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.

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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

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Ok, so remind me why this is so awesome or what ground breaking path this camera has paved? After moving to the Fuji systems, I find this a step in the right direction, but not a whole new direction in itself.

I own both the Fuji X100s (for sheer joy of photography and super duper handy) and the X-E1 (with a few lenses for some serious work).

The Nikon DF to me seems like the extremely expensive brother to an X-Pro1 or (to be fair as it has a full frame sensor) the Sony A7 (or A7r). Frankly, this doesn't super excite me after holding and using a fairly retro Fuji system.

If I had the money (or 10 times the money), sure I'd try this out.. but for the time being, my Fuji(s) do the job just fine, while still bringing a lot of joy into the game of photography.

When I first read Lee Morris' post, I realized that people like him are what wrong with photography, not the Nikon Df.

Then I read this post, I realize that this is silly as well. The camera is equipped with a flagship D4 sensor and more focus point than you ever need, and the dials are brilliant and faster than menus or nikon's two buttons approach to change settings.

Tell me why we can't have a tool we love and have passion for to grow our business? This doesn't have to be a vacation camera, or a passion camera, this can be your work camera. You can have passion during work you know? If you can do that, your work will get better.

It's a Hyundai with a Ferrari body kit selling at Ferrari prices. Nikon is selling you the fluff. If you want to get nostalgic about photography and craft, get a manual slr for a fraction of the price of this and shoot film.

They're just tools, use what you like. But, I'm not going to let someone repackage my youth and resell it to me at a premium price.

Besides, my love of image making was never tied to any particular tools. It came from the process of making images.

Yay! Finally someone who thinks like me. I am sooo tired of reading "it will make photography fun again" comments. When I hear that, I hear "I actually don't like my job"

I understand when people get burnt out though and don't like their job anymore. It happens, especially in the hustle to keep the lights on and you end up doing jobs just for the cash.

Sometimes, the only thing that makes photography fun again is walking away from it for a while.

Mark Schueler's picture

Couldn't agree with you more!

It is not a Hyundai with a Ferrari body selling at Ferrari prices. Get your facts straight before you post next time.

It's a largely re-wrapped D4. That is one HELL of a Hyundai! And if the wrapping is a Ferrari then it's a re-styled vintage GTO 250 and not an Enzo.

The D4 might be a good camera, but really, is it worth over twice the cost of a D600 body.

Don't get me wrong, I was really interested in this camera, but the innards do not excite me at all.

You're also missing the point that there's a whole legion of photographers out there like myself who do shoot a lot of film on much smaller, lighter, vintage cameras. But when it comes to digital if you want to shoot the equivalent frame size you're left will the oversized bulk and weight of the Canon 5D Mark IIIs of the world. Photographers that want a small everyday carry type of camera look to the Sony A7r, Nikon Df, or Leica M if you can afford it. Size MATTERS! And in this case the smaller the better in my opinion. This is a very positive step forward from Nikon.

Buy a Nikon D600 then and save yourself about $1500.

The way I understand it you're getting the guts of a D4 for half the price but lose a few features like video. I'm sure someone will write a memory card hack too. I personally pre-ordered the Sony A7r. The Nikon looks like a great manual camera which is how I like to shoot but the A7r is much smaller.

Yeah and the D4 is a great camera. But I can buy an A7R and 55mm for the price of the body, though the hybrid AF is on the A7 and that's probably enough pixels for me.

I'm going to shoot with Leica and Zeiss ZM's so the focusing wasn't a sales point for me. Lack of Anti-Aliasing filter and higher megapixel made the A7r the one for me. I do think Nikon didn't price this body aggressively enough, as in lower and more attainable. If they had bundled a lens and camera for 2200-2500 people would be singing their praises more.

Ahh, sounds like a nice set of primes. I believe Nikon use same sony in the D600 D610 as is in the A7 and the A7R is the sensor in the D800 probably.

The price point of the A7 bodies is excellent though the glass is very expensive

How about switching to film occasionally...maybe chase after old,used,rare,limited edition glasses from those years that remind you of when you fell in love with photography...I honestly can't find a reason why to pay all that money, going fake-retro,when you can do it properly instead..Plus in my personal opinion,photography is beyond the looks of any of its "tools",which,putting so much effort into choosing to buy,you can't simply stop loving whether their black canons,blue pentaxes or huge hasselblads ;p...

