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.

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"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.

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"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

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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

Previous comments

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.

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."

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.

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.

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

This is a riot!

chris pilling's picture

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

That was exactly what I was thinking. In all reality, the Df isn't that different from most DSLRs. A medium format system would change up the workflow so much more.

Unfortunately there are no more quality medium format scanners (don't try to mention the Plustek please). Film is fun but sharing your images involves digitizing them.

Also the spec sheets suggests that this is a very VERY competent camera that a pro photographer can also take to work. So it's actually a mixture of work and pleasure!

The question is, does it really have to be the overpriced Df? There are plenty of other cameras out there which can be your vacation camera. Much lighter and smaller as well for those trip vacations.

Time to switch over to the dark side fstoppers

still and idiotic camera for ... well.....

are you 14?

What you appear to be arguing in theory seems to be what many photographers are actually experiencing with the Fuji X-Series. Look at how they are described by the big names like Hobby & Arias as well as the everyday users and it is all about rediscovering the joy of photography in a body which doesn't seem to make sense from a commercial standpoint on the surface (although some have found that they do work) but the way the camera works, and yes - looks, paired with the image quality bring back a certain tactile joy of just using a camera for fun. I'd say that is very much the market Nikon seem to be going for with this.

Mike Yamin's picture

Nice article. There's been so much whining in the forums about the Df, and it's fine to not like the camera, but I'm astounded by how many people don't "get" it. I feel like saying "are you a photographer or just a photo technician?" I mean, why do people buy Leicas? Why do people buy Ferraris or even BMWs over a Kia? It's because for some people, cameras, like cars, are not just for getting from A to B.

Adam T's picture

I agree with the article but I think the conditions for an accurate interpretation of a lot of distaste for the system is compared to the companies customer base and it's lack of integrating in the smart consumer.

With the announcement of competitive camera just a few weeks ago, with essentially more power and options at a cheaper cost, allows us to believe that Nikon does not think one will simply switch over on their new line at a compared rate of move from the standard model.

The Educated Consumer-
When a company pulls features, the expectations of the consumer feels that a compared pricing pull should also follow. A good example of this was when netflix lost 85% market share after the announcement of shifting services. By allowing a feature pull and a cost greater than next competitor the educated consumer and loyalist feel ripped off lead to believe there is a lack of respect toward them.

I'm sure there are people who would buy this just for the style as most gear heads do. As the article above states this camera is to serve a purpose for outdoor street photos with the feel of the old camera we all know and love and not to be anyones flagship pro camera. I couldn't agree more and that's why this camera will most likely fail. When switching from pro to purpose the main consumer now has more freedom from separation. If your not going to carry all your gear and lenses around then one is presented with the option of switching gear for a more optimal approach to suit their needs.
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In my opinion I would tell everyone not to buy any of these cool mirrorless cameras for another 6 months to a year until all the competition and options are out. If they like this camera and feel the need I'm sure by summer it will hundreds of dollars less to compete with the others.

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