Nature Photography by Sash Dias

Camera Lenses Closeup N Black Background

Nikon Df: Quick Thoughts

I've been following the Nikon Df teaser videos for the last couple of weeks now, and was intrigued by the possibilities. Nikon made the official announcement this morning, so we now have a clearer picture (pardon the pun) of what this camera offers. The headline specs are:

  • 16.2MP FX CMOS sensor from the D4
  • Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape and user definable picture modes
  • NEF, TIFF and JPEG file formats
  • A single SD card slot
  • 0.7x magnification viewfinder
  • Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VIII screen with AF area brackets (framing grid can be displayed)
  • 39-point AF
  • Max frame rate of 5.5 FPS
  • 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor
  • Collapsible metering coupling lever for use with non-CPU lenses
  • Exposure modes include Programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M)
  • ISO 100 to 12800, with the special "Hi" function taking it up to ISO 204,800
  • NO video
  • 710g weight (lighter even than the D610, the previously the lightest Nikon FX DSLR)

Design
I think this is a beautiful camera, and I'll take mine in silver, thank you. The dedicated manual dials and buttons are exactly the direction that I believe pro DSLR's should move in (more on that in a later post), and the Df somehow manages to incorporate most of the ergonomic improvements of the last 30 years in a sleek, retro-style body.

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Viewfinder
Looks like the same magnification (0.7x) and coverage (100%) as most of the new Nikon FX bodies. One disappointing feature is that the eye point is 15mm (the D4 is 18mm and the D610 is 21mm). What does this mean? This is how far your can take your eye off the viewfinder and still see the full image. A short eye point means you have to squash your eye against the viewfinder, which I personally find fatiguing and annoying.
Nikon seems to imply in their Df literature that manual focusing is a more fun. Why then this they stick this body with the hard-to-manual-focus focusing screen from all their other DSLR's? Nikon had an opportunity to re-introduce a new version of one of their classic focusing screens OR make the focusing screens interchangeable and make manual focus actually USABLE. I view this as a major failing of the new camera.

Sensor
It's the sensor from the D4. I own the D4 so I have only good things to say about this sensor. Being able to get it in a body that's half the price and size of the D4 can only be a good thing. However, I still feel that a sensor with a few more pixels (like the 24MP D600/610 sensor) may have been a better choice, as I'm sure a lot of potential buyers would shoot landscapes with this camera. That said, maybe Nikon's line of thinking was that packing in more megapixels wasn't in keeping with the 'less is more' ethos of the Df. I'll buy that!

img_01_med

AF & Metering
From the non-news department, the Df has an AF sensor with 39 points - likely lifted straight from the D600/610. The 2,016 pixel metering sensor is also most probably from the D600/610.

Use of non-Ai lenses
I don't use a lot of old lenses, so I'll hae to reserve comments on this one until I've had a chance to use the Df with some older lenses. However, people who'll dish out $3,000 for a camera don't seem to me to be the type of users who'll try to save a few dollars by skimping on lenses. Or maybe that's just me...

Conclusion
I think the Df is an interesting product, and the first retro-styled DSLR from one of the big SLR players (i.e. Nikon & Canon). It has a beautiful design and is mostly likely solidly engineered. Nikon took a brave decision to drop video from the specification list, and it remains to be seen whether this decision will hamper sales of the Df. While I'm not a big video user, I'd still like to have it for the times I will need it.
My chief worry about the Df is in the value for money department. The Df body will sell for $2,749.95. The D610 sells for 1,999.95 and has video, a second card slot and arguably a better all-round sensor. Is looking good while taking photographs worth giving up video, image backup and an additional $750? Let me know what you think...
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