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Camera Reviews

Nikon Df – The Past is the Future

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell) on November 6, 2013


Keywords: nikon, product, articles

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The digital world moves quickly. We are all being swept along by one constant reality—continuous change.

In 2002, I “went digital” with a Nikon D100. Within months, I had abandoned film. The digital method gave me complete control over the entire photographic process from shutter press to image printing. I was hooked and simply reveled in the flow of cameras as they were released, all of them marvelous cameras, like a wave carrying me forward with more and more features and ever thicker manuals. You know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve been on the same ride.

Once in a while, though, I (and you too) open the dresser drawer that contains those old friends, my (your) AI/AI-S Nikkors and film Nikons. They sit there forlornly waiting, but I never use them anymore. I have no interest in film photography but I do have an interest in my old favorite camera bodies. I pick them up and handle them, remembering so many pleasant days in the mountains and at family events. They feel good in my hands, yet I am still drawn to digital and its creative control. I close the drawer, again.

Just a few months ago I was thinking to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a digital FM. It could be called the Nikon DM and it would use all my old and new f-mount lenses, and it would have all external controls, like the good old days.” Somehow, the collective thinking of all of us who desire the simplicity of the past was somehow picked up by Nikon. They have answered our desire for the simplicity of the past—updated. The Nikon Df DSLR is here!

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Figure 1: A silver/black Nikon Df, top view

 

 

External Controls are Finally Back!

Examine the top view of the Nikon Df in figure 1. Notice the design that allow you to return to the simple days of using external controls to make camera settings. No need to use the menus unless you want to. You can set the shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode (PSAM), ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, depth of field, and metering mode (matrix, spot, center-weighted) without using a single camera menu. You can have the simplicity of manual mode, whenever you feel like it, while using manual controls like you used on your favorite film Nikons in bygone days. Or, if you aren’t in the mood for manual, you can use the camera’s menus and external buttons to set things in the new digital way.

The Nikon Df is a “hybrid” in the sense that it is a digital camera in a film camera’s body. It has all the film camera controls and digital camera controls too. You can change operation methods according to how you feel.

 
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Figure 2: A black Nikon Df, rear view

 

The camera has a glass pentaprism and mirror (it isn’t mirrorless). The physical size is smaller than newer Nikons for ease of carrying. The top, bottom, and back covers are all magnesium alloy and the frame and front is made of polycarbonate. This is the familiar build of the Nikon D7100 and D610, light yet strong. This camera will be easy to carry all day for those photography walkabouts you can picture yourself enjoying with your Df.

(15 Votes)
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Darrell Young Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Knoxville, USA
Team, 5926 posts

57 comments

KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on December 21, 2013

Darrell and Richard Both your Blogs (DF Articles) are great, much appreciated. I have made two discoveries as late with my new DF. #1. Converting from NEF Raw to DNG Raw is not doable at this moment. Waiting for a Firm Ware update from Nikon and a patch from Adobe to include the DF. #2. In fussing around with the Df, I discovered that the battery/memory card access cover is removable, open to about a 45 degree angle and lightly tug, out it comes! Goes back in the same way at a 45 degree angle. Hmmm, that gave me an idea that there may be a high capacity battery grip (similar to the MB-40) lurking in the future from Nikon. I have a grip for all my Nikons (those having grips that is) and find them very useful for action, sports and long treks in the outback. Any discoveries you may have come across would be great to hear about. The more I use this little guy, the fonder I become. I will be working with it soon, using my 3 Nikkor Micro lenses in some close up photography. I expect this to be a great combo!! Cheers, Kent M Whitney, The PhotogDog

Scott D. Nelson (Kingsbarns) on December 11, 2013

Have had my black Df for a few days. The "special" 50mm lens is not so special but the camera is the most brilliant piece of kit that I've had my hands on since the days of . . . no, it is the most brilliant piece of kit for the price (that's key), ever. Buy a camera with the features you want but if you are a photographer not a cine guy and if you want a camera that is just pro fast and VIVID. This is it!!. In more than 40 years, I have never figured out a reason to use a shutterspeed higher than 4,000 (I know people who do, it's just not me) so I don't miss that. This thing is light, fast, bright viewfinder, easy to learn. It is everything I've ever hoped for in a digital. The ONLY real fix I would wise would be built in wifi (Nikon is outdated here) and a second card slot. But I can work with it.

