Retro for the sake of retro: thoughts on the Nikon Df


Sigh. I swore I’d never do this again after the Sony A7/A7r piece, but I’ve been getting so much email over the last few days that I have no choice. Firstly, I have no special relationship with Nikon beyond standard NPS membership. Their management here in Malaysia chooses to remain aloof. If I’m going to review one of these properly, it’s because I’ve bought it – and again, I think that’s extremely unlikely given the cost and lack of fit with my professional needs. But, here we go anyway: a highly subjective analysis of a camera that hasn’t been released yet based solely on a spec sheet and some conclusions we form from Nikon’s existing parts inventory. So, here we go: the 2013 Nikon Df.

To be honest, I really don’t quite know what to make of this camera. On one hand, I think Nikon needs to be applauded for at least attempting to provide a product that caters to the online clamouring for something that retains the sensible ergonomics of the late manual focus film era; on the other hand, I think they ought to be slapped for messing it up into a near miss. I believe this camera is going to be hugely successful. It is positioned very carefully as the anti-A7/A7r; but for the purist, it will be bypassed as a near miss.

On one hand, we have the enormous proliferation of manual controls that the enthusiast demands; from the front, I see an F3. On the other hand, it seems like there are almost too many of them: a purely manual body has no need for this many controls; at most four – focus, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The rest can be dealt with if you shoot raw, or are wiling to dive into a menu occasionally. And that’s pretty much how my Hasselblad CFV-39 operates. It’s about as close to the film experience as you can get with a digital body. The problem is that the Df’s back looks like any current Nikon DSLR, and that creates a bit of a schizoid paradigm here: do you shoot it like a digital body, or a film one?

My theory is that the answer to this will boil down to the viewfinder. That might seem odd, but speak to any serious photographer nowadays, and you’ll find that it’s the bright, clear, snappy-focusing-screened viewfinders of yore that we all pine for; not necessarily the controls. You simply cannot use the AI lenses this camera was targeted at (retractable AI coupling pin and all) with a modern viewfinder: it’s nearly impossible to focus! We appreciate that if you’re going to add AF and digital functions, you’re going to need a way to control these. But there’s really no excuse for a crappy viewfinder – other than corporate greed and laziness. The Df has a chance to fix that: put the finder from the F6 in there, and we’ll all be happily shooting this thing like a film body. More importantly, the mirror calibration should be spot on: none of this sloppy back/front focusing misalignment crap we see in modern cameras. Put the finder from the D600 in, and it’s going to be a pseudo-retro hipster one. I have a worrying suspicion that it’s going to be the latter: it not only has AF, but a midrange AF system with 39 points. In any case, we’ll have to wait and see. (While we’re at it, let’s hope the build quality is as nice as it looks; all metal, solid controls, snappy detents, weather sealing and no cheap paint, please.)

Update: DPR reports that the focusing screen is fixed, non-replaceable, and lacks focusing aids of any sort (split prism, microprisms): so much for that, then.

I think the choice of the D4’s 16MP sensor was a smart one: it’s more than sufficient for 99.9% of users, and it offers a very wide shooting envelope. It’s a very flexible sensor with excellent image quality. I see it as meaning two things: firstly, this is probably closer in spirit to the D700’s replacement than either the D600 or D800 were, and more importantly, it’s not a very demanding sensor in terms of lens resolving power. Those old lenses are going to produce great-looking results under most conditions, and it’s going to tolerate a little misfocus, camera shake and generally be less demanding of technique. In that sense, a bit like film, really.

Personally, I suspect that this camera is going to polarize: it’ll either make photography fun again, or it’s going to frustrate. Unfortunately, I think I might well fall into the latter camp. It’s a near miss for my personal needs: it still has too much digital overload, but the retro styling and control paradigm means compromised and possibly confusing ergonomics – why did they have to stick two control dials on, when there are manual shutter speed and exposure compensation rings? One would be sufficient to control aperture on G lenses. If I’m going to shoot it like a digital – i.e. double-dial paradigm – why do I need the physical knobs to set them to ‘A’ all the time? It doesn’t have enough resolution to replace my D800E for commercial work, and it doesn’t offer the in-body stabilization (which by the way, claws back a significant amount of the FX sensor advantage) and efficiency of controls as the E-M1 does.

