shot, say, sport, in a given location, with an anticipated target, and distance, and speed, and even direction”. What I do isn’t baseball or football or soccer where there is a known strategy and known players. I know the course or pens or chute, but you can’t anticipate what the livestock or dogs etc are going to do. They may bolt, and usually do for inexperienced handlers and dogs. Same for large sheepdog trials where the dogs and stock run from shadow to full sun in a blink. I also shoot search and rescue where dogs go from one type of lighting to another as they search, due to the speed of movement these are so much easier to adjust. You do the best you can to average your exposure to start, but minor adjustments as the run unfolds are necessary. I also shoot sports and find those fields are more evenly lit without obstructions to cause the extreme light variations, or have lights to even the experience. Once set at sports events, I may have to make one change once lights come on and that’s it. I agree with with your aforementioned assessment for those events. Same for white balance. One end may be sun lit, the other may be under mercury vapor lights and the course goes through both ends, FAST. I try to use bracketing as much as I can. I love it when I am indoors for a pet or rescue shoot or outdoors for a pet portrait shoot because I can set everything up. Again, depends on the job, mine seem to be more variable, I take exception to thinking I don’t come prepared. I do. I’ve become quite adept at what I do, most of my work is in locations where I can’t control livestock, handlers, dogs, ATVs etc and most barns and small arenas are not set up for what ranchers want in terms of the perfect shot for their websites and ads. They don’t want posed shots, they want working shots, which happen as fast as sports but the action covers more physical and varied area as the typical human sports play in the same time. I actually had a pro sports photographer friend come with me to an event to learn what I do and was surprised by the difference between focus and exposure between his shots and mine. He learned a lot that day. Oh, and I also use the +/- button too.

    I also agree, the new autofocus systems make my job easier than before. I’m not sure I could get most of the shots I do with the older system. You simply could not anticipate and pre-focus and HOPE the livestock or wild animal etc would be there. I know I would have missed a lot. As I said before I would not give up my D3s for doing what I do, it is the right camera. That was my point. Various cameras exist for different applications. I just wish I had one that would allow me to make minor adjustments in shutter or ISO. Again, I know ahead what I would need to do, just would like a faster/simpler way to do it.

    I still want to try this camera, it may not be any better than what I have, but what do I have to lose if I can try it? Just saying, there may be good applications for it, and sorry, but I know when I messed up by not getting it right. That does not mean I don’t wish I had more control than the +/- or bracketing.

  31. 31) autofocusross
    November 11, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Hi Pat, thanks for your pragmatic and tactful reply, I guess I was a bit forceful in my earlier comment, yet I do feel the current ‘don’t buy that camera because it can’t let you change your underpants in less than 9 fps’ trend in camera reviews is blindsiding many who would otherwise participate in our hobby (or even career).

    When you say ‘Same for large sheepdog trials where the dogs and stock run from shadow to full sun in a blink’ I say, so what? that’s exactly what autoexposure was made for.

    To ‘white balance. One end may be sun lit, the other may be under mercury vapor lights and the course goes through both ends, FAST’ I would respond, that’s what AWB (auto white balance) was made for.

    And to your comment ‘I take exception to thinking I don’t come prepared. I do’ I can only apologise again. I was not speaking of you, in particular, or personally – I was merely trying to amplify the wave of euphoria surrounding cameras that have instant access via dials to more of the settings, that other cameras do not possess without use of the menu system.

    It is a fact that fully adjustable cameras are, underneath all the bs, the same camera as the ‘lesser’ model. I find it hilarious that people new to this are being shepherded into buying the more expensive options, when they sometimes don’t even know what iso, exposure compensation, depth of field, and noise actually are. It is no wonder half of this gear ends up on Ebay, I reckon theres a lot have been bought expensive cameras (by wives, partners etc) taken them out for a weekend or two, had terrible results that they never would have had with a compact camera, and put them on ebay in despair.

    If you do constantly change your settings, which is what the reviewers imply is something everyone does (I can assure you that my changes are usually to aperture, and exposure compensation, rarely anything else) then, by all means justify the extra price tag. There is also the ‘pride of ownership’ thing, I mean, if you want to spend all that, so that you feel you have a cracker of a camera, I fully understand that side of it too – but tell me Pat, what did you think to learn that the D7100 underperforms the cheaper D5200 in image quality, according to the DXo Mark test and review – and the D7100 is the first DX to have the Anti aliasing filter removed, which ‘should’ have made it superior… isn’t that interesting for those seeking great images?