Robert Werntz (rjw_sparks) on December 6, 2013

While some complain about Darrell's enthusiasm, it's not hard to relate to though having that enthusiasm with older Nikons myself. I saved for a long time to upgrade my FE2 to an F3. Even after purchasing an F4, I couldn't keep the F3 dormant because of it's rugged simplicity and compact profile. I've thought the same about a better blend of that past simplicity and the exploding technology. This is a pretty pricey blend. Will it ultimately be the best? Too soon to tell but it seems to me that the "menu" driven back is a big problem with the newer DLSR's. I love the results of my D800 but need to carry Darrell's book to remember how to squeeze the most out of it. Automatic ISO adjustment within limits I establish comes to mind as something I now covet but wasn't available on any of the older Nikons. Is it on the Df? If so it's probably still a menu function on the back. So, keeping "external" functions in familar orientation isn't rocket science but what about simplifying the non external functions? My old handheld GPS units used to have 4 to 6 pushbuttons that in specific sequences yielded a ton of functions. Now, they have no pushbuttons but virtual pushbuttons on a touchscreen. Easier to manufacture and more robust with fewer failure points. The functionality is dictated by software and how well it's concieved. It's a whole lot easier to have multiple locations where the same virtual pushbuttons can be located so navigation can be streamlined without having to rely on the user's own memory or availability of a well written manual. Navigation would be easier so why not combine that with the established external controls? At least Nikon appears connected to it's roots with this limited offering and I can't imagine Nikon will put the brakes on emerging techonolgy if it yields better photgrapghy. Mirrorless is not going to go away. Combining video and still will not go away. I suspect this could be the first in line of opportunities to go out to the garage and pull out a classic for a Sunday drive and isn't intended to replace the main transporation.

KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on December 4, 2013

Darrell, My Df arrived yesterday, all is well and I am very pleased with it overall. A couple of items are so/so but not worth the mention. I am glad I jumped in with both heart and soul, this should be a nice quite success for those classic lovers and the Nikon Team. "BZ" R/KMW

Fritz Harmon (fritzh) on December 4, 2013

This looks like a great camera. Would like to see a few more real world examples and some feedback on how it focuses.

David Benyukhis (davidben33) on December 2, 2013

The review is too enthusiastic. I did not find here how focusing work I like a message of Dieter K.E. Hege (dhege)

David Benyukhis (davidben33) on December 2, 2013

The review is too enthusiastic. I did not find here how focusing work I like a message of Dieter K.E. Hege (dhege)

Mike Smith (MikeSe19) on November 25, 2013

Thanks for the review Darrell. This is a great looking camera. I would love one. However the price is an issue. In the UK the body price is being quoted as £2750 where in the US it is $2750. Even with sales tax added in the US there is a difference of about £800. Nikon taking UK users for a ride again.

Richard Kreider (scriberoo) on November 18, 2013

I mirror what many have already said Darrell, your writing is so easy to follow and virtually seduces the reader into a buyers mode! As I'm now only a bit-time D3S snapper I do not NEED this camera right now - regardless of how it looks and what it promises to produce. But that may all change in the new year!

Christopher Plourde (ChristopherP) on November 15, 2013

Darrell Thanks much, agree with all above Good overview, and appreciate your comments. This isn't really all that hard. I shoot and print to 11x14 or so, send out for a print now and then, my mere 4mpx camera smokes most of the sensors out there at native ISO and resolution. But time marches on. So let's see: A 16mpx Nikon sensor for half price, my F4 glass and reduced weight from my D2Hs, current metering, and the AF button in the right place. Looks like the camera I've been waiting for. How much can I get for an appendix a kidney seems extreme. Looking forward to handling this one.

ronald dewar (ronaldnd) on November 14, 2013

This may sound like a dumb question, but I still miss my F2A - inside the viewfinder of the DF is there a match needle exposure meter or how would you know how to set the manual controls?

