Nikon DF.. | Tutorial Freak – Online Tutorials

Nikon DF..

Nikon-Df

Nikon Simply Epic

So hot, and yet so cool. Rooted in the past and yet bang up-to date, can the Nikon Df be bought with the head as well as the heart?

Deep breath; this is the biggie – the one we’ve all been waiting for. I say unbiased – obviously, being as Nikon user it’s difficult not to take a keen interest in anything that Nikon brings to market, but I’ll take personal feelings out of the equation and tell it like it is – no gushing, no sugar coating and certainly no fudging around the bad bits – yes, there are a couple which I’ll address later.
So, as if out of nowhere, Nikon gives us the Df. If you haven’t heard anything about the new Nikon, where have you been? I said earlier that we’ve all been waiting for the Df and most dyed in the wool Nikon users would sell body parts to get their hands on one, And you can certainly see why. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Df, I’ll explain.
In the digital phase of photography, as opposed to film, camera manufacturers have pretty much developed the technology over the years; improving and refining. At first we couldn’t get enough pixels – now, thanks to the D800, we have more than we need. Then ISO performance was the be-all-and-end-all when it came to choosing a camera. Anything over ISO 400 was considered risky, dare to venture beyond the dizzy heights of ISO 800 and people would try to have you certified. Of course we now enjoy clean, noise-free images even with ISO figures well into the thousands. Along with sensor size, colour rendition, frame rate, image quality and screen resolution and size, any development has been restricted to the camera’s internals with little regard given to the exterior. Yes, each manufacturer has their look and feel, but to all intents and purposes even button and dial layout time has stood still with regard to exterior design. We’ve pretty much gotten used to the thumb and forefinger way of driving our cameras and the more expensive the camera, the less menu hunting we have to do change settings… until now.

The 1980s

Nikon has taken the unprecedented step of messing with what we know – changing our beloved dial and button layout and visiting the past to bring us the future – basically housing today’s technology in yesterday’s body. Lose the screen on the back and you could be looking at a Nikon F3 from 1980. But why? Haven’t we moved on? Surely the ergonomics of today’s DSLRs are pretty much perfect and should not be messed with?

Question: When was the last time you got excited by how a camera looks, rather than its promised performance? Yes, I was impressed with how the D4 handled and I can’t deny it’s a handsome beast, but it has always been about what it could do, rather than how it looked doing it. I mention the D4 because, essentially, the Df has the D4’s internals (with a couple of minor differences) clothed in a retro looking body from yesteryear.

Design

You see, retro is in, it’s cool, it’s funky and it’s taken quite a while for retro to affect our DSLRs. We’ve had it with our smaller cameras with Pentax and Fuji leading the way, but it’s only Nikon that’s taken the bold step to introduce retro thinking to a DSLR. Imagine an E-Type Jag that starts first time, does 50mpg, 180mph, never rusts, handles like Wayne Rooney and never breaks down.
But is it any good? At close to £3000 it had better be. Let’s start with the handling – after all, that’s the one thing that is totally different to anything else out there. Now, given that we can find our way around our current DSLRs in the dark, repositioning buttons and dials usually spells disaster. If you’re a certain age, using the Df will be second nature. Those of you used to the current way of shooting will have furrowed brows as you feel your way around.

A Thing of Beauty

In some ways things are easier – beautifully machined ISO and Exposure Compensation dials replace button and menu hunting adjustments making it much easier to check settings. In other ways, a more deliberate approach is needed, with machined dials for shutter speed replacing the usual main command dial/eye to viewfinder way of working. Nikon call it ‘Pure’ photography. There’s still a main command dial and sub command dial which can be configured to your liking, but it’s still an art to change the shutter speed on the fly. But like everything else, the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. Anyway, it’s a nice change and, this may be just me, but it does make you think a bit more about your exposure settings when you can see all your adjustments clearly marked on exterior dials, rather than a digital readout. The Df is also light, very light, in fact, it’s the lightest full-frame DSLR on the market today – even with the new 50mm that ships with the body, the camera feels comfortable and well-balanced which is great when out and about. Add a pro-spec lens, say a 24- 70mm f/2.8 and the Df does feel just a bit front heavy, with no battery grip available to counter-act a big lens – more of that later.

Click, Clack

So, handling wise things are different, more measured, probably slower, until muscle memory kicks in, but still very satisfying to click, clack through the settings. And, it does look the business – isn’t that the point? Kind of, but at this price it has to deliver on every level, not just looks – the old saying “style over substance” springs to mind. But, on paper there shouldn’t be too many concerns with a full-frame, 16MP sensor and processor from Nikon’s flagship D4, 39-point autofocus system with nine cross-type autofocus points borrowed from the D610, 5.5 frames per second and an ISO range from 100 to 25,600 (expandable to ISO 204,800). There’s no video or built-in flash – don’t use yours? Me neither.

Art Deco

Given the retro appeal of the Df, I thought I’d head for the English Riviera, which, if you know where to look, mixes Victorian with Art Deco and the 1960s/70s with 21st century architecture plus, there’s olde worlde charm wherever you look. Now, given this is England and given that it’s the middle of winter and that Nikon don’t let cameras like the Df out of their hands for very long, it’s always a bit of a gamble when testing on location. So a quick pray to the weather gods is always called for. Luckily, one out of the four days I spent in Torbay was bathed in sunshine. Okay, it’s that watery winter sun but, nevertheless, beggars and choosers. Anyway, the contrasty, harsh light will give the Df a proper run for its money. And, forgive me but given the nature of the Df, I couldn’t help but add a touch of retro to my images.

Simply Epic

Now, I’ve had a few cameras through my hands over the years – a few stinkers and a few cameras that I’ve thought about selling a kidney for, so I’m kind of used to the images that cameras of a certain price point put out. I’m not exactly blasé but expectations are usually met but rarely exceeded. But, I have to say that the Df did stop me in my tracks with the ease in which it metered a scene and delivered a highly detailed, rich coloured image that retained both shadow and highlight information. Should I be surprised given the price? Maybe not, but I’m not sure my D3S would have handled certain exposures without the odd tweak of exposure compensation. Put it this way; the raw images captured needed very little adjustment in Camera Raw – when using natural or ambient light the Df is simply epic. And, don’t get me started on its low-light performance.

Deal Breaker?

So, all is good? Well, there are a few niggles that I feel I should draw to your attention. I can live with an SD rather than the more ‘professional’ CF. I can also live with a single memory card slot rather than the obvious advantage of having two slots, and I can even live with the lack of video and built-in flash – never used them, not sure I ever will. What I really don’t like is to have to open the battery compartment to access the SD card – you know, on the bottom, like you would with a compact or system camera. No big deal? Well, it does mean a battery grip is not an option – a big deal given I mainly shoot portraits and fashion.
Is it a deal breaker? Not really; you see the Df is pretty much perfect in every other way – it looks amazing and is fun and a delight to use. It produces stunning images and is capable of using lenses from yesteryear. Yes, it’s expensive, especially when you sit it next to Nikon’s more than capable 24MP D610. But, would I buy one? Put it this way: the romantic in me wants and would buy a Df, but then the romantic in me would also buy a D610 and have a holiday in Rome with what I’d save. But… but… as I walk down Rome’s tiny streets, as I come face to face with the Trevi Fountain, as I pull my camera to my eye, I know in my heart of hearts that I’d be kicking myself that it wasn’t a Df. Digital Fusion – bloody brilliant!

KeithM..

Pro Photographer, WebMaster & Writer.. Please follow us on Facebook

KeithM.. – who has written posts on Tutorial Freak – Online Tutorials.


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