When Nikon revealed the Df, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. It just seemed to be following the trend of making digital cameras look like the old film cameras merely so that the new era of old school photographers would buy them to wear like really awkward jewellery. A chrome and black hipster status symbol much like the giant gold bling of 90’s rappers, this camera looks great slung over the shoulder of anyone riding a vintage bike.
Then I got over myself and gave it another look.
Good thing I did because I was totally wrong about it. So very wrong. I mean, it does look great on anyone riding a vintage bike, but it is so much more than just eye candy.
My pro camera body is six years old now and while it has served me well, photo technology has advanced enough that my D3 is looking to retire to backup body status. I’m not the type who will rush out and buy the hot new thing as it is released each year, but it is now time. I also don’t think that one has to have the most expensive camera to take great photos. I do believe however that the right tool makes any job easier. And that is key here. The “right” tool.
Here is why I love the Df and why two of my reasons (the first two listed below) are the very same aspects that many found a hindrance, yet are what make it the right tool for my next steps.
No Video :: I am just beginning to play with video on DSLR and I don’t yet love it. I am fine with the cameras I have for the type of videos I make. By leaving out the video in this camera, the D4 sensor is accessible in a less expensive and more light weight body.
The Dial Based Controls :: I have admitted many times that digital has made me a lazy photographer. I not only find myself taking more photographs than I would have ever considered when shooting film (not better, just more making my editing time a lot longer than it should be as I wade through images I don’t need and would never miss), but also staying on one setting as I can’t be bothered going through the menu buttons to change things up. With the old school controls, while fidgety at first, I found myself changing settings often…refining my vision. I think having the controls so physically available reminded me that I had options! It took a long time to get used to the dials, but after I did, going back to the menu buttons felt wrong.
Quality Imagery SOOC :: From auto white balance, to skin tone, colour rendition and perfect in-camera metering, the Nikon Df nails each shot. I set it to capture in RAW and JPEG and while I edited from RAW each time so that I could correct for little things like lens distortion, I found that both the RAW files and the JPEGs needed very little if any editing. I love my Nikon cameras, but this camera blew me away from the moment I saw the images previewed on the LCD.
OK, so I could have nailed the focus on her eyes a bit better, but look at the clean, crisp and most importantly accurate colour that came SOOC (cropped to square only) from the Df in the image below! Let’s just pretend I was going for freckles in this one.
Full Frame :: I can use my entire collection of favourite lenses on the Df and because it is so light weight, I felt like I was carrying one of the digital crop sensor bodies around.
ISO Performance :: This blew me away, but then again, I should not have been so surprised. The sensor in the D4 is known for how it handles low light. When I shot a photo at 12,800 ISO and saw just some acceptable, yet barely noticeable noise I cried tears of digital photography joy.
I wish that it had two SD card slots. That is pretty much my only complaint and I had to think hard to come up with that. It might also be difficult to have this as a second camera since the controls are so different from every other DSLR I own. That doesn’t worry me though as I tend to change lenses on the go instead of shooting with two camera bodies. In my opinion, if you are looking to spend a bit of cash on a camera, this is a great buy.
I was able to test the camera for two weeks. I was sad to see it go back. I don’t feel like I was able to get in all the shots that I wanted to take. I did shoot it against the D3, but I can’t seem to locate my CF card reader…
I did take the Df with the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens along on a normal outting that I would have covered with my Fuji x10 and the results were beautiful. Below is a collage of SOOC jpegs.
For commercial photography, it will deliver grand results, but as a photoblogger, I am also looking for ease and fast workflow. This camera is perfect for all of that. Knowing I can get gorgeous images and not have to spend much time on editing, with the Df I can go back to using a DSLR over my point and shoot. The SD card fits right into my Macbook Pro making turing images around on the go easy. My suggestion for those looking to buy a camera, think about what you plan to use it for. If you are really excited to start taking great pictures and play around with different lenses, this is a wonderful DSLR to invest your money in. Seriously, save some more and skip right over the digital crop sensor models. If you are only ever going to shoot jpeg and really don’t think you want to spend that much (the camera starts at about $2,800.00) then go with something like the Fuji x10 that I love. I would skip the DSLR bit altogether if you are not that serious about shooting as you will just find reasons to leave it at home. It would be an absolute shame to leave the Df at home! Also remember, if you are looking to get into video, move along, there is nothing to see here.
I have not been this excited about photography gear in a long time… and to think I initially dismissed this camera as hype!