A Response on the Nikon Df Distaste, and Thoughts to Consider

A Response on the Nikon Df Distaste, and Thoughts to Consider

What ever happened to loving a camera for the camera? Why does everything we buy have to fill a utilitarian hole? What happened to a love for the craft and as much as for the tool? There has been a lot of chatter around the Nikon Df and if we as photographers need it. It's gone so far as to suggest that it represents all that is wrong with photography these days. I want to argue the opposite. I want to argue it represents what many of us have lost as photographers: joy in the craft.

The theme of Lee's article of distaste stemmed from the question of use and features and business growth. I don't think that's what Nikon envisioned with this camera. Watch those Df teaser videos again. You'll notice the man isn't in a studio. He isn't at a wedding. He isn't posing a model or a couple. He is wandering a beautiful space and capturing moments that mean something to him. This is not accidental. Nikon knows what they want this camera to do and did their best to express that in short videos.

This is a walk about camera for camera and photography lovers. It bears a design that is reminiscent of what many of us shot our first images on. It reminds us why we started shooting to begin with and pushes us to find that part ourselves again.

I might shoot with my iPhone a lot, but that doesn't mean the photographer in me shuts off. I look at the pictures and still find myself wishing for better dynamic range or a higher quality image. I can't help it. This is also the case in the cameras Olympus, Samsung, Sony and others make (with the exception of the new Sony full frame which I have not yet shot on). The Df won't have that problem. I can shoot what I like shooting, shooting for myself and not a client, and also love the image quality. I rarely shoot video on my iPhone, so it's a feature I won't miss in a walk-about camera. I don't know how to shut off the video man in me, and I won't be shooting without the right gear, which I sure as heck won't be toting around Scotland when I'm walking around with my Df.

--

"Ask any photographer their earliest memory of photography, every one of them will have a different yet impactful story. In all of our careers, there is a moment, not the one that deals with being a professional photographer, but one far more simplistic. It is the moment when we fall in love with photography.

"Like any relationship, photography is a journey. There will be times when we struggle through the feelings that we have lost our creative visions. However, there is balance in times that we feel the clarity from producing imagery that matches your mind’s eye."

-Blair Bunting on the Nikon Df

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This isn't a camera to grow your business. This isn't your second or third wedding body. This isn't your do-it-all camera. This is the "grow yourself" camera. This is a gift to yourself for a job well done. This is a camera to remind you why you are a photographer.

I may love the 5D MKIII or my 70D, but I love them in a "gets it done" kind of way. I would enjoy the Df in an "inspires me to love my craft again" sort of way.

Those of you hating the price for lack of features, quit looking at this camera from the perspective that it needs to be something it was never intended to be. Try and look at it as the answer to a problem you long forgot ever existed. Look for it to be the partner for when you need to get away, the camera that can be there as a physical reminder of why you picked up a camera in the first place.

--

"I see plenty of people complaining about the lack of video, the high price tag, the fact that it isn't designed like a normal, modern DSLR. I think this camera is not for you. It's not meant to be a second body for weddings. It's not designed to shoot corporate videos with your slider. This, is a pleasure camera.

"A 5D or D800 with big proper lenses is a bit like a pick-up truck or a van. Great for work, but not so nice to go for a spin on the weekend. This camera is a Porsche. I want a Porsche. I want it to look good. I want it to be a bit different than my Monday-Friday camera.

"This camera isn't for everyone. It wasn't designed for everyone. I see a lot of comments that are similar to people who hate Apple for making beautiful things that cost more than ugly things. You can drive your Pontiac Aztek, I'll pay a bit more for an Audi."

-Comment from ParisShooter on Fstoppers

--

Love the tool as much as the craft, and you might find yourself a much happier person. It sucks when a love becomes work. It can be hard to go back on the studio or with your eyes glued to a monitor for hours on end, editing. The Nikon Df wants you to be able to get away from that for a while without giving up the love for taking pictures.

That's what it aspires to, and whether it actually succeeds at that aspiration is eventually up to you, the purchaser. But the price point tells you this isn't a general consumer camera. It's not meant to be a "hipster" body or go against popular vintage looking Fuji or Olympus bodies. It's a different animal entirely.

