About two months ago, I posted a highly controversial post called The Nikon Df Represents Everything Wrong With Photography. Even though I completely stand behind my original article, I began to wonder if I had not given Nikon's newest DSLR offering a fair chance. Today I decided to take the Nikon Df out into the real world and not only test it's photographic capabilities, but also hear what normal people had to say about it.
I'm going to let me video speak for itself, but I did find the Nikon Df camera to have some strengths and weaknesses. In no particular order, here are some of the pros and cons after playing with the camera for a few days.
Overall Styling: This is the most noticeable change and definitely the most controversial aspect of this camera. I however do really love the way this camera looks aesthetically.
The Sensor: It's a Nikon D4 sensor for half the price of the real thing. The image quality is amazing, but not necessarily better than the D800 once you convert the D800's 36 megapixels down to same 16 megapixels found in the D4.
No Video: I know some photographers don't care about video but it does not cost any extra to include it. If this camera was truly a vacationer's dream, then video should be an important feature to include.
Confusing Buttons: As noted in the video, sometimes exposure controls are associated with the retro knobs and other times they are associated with standard rotating "digital" knobs. But what really makes little sense is when aperture and shutter control is mixed with both button varieties. It's way more confusing than any film or digital camera Nikon has ever put out.
New Battery: Yep this takes yet another battery. The En-EL14a is smaller which is nice but not at the expense of having to buy another battery when I have already invested heavily in the universal EN-EL15.
Slow Focus: While the Df has the same Nikon D4 sensor, it definitely does not have the same lightening fast focusing. I guess if you really wanted to "slow down" your photo taking experience then you'd just manually focus but from my field test the focusing seemed slower at times than the Nikon D600 or D7000 I used to own.
Camera Size: This may or may not be a negative thing for the average user but I assumed this was going to be a small pocket sized camera that I could easily travel with. It's not. It's basically the same size as the D600 but it doesn't have the full hand grip on the side so it's incredibly uncomfortable for me to hold. If you have small hands you may like it though.
The Retro Look: The thing that has been overlooked so far is that there are no retro styled lenses out for this camera. Sure it comes with the retro 50mm 1.8 lens, but the second you replace that lens with a newer Nikon 24-70, 70-200, or any other G lens, the whole system looks rather strange and out of place. Maybe Nikon really only ever envisioned Df users using the 50mm or older non AI and non AF lenses, but I'm sure most any real traveling photographer is going to want a wider lens and probably some sort of small telephoto. Once you place one of those lenses on this camera, the whole illusion of the retro look is completely removed.
As expected the Nikon Df takes great pictures, but honestly, all new DSLRs these days do. The camera has an appealing look that the average person, and I, really do like. If this camera was less than $1000 and was smaller I think it would be a massive success for amateurs and pros alike but it's 3 grand. For 3 grand you can get the highest rated DSLR of all time, the D800. If you were only going to own 1 camera, I'd have to recommend the D800.
I think the Nikon Df camera is going to find its way into the homes of wealthy photographers who have a collection of gear, old and new. The Df is a very good camera, it's just a little too slow, and a bit too uncomfortable for it to be considered a standard "pro" camera. That doesn't mean you can't take professional images with it. It simply means that I don't think droves of professionals will be throwing their D800s and D4s out anytime soon to make the Df their main camera.
I will end this post with a quote from my previous, extremely controversial post because I still stand by what I said:
"I’m honestly really excited that Nikon is doing something “different” but at the same time I would hate to see this camera, which I believe in many ways is a massive step backwards, become the best selling “pro” camera simply because it looks cool. We buy things every day because of the way they make us feel and that’s fine. I believe this camera will bring a lot of people a lot of joy. I just don’t want you to forget that we are supposed to enjoy photography, and not just being fashionable photographers."