When it was announced, I thought of the Nikon Df that it would be a dream come true. Classic styling, external controls for just about anything and superb full frame sensor from the flagship D4 camera should make any photographer drop their jaw and involuntarily grasp for their credit card. Even more, Nikon build the tensions with several “Pure photography” teaser videos so the expectations were quite high. Expectations are one thing; reality another. Df might just be the biggest disappointment of the last year. Find out why.
- Announced: 2013.
- Dimensions: 144 x 110 x 67 mm (5.67 x 4.33 x 2.64″)
- Weight: 760g (with battery)
- Sensor: CMOS, 16 MP (4928 x 3280 pixels)
- ISO range: Native 100 – 12,800 (extended 50 – 204,800)
- Image stabilization: No
- Dust and moisture protection: No
- Flash: hot-shoe
- Continuous shooting: 6 fps
- LCD screen: 3.2″, 921,000 dots
- Memory card: SD
- Battery: Li-Ion EN-EL14
- Video: No video
- Connectors: USB 2.0, mini HDMI
NIKON DF CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING
Build quality and ergonomics were the main areas of my interest for this camera since I (and many other photographers) craved for a classic mechanical-like experience for a long time. It looked great on paper and on official press-release images, but when I finally got it for review my expectation bubble was busted within hours.
Nikon Df has shooting mode dial and twin control dials (front and back) so you can use it like any modern DSLR. Ok. But it also has shutter speed dial. That is also nice but if you leave the camera in aperture priority shutter speed dial is disabled. It is possible to rotate the sucker and wonder in confusion why on earth the camera still chooses its own shutter speed.
Front control dial is badly placed and it sometimes difficult to rotate.
All of the top dials have locking mechanism – completely unnecessary.
ISO dial doesn’t have the “Auto” position; it must be selected from the menu. It is possible to select ISO in 1/3 EV increments – why? Too much rotation and no one actually needs ISO 250 or 320 as a separate setting; just use 200 or 400. This is top of the range sensor that can handle ISO 12,800 without a problem.
The grip is too small to allow to properly hold the camera and too big for classic mechanical film camera feel. The Df is also a heavy camera in my opinion, especially since the weight isn’t well distributed; most of it is on the left side of the camera (pentaprism, sensor, LCD, lens mount, lens…) so it simply feels awkward and uncomfortable to hold.
Even worse, the strap lugs are catastrophically positioned – the right one is always below my fingers, and the left one is in the way when using bracketing button.
Altogether, I cannot not to think Df was built by marketing team without any feedback from a real photographer. It is not a complete disaster but weird ergonomics is not what I expected of a camera this expensive. There are cameras with such good ergonomics that I didn’t want to let them go from my hands (Nikon D4, Canon 1DX and 6D, Olympus E-M1, Sony NEX-6) but Nikon Df is the exact opposite. I gave up holding it continuously very soon. It felt best hanging around my neck and held only when I actually wanted to change settings and take the shot.
Simply put, this is the camera for users who do need to hold it non-stop for prolonged periods of time and have the time and will to slowly consider their shots before taking them. It is great for landscape, studio work or any other application where you have the time to carefully rethink framing and settings before actually taking the shot.