There is no doubt that the new Nikon Df camera is very similar to the D600/D610 duo, as we’ve already seen from the comparison. From a price stand-point, however, Df is dangerously close to the popular and extremely capable Nikon D800 model (see our very detailed review). Can the Nikon Df back up its price premium when compared to its bigger brother? Analyzing on-paper specifications of both cameras should give a pretty good idea, although you might find the ISO performance comparisons in this article quite useful to make your own conclusions.
Keep in mind, please, that this comparison is based strictly on specifications and image quality. A camera is often more than a sum of its parts, and that stands true for both Nikon Df and D800.
First, let’s go over the key specifications:
Table of Contents
Nikon Df vs D800 Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon Df||Nikon D800|
|Sensor Resolution||16.2 Million||36.3 Million|
|Sensor Pixel Size||7.30µ||4.88µ|
|Low Pass Filter||Yes||Yes|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||4.928 × 3,280||7,360 x 4,912|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 3||EXPEED 3|
|Viewfinder Coverage and Size||100%, 0.70x||100%, 0.70x|
|Built-in Flash||No||Yes, with flash commander mode|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/250|
|Storage Media||1x SD||1x CF, 1x SD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||5.5 FPS||4 FPS, 6 FPS in DX mode with MB-D12 battery grip|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/4000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Durability||150,000 cycles||200,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||2,016-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II||91,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-12,800||ISO 100-6,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||Down to ISO 50, up to ISO 204,800||Down to ISO 50, up to ISO 25,600|
|Autofocus System||Multi-CAM 4800FX||Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX|
|Focus Points||39, 9 cross-type||51, 11 cross-type|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8||Up to f/8|
|Pre-AI Lens Compatibility||Yes||No|
|Video Output||N/A||MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed|
|Video Maximum Resolution||N/A||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 24p, 30p|
|Audio Recording||N/A||Built-in microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||921,000 dots||921,000 dots|
|Exposure Bracketing||2 to 5 frames||2 to 9 frames|
|Wi-Fi Functionality||Eye-Fi Compatible, WU-1b||Eye-Fi Compatible, WT-4a|
|Battery||EN-EL14a Lithium-ion Battery||EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||1400 shots (CIPA)||850 shots (CIPA)|
|Battery Charger||MH-24 Quick Charger||MH-25 Quick Charger|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|Build||Top and Rear Magnesium Alloy||Full Magnesium Alloy|
|Weight (Body Only)||710g||900g|
|Dimensions||143.5 × 110 × 66.5mm||144.78 × 121.92 × 81.28mm|
|MSRP Price||$2,749 (as introduced)||$2,999 (as introduced)|
In every technical way except for a few key features, the D800 beats the Nikon Df on paper, especially when the price / performance ratio is taken into account. Hardly surprising, as Nikon Df, based on a very rational comparison, already struggled against the much-cheaper, but arguably more flexible and just as capable Nikon D610. Firstly, there is the sensor. Which one is better is for each individual to decide on their own, but the D800 offers a massive resolution of 36 megapixels versus 16 megapixels on the Nikon Df. That 36 megapixel sensor unit is no slouch when it comes to high ISO performance either (at comparable output size), but has a lower native ISO range of 100-6400 (vs ISO 100-12,800 of the Nikon Df). Hardly a deal-breaker for most users – between these two sensors, you are likely to make your choice based on preferred resolution.
There are, however, a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing between a 36 MP and a 16 MP camera. First of all, the Nikon D800 will create massive JPEG and RAW files. Those that photograph with the D800 professionally know very well how big of a burden it can be when it comes to dealing with mega-large files and post-processing RAW images. Lightroom, Aperture or any other post-processing tool slow down dramatically and require a lot more computer resources to keep up with the speed. The D800 should not be considered if you are not ready to deal with larger memory cards, more storage space and faster processing power. In addition, the D800 is a very demanding camera in terms of technique. A lot of people are finding that the traditional “shutter speed equals focal length value” for hand-holding technique is simply too slow, requiring often doubling and even tripling the shutter speed value. Sharpness can suffer greatly at pixel level, if good technique or tripod use are not employed. So the D800 can be considered a highly specialized tool as well and it is certainly not for everyone. Portrait photographers tend to stay away from the D800 for the above-mentioned reasons. In this regard, the Nikon Df is a much more attractive and forgiving camera. It creates small files with enough resolution for most needs, it does not put stress on your hand-holding technique or your old lenses that might not be able to resolve a lot of details on a high resolution sensor. It works with pretty much every Nikkor lens – from the modern AF-S versions to pre-AI classic manual focus lenses. It works beautifully in low light situations without adding much noise (see below). In essence, the 16 MP sensor is not a disadvantage for many of us. As a full time wedding photographer, I find 12 MP on my D700 to be more than adequate for my paying customers.