I expect to catch quite a bit of flak for this opinion, and that's ok. Much like the Df, I stand for something whether or not it's fully understood by everyone. What actually matters is that these opinions and my purpose matter to me. In the end, isn't that what is important to all of us?

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140 Comments
Marlon's picture

'I may love the 5D MKIII or my 70D, but I love them in a “gets it done” kind of way. I would enjoy the Df in an “inspires me to love my craft again” sort if way.'

I love that. I'm a Canon shooter and I'm really jealous of this camera. I liken it to buying a 1969 Mustang rather than a brand new Porsche; maybe it's missing the bells-and-whistles and you might have paid a bit too much for it, but it's about how it makes you feel.

So if you pay $3000 dollars and it inspires you take this out for a walk and capture some snaps without thinking if the client will like it, or if it will look nice in an album, then I suppose it serves its purpose.

Daniel Moore's picture

Great response Marlon. Just like Fuji and when the x100 came out, it's back to basics when shooting becomes fun again. And non-photographers love asking about the camera when you are photographing them because it looks different from what they are used too (plastic DSLRS) which in turn helps break the ice on a shoot. But this is the internet everyone loves a good debate, I like it and no one should be slated for liking it.

Jeff Ladrillono's picture

The big difference is that the X100 offers something the DSLRs don't, that leaf shutter lens and the ability to sync flashes to high shutter speeds.

I understand the X100s and why I use it as a tool to make images that I have a harder time making with DSLRs, but this camera just doesn't offer anything my current DSLRs can't handle.

To be honest, the X100s is my favorite camera to shoot with right now. If I don't need the speed of a DSLR, i'm shooting the X.

PanMarian's picture

X100s also offers only one lens, and if you shooting portraits it's not the camera for you. Leaf shutter or not.

dusko pilic's picture

completely agree ^

Mark Schueler's picture

That's the thing, though--it's not missing ANY bells and whistles, other than video. It's not stripped down at all, it's just pretending to be, which is even worse IMHO.

Covet whatever you want, but $3000 would buy you a helluva trip to some scenery you could shoot with a manual film camera... you know, if you *really* want to get back to "pure photography."

Peter Lai's picture

People say they would rather buy this and would rather buy that. But for those who already own a ton of gear for work, we want something else like the Df. I mean, look at Michael Schumacher. He drives an F1 when he races for sure, but when he doesn't, he drives a Fiat 500. Same thing!

Zach Ashcraft's picture

Could not agree more with this article. I definitely resonated with much of it. Love my 5d3, but hate carrying it plus a zoom lens around the streets. Its pain on my wrists and neck! I do however ove putting a 50 or 24mm on my Nikon and roaming the streets or woods. Helps me to slow down and really see my surroundings as opposed to snapping a photo and moving on to the next thing.

earl.dieta's picture

why not put a 50mm or 24mm on your 5D3 then. how's this Df or any other Nikon helping you any better than your Canon?

Peter Lai's picture

Because the Df is more fun? And you can't put a price tag on fun?

earl.dieta's picture

how's the Df more fun than the 5DIII?
if i wanted to shoot with a different experience I would rather get a mirrorless camera or even a Leica.

Spy Black's picture

For the same reason the Fuji X100 is fun. It's a different ball of wax.

Lee Morris's picture

Thank you for writing a thoughtful response. I agree 100% with everything you said. Obviously my article was a bit harsh to get my point across but those people who actually finished it realized that I wasn't mad at the camera, I was mad at the current trendiness of being a photographer.

This camera may be trendy but I buy trendy things all the time. I may even buy into this trend. I was simply trying to point out that we shouldn't focus on what's fashionable and forget about actual photography

Jaron Schneider's picture

Amen! And I think what Nikon wanted to do was make us focus on it again.

Gay Martini's picture

nikon want´s to make money you clown... period.

Daniel Hine's picture

I think Nikon is trying to push its company as more photography-based, as opposed to Canon which tries to be up there in video. That's just my thoughts, and this camera seems to embody that

Von Wong's picture

Here's an angry blog post to your Df bashing - http://www.lighting-essentials.com/whats-wrong-with-photography-nothing-...

