[keithwee] The Nikon Df in 2019 – is it worthy of Nikon’s tag of ‘Pure Photography?’


*note: the most updated version will always be at www.keithwee.com

This is not an in-depth spec based discussion of the Nikon Df, one of the most controversial digital SLR camera that was announced in November 2013, 6 years from today and more of a personal take towards this hidden gem of a camera that probably encountered way more unfair discussion focusing on its design and specs over its performance and imaging quality.



A quick history

Most of the controversy was due to Nikon’s pre-launch teasing of the camera being a representation of ‘pure photography’ (which later simply meant no video functions) and the defining of the letters “Df”, as the “Digital Fusion” of retro style and modern technology.

In a world where every DSLR looked just like the next DSLR , it was little wonder that purist film shooters and digital users hungry for a breakthrough product pushed expectations way up beyond reason.



The Nikon Df with a most impressive piece of glass, the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G in 2019

When it was announced that the Nikon Df was basically a DSLR with a retro design, D4 sensor and D600 guts with a USD$2750 price tag, we soon had a bunch of well, mildly speaking – people who weren’t very happy and very rapidly, soon made the Nikon Df a much loved, or a much hated product – but nonetheless, one of the most discussed camera releases from Nikon.

If it interests you, the specifications for the Nikon Df can be found here.

Now in 2019

I had the fortune of being loaned a set of the Nikon Df with the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G and a Nikkor 50mm f1.4D for a period of 1 week from a great friend and out of pure curiosity and being really a 90% mirrorless user (don’t judge, I only started my foray into photography around 8 years ago) I tried out this setup for a week.



Do not be mistaken, though the controls can be hard to get used to, the Df is one heck of a beauty.

The stacked-layer design of the shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO dials is beautiful and give uniqueness to the Df, however in practical usage required getting used to. A simple google search will bring the related discussions up and I don’t plan to write close to 400 words on this aspect and all I can say is coming from Fujifilm with their love for dials and a quick tutorial by the owner of the camera helped me settle in pretty quickly.

And simply, I just wish to show the imaging quality potential of this King of Low Light (this nickname as my friend refers to it) and how maligned the Df is, where it is a camera that simply seeks to do what it was demanded to do well – Photography.

Disclaimer.

  1. I had a week with the Nikon Df and the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G , Nikkor 50mm f1.4D duo.
  2. All images (including those of the camera) shared here were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom to my preferences.
  3. Na, no one paid me to write this all. Nikon never will, and my friend just wishes to poison me enough to forsake mirrorless and buy a Nikon Df.
and here we go,


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200, 1/2000s


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.8, ISO 200


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f1.8 ISO 200


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200

Amazingly for a camera of this age, the Nikon Df excels in it’s imaging quality, with excellent dynamic range and producing very impressive results. ISO performance from 100 to 12800 is definitely a range I will employ with confidence (in comparison I will not go above ISO 3200 in a MFT camera), with plenty of detail and practically no loss of colours and details. And yes, being a D4 sensor after all, there is very little to complain here.


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

Do a search around, and anyone will very quickly realise a lot of negative comments about the Df were from users who never picked up the camera.


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

I haven’t shot a DSLR much for sure, and have no idea how let us say a D850 or D500 or even the long forgotten Canon DSLR flagships are supposed to perform, but I will readily admit that Nikon did fulfil its promise to deliver pure photography performance to the owners of the Nikon Df, it’s a product in it’s own league, and difficult to measure against others in a world of DSLRs, where standing out may not be kindly appreciated.


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

Thank you for reading.
 

Last edited:

Comments

azzurri

Senior Member
Sep 6, 2007
2,354
3
38
As always, a nice review from a user point of view. 2013 was an interesting year for Nikon. Other than the DF, they had also launched the Coolpix A. Similarly, that camera also received quite a bit of flak, especially since it was launched after the impressive Ricoh GR. But as a user of the Coolpix A, I must say that I very much enjoy using it as its outputs are really lovely. Likewise for the DF, my few touch points for it have been positive. Maybe, as you said, it suffered from too much marketing hype prior to the launch. I am always toying on the idea on whether to get the DF, the high ISO and ability to mount even non-AI lenses for me have all been pluses
 

keithwee

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 20, 2010
8,137
60
48
LittleRedDot
Hi, Thank you for dropping by, actually I do like the Df enough to want to own it too - and it's pretty much only the headache of entering another system that's stopping me. The Coolpix A is also a good camera worth considering as you said too.

Another camera release I was looking forward to was the Nikon DL range which they ended up cancelling :/
 

  • Like
Reactions: azzurri

felixcat8888

Senior Member
May 8, 2005
9,681
31
48
53
Singapore, Singapore, Singapor
The Nikon Df actually looks like a film era camera. Too bad I am heavily invested in Pentax or I would have got this beauty in 2013 instead.

Thanks for a wonderful review.
 

  • Like
Reactions: keithwee

keithwee

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 20, 2010
8,137
60
48
LittleRedDot
The Nikon Df actually looks like a film era camera. Too bad I am heavily invested in Pentax or I would have got this beauty in 2013 instead.

Thanks for a wonderful review.
Thanks bro, a word from u is worth a lot. It's not going to easily catch bird in flight shots but the Df's rendering is very natural and in this sense I find it attractive. A 16mp sensor also means somehow in an ironical way images really do look better as mistakes aren't magnified haha.
 

  • Like
Reactions: felixcat8888

felixcat8888

Senior Member
May 8, 2005
9,681
31
48
53
Singapore, Singapore, Singapor
Thanks bro, a word from u is worth a lot. It's not going to easily catch bird in flight shots but the Df's rendering is very natural and in this sense I find it attractive. A 16mp sensor also means somehow in an ironical way images really do look better as mistakes aren't magnified haha.
That is so true. Using K1 MK I with a 36MP sensor and tiny mistakes are amplified. Think the Df can be suited for portraiture more.
 

keithwee

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 20, 2010
8,137
60
48
LittleRedDot
That is so true. Using K1 MK I with a 36MP sensor and tiny mistakes are amplified. Think the Df can be suited for portraiture more.
Yup, the advantage of lower megapixels was something another friend taught me about, i didn't think of it originally too lol
 

azzurri

Senior Member
Sep 6, 2007
2,354
3
38
You guys are seriously poisoning me hahaha
 

keithwee

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 20, 2010
8,137
60
48
LittleRedDot
You guys are seriously poisoning me hahaha
haha, it's not our fault. A good camera is a good camera, the reviewer or writer only does the job in explaining that visually.
 

azzurri

Senior Member
Sep 6, 2007
2,354
3
38
haha, it's not our fault. A good camera is a good camera, the reviewer or writer only does the job in explaining that visually.
Hahahahah well said. And now the hunt begins... certainly will be a nice complement with the D700 which I am still shooting with hahaha
 

new30

Member
Oct 22, 2004
69
0
6
45
The Nikon Df~
If you had never being use a Film SLR, then the Df may not be the camera for you.
The dials ... what the hell are they? Isn't everything just inside your control menu?
Why the is auto focusing slower than the usual DSLRs~
If you are want a camera that allows you to do fast changes in settings , fast auto focus then this isn't the right 1 for you.

If you are willing to take a step backwards, slow down all process.
And not just point the camera then fire off the shutter like a machine gun, then this might just be camera for you.
 

Attachments