In conclusion: much like the final form of the Df, I’m confused. On one hand, there are very sensible engineering choices – the sensor, for instance; but on the other hand, marketing said that you have to have AF and a full digital set of controls and a retro look, so we land up having too many buttons and knobs and a bit of an F3-collided-with-a-D600 appearance to it. The more I think about it, the more I really, really don’t know quite what to make of the Df. I’m going to wait until I have the chance to shoot with one before saying any more. But again, like the A7/A7r: even if the first effort isn’t quite right, and it takes several iterations, everybody benefits from products like this. In the meantime, I think I need a panadol for the headache that’s developing. MT

Coda: a note on price. The Df is a rather steep $2,750 – that’s quite a premium to pay for retro. Build quality remains a bit of an unknown, but it’s very nearly the same price as a D800E. Better image quality? I highly doubt it. That said, Leica have been doing the same at an even greater premium and selling them by the boatload, so perhaps they’re on to something…

If you must have retro, then the Nikon Df is available here to pre-order from B&H and Amazon.


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  1. Hi, Thank you, first of all for your wonderful website, very informative, with really great photography. All that for free.

    I find it very funny how the lifespan of a camera is so short nowadays. Nobody talks about the Df, 3 years laters any more…
    Well, I bought one used, on ebay, for less than half the price… a few months ago. As far as I can tell, in perfect shape. I wanted one to replace my D700.

    What do I like about that camera: size and weight, excellent 16 Mpix sensor, which does not render enormous files. I really like to see the settings very quickly from just a quick look at the top. I have no issue changing ISO setting with two fingers of my left hand, it is very quick, nor do I have any problems using the exposure compensation dial, which I very much prefer to the layout on the D700. (Maybe it is because I used for years a Canon F1n with primes).
    Grip is indeed not very good, but with the GARIZ case, it just fine. Battery life is excellent! As a traveller/trekker, battery life is a BIG issue!

    Autofocus: not very much worse than the D700. I wouldn’t like more points, I would like for them to be spread much wider on the focusing screen. Why isn’t this possible? Would the new Sony A99II have an answer to that?

    Using ai-s lenses? Not easy, as on any DSLR with optical viewfinder. So, this retro hip is a bit of a joke, indeed. I do have the 50mm 1.2, wonderful glass, not easy to use at large apertures. I am thinking about selling it to get the Tamron 45mm 1.8 VC… maybe…

    Build quality: inferior to the D700.

    I like the view finder, clear, bright, no front/back focusing or missalignment issues. I find it totally unacceptable that big brands release cameras with this kind of problems, for the money they charge! That never occurred with manual focusing cameras!! Imagine if car makers would do something like that with the steering!

    Color rendition is great, easy to modify in post processing.

    Final opinion? If you need to travel light with a few lenses (I use mainly the 24-70 2.8 G -not the VR, and a 85mm 1.4D), and do not care about video, get one used! And get the GARIZ case…

    Alternatives: the SONY A7 series just do not feel right in my hands, and have horrible battery life, lenses are HUGES!! and way too expensive. The fuji XT has a great layout, but looking carefully on pictures on Flickr, they then to lack sharpness, compared to 24×36 DSLR. Lenses are large and expensive. Nikon has a very large used market, with plenty to choose from.


    • Thanks. I’m using a 1980s Hasselblad V for most of my personal work now, and the workhorses are 2012 or 2014 vintage – yes, old, but no, I don’t feel like I’m missing out It’s a nice feeling 🙂

      As for Fuji sharpness – could well be workflow or technique…

  2. I like the design, but would of prefered a retro D4

  3. Keep_Walking says:

    Strange but reminds me of an old Railway engine. Will not be surprised if it starts puffing steam and lets out a whistle.