All of these comments make me really sad - so sad that an old school camera body will "make shooting fun again" for all of you. Shooting pictures has never, eveer, stopped being fun for me. Even in the most awkward or stressful situations, I am happy. Why?? Because I am doing what I love for a living....it has nothing to do with the camera.

At least you sound really satisfied with yourself. It has a lot to do with the camera. I am also a painter and let me tell you that it is very different to go from oil to acrylic to ink, different brushes, to paint on canvas, steel or wood et c. Any fine art photographer will tell you that the camera has massive impact on the flow of work and so on. It's very different to use a view camera and spend 25 minutes on a single frame, looking at your subject upside down, standing under that dark cloth looking at the huge glass. Very different from using a handheld snapshot camera like a modern dslr. It is very different to use different sets of buttons, feel them.

I feel sorry for you who don't seem to be sensitive to the world or the things you engage with. For me photography is a tactile affair. Touch matters immensely. I can't use so called modern cameras. I make horrible work with them. But I would never judge other people who love those types of cameras. When there finally is a proper tactile camera that many have longed for you think that the joy people express about that camera is sad. Really? Why not celebrate that there is now more choice? More people are happy? Or are you sad that there are people not like you who think differently?

What you said kinda throws me back to that "the camera shouldn't make the photographer" thing, somehow. It's like Nikon is trying to sell the idea that you should buy this thing in order to get in touch with your inner (and true) photographer. Seriously? lol By february they'll release a 2.0 version with 4k video and a coffee machine integrated.

I think the Nikon Df will make me fall in love with photography all over again. Or, it could serve as a serious workhorse camera for stills, and also at the same time, make me fall in love with photography all over again.

"I think the Nikon Df will make me fall in love with photography all over again." --> I dont see how you would Need a specific camera for that..

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

blah-blah-blah

Honestly for me, now I don't care which camera I use as long as they help me get the job done. They are like total tools that has no life. I shoot, I finish, I put it in the bag. I don't see them until before the next job and I DON'T want to see them until before the next job. But, looking at this camera, it made me feel like I want to see and hold it every day. Like the first time I first started before becoming a full time pro. And if Canon makes one too, I would seriously go for it too. I would seriously consider buying these big boy toys, because they are supposed to be like toys, not tools. Because as a kid, I would take my most beloved toy wherever I go, but a tool, I only take out when I need it for a task. But the Nikon Df is a bit special. It can be both a toy and a tool.

--"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."--

The Fuji X100s has video, very inexpensive, has an awesome retro look and is PERFECTLY sized for simply walking around and enjoying photography (the basis of your argument).
This Nikon DF could have paralleled that, but it didn't. It's a $3000 DSLR with a cumbersome an bulky shape, lacking features which are standard to other cameras in the price point.

The simple fact is this camera is $1000 extra for the pure look of the thing.
I really wanted this camera to be an interesting piece of kit to supplement my gear as the Fuji X100s did for me.
It does not.

That being said, people spend $8000 on a Leica with even LESS features and no lens included and do so happily.
Nikon will sell many of these DFs.

+1
Shooting my X100s all day long yesterday reminded me I don't need a new Nikon retro camera with botched design.

the day i bought my x100s I stopped bothering with my DSLR. I didn't touch it for months... Only to shoot a wedding with it, yet I used the X100s as a back up for the wedding. Worked great.

Sean Fenzl's picture

Love the tone of your article! I encourage people to pick up a camera, rather than shun them from inside an elite club... I want to share this joy at whatever level. When you take a photo, it's about savouring moments. My mom took technically awful photos of my childhood that I cherish. Being angry about trendiness is ridiculous, and reeks of insecurity.

I have a problem with the Df and it's nothing to do with anything Lee said. I've slimmed down my own gear to my film rigs and my Leica M because I just shoot better that way and I have way more fun that way. My problem with the Df is that it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It has this retro body, a manual shutter dial, but then doesn't ship with a lens (or at least, in publicity images) that has a manual aperture ring? That seems like a mistake. The Fujis and the A7 seem to have nailed down this sort of rig way better than Nikon seem to be doing. Those cameras know exactly what they're going for. I like that.

Flemming Jensen's picture

For me it's really just an incredibly nice looking upgrade to my D700 ;)

Problem is, it is both a huge upgrade to the D700 (D4 sensor, mostly) and a big downgrade (shutter, X-Sync, built-in flash, AF,...)

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