The Nikon Df - back to a DSLR

Above is a picture gallery. Click on the images to proceed through the gallery.

I mentioned Chris Handley yesterday and I thought I'd post some of his comments on a Google+ post.

'I must admit when it was launched I overlooked the camera as my attention was on the Sony A7r. When I bought my Df I had not read any reviews, so I was somewhat open minded. The difficult choice I had to make was not do I buy or don't I, but which colour, silver or black? Of course silver because this camera is so unusual in it's appearance, it's 70's retro big time and bang on trend (I noticed in my local hi-fi shop music centres are back, all neatly packaged in a 60's looking cabinet on four long slender legs). I find the Df a pleasure to use. I like the paced shooting, I like to turn the dials/knobs/lever, it's a very tactile/functional camera. You set a dial, which can be done with one hand and I know what I have set is set, no need to look, squint at a screen and confirm. I bought the body/kit lens combo, the simple reason being if I sold it on it would be a better proposition. The kit lens does not do the sensor justice, attach any well respected/rated Nikkor lenses both old and new and "WOW" the images are truly remarkable. What really makes this camera a keeper is the way the sensor handles the subtleties of light. I recently shot some images with high contrast, bright skies and dark shadows, all the detail is there to be revealed - can't get anywhere near this with my Leica M240.'

I posted this because it does mirror my own experiences.


I was beginning to think that I might never buy another DSLR and if I hadn't found the mint S/H Df at a decent price then that might still be the case. Now I've never become anti DSLR's, unlike some mirrorless users, but I just didn't see that there was anything that was right for me. The Df did interest me, but as far as I was concerned it was just too expensive. However, I am really glad I did buy it. And the main reason for that can be seen in the image below.

Nikon Df + Voigtlander 20mm lens

Nikon Df + Voigtlander 20mm lens

This was shot in intense bright sunlight with very deep shadows and this is what I pulled out of the raw file. It's beautifully balanced and despite being shot at ISO 400 and the shadows being seriously lightened, there is no noise at all. It is a superbly clean image with rich colour and sharp detail. And I've never used another camera that can do this.

The Nikon Df is a camera that makes it almost impossible to get an unsatisfactory image. (At least in terms of technical quality that is) and that, of course, opens up all sorts of possibilities for all sorts of images.

High Dynamic Range - No problem

Low Light - No problem

As I've written before if you ignore the whole retro thing and just regard it as a lighter home for the D4 sensor then it becomes obvious that it is a quite remarkable camera. Trying to use a Nikon D4 as an unobtrusive camera is obviously not that feasible, but the Df with the right lens is a viable alternative. And since Nikon make the sensor, it's never going to turn up in any other manufacturers cameras. It's obvious to me after only a couple of days that this is the best sensor I've ever captured images with and the camera paired with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens is an incredible combination. Yes it's heavy, but it's a shoot anything, anywhere, in any light combination.

And despite some of the reviews the AF on the Df is pretty quick. Like all Nikons the focusing is very smooth. Nikons slide into focus rather than jump.

Ultimately whether I use a DSLR or a camera without a mirror is irrelevant to me. As is the question of whether cameras with one are going to be around n the future. At the moment Nikon, despite their apparent financial difficulties are still in the game. In fact they have just released two new products.

The 20mm f/1.8 looks a nice lens and its not that heavy. It would make a nice AF alternative to my Voigtlander 20mm. I fully expect to buy one when it's available.

So I am indeed back with a DSLR and for me it's simply another camera, another option, another tool. However, I won't pretend that I don't like that retro styling, I do and while it's nothing like the FM2 that it's supposedly based on, it is very different to the current Nikon range and it is very nice to handle.

And does it make me feel like an old-school real photographer and stir up memories of days past? Well yes it does and how much that has affected my decision to buy it is for me to know and for you to speculate about. But however that use / style equation pans out it is a great camera and one I will most definitely enjoy using. Apart from anything else it gives me a benchmark to compare everything else to, in terms of sensor performance. Because despite my fascination with smartphone photography, I do still like to use a stills camera with top class image quality. And the Df is pretty much at the top of the tree when it comes to that.