The Nikon D800 has a more sophisticated autofocus system with 51 focus points, 11 of which are cross-type. That is not to say the 39-point AF system used in Nikon Df is bad, but the frame coverage is definitely worse. The Nikon D800 enjoys shutter speeds up to 1/8000s, while the Df has to make do with a 1/4000s maximum. Other advantages of the D800 include faster flash sync speed (1/250s versus 1/200s), video recording, more sophisticated metering, better build quality (D800 is fully made out of magnesium alloy, Nikon Df mixes that with plastic) and durable shutter mechanism (rated for 200k versus 150k of the Nikon Df).
On the other hand, Nikon Df also has some aspects to boast about. Firstly, it is 190g lighter (body-only), yet manages an impressive 1400 shots per battery charge versus 850 shots of the D800. Also, it is noticeably smaller and has slightly faster continuous shooting at 5.5 frames per second versus 4 fps of the D800. Having said that, for an extra $250, D800 potentially offers a lot more bang for your buck. For the majority of photographers, it is no doubt a better camera and a very likable one.
Let’s now take a look at how the two cameras compare in terms of ISO performance.
Nikon Df vs D800 Low ISO Performance
Please note that the images below are comparisons between the Nikon D4 and the D800E. Since the Nikon Df has the same (or similar) sensor as the D4, and the D800E is the same as the D800 minus the AA filter, these ISO comparisons between the two cameras are valid. Also, the below are 100% crops, without any down-sampling applied. If the Nikon D800 images are down-sampled to 16 MP resolution, the files will look much cleaner. When comparing sensor performance, I will be providing pixel-level comparisons to illustrate differences between the Nikon Df and other cameras, without changing the angle of view or perspective. If you would like to compare these images at equal print size level, you can easily down-sample images to the same size in Photoshop / Lightroom and look at the differences (I have already done that for the most part in my reviews of Nikon DSLR cameras).
Warning: Simply clicking the images below does not show 100% crop performance (crops are large, so your browser will automatically show them in smaller size). If you would like to compare images head to head, please download the below crops to your computer and then view them!
As expected, both cameras handle base ISO extremely well.
The same is with ISO 200.
At ISO 400 the Nikon D800 has a tad more noise in some parts of the image. However, keep in mind that you are looking at pixel-level performance. As I have mentioned above, down-sampling to equal size will diminish these differences.
At ISO 800, the Nikon D800 shows more noise, especially in the shadows.
Nikon Df vs D800 High ISO Performance
What about high ISO performance at ISO 1600 and higher? Let’s take a look:
At ISO 1600, the differences in pixel level noise are pretty clear – the Nikon D4/Df is cleaner in comparison.
The same thing can be observed at ISO 3200. The grain definitely appears larger on the D800.
At ISO 6400, the Nikon D800 is already losing some shadow details and adding artifacts throughout the image.
And at ISO 12800, the Df/D4 still retains plenty of shadow information, while the D800 lost a lot of it. More noise and artifacts appear at pixel level on the D800. Most importantly, there is a noticeable loss of color on the D800.
ISO 25600 looks like garbage on the D800 – something I would not want to use at all. And yet the D4/Df still manages to retain colors and details better even at such high ISO values.
The Nikon Df offers three more “boosted” ISO levels: ISO 51,200, ISO 102,400 and ISO 204,800. While ISO 204,800 is extremely noisy and unacceptable for most people, ISO 51,200 and 102,400 could be somewhat usable when down-sampled:
If you compare ISO 51200 to ISO 25600 on the D800, the noise patterns are pretty close, so there is about a stop of difference between the two at boosted ISO levels.
Now keep in mind once again that we are purely looking at pixel level performance here. Once 36 MP images from the D800 are resized to 16 MP, the performance differences shrink quite a bit. Once “normalized” there is not much of a difference from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. Only at ISO 12800 and above the Nikon D4/Df seems to offer an advantage when down-sampled. And obviously it can go even beyond that all the way to ISO 204,800, while the D800 stops at ISO 25600.
Choosing between the two full-frame DSLRs will hardly be all that difficult because of how different the Df is in its core approach to photography. Where D800 incorporates a thoroughly modern choice of ergonomics, Nikon Df builds upon the heritage of classic film cameras. It has analog dials for most of its exposure-related settings, such as ISO, shutter-speed and exposure compensation. It also puts a lot of stakes on style and involvement. If these are priorities for you in a camera, you will not feel troubled about the $2750 price tag. But don’t ever worry if you find it hard to justify – not everyone is supposed to. As I’ve said in the Nikon Df vs D610 comparison, you buy the Df with your heart, not your head.