Some interesting points that Jaron could also bring in on this post if you guys are curious to check it out

Lee Morris's picture

Man that was really angry. I couldn't finish it

Jaron Schneider's picture

Lot of fire in it, that's for sure.

Von Wong's picture

yeah it was angry. I only skimmed through it to get to the end. It was pretty intense

Anonymous's picture

It matched the elitist tone of your original article with angriness though Lee.

We all know that post was designed to generate clicks, but the Title was horrible. A camera is NEVER what is wrong with Photography... The attitudes surrounding the equipment are.

Photography being a trend is what it is. But the price excludes all but the more serious amateur and hobbyist photographers out there.

Jozef Povazan's picture

An anger is sometimes necessary to show people that you actually care about something, Lee. I read your article and I read this guy reply to it, and he got you to the corner in my opinion. His arguments are pretty solid and if you really did not finish it reading yet, you might be missing a nice look into a mirror. You encouraged readers in your article right at the beginning of it to try to finish it so they do not see you as a hater of Nikon...' Well the same way if you look at his post reply which is addressed to you personally I think you might learn a bit how other people see you and your opinion on this. Everyone loves to be told how good he is, but it takes guts to look at a critique from someone who does not agree with you for some reason. I read posts from both of you and I felt yours bashing statement left me with really cold feelings in my mind. If you really read slowly your lines, you will find yourself trapped in arrogant tone of a person who assumes he is right about everything he said there, but honestly when compared to the other story from http://www.lighting-essentials.com/whats-wrong-with-photography-nothing-..., in my eyes you lost it big way there. This does not mean for me to stop coming to FS for news or good info. There are some great posts you guys have here, but this one is not the case in my opinion. You have a power to influence thousands which is great. But sometimes you remind me Yahoo - pull a story of something, give it an aggressive title to show up high in the feeds and get maximum out of it in clicks and social media to showcase your other work which might be better than the stated post on its own. Such e.g. this yesterday post ! Just my opinion, so thanks for the good stuff and good luck with the next posts! JP

Kyle W's picture

That article over on lighting essentials does not deserve a response. It's written at about a 6th grade level. You are a nikon fanboy.

Eric Arnold's picture

sorry but the other reviewer is right. that was a terrible article, lee. just poorly written, just to provoke controversy by taking a faux "con" position. maybe you should stick to photography. if you're not mad at the camera, why imply you are in the headline? writing was so much better before bloggers thought any trite thing they scribbled was the word of God.

Mathias Elmeskog's picture

Why should a person not express his or her opinion based on their langue skills? You do it without the use of capital letters or correct langue. I feel that when you red the headline you felt that it was good with an article that expressed you opinion, but then got angry because it did not.

Then you play the judge stating "...the other reviewer is right." claiming there is a right answer and then "... thought any trite thing they scribbled was the word of God.". Come on, even you must see this?!

In the end its just a fu**ing camera, buy it or not. Buy and use what inspires you, why should someone even reflect over what camera, car or sex toys someone prefers.

Eric Arnold's picture

mathias, the article was disingenuous and misleading, as well as being rather sensationalist -- which is a cheap ploy. ive read other commentaries which were much more professional and non-contradictory. why are you even defending the author's right to write a piece of crapola? ps, what is "langue"?

Richard Neal's picture

It seems to me that he was more bothered about Lee than the camera....

Jr Miller's picture

I agree with some parts of his article...although he's a touch indelicate.

I'm no fan of the "styling" bs that manufacturers are using as yet another marketing ploy but the only people who seem upset about the new camera are "professional" photographers.

Jr Miller's picture

Yes, he thinks Lee is an arrogant elitist.

Tara Lundrigan's picture

I loved your article. I, personally, think it's silly to claim that going back to an old school layout, on a digital camera, will bring back "soul" into photography, or make it pure again. I like the separation between film bodies, and digital bodies. I like going to my old film cameras, for that feel and that button layout - and because I shoot Canon it's actually really easy to navigate around my DSLR compared to Nikon.

The fact that they took away so many features, makes me really dislike the price of $3000. Because of that, you are literally paying for the look of the camera. Yesss, it looks amazing...but if I want to pick up a camera like that, I have film cameras already. I don't have to, and honestly can't afford to drop $3000 on a camera, that doesn't even compare to the DSLR I already have.

