Pro Photo

Nikon Df field report

Shooting Nikon’s retro Df camera.

When the Nikon Df was announced late last year, people took notice.  A vintage styled camera with a modern sensor under the hood.  Pretty cool. But some photographers were skeptical about the retro styling and performance of the camera.  I've been shooting a Df for a couple of months now; thousands of images on assignments and workshops.  The Df is a solid performer, with some noticable features that make it my go-to camera in some situations.  Read on!

Early previews on this site highlighted the main features; 16.2 FX CMOS sensor, 5.5 fps shooting rate, ISO to 204,800, a 39 point Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus system and a durable, weather resistant body.  But what caught everyone's attention was the retro styling on the outside.  Dials to change ISO, exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed.  I started shooting Nikon 30 years ago with a Nikon FM, and within a few minutes of using the Df I felt right at home.   The only dial that was different was the aperture dial placed on the front of the body near the shutter.   I found that this worked seamlessly using my middle finger to twist the dial; I never had to take my eye away from the viewfinder.  On a similar note, I left the shutter dial set to '1/3 step' so I could adjust my shutter speed using the dial on the back of the camera, also without ever taking my eye away from the viewfinder.  My wife is a photographer, but she never used an older Nikon camera. She had no problem quickly adjusting to the controls on the camera.  The Df uses SD flash cards (one slot) and a EN-EL14a battery.  I found the battery to have good life; I photographed constantly (dawn to dusk) on a recent assignment, and at the end of day two I needed to recharge.  The batteries are small, so it easy to carry a few extras in your camera bag.

With the vintage concept in mind, Nikon chose to leave out video.  For some photographers this might send them looking at other Nikon video capable bodies.  But here are some things I found out shooting this camera in the field that made it my go-to body in certain situations.  First, the body is light; in fact, it is the lightest FX body Nikon makes, weighing 1.56 pounds.  And small…the Df is so slim and compact I barely know it is in my camera bag.  Second, the ISO performance is incredilbe.  DxO just rated the Df as the best Nikon camera in terms of low noise.  I was very impressed shooting this camera in dark interiors at ISO 3200 and 6400.  Third, the shutter on this camera is very, very quiet.  Shooting the Df is like shooting other cameras set to 'quiet' mode.  Barely a head turned when I was shooting in a busy store the other day, no one seemed to notice.  Fourth, the vintage styling makes the Df a great travel camera.  Inconspicuous and quiet, perfect for travel photography.  Worried about walking through a busy market with an expensive camera around your neck?  Break out the Df to lower your profile.  I am continually looking to lighten my load, and the Df is king of light FX cameras.  

With these featues in mind, I now carry my Df all the time.  It is my favorite travel body.  And since I shoot a lot of adventure sports off the grid…i.e. carrying big packs into the woods, this lightweight camera comes along.  And boy do I like turning those dials on top…  The Df retails for $2746.95 (body).


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