Mike Guilbault (mikeguil) on November 13, 2013

I'll wait a bit, but I do believe this is going to be a great camera. I already have a D800e so megapixels is no concern and my D700 is getting long in the tooth, so the Df sounds like a great replacement. With the sensor of the D4 at 16mp, it's more than enough resolution for a lot of jobs (I'm a full time pro). I hate built-in flash, so we're good there. I shoot strictly manual (only ever used S-priority once in 30 years - and still remember it) and love the external mechanical controls. I don't do video, another plus with the Df. I don't understand what the big deal is about mirror-less. If you want mirror-less, get a twin-lens! ;) I will always prefer an optical view-finder. With the size of cards nowadays, one card slot is plenty. Film didn't have a backup! I shot Hasselblad with 12 shots per roll - but every shot counts. I have two slots in my D800e and never use the extra slot for backup - only for spill-over when I'm shooting an event and don't want to miss a shot to replace the full CF card. The Df is not a be-all end-all camera for everyone. It wasn't designed to be. Maybe not even as a first camera (as in work-horse), but as a second body to compliment a D4 or D800/e, AND great mechanical controls AND looks good to boot - I'm definitely interested!

Perry Kneisel (PKAY) on November 13, 2013

Making the Df compatible with legacy lenses is a great idea. I had a lot of them, but, alas, sold them with my Nikon F with Tn finder and my Nikkormat. It would be great if that compatibility is incorporated into other new releases from Nikon. I'm talking an update to the D800. In the meantime, I shall be content with my D300s. Great article, Darrell. Your book on the D300s is my Nikon Bible.

Michael Berner (zoommb) on November 12, 2013

One additional thought, they now need an MD-Df battery pack for the bottom so that it can look like an FE with an MD-12. :)

KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on November 12, 2013

Darrell, Darrel, If possible, could I get a copy of your Mastering the Df, wet ink and all, from you when published? I have many of your books and have made them a primary part of my Nikon Family, Love your style, typos and all ;-). Oh, I would be glad to pay you "Full Boat" for a signed copy !! Please let me know youngster… "NIKONS ROCK" V/R Kent M. Whitney PhotogDog@cox.net

Vitaliy Gyrya (vitalishe) on November 11, 2013

Darrell, I like what you did in this presentation of Df, painting the picture for how the camera came about and the reasoning behind its construction. It seams there are quite a few critics of the camera out there (even though they have not tried it yet). Most making a parallel with D3/D700. Many seam to prefer the idea of a D4 sensor in the D800 body instead of a retro-style Df. Do you think that would have been a more popular choice or no? I am very interested to hear you impression of the actual camera once you get it. In particular I am interested in the comparison between Df, D600 and D800.

Robert Ohrstedt (rjo) on November 11, 2013

Great review! I love the camera, but the price point puts me off. For the same money, I can buy a second D800 body. With 36 megapixels, I do a lot more at weddings than 12 or even 16 gets me. Now, if it drops to around 22 - 24 hundred, you'd have a buyer here real quick.

Kent Joosten (bkjoosten) on November 11, 2013

Nice writeup. Looks like a perfect fit for my uses - D700 caliber camera with much improved sensor in much smaller package. Great for travel. Glad Nikon took a break from cramming more and more useless features into big cameras. Now, a retro Nikon 1 that looks like an S3 rangefinder? :-)

Paul Cassidy (PCassidy) on November 10, 2013

Really enjoyable article. I must admit that I have a handful of Nikon F's and one F-100 so this Df would be a great addition to my camera collection. That said I also believe that the price point is not worth it since it is in the same market value as the D800e the 36megapixel FX sensor would pull me towards it. Still the retro styling is a winner and I'm certain it will be a huge hit in the Nikon world. Thank You for a great article Darrell

Dr. Laura Twining (Marmion4) on November 9, 2013

Fabulous info and great details. Superb! Thanks Darrell. Look forward to seeing test images. Laura

Michael Berner (zoommb) on November 9, 2013

I am definitely a Nikon bigot. My first was an F Photomic FTn in 1974. Since then I have collected a total of 32 others (though my wife will tell you that 6 of them are hers), all are in mint condition except the S which is only excellent. I love the looks of this camera and the reduced weight compared to my other D Nikons. Mine is on order; just gotta have it.

