Everything you might have read about the sensor in the Nikon D4 and Df is true. It is an amazing sensor and rightly deserves it's reputation. The above images was shot in a dark antiques shop at ISO 3200 and it's super clean with virtually no noise, either luminance or colour. Yes there is some but you have to look very closely to see it. Even then this is comparable to what many other cameras produce at around ISO 400. There is no problem whatsoever in printing this file very big or sending it to picture libraries. It is absolutely superb. This is something like a 2 stop advantage over anything else I've used. Plus other files get rid of the noise, but the detail disappears, not so with the Df.
The three lenses I have for the camera are my Voigtlander 20mm and Nikon Series E 100mm f/2.8 manual focus lenses and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens I bought at the same time as the camera. All produced seriously good files. The Series E 100mm results were particularly encouraging. As I've mentioned before this lens has some fungus inside, but because of the ability of the Df's sensor to work at higher ISO's I was able to set a high shutter speed and an aperture of f/8 and get pin sharp pictures, which look like they were created with a much more expensive lens than what I actually used.
Just a word on manually focusing with this camera. Nikon have a white dot system. What this entails is a display in the bottom left of the viewfinder which has left and white arrows. When the lens is in focus at the spot I've selected a white dot appears. I've written before about how good and how accurate this is. It doesn't sound like it but it is the best manual focusing system I've used. Because it doesn't require any magnification of the image or something else popping up in the display. It's also a lot quicker than it sounds. If you've used a Nikon you'll know what I mean, if you haven't then you should try to use one to see it in operation, because it is very accurate and once you get used to it, very quick as well.
As I think you can see, the files also have an incredible dynamic range. Those large pixels on a large sensor certainly do a great job in capturing everything from shadow and highlight areas. And I have to say after working with phones and small(er) sensor cameras for a while, it is certainly a different experience viewing these files. Now I'm not saying I'm producing 'better' images in terms of aesthetics, but on a technical level these are hard to beat. Also the 16MP is no real handicap, because the Df files are capable of some dramatic upsizing.
Nikon apparently make this sensor themselves, so credit to them there. They do regard this as their top of the range image capturing device and that's probably right. Because with the D4, D4s and the Df you have a go anywhere, shoot anything camera. Combined with a fast lens there isn't really much that you couldn't go out and shoot. And this is just what the Df is designed to do. Forget all that retro, Digital Fusion nonsense. In the real world this is a small Nikon DSLR that allows photographers to shoot images in virtually any light and get great results. It is, with the right lens attached, a much less intimidating camera than the D4, much easier to carry around for long periods of time and would be suitable for a range of photographic work both indoors and outdoors. It also means that for everyday shooting there is no need to use fast lenses. I had the camera set to ISO 400 most of the time I was using it. So as I indicated with the 100mm lens, high shutter speeds and narrow apertures were the order of the day. No need for me to have to use the lenses wide open. Which is a good job since neither the Voigtlander or the Series E are that good at their 'fastest' aperture.
For me this is actually a totally different shooting experience. Certainly from what I've been doing recently. As I said, this isn't 'better' or 'worse' as far as I'm concerned, just different. It opens up different possibilities and there are things that I can do with the Df that I can't with any other camera. And that includes the Leica T and my Fuji's, all of which are excellent at high ISO's. However the Df does have a significant advantage over all of them at pretty much any ISO setting.
THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS
So, a very impressive first couple of excursions with the camera. Incidentally with the two MF lenses using the Df is a lot less physically demanding. That Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens is terrific, but it is a brute to carry. It's actually bigger and heavier than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Sony a-mount lens I have and it's almost as heavy as the recently announced Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom. The two lenses I used yesterday however are completely different. The Voigtlander is a small lens anyway and the Series E 100mm is way smaller and lighter than modern autofocus equivalents. I had no issues whatsoever with the size and weight of that outfit and I'll be going out with it again today.
Now where this leaves everything else I have I cannot say. In the short term I'm going to be keeping everything I have for comparison purposes. What has happened however is that I now have what I would describe as three 'personal' cameras. I.E. cameras for me and not just for my work, that that doesn't mean that they aren't 'work' cameras as well. So the Df, the Leica T and The Fuji X100s are all cameras that I love using and all have a distinct character. And while it isn't important for how they perform I do love the 'retro chic' of the Fuji and the Nikon. But then I also love the modern minimalism of the Leica. And yes I admire the capabilities of my Sony's, Fuji's and my Panasonic, but there is something about black polycarbonate that means I can't really get that excited about using them. And since I'm lucky enough to be able to earn a living from photography, I don't see why I shouldn't use what I want to do that. It's not as though it happened overnight and I did (and still do) put in lots of hours of pretty tedious editing work, so when I go out making pictures I have no hesitation in using this 'personal' gear whenever I can. Plus it's becoming apparent that the Df is probably going to be the camera that gives me the highest technical quality for my stills. It doesn't shoot video of course and there are many situations where it wouldn't be appropriate, because it does get some looks and though the shutter isn't that loud, it's still very audible in lots of situations.
I will conclude by saying that it is nice to be back with Nikon. Despite their financial troubles and the fact that the Df could conceivably end up as a collector item, I do have a history with Nikon and have had many enjoyable experiences over the years using their products. I supect I'm going to get many more using the Df.
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