    I don’t know which side of the Atlantic you are, I am guessing Stateside from your sport and cattle comments – here in the UK, some years back, we had a columist writing in the ‘Amateur Photographer’ weekly magazine – Victor Blackman… he was the head of photography of the Daily Express at the time. I can recall a story he once wrote about a very wealthy friend who bought a leica with three lenses. At the time this cost somewhere near two thousand pounds – when the average wage in the UK was five thousand a year! His friend went off on an expensive holiday, and on his return, most of his shots were under or over exposed, out of focus, and otherwise poorly composed and executed – wrong lens for wrong subject etc. He came to see Mr Blackman and said the camera must be faulty. They ran a few rolls through it at the newspaper, and everything was great. Blackman gave the guy a compact 35mm, a good one, to take on his next trip. On his return, the guy was thrilled. All his shots were perfect, exactly what he had expected when taking the shot at the time, bright, colorful, and he asked if he could keep the camera, and gave Blackman the Leica gear (I think he auctioned it for charity if memory serves).

    That’s a lesson for us all.. :-)

    Not strictly relevant to the DF debate here, but I hope you found it interesting, and, Pat, I hope I am forgiven, I was not directing the ‘constant settings changes’ at you, particularly, but I am a bit fed up of the ‘lesser’ cameras being overlooked because you can record a tv program at home on your cable system, if you use the wi-fi built into this new Canon etc etc etc.

    Hope I have brightened your Monday morning and not further offended anyone :-)

    Read more:

    Read more:

  32. 32) ksmed
    November 11, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Hi Autofocusross
    Interesting debate.
    “When you say ‘Same for large sheepdog trials where the dogs and stock run from shadow to full sun in a blink’ I say, so what? that’s exactly what autoexposure was made for.”

    HMM- HMMM :-)

    If You can se Denmark You can almost se me :-)
    50 years as working photographer

    • 32.1) autofocusross
      November 11, 2013 at 7:14 am

      Hi Ksmed, Denmark huh? well, I’m over near Cardiff, Wales, so its the west of the UK unfortunately (it rains 70% of the time here, grrr).

      Yea, the auto exposure comment, I get what you mean, but these days, lightroom and photoshop will repair any under / over error the camera may make, within reason (+/- 2 stops) and with each iteration of camera model, they do seem to be nailing it better every time, to be fair to Nikon & Canon.

      Of course it’s better to nail it at the time of shooting, but fast breaking stuff doesnt give you time to fiddle around with knobs, switches (or indeed, menus) so you have to trust the camera to get it right just now and then.

      Hopefully, with each year that passes, exposure and focus systems will continue to improve, though we seem to be most of the way there now, future improvements will, I expect, be marginal ones… even so…!

  33. November 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Ross, the more I read, the more I think we are more alike than different. Like you, I want to buy a camera on merit, what it can do, and quality of the actual photos under the conditions.. Like you, I think people are buying more camera than they can handle (or need), and believe the D5xxx and d7xxx or even some of the better point and shoots are what they really need. Big sigh. Yet, the Df also speaks to me on some other level too… Still want to see what it can do.

    I guess I’m just a control freak and a bit of an old timer. I don’t use the auto modes. Don’t like my camera making decisions for me. Although, I have reluctantly found the beauty of auto-ISO… Can see your conundrum with my statements. These cameras can do so much. For me the ISO sensitivity without noise, creativity of my ability to use off camera flash, fps (although I am not a burst and sort it out in post person either), focus points, ability to use alternate shutter release (which could be the killer for the Df)…. are important and why I have the D3s and D700. I believe in getting it right at the shot and not have to spend hours sorting through post images or (other than creative work) spend a lot of time having to edit in post. I learned from photographers in the film days and fight to keep from being lax even in the digital world. Did I mention I’m a control freak, that I think photography is a craft that I still strive to master?

    Nough said, I connect with your posts… guess that’s why I’m more than a little “passionate” about them. Thanks!