Spy Black's picture

It's a sales pitch. Unfortunately it's more expensive than I can afford now, but this is the digital camera I wanted in the first place. I spend decades with an F and F2 and I'm not too fond of little dials to set shutter and aperture. I know most younger people today can't relate to that, but this camera really isn't aimed at you.

Chester A. Arthur's picture

I think the problem is that the article was very harsh in tone and that harshness didn't help to get your point across.

In the end, the point of your article isn't very well stated. For example, you summarize in this comment by saying that you were "mad at the current trendiness of being a photographer." Putting aside the impropriety of using the DF as an effigy to beat on for characterizing a trend that it doesn't actually characterize, I don't feel like you got to the meat of your thoughts in your article. A lot of us read all the way through your article and, by the end, it did seem you were mad at the camera...albeit with anger that should have been placed toward some sort of consumer/photographic trend that you didn't fully describe.

I think if you went back to the thoughts that prompted you to write the article and focused on those, rather than any one specific camera, you'd turn out an article that a lot of readers of this site would empathize with.

And, really, if you're going to set up a specific camera as an effigy, the DF isn't the appropriate one. The stated intent of it is to strip out gewgaws, automation, and post-production filtering and return to "true photography." Yeah, that's pompous and perhaps over-romanticized to many, but the camera, truly, has a lot of gewgaws, automation, and post-production filtering stripped out.

It's not just a cosmetic retro design. If a dilettante buys this, he's going to have to learn how to use it "properly," without an Intelligent Auto mode to "enhance" his lack of ability to engage in "actual photography."

Lee Morris's picture

You're right. I definitely didn't do a good job of explaining myself. I knew what I was writing would stir up some conversation but it ended up stirring up a lot of anger. Thanks for making a logical rebuttal.

TOR's picture

Talk about kicking on a certain group of photographers already lying down. I need proper shutter and aperture dials to be able to work properly. I used a hand held light meter. I work slow. So I am very happy about the Df. Finally a digital camera for me.

So when this camera comes along which happens to add proper dials (never mind the looks) then the internet is full of people like you who attack choice. You attack a trend of simplifying controls that seemingly goes against your own ideas of what a good camera is. It is just really low. All you article aims to to is bait clicks and hate. And I hope you know it somewhere inside although I'm sure your arrogance probably keeps such reflection away. Good luck with whatever camera that fits you sir.

August Young's picture

I concur.. I dont believe in trendy cameras either.. in fact thats why this one is my next camera... its FILM!! booyahh..

http://araxfoto.com/cameras/gallery/cm_se_xrom_red.jpg

Spy Black's picture

This is a riot!

chris pilling's picture

a kiev 88cm with red tape on it? hahaha thats awesome. i have one, meh...

John P's picture

It's an ironic stance you are taking, Lee, as the "trendiness of being a photographer" is precisely the reason you have been a success personally with this website.

Hank's picture

hahahaha fail!

Abel Wilson's picture

Perhaps Lee, I might be the only one who isn't "mad" at you for having an opinion.
I don't agree with your opinions on Micro 4/3rd cameras, but I do agree with the over all gist of your article.
The DF is what is wrong with Photography these days. The rest of F-Stoppers goes to prove it

I've been reading the comments over here and what everyone is focussing on is how they are looking at this as a "vacation" camera. "OMG It is a Nikon FF that looks so Gorgeous! I bet I can take great pictures and look cool with it!"

If you've stopped loving photography because its become a job, you don't need a new camera, you need a new perspective, you need to challenge yourself in a brand new way, or go shoot something different. It doesn't matter which tool you use, it is how you use it and what you use it for.

My problem with the DF isn't the fact that it doesn't do video. (I never shoot video in my camera) It isn't the design (I actually love it the entire retro look I wish I had it for myself) I dislike the camera itself for the fact that Nikon is making you pay $3000 for a design.