There’s that saying…”You use the right tool for the job.” It’s a simple enough dictum, and pretty apt for most occasions, and photography is no different. From my own point of view, the Nikon Df is the right tool for what I want to achieve with the modicum of photographic ability I currently have, and with the Df I hope to enhance my ability further and capture images as close to what I dream to achieve, and to reduce the amount of post-processing to an absolute minimum.
With the Df, Nikon have produced a thinking man’s camera. It is one that has been stripped of unessential tech not required by a stills photographer. Everything about the device forces you to slow down and think about the process of image capture, to re-learn and use the basics, but the tech that remains is compelling. The pixel pitch of the Df sensor is 7.2um, whilst that of the D800 and the D810 is 4.9um, providing the Df with a greater ability to sense more photons, and thus more light data values for your image, especially in low light. The 16 megapixels of the Df is the optimal engineering compromise for its pixel pitch, you can’t say the same for the D800 and the D810 with their 36 megapixels, both of which operate within a narrower photon capture spectrum, and thus have less dynamic range.
However, in the hands of knowledgeable and capable photographers, all three cameras produce superb stills shots, with the D800 and the D810 able to produce better, more detailed and resolved prints over a certain size…say, 24 inches and above. I myself, will never want to print over 24 inches. Also, I love the ‘painterly’ look that can be achieved by the Df. I’m very happy Nikon made it.
this review still helps nowdays, and thank you. personal reviews and blogs are more helpful than other sites and biased reviews. i have alot of older AI lenses, 13 of them being prime lenses. from 35 to 180mm, and only 3 zoom lenses. manual aperture, no autofocus so i dont give a single fuck about autofocusing. i do not even take in consideration buying a new nikon. im between d800 , d600/610 or the more expensive newer d750 wich on paper is like the best camera out there if you dont want to spend zillions. also i can get good prices on D3, not d3s with 100k shots or less. for the same price that id pay for a d800 i could get a d3. i have heard alot of bad stuff about these thai made cameras and their build and senors although they are sony. dust and sand, unclear view etc on the d600 and even the new d750….but none of these problems with japanese made d3 or d800. im in such a stress. i do love making videos too just like i do with my canon 550D. i want something good that will hold up and not get destroyed after 2 years of use. prices for a d600 are great arround 600 euros, for the d800 a little more. i have seen samples recognizing that everything newer IS slightly better than a d800…but it aint as sturdy as i see..sensor problems EVERYWHERE exept d800 or damn new stuff like d4 … or d5…..what do you advice me romanas? im not a pro, i mean i wont get money but i do want to print in photopaper and i want to get something out of my father’s lenses and my nature and women loving passion. so portraits , landscapes tourism….and i want it fullframe for the sake of the lenses..what do you advice me…
After a year with my Df I could not be more happy. Some things the reviewer misses in this comparison.
– The Df has a much quieter and nicer sounding shutter than the D800. The D800 is a very loud “clonk” whereas the Df sounds much nicer. More silent and if its higher quality. The D810 improves a lot on the 800 series shutter sound. Its funny that the Df’s great quiet shutter was went without mention in a lot of reviews.
-The Df finder has more contrast and is easier to focus with manual lenses than either the D800/D610/D810/D750. Its a subtle difference but its there.
-The Df was early with the “i” button. Now on all the new cameras. I use it all the time.
-The Df is unique with its controls. Coming from film cameras this is the reason I bought the Df. It’s a huge improvement in ergonomics vs dial + button controls of conventional DSLR’s.
-The Df has much better auto white balance than either D600/D800.
-IMO the Df has nicer build quality than D800.
Hello all together! :)
I’m a young hobby photographer from Germany looking for his first DSLR-camera. In fact, many would say choose an averaged one with not too many requirements. But I do want to learn from this camera, I want to get used to it over time and so I want to learn about how to use it in the most effecient and beautiful way. I don’t want to be forced to buy the more professional and improved model, as soon as I learned about the arts of working with a DSLR-camera. That’s why I want to start with a camera which is able to fulfill my demands also in a couple of years as I’ll will always be just an “hobby”-photographer.
I read through all these comments and advices but I couldn’t profit from it as I wished to, especially after this discussion about verbal abuse. Thus, I wanted to ask in a way the upcoming answers could help me better than they the ones before.
So here are my preferences of what I’m taking pictures of:
-Movement and Action
-Animals….preferably macro photography not only with animals
-pictures at night (stars, lightningsm snow etc.)
…so my question would be, which of these to compared cameras Df or D800 might be the right one for me and why? And if there is one that could fit even better to me, I would be thankful for your advice.