  4. the Nikon Df is the kind of camera one buys with their heart, not with their head. Only 90% of the people will understand this, most likely.

  5. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    The only thing I`d be concerned is visibility of dials in the dark. That`s why I hope top display will show beside: shutter speed, f-stop, number of takes, battery charge, also actual ISO and +/- correction, the last two not seen on top deck photographs. If not enough space then I would relegate: battery charge and memory card capacity read out, which are not essential to picture taking, to back LCD. Remember that Nikon in your FW.

  6. Ian Christie says:

    Thanks Ming. I share your reaction. I’ve said it before and will again: if designers want to know how to make a digital camera that looks and handles like a film one, they should study the Epson R-D1. One dial for shutter, one for ISO, a simple compensation lever; and RAW/JPEG and white balance selected by a simple lever and analogue display reminiscent of the Nikon 35ti. No need to go to the menu, which is bare-bones anyway. And the review screen can be folded away. Finish off with a lever wind to cock the shutter. It was all done in 2006 and even Leica has not improved on it. If only Epson and Cosina would update the sensor – a Foveon would be great – and re-release the identical body….

  7. What do you get when a speeding FM and D600 crash head on? …. a Df.
    Half way through their description of the Df, Nikon destroyed all my hopes. The sad thing is that despite of the obvious need for a more traditional camera, I don’t think Nikon will ever have another go at it. They stuffed it up, and won’t revisit this idea again, in my opinion. So, …. over to the Sony A7? Possibly.

  8. Alan Green says:

    I do not understand the desire to make Digital cameras like yesterdays film. when they brought out the OM1 there was no one saying it did not look like a quarter plate Sanderson

  9. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    A little afterthought after reading most of the comments, most negative at that. Disappointed! , Nikon screwed it up! . they just sold me a Holga!, and so on in this vein. You all just sound like expectant guys comments on the girl whose picture they saw in some flashy magazine. Looks too stupid, to few buttons to press in, looks cheap but calls an exorbitant price, Too bad too handle, too much , too little and so on. C´mon you pixel handling peepers. Just save all your comments til you had it your sweaty little hands on it, till you handled it, till you lived with it/her for good and bad.
    Then you`d be right to say – that`s a gal I can live with or I`ll go look elsewhere. Really

    • I’m trying to get hold of one to shoot for a few days. Whether it gets a full review or not depends on the work schedule, and if Nikon wants to cooperate…

  10. George Gravett says:

    “Sigh…… I have no choice.”
    Yes you do, Ming. You shouldn’t have written this at all, since you didn’t actually want to… it’s your blog after all!

  11. Kenny Wood says:

    This is why I won’t be buying the Df, the quotes are taken from Amateur Photographer magazine by the way.
    “The Df will cost £2,749.99 and will only be available as a kit with a 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor lens.” And you think $2750 is steep,ha come to rip off Britain, the exchange rate by the way is at the moment $1.6031 USD to £1 Sterling, you do the arithmetic.
    Additionally this from Nikon, “The Df will not go on sale body only, though Nikon says it will monitor customer feedback on this in due course.” I already have plenty of 50mm lenses, thanks Mr Nikon! So specs aside, looks like a bargain in the UK then!

  12. Nikon expert Bjørn Rorslett has handled the camera and commented on the viewfinder. I quote “The viewfinder is much better than the sheer numbers would indicate and I had no problem whatsoever seeing the entire frame plus info below with my spectacles on. Focusing manual lenses was a breeze, even the 50/1.2, Noct, or my 35/1.4.” So, the Df may be the best (Nikon) dslr for manual focusing. A lot of people seem to dismiss the Df because of the presumed viewfinder experience without having handled the camera. In all honesty Ming, I think it would have been better if you would have resisted the temptation and waited with your comments till after you’ve handled the Df. After all, one of the main attractions of this camera is the quality of focusing with manual lenses.

