Nikon Df : it’s like being in a relationship. I’ve recently went on a trip to Turkey and Iceland with the Nikon Df and through this trip I got to know all her idiosyncrasies. But in general, I thought it was a decent replacement for my “ex”, the D700. Like a relationship, there are moments when you love her and other times when you struggle with her. However at the end of every relationship (Not Marriage), there’s either something better that comes along or it simply stopped offering what it initially offered. While I see a lot of negativity in her, I still love the Df. My first Dslr was the Nikon D80 and eventually I move to the full frame D700 in 2008. Since then Ive had many opportunities to flirt around with Canon and Olympus gears, but ultimately the my love for full frame always pulled me back to the d700. While I understand that the Nikon Df is not the direct upgrade to the d700, I saw many similarities. They both have the same sensor as their big sisters and they were both less expensive and lighter as well. The weight of the Df caught me off guard. It was like holding my first dslr (Nikon d80) except none of the weight of the d700, takes all F mount lens, more Mp and better low ISO performance as my d700. It seemed like a good match. The image quality is superb but with great power comes greater responsibilities. With, 16mp, I could no longer handheld at 1/15 on my wide shots (17-35mm) because the slightest movement would show blur at 100%. I can only imagine what d800 users would have to do with 36mp to play with. Bumping the ISO beyond 6400 makes the shots worthless. So regardless of how good the low light performance dxos give this camera, I find it more difficult to produce sharp images handheld in low light without severely downsizing the photos. Still the IQ is better than the d700, but only marginally. I guess that’s an upgrade regardless. The look and feel of the camera is excellent. I have a thing for the black one because in the old days, it cost more to get it in black, it’s more discrete, and I had read Nikon produced a lot more silver versions. I keep an eye out for rare beauty. However, I think Nikon should have made the camera shorter to preserve the look of the fm3 but I guess there’s a lot more electronics they need room for. I think it’s better looking than my d700. The mini grip is a nice touch as the fm3’s didn’t have one but after playing the Df non stop for 12 hrs a day for 3 weeks straight, I miss the grip of the d700 and the slanted shutter button. While the Df fits well, heavier zoom lens tends to put too much torque on my hands. As a result, the muscles in my palm started to ache near the end of the day. The camera is design for light manual prime lens. My 50mm f1.8 e and 85mm f1.4d work great with it, but my 17-35 f2.8d make me hate the camera. Another troubling thing is where the right strap clip is located. Every time I turn the aperture dial, I run my fingers against it. I eventually removed them and just use a quick strap and a Manfrotto qr plate with a modified black rapid ring. Once again like any relationship, compromise will yield results. While on vacation, I started to realize the “pure photography” ad didn’t present the Df as sporty or street oriented. It’s too elegant for that. It belongs in a studio for portraits or out in the wilderness for landscapes. For god sakes, the exposure compensation wheel is locked…. And you can’t program the back dial to do easy exposure compensation (ec). That makes this camera useless when you need to make quick adjustments. In addition, because the e c wheel is lock, pressing the unlock button on top requires me to stop supporting my lens with my left hand thus contributing to extra strain on my right hand….hence the soreness. But you see, after a while I got smarter. I started to predict the mood swings and plan ahead of the shots. Even before I pick up the camera, I’ve started to think of where to meter and focus on and approximately how much ec I’d need to properly expose. By thinking ahead and reacting to predictions, the Df has made me a better photographer in general.
I was surprised that even with all these dials and buttons, Nikon managed to put a lot of customization and flexibility in all the other buttons. Except ec I can’t think of anything else I missed from the D700. I know many people have complained about the price of the Df. While it initially I agree, I’ve started to look at her differently. I purchased the d700 at the same price range. I don’t remember much backlash then. With inflation between 2008 and now, I think the Df might actually be a bit cheaper. Yes she lacks video and she has the same af as the D600, but what she does have are exceptional. And in the end isn’t the images that matter? She helps me create dynamic images. While there are a lot of compromises being made, I am starting to enjoy the thinking process again in creating a photo. Sometimes I wonder if Steve McCurry or Iwan Baan just pick up the camera and shoot, or do they think through about what they want and try to go out to grab it. Is photography really all about being at the right places at the right time and having some skills to capture the moment, or is there is another component where you are constantly designing and rethinking what you want based on what you see and always trying to grasp that image in your head. I think if you are the latter, then the Nikon DF may be camera for you.
I lefted out a few things…..but now I’m nip picking.
A. The battery cannot get up to even 1000 shots. I charge it daily on my trip. B. the viewfinder cap is included but should have been integrated. I ended up just leaving it in my bag. C. No possibly of getting a upgrade/vertical grip…. The base of the camera was not designed with electronics. D. It’s too pretty to use as a hammer…….
About the author
He is an Architect and used photography throughout his decade in school to make ends meet. He shoots mainly architecture, but uses his understanding of spatial and tectonic qualities to frame photos for engagements, portraitures and weddings. He acquired his first camera, the Olympus C 2040, when he was 16 and eventually and still shoot film mainly on the seagull Tlr and the Nikon n6006.