John Dillon (JRDPHOTOG) on November 8, 2013

The interesting side of this camera for me is simplicity - I have been a professional photog for many years and have used many models of camera from Nikon, Canon and Leica. For me, I think this camera will be an asset in my daily work (photojournalistic) because of what Nikon has intended it for - the photog has control and it is without features guys like me have no use for. I am not being critical of other Nikon bodies. One of my daily cameras of today is a D600 that in my opinion is hard to beat. If I lived another hundred years, I still would not have used all of the functions... I look forward to getting my hands on a Df to make the final decision. Thanks for the info!

Tom Allen (moonshiner) on November 8, 2013

For all the naysayers about the Df, the ONE feature that will be a selling point for me, is the one about all Nikon lenses are adaptable. Like one of the posting here about "a hockey sock full of old Nikon lenses", would identify me I guess. I worked on the street as a photojournalist for 44 years, retiring in 2004 and have accumulated every lens from 8MM to 600MM f.4 and all in between. After retirement I placed all in seven cabinets in my basement with shelves and purchased a point and shoot camera for... kids,grand kids,etc. Having not adjusted well to the absence of a tray of hypo or a fresh batch of E-4 chemistry needed to complete an assignment, I felt uncomfortable trying to adapt to digital photography. NOW......the Df is an absolute joy to see and I will step out of retirement at age 75 and get clicking again. Thanks NIKON ps, One of the reasons,I stayed with Nikon's through the years was the fact they stayed with the same bayonet flange on bodies from my 1959 Nikon F-1 through my Nikon F-5's in 2004. Every year friends of mine using Canon's would shell out big bucks each time Canon decided to bring out a new camera line and change the lens mounts where last years model lenses won't fit this years model. Nikon never did that. Thanks again NIKON

John Denning (jdenning) on November 8, 2013

I have been wanting a camera like this for years. Santa please... :)

Robert Leonardi (RobLeo) on November 8, 2013

Of course I meant D4-sensor, not lens.

Robert Leonardi (RobLeo) on November 8, 2013

This camera is now on top of my wish list. I was waiting for a small D800 with a D4-lens, and this is it. Having grown up with manual film camera this is my "hood".

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on November 8, 2013

Seems to be a great camera Darrell. Looking forward holding one and trying it out. Let me know how you like yours when you have one.

Randy Nevers (Eagle IL) on November 8, 2013

Great article Darrell. I can appreciate the enthusiasts remembering old times with this camera, but personally, I wish that Nikon would have had their engineers working on a replacement for the D300S. What average person is going to spend this much money on this camera. The DF is aimed at a very narrow market. Based on a lot of the forums I have been in, a D400 type camera with 8-10fps, 16-24mp and better NR would be a real sought after camera. Doesn't that make more sense than releasing something like this, for nostalgia purposes?

Jerry LoSardo (JerryLoSardo) on November 7, 2013

Sorry to be my usual negative self, but I have to agree with Richard Walliker and Peter Geran. I have no interest whatsoever in shelling out $2750 for a camera that has less versatility than my $1200 D7100 just because it's a cool-looking novelty. I really don't understand why everyone is gushing over this model.

Harry Frank (hfrank) on November 7, 2013

The old mechanical controls are in my DNA. Even after moving to a D100, I carried my FM2--right up to the time that my stock agencies stopped accepting as "too noisey" Velvia photos digitized with Nikon's top-of-the-line digitizer. But, this is like one of the super cars (BMW McClaren, etc.) where you get charged thousands of dollars to have things like air conditioning, radios, and seats removed for the bragging rights to their "racing" model.

Peter Geran (gearsau) on November 7, 2013

You realize that the list price in Japan is Yen 278,000 or Australian $2,970. US$ 2,815.