I’m looking forward to your answers,
Greetings, the Ricehat Ninja
I’m an event photographer. Most of my work is done in low light conditions. I haven’t touched a Df yet but I’m interested. I could care less about a camera’s retro look. I wish Nikon had said, “We’re giving you a D4’s sensor at half the price and half the weight. We’ve added analogue controls to give you a camera with faster handling. We’ve dropped the video feature because by survey we know that many photographers don’t need or want it. Ditto with a built-in flash. If this had been Nikon’s approach we wouldn’t be sidetracked by the idea that sentimentality has anything to do with a camera purchase.
There sure is no need to be heated and critical about the review. I have been in design and engineering for over 30 years and that + $1 will buy me a small coffee at Mc D’s.
I feel drawn to the Df since that is all I really wanted from retiring my med format and film bodys years ago. I need to wait to see my real motive for it since the “new thing” must be dry out a bit. I never use video for assignments and still wander why the semi pro and pro level cameras have it. Do you spend 3-6 grand on a DSLR for that feature? For a fun family event at the beach, use a D3200. I do like the simpler aproach, I wish lower ISO settings like 25 would come back, features that add creativity and affect the end result, the photo! It took me a while to even except auto focus. It is needed at times but I only really need it for fast sports shots and would perfer a split prism view finder for all other shots since I end up picking the point I want in focus then re positioning hoping it holds. I have used the 51 point feature at times but always seem to get a miss now and then and if it’s intimate wedding shots I am taking, I need it to work 100% of the time. We live in an age where “more” means better and things have to be “loaded” to sell. Let face it, a great photo comes from the one taking the shot, more than a camera that claims to do it all. You just cannot replace the creativity and skill of the artist with fluff features.
I like the D800E also for what it can do but wish it had a 16meg raw setting for most of my shots. I have a 48″ wide printer and print on roll stock and unless I need to crop, at a normal viewing distance, even 12 megs is fine.
I just wanted to share my observations on the ‘paradox’ that to me is the Df. Firstly, a bit about me. I guess I’m what seems to be referred to as a ‘keen amateur’. I’ve owned a D800 for 16 months and a Fuji X100s for five months. The latter for times when I simply want to be inconspicuous or just travel light.
So November 5th arrives and the Nikon Df. Boy do I want that camera. Its a FF Nikon in a compact body with all the retro good looks and tactile ‘feel’ of the X100s. Its perfect for me, surely? I really can’t justify a third camera, but this will allow me to replace one, perhaps both of my existing cameras. Perfect.
In the last three days, my mouse pointer has hovered over the “pre-order now” link on four occasions and on each occasion I have hit Esc. I won’t be attempting a fifth. Why?
Here is the reason for my post, truly where does the Df fit in? These are purely personal observations on my situation, but I would like to bet they apply equally to many other people reading this site. I have three Nikkor lenses a 50mm f/1.4G a 35mm f/1.4G and the 24-70mm f/2.8. It is the latter two that are inevitably attached to the front of the D800, I love both of them. But they are both heavy chunks of metal and glass (particularly the 24-70) and I have found that the extra size and all magnesium construction of the D800 fitted with the optional grip makes for a very balanced and comfortable (if admittedly heavy) combination. So, the Df is smaller, lighter, not all magnesium and doesn’t have the option of an additional grip. Pity, OK, no problem I’ll keep the D800 to use my favourite lenses and sell the X100s. Ah, but now there is another problem. Compared to the X100s the Df is big, bulky, heavy and very conspicuous. So , cant sell the X100s either.
So their you have it, for me the Df is neither one thing or the other. I still love it, I still want one. But no, I won’t be buying.
Oh, and the price over here in the UK. I think its fair to assume the many people considering the Df will already have a nikkor 50mm of one sort or another, but we are being forced to buy the ‘kit’ for GB£ 2,749! a D800 costs under GB£ 2,000. Something doesn’t feel right.
I’d be interested to get any feedback on this post from you folks out there.
I thought that Df has 1/200 flash sync speed. i dont mean to be …. :D picky on these numbers.
that one is difficult to track down. We ourselves received a pdf file with both 1/250 and 1/200 listed in two different places. It is just plain confusing.
Well I for one am sick of Wally and the way this excellent site has been diverted. Nor do I want to receive any more emails detailing the next bit of nastiness. Shut up, W!
While I may not always agree with everything that is posted here at PL, I don’t understand why some folks have to be such a “Kill-joy”. Romanas, thank you very much for the early information and comparisons on this new camera.
thank you! We would never want you to agree with everything we publish, it would be a little boring, I think. :) Everyone’s entitled to his own (polite) opinion.