Having used the camera for the past few months, I understand why the Nikon Df creates so many emotions among photographers. It seems like the camp is divided between those that absolutely hate the Df and those that love and enjoy it. I partly blame it on Nikon for creating an over-hyped mood with its marketing video “teasers”, which set up unrealistic expectations among most Nikon followers and enthusiasts.
With its retro design / controls, simpler autofocus system, beautiful images straight out of the camera and some obvious quirks noted on the previous pages of this review, it reminds me of the Fuji mirrorless system, the basic premise of which is to promote slowing down and carefully composing each shot before taking a picture. At the same time, I do feel like Nikon could have done a few things to make the Df a much more appealing camera. While I generally like retro controls in modern cameras (Fuji’s line of X-series cameras is beautiful and well-thought, Olympus did a really nice job with designing the OM-D series), the retro controls on the Nikon Df just do not feel like they were well-thought-out.
The biggest issue with those controls, in my opinion, is Nikon’s decision to mix the modern PASM dial with a Shutter Speed dial, which just don’t work well together. It feels wrong to be shooting in Aperture Priority mode and still have the ability to set the Shutter Dial to any shutter speed, even though it has absolutely no effect on the exposure. As I have stated in the long “Retro Controls and Handling” section of this review, Nikon could have easily fixed the problem by excluding the PASM dial and including an “Auto / Program” setting in the camera menu when changing the lens Aperture, which would have given real purpose for the Shutter Speed dial. Aside from this particular problem, I like the way Nikon implemented the retro controls on the Df. It does take some time getting used to when moving from a traditional DSLR, but once you get the hang of it, handling is a breeze.
For me personally, the real strength of the camera, however, is in its amazing image quality and light weight. After assisting my wife in shooting weddings, where I often end up with the D3s in my hands and a few heavy lenses, I have been wanting to switch to something lighter that is not going to put too much burden on my back and Lola’s editing time. I love my Nikon D800E, but Lola hates editing the image files that come from it. Nikon Df produces stunningly beautiful images when compared to other high-resolution full-frame cameras, as can be seen from the Camera Comparisons page of the review – basically the same quality you would get when shooting with the top-of-the-line Nikon D4. Yet it is much smaller, lighter and cheaper than Nikon’s flagship model. What’s not to like?
This camera was never supposed to be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a niche product – it was designed to be. Thus, I find it understandable that there are people who love it, and those who see no point in Df’s existence. The trick here is to respect both choices. What I find hard to digest, is the hatred Nikon Df receives from some people. Why would someone hate a camera they are not obliged to buy or use? After-all, it is not like we are dealing with a ridiculous Hasselblad Lunar or other non-original copycats with absurd price tags attached to them.
This is a Nikon original with a whole different concept, a complete deviation from Nikon’s typical product line. It is something new, something refreshing after the long tradition of making the same-looking black DSLR cameras. Personally, I welcome this change, because it could be the beginning of something more exciting, more interesting. Perhaps this is the first iteration and Nikon’s attempt to do things differently. Perhaps we will see a second-generation Nikon Df2 in the future, with a cleaner layout, more features and who knows – maybe even a piece of groundbreaking technology or two.
Interestingly, most of the hate that I see on the Internet is from those that have never used or touched the camera. But that’s the age we live in – people’s feelings get intensified and amplified by the power of free speech and anonymity the Internet provides. Their judgment is based on pure specifications and the price tag – something the Df obviously does not excel at when compared to alternatives. Plus, it is not a camera without faults; it is expected that it would create plenty of controversy and negative buzz.
The good news is, we have plenty of full-frame choices. Everything from the D610 on the low end of the price spectrum to the top-of-the-line D4. The Df fills another gap, even if it is a small one. But it is hardly a bad camera as most people seem to claim. As for me and Lola, we have already sold our D3s and replaced it with the Df for our portrait/wedding business. And for now, I have yet to see an unhappy owner of the Df – those that buy it seem to know exactly what they want.
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Dynamic Range
- Metering and Exposure
Photography Life Overall Rating
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