    Oh and yep…I’m from the US, Texas to be precise! Like being here and in the Southwest for my love of documenting the dying art of true working ranches and animals. There is so much opportunity to demonstrate a dying industry here and in the the upper midwest. I truly love these independent souls clinging to a lifestyle. Hmm, Df, clinging to a loosing art form…. film… appeal… the original article…. did Nikon do this partly to snag people like me… maybe…

  34. 34) Mark
    November 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I have been lucky enough to live through both the film and digital eras. My first SLR was a manual focus camera with match-needle TTL metering. I loved that camera and miss some things about it. But I don’t know if the Nikon designers have quite put their finger on it.

    I liked the manual/mechanical controls NOT because of the fact that they were mechanical, but because they gave me CONTROL.

    When I used manual focus, I found that it was an easy skill to master. I was slow to adopt autofocus because I was able to focus very quickly manually and never felt hampered by it. When I first started using autofocus, I had more focus misses than I ever had with MF. I eventually learned the fine points of getting autofocus to do exactly what I want it to do, but that process is unquestionably SLOWER than simply looking through the optical viewfinder and turning the focus ring.

    By the same token, I could quickly set exposure with the match needle system without taking my eye from the viewfinder. I could set it over or under or right on the meter setting based on my estimation of the lighting situation. Again, I felt that I was in full control at all times. Replicating this function with a DLSR requires the use of a larger number of controls and menus and in my opinion is more time consuming although you can do a lot of the setup in advance of the shot.

    So if someone gives me a retro camera with a digital sensor and yet the elegant creative control that I had in those days, I’d be interested.

    Mechanical controls that simply do the same job of DLSR menus and buttons are not the same thing.


    • 34.1) autofocusross
      November 13, 2013 at 1:16 am

      Well said Mark!

      I felt that too, with my old Canon A1, though in that case it did set the exposure automatically, and seemed to do so with very little trouble, or failures. It had only one exposure mode (area) and offered shutter, aperture, and programmed modes, but all using the same exposure (light metering) mode.

      Manual focus was easy, as it had a large, bright viewfinder. The big names are a little mean with their viewfinders these days, I guess they’re saving costs, and also thinking that autofocus being at the centre of the camera design, users seldom need to manually focus. Same argument goes for lenses – the focus ring on the typical DSLR lens is a tenth or less of the width of the zoom ring.

      Overall though, once you’ve learned the skills of getting what you want out of your DSLR, regardless of make, resolution etc, surely you would not want to get back to those days of shooting expensive and slow-to-view colour film.

      Pat (see posts above) seems to think a lot like me – yes, buy and use a DSLR, but there is no need to go off shooting dozens, even hundreds of frames – treat it as if it WAS a film camera, put thought into your shots, take time to compose well (unless it’s action photography of some sort, where you have to go with the flow) think about light, think about highlights and shadows, set exposure compensation, check your shutter speed is high enough for hand held work, and change the aperture if not.

      All this is stuff we old dogs used to do with our film cameras – the huge difference now is we can see our successes and failures in seconds. This is the beauty of a good DSLR – treat it like a film camera, with the bonus that you can, if you need to, re-shoot while you are on location. Not always possible with people and action shots, but there are many subjects where this strategy will permit you to perfect your craft.

      I’m replying to you, as much as addressing readers of the thread, so I realise you already appreciate most of this, but sometimes people seem to forget that with modern DSLR’s they have in their hands a wonderful creative tool that we would have given the earth to own back in the 80’s – the only negative is that, overall, they are much harder to master – with film, the processing took care of any exposure error – well, up to a point anyway – same with colour balance – and we have to use software to do the same thing with modern RAW images, if, and when we or our cameras misjudge an auto setting.

      Great hobby though, isn’t it?

      • 34.1.1) Mark
        November 13, 2013 at 6:19 am

        I am very much in agreement with and agree unreservedly with the additional points you have stated.

        I think that the one biggest advantage of digital cameras during the shooting process is the fact that you are not stuck with the ASA (ISO) value of a roll of film but rather can set it to suit your needs.

        But after the shot is captured, digital photography does truly open up a wide range of creative tools that were much, much harder AND much more expensive to achieve in the darkroom.


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