Peter Geran (gearsau) on November 7, 2013

I will pass on this. No interest at all. Now, if they bought out a D4S with 2 card slots that are identical, I would purchase one.

Nathan Ginsbury (Ginsbury) on November 7, 2013

Great article, Darrell. I put in my order for a Df the day it was announced - NAS reigns supreme around here - and was able to feel confirmed in that decision by your enthusiasm. Keep up the good work, Nathan

Richard Walliker (richardd300) on November 7, 2013

Hmm! I have no desire to put a damper on proceedings, but... No built in flash, one card slot, no video capability! I wouldn't say it's versatile as for travel all three of these may be viewed as essential. I have never used video, but many do. The card slot issue is poor, no way of ensuring an in camera backup. No way of taking a picture where flash is required unless via high ISO or carrying a speedlight. Price tag. More than a D800E, £1000 more than a D610, but less functionality. Sorry, but it's style v substance, but in this case style wins. As I've said I feel this is a D800 in a party dress, but unfortunately most of the vital components to make the party swing were left at home! Richard

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell) on November 7, 2013

Ron Boon, Yes, Mastering the Nikon Df will be available, same as all NikoniansPress books, in print and the major ebooks formats on Amazon.com, OReilly.com, and Apple.com (iTunes). Also, at Barnes & Noble (Nook). Thanks!

Scott Ebright (sebright) on November 7, 2013

And with a 16-GB or 32-GB SD card, you won't have to remove the leather case every 36 shots.

audrey gillian braddock (gbraddo) on November 7, 2013

Thanks Darrel! Great article and what a camera. It's not long since I bought my long awaited D800E but this is Df worth going without shoes for. I can see it as paired with the D800E very nicely, anyway I don't own a D4 and now I am glad. You have another book to write. Cheers

René Ramirez (zerimar) on November 6, 2013

Great article Darrel. I was quite fixed in buying a D800 but now am considering the Df due to its ISO range, reasonable size and weight , and retro look. Looking forward to more articles and your book, hopefully in ebook format too.

Garrett Hayes (Garrett Hayes) on November 6, 2013

As usual, an excellent review. Well done As an old timer with Nikon cameras going back to 1968 and was really looking forward to this camera. But alas, in Ireland this is selling at Euro 3350.00 or US 4500.00!! I am afraid that this outside my price range. I will just have to carry on with my D800 and D700 & D300!!

George Zullich (Sawfish) on November 6, 2013

Unless to have a hockey sock full of old F mount lenses in the attic and are a confirmed retrograde whats the point?

Reza Gorji (gorji) on November 6, 2013

Thank you Darrell. Great article.

Chris Thomason (King Nothing) on November 6, 2013

That was an excellent article Darrell. I'm glad that it was so positive too. It seems like people excited about this camera are few and far between. Most of the commentary I've come across has been negative and nitpicky. I don't know if this is the camera for me. I'll have to have a hands on with it because the controls are so different from every other dslr I've had. But it's definitely interesting.

Mike Banks (unclemikey) on November 6, 2013

Very informative Darrell. I just finished reading you D7100 book for the forth time. I am now so comfortable with that Nikon I'm busting trying to decide what to do about Df. What I'm really concerned about is...will the Df be the beta model (?) for another to come? I'm running out of space in the camera safe.

Steve Housley (VJH) on November 6, 2013

Now Nikon has a camera for every possible niche. But I wonder, the sensors are getting so good that another full frame seems like overkill. I couldn't help but wonder if the Df is designed to irritate Olympus and their OMD. Nikon, by actual count, has 48 cameras available and Costco is running out of space to display them. My first Nikon digital was a 5700 and then I caught the NAS and my local camera guy cleaned up on me. Then the bodies started coming much too fast for my pocketbook, I lost interest and finally kicked the habit. I don't think young NAS enthusiasts will be attracted to this "old guys" camera but I might just bite.

Ron Boon (RonBoon) on November 6, 2013

Darrell Superb article. Will your Df book be available for download to iBooks through the Apple store Thanks Ron

N. Kent Lewis P. (nkcllewis) on November 6, 2013

Mirrorless is the way of the future; plain and simple. There are too many benefits to mirrorless technology. I didn't know what I was missing until I complimented my D600 system with the mirrorless Sony NEX 6 with APS-C chip (exact same chip as the D7000). The quality of handheld images with a mirrorless system is amazing.