    • The Df not having a split prism finder or interchangeable screens is a fact. That will always make it worse than a camera that does have them, especially for manual focus. You don’t need to handle it to know.

      If you’re relying on the VF dot, then that’s not very accurate either.

      Beyond that, one or two prototypes may have perfectly aligned mirrors, but looking at Nikon’s track record with recent cameras – professional models included – I have not owned a single one whose mirror did not have to be recalibrated to yield precise manual focus.

    • Hm, if it is true what Bjørn Rorslett says, I read his comment too, then I am among the first who whisper a “Ups, sorry.” I certainly believe that his statement can be trusted.
      But I must say, if this viewfinder is a “revolution” as it seems to be, I have to ask Nikon why they don’t even mention it, and if so, deeply buried and encrypted somewhere in it’s description? After a marketing campaign maybe like none before, it should be possible to stress the camera’s manual focus abilities, especially if it’s designed to be used with old glass.
      Instead, they simply list the specs of a conventional, modern viewfinder. And, frankly, I don’t have to actually use every camera to be able to judge if it’s the right stuff for me.
      And manual focussing, to me, is (quint)essential according to this product, that I really “wish to like”.

      • It wouldn’t be the first time Nikon have failed to aggressively push an important feature in a new camera. Or perhaps they just don’t want to highlight the mediocrity of the D600/D800 finders.

  13. You’re totally spot on. I was so excited for this at first, but in the end it’s a near miss. It needs to be more ‘pure’, the rear is a disaster. It’s a camera mullet – business up front, party in the back. And now that we know that you can’t switch focus screens, what’s the point? The promise of an FE2/FM2 has been missed. I broke out my old Epson R-D1 rangefinder the other day. It’s digital but you never know it. The only time you need to use the screen is to format cards. This is what I wanted from the Df.

    I had been toying between this and the sony, but I guess I’ll keep my A7r preorder for now.

  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ming!

    I am very disappointed by the missing split-screen and I really don’t understand the strategy here. They tried to stuff just the “charme” of a niche product into something that still should appeal to the masses. The thing most ridicule is the fact that it misses video while you could add it with a simple firmware (well, and drilling to little holes).
    It’s like telling the M240 owner “HA! But MINE doesn’t even have video!!”

    I think some people at Nikon should take a ticket to Solms and learn. Stuffing a D4 sensor into a (slightly thicker) F2, without compromises, would have made the dream of quite a bunch of people come true – including myself. And I am pretty sure they would have been able to lower the price into Sony A7 territory. Sure, that thing can not be targeted to the mass market. But still, such a camera shows confidence, proud and dedication to photography. And it would have been the only option (DSLR) if you want to setup the camera completely before even switching it on.

    Leica didn’t develop the Monochrom to earn money at first, but to show pure dedication for “pure photography”.
    Even the M240 is miles ahead in terms of “pure photography” (BUT HEY, THAT ONE HAS VIDEO!).
    I think they simply haven’t had the guts to take the last mile of the road – the split-screen.
    I was already dreaming about a Df and Apo-Sonnar 135/2 combo.
    Instead that chimaera is packed with redundancy, art filters, HDR, blah blah.

    On the other hand I still like the outer approach, I can’t help it. The more I am disappointed.
    What is your experience with Nikon’s “electronic rangefinder” focus aid? Is it accurate down to F/1.4? Let’s say in good to average light?
    You see I am desperately looking for a solution…


    • Charging you more for something that’s taken out is a bit of a disgrace, frankly. That’s far too snobbish and Leicaesque for my liking. I don’t think Leica did the MM for dedication – they did it so they could charge more for a niche product. There is no purity in taking a five year old sensor, buggy, unreliable electronics, stripping the bayer filter and jacking up the price – that’s daylight robbery.

      No need the little holes, serious audio should be done with an external source anyway.

      The electronic RF dot isn’t that accurate. There’s a ‘range’ for which the dot stays illuminated, and the extreme ends are out of critical focus – especially at f1.4. For really critical work I’m using LV on a tripod for the latest generation of cameras.