My first SLR was a Yashica FX-2000. It's a manual film camera that my Dad used to own. What I loved most about it was that everything had to set manually and it made you think about the process. The best part was, even in my Dad's time it was a relatively inexpensive camera and it looked gorgeous. For me, that was the "Pure Photography" experience because what you had in front of you was a tool and it was up to YOU on how you used it, there were no fall back "P,A, S" modes. Everything was "M"
Taking a good picture on that camera, talked more about your skill as a photographer more than what the camera could do.

I've waited years for a company to come out with a camera that would bring that experience back. I wanted a camera that was fully manual like my Yashica, with all of it's knobs and dials, but at the same time, I wanted it to be priced the same way as well.
All I wanted was my Yashica to have a digital back to store my pictures digitally and also so that I could review them after shooting.

The Nikon DF spoils all of with it's price because they are basically cheating you. I would have had more respect if they released the DF for a price between $1500 - $2000, so that photographers interested in having the "Pure Photography" experience could actually afford it. You're paying exactly what you've asked for. If you want more features like PASM, more focal points, etc. You pay more.

This isn't like buying a vintage car, a Vintage car has history to it. This is like Ford releasing a car which "looks and feels" like the Shelby Mustang 1969, but doing it in 2013 for the same price as their other premium line up.
You're not paying for a premium price for a car with premium features, you're paying a premium price for a look and design of what was actually considered to be a VERY well performing car, but without bells and whistles that raise it's price. (Thats what Muscle Cars are supposed to be, right?)

And as for Jaron, when you said that you find yourself longing for a Nikon/Canon while shooting with a Fuji/Sony/Olympus, I realized that the Nikon DF is just for you. Either that or perhaps your sponsors were not happy with that last article.

jniz22's picture

CURRENT trendiness? I feel like it has been trendy for quite a while…

Picking up a camera makes you a photographer. DOING something with it and making it your own is what, in my opinion, sets you apart.

And bashing film isn't fair. I shoot both. Film has allowed me to take a step back and think more… and shoot some sexy ass leica/zeiss lenses. Can't argue that. Can't do it!!! :P

Willie Fagan's picture

Your last paragraph above is questionable.
It is most definitely not the idea I got when reading your article.

The tone of the article was judgemental indeed. Because someone likes the look of a car, a house, a suit of clothes, a painting, a piece of furniture or day I say, a camera, does not necessarily mean that their choice is invalid - just because you think that they should decide simply on function.

Let anyone buy what they want.

No, you weren't mad at the camera - hard to believe - but rather, you were mad and judgemental toward anyone who has the temerity to chose whatever they want, for whatever reason they want.

Who cares about 'the trendiness of being a photographer" ?

What an arrogant statement that is.

Anyone has the right to be a photographer. Let them try, let them succeed, let them fail.

Why does that really matter to you?

Recant and back peddle if you like, but your original article speaks volumes indeed. Perhaps just not the way you would like it to be remembered.

Have a very nice day, and whatever you use - trendy or not - enjoy it and the creative work.

Blair Bunting's picture

To a pro photographer, the Df does not represent a camera. The Df represents the vacation from our camera that will make returning to it less of a job.

Aditya Mendiratta's picture

I second that. My Nikon D800 seems like that 9to5 Job while the Nikon Df seems like the passion i'd die for.

Ryan Bartels's picture

My EX-1 does that for me. D4 for athletics, D800 for studio, Fuji for everything else.

Khiem Tran's picture

Are you saying pros shouldn't have passion when doing the job? Why cant you use a tool you love and have passion for to grow your business as well.

Marlon's picture

Sometimes when I'm shooting a 200 piece jewelry catalogue I don't have passion for the photography after the 10th piece. That's just how it goes.

This is the type of camera I'd love to take on vacation. I was just in the Middle East and I would have loved to have had this in the markets, carefully selecting my setting with the dials and feeling the grip and getting a feeling for it.

Khiem Tran's picture

Right, i am just saying that this camera is very capable atshooting professional works as well. I would love to have this replace my D600. When I need a walk or get inspired, I rather take the Leica and shoot film.

stan chung's picture

I like your answer- My D7000 is the workhorse, The Df the came I want to to be reminded of as a student.

Matt Dutile's picture

If you want a true vacation go pick up a solid medium format film kit at Keh for a fraction of the cost... a vast different experience actually shooting film than shooting digital with a camera that has a film body look.

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