John D. Roach (jdroach) on November 6, 2013

While I like many things about the camera and would not say no if one was given to me, I am in the same camp as Dieter (dhege). Nikon needs to look more at the competition and needs of many. The more I think about the camera market place, my love for Nikons, I keep hoping for the right solution in the Mirrorless area and then I might save for such a future for the right Nikon for travel that is mirror less, full frame or DX, with a couple of neat interchangeable lens. Then I would save, I would have to do a lot of convincing to my spouse, even then, given the NAS that visited me during the past few years. The most recent being the D800.

Lyle Ball (iamunique127) on November 6, 2013

HI Darrell Thanks for your write-up of the new Df without any whining or complaining. I appreciate the positive outlook. Admittedly I am drawn to the looks of the camera as it mirrors the FE in my camera cabinet but I also like the specs much more than those of the D610 or D800. I suspect there will be many who want a good, moderate-mega pixel camera like I do. Plus, using my legacy lenses will sure be a bonus.

KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on November 6, 2013

Wow, I love it, I am a nut for Nikons and started way back in the early 60's with my Nikon F, FE, FE2, FG and F6 (still have-em all) in mint condition. Then came the digital world with the D700 (my workhorse and best friend) and now the D800. Oh, I almost forgot my little friend in the pocket (24/7), the little Nikon V1. I try to always have a camera on me so I might get that once in a lifetime shot, you know! O.K. now this new baby pokes it's head out of the box and "Shazam", I'm in love again with a brand-new child in the family. Gunna be hard to hang back on this one, I never shoot movies, and always shoot manual 99% of the time, twas the way I learned photography. I remember my photog instructor telling us to frame and make EVERY shot count. I still shoot that-a-way today with digital. Bottom line folks, I'm gunna get one and make it part of the family. Thanks Darrell, I'll be watchen ya! :-) R/Kent M Whitney The PhotogDog

Steve S Johnson (sskauai) on November 6, 2013

I will be getting this camera for "street photgraphy". It`s expensive but for a sensor this good I`m not surprised. Great news!

Richard Hulbert (rhulbert) on November 6, 2013

Hi Darrell, I ordered my Df yesterday. I am thinking it will be fun to use and when it comes to "street" photography, it will be a great magnet for conversation. :) I am also thinking to use it for one on one teaching for my Academy Workshops. Looking forward to your book!

Dieter K.E. Hege (dhege) on November 6, 2013

They better would have spent that money and effort into more future-oriented products and stay ahead/or follow up to competition. from my point of view unbelievable to make such a move. Does Nikon needs more ideas where to go?

Dr. Laura Twining (Marmion4) on November 6, 2013

Thanks Darrell! I am tempted, only because I never had a Nikon film camera, I am fhrilled with my D800E, but would love a sturdier back up than my 600. Exciting for those who did not want video on your DSLR, look forward to seeing results. Appreciate all you share with the Nikon Community. Laura

George Butterfield (Gbutterf1) on November 6, 2013

Looks like a very interesting camera, I agree totally with your comment where you look at your old Nikon cameras I must admit that I still look at my F4s and think of the many hours that I spent using it. High on my wish list would be a digital conversion that I could just replace the back of this much loved camera. Thanks for an informative write up .

Laine Wright (twowheels) on November 6, 2013

I just retired recently and have been putting dollars into my house however, after reading your article, which I enjoyed and can also relate to, AND seeing those pics, I feel NAS starting . . . . again! Thanks, Darrell, for keeping us posted. Laine

Mark Wolfe (MrSpock2013) on November 6, 2013

Hi Darrell: When will your Df book be ready? Looking forward to it! Mark

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell) on November 6, 2013

Please excuse the few typos in this article. I wrote it at 3 am the day the camera was released so that it would be ready for you the following morning. However, I'm sure you will be able to sense my enthusiasm for this amazing camera.

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