What if you took an old Nikon FM2-like film camera body, replaced the film back with the amazing low-noise sensor from the Nikon D4, beefed it up with the latest Nikon’s image processing pipeline and firmware for amazing image quality and best features, slapped a high resolution 3.2″ LCD on the back and made it a standard Nikon F mount – all at half the weight and the price of the D4? A fusion of old and new technologies in a single camera body? Well, that’s exactly what Nikon is doing with its upcoming Nikon Df camera, which stands for “Nikon Digital Fusion”. The news has been circulating at Nikon Rumors for the last couple of weeks, which was the first (as usual) to cover the rumor on the Internet.
So what does this Nikon Df camera bring to the table? Is there anything to be excited about? I was really impressed by the camera when I first read about it and the anticipation has been growing day by day, similar to what I experienced when the Nikon D800 was first released. With all the recent camera announcements and Sony’s move to full-frame mirrorless, it seemed like Nikon was not planning to do anything serious for a while. The Nikon 1 mirrorless system is obviously no competitor to Sony’s full-frame mirrorless system and the size and bulk of DSLR cameras is what the mirrorless community has been so critical about when referring to Nikon. The D400 is either long dead or severely delayed till next year (last chance is winter Olympics), so aside from the new D5300 DSLR and the 58mm f/1.4G lens, we were left with nothing to brag about for the remainder of the year. And yet, we might see the biggest surprise of the year when the Nikon Df, a retro style digital camera is announced! Nikon strikes back? We will have to see…
Is it Real?
A lot of people have been questioning if the Nikon Df is real and I can tell you that it sure is! While the official specifications are not out yet, Nikon has already been releasing “teasers” that point to a brand new product (see below). How do we know that it is a retro-styled body? Because Nikon’s first teaser said “It is in my hands again”, indicating that the body was in existence before. And surprisingly, as I was walking through Nikon’s booth at the Photo Plus show in New York, Nikon ran the “It is in my hands again” teaser sound repetitively (no video or pictures though). So the subliminal message is already being sent, while Nikon’s PR is doing its best to provide new teasers as we are getting close to the release date.
Here is a composite of the camera + lens from the teaser videos Nikon has given us so far:
Nikon Df Specifications
Here are the specifications of the Nikon Df that we know so far, as provided by Nikon Rumors:
- Mount: Nikon F
- Viewfinder: Pentaprism
- Image Sensor: 16.2 MP, 36×23.9 full frame sensor
- Autofocus System: MultiCAM 4800FX with 39 AF points (same as in Nikon D610)
- Metering System: 3D Color Matrix Meter II
- Exposure Meter: 2016 pixel RGB sensor
- Media: SD
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 50
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 25,600-102,400
- Processor: EXPEED 3
- Speed: 5.5 fps for up to 100 shots
- LCD Screen: 3.2″ diagonal
- Movie Mode: N/A
- Additional Aspect Ratios: 1:1, 3:2 and 16:9
- Battery: EN-EL14 (same as Nikon D5300)
- Dimensions: 143.5 x 110 x 66.5mm
- Weight: 765g
- Lens: Special Edition NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
- Colors: Black and Silver/Black
The Nikon Df is supposed to be announced on November 5th, 2013.
Who is the Nikon Df for?
With such an impressive sensor and retro style lightweight body, you might be wondering who this camera is aimed for. While the Nikon Df will be usable for pretty much any kind of photography, the fact that it has a low-noise 16 MP sensor means that it will be ideal for any kind of low-light photography. This includes wedding, event, documentary, travel, street and many other types of photography. And although it is not particularly a sports and wildlife camera due to its MultiCAM 4800FX autofocus system used on the D610 (compared to the 51-point AF system used on the D4), I am sure it will do quite well for those needs as well, as demonstrated in my Nikon D610 review. The only market the Nikon Df does not target is landscape, architecture and studio photography – for those needs the Nikon D800/D800E will still remain as the primary choice, thanks to the high-resolution 36 MP sensor.
In short, the Nikon Df will appeal to a huge market of photographers that need the best image quality (especially in low-light conditions), minus the bulk and weight of a pro-level DSLR. And if priced right, the Nikon Df will be a wedding photographer’s dream come true. People photographers that have been waiting for the Nikon D700 replacement – the Nikon Df is basically it.
What is up with Retro?
You might be wondering why the retro style is getting so popular lately. For some, especially those that are relatively new to photography, going backwards does not sound so appealing. To be honest, until recently, I had never quite understood retro and its appeal myself. Having shot with modern Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus cameras (both DSLR and mirrorless types), I felt like those cameras had everything to offer and worked quite well for my photography needs – until I started using the Fuji X series cameras. Interestingly, despite all the quirks of the Fuji system, I noticed that I wanted to use those cameras more than any other camera. Simply put, Fuji cameras are a pure joy to shoot with. I believe a lot of that has to do with the overall feel of Fuji cameras and lenses – everything just feels right in my hands. In addition to the excellent image quality, the retro design, style and ergonomics all played a role in the popularity of Fuji X series cameras. No clutter, pure photography.
And that’s exactly the appeal of the new Nikon Df camera – pure photography, no clutter, no distractions.
With the introduction of such lenses as the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G that no longer purely focus on sharpness alone, Nikon is coming back to real photography. This is what I and many others have been waiting for. Let’s move away from all the clutter of the modern world of often useless gadgetry and focus on the art of making pictures.
I am very excited about the Nikon Df. If Nikon indeed does execute on these expectations, I will be a believer again.