      • Calling the Leica MM “daylight robbery”? Learned to use the beauty with a video I purchased on your very site? What happend since then? How did Leica lost your love?

      • Well, i don’t get it ? You tried the MM and even compared it with the D800E and said it was a great camera, even better than the D800E at some points. The price is a bit tought, not arguying here (but that’s Leica in general), but i find the MM to be the most ‘inspiring” camera i ever had… Made me love again focusing manually, shooting in pure b&w, printing large, trying new things aso…

        • You don’t need to get it. Use whatever you want, and I reserve the right to do the same. I don’t deny that it has similar resolving power and better tonality for B&W work, but the D800E also doesn’t lock up with some memory cards, have RF calibration issues or cost $8,000.

          • Well, that’s really a good point. Everytime i have the discussion with my friend who are professionnals photographers, they end up telling me that they don’t need Leica gears for their clients. They can’t afford lock up problems or don’t want to take the risk not having the pictures back 🙂 So, generally they tell me that they go Nikon or Canon for work and often Leica for their personnal works… In this way, i understand your answer.

            • Actually, I think my personal work is even more important: I need something beyond the workmanlike tools of Nikon/Canon; I need something that’s both confidence-inspiring and reliable. I’m thus far more picky about what I use for personal work because I know I’m also more demanding than any of my clients – most of the time, under the final use, they can’t tell the difference anyway.

              • As far as i’m concerned, 6 month with my MM and never had any trouble with my cards nore lost pictures. My MM never freezed, it’s just perfectly stable and reliable for me… I’m working with it 90% of the time, the rest with my Hasselblad 503CW (quite hard to default too)…

                • Good for you.

                  • William Rounds says:

                    I think Nikon should have/could have just put the D4 sensor with the software updates in the old D700 or similar body (maintaining compatibility with the MB-10 battery pack, same focusing screen interchangeability, same accessories as the D700) and they would have “invented” the best selling full-frame DSLR in their line-up.

  15. I got sucked into watching the teaser trailers for the new DF, and got slightly excited. The thoughts of a digital FM2 had me really interested. Now that it’s here it’s a disappointment. They should have called it the FF – the Faux F.

    • You notice how it didn’t really have anything meaningful in it about photography?

      • Those videos were embarrassing. Their fairly overt message was: if you’re old and don’t know about digital cameras, here’s a great camera for you! Look at those dials! OMG dials! Get off my damned lawn!

        Someone on DPR said that the Df is like a mid-life crisis dad trying to look cool on Facebook. It’s worse than that: it’s a mid-life crisis dad who dresses like his kid posting a selfie on Facebook.

  16. Nikon just sold me a Sony A7r…

  17. Could just be me but it seems like Nikon led us on a little more than they needed to with those glimpses of classic cosmetics and that “pure photography” fluff. Now this Df doesn’t seem geared very much at all towards folks like me who actually have an old FE & F3 for reference. But for a brief period, perhaps inadvertently, Nikon had my hopes up.

    After having waited a very long time for a full-frame digital body that is comparatively simple, compact, MF-friendly and affordable, this latest buildup and letdown did not sit well with me. (It sounds as though I am far from alone in that regard.)

    Fortunately, I now have alternatives. I don’t think Sony’s A7 is going to be the next best thing – as far as I’m concerned it’s going to be the next better thing! I already love the way my NEX-7 works with old manual primes – IMHO much closer to my old Nikon FE than this newfangled Df is ever going to get. Goodbye crop factor, goodbye Nikon!

    • It most certainly isn’t geared that way at all. I have my F6 and F2 Titan. And this doesn’t have the integrity or purity of function of either. Curiously, it’s significantly more expensive than both…

  18. As best I can tell, the Df completely fails at what it apparently aspires to achieve which is to be a wealthy retiree’s camera for using their manual focus lenses. How disappointing!

    I’ve been waiting for a higher resolution Nikon camera that’s easier to manually focus. Unfortunately, the D800 (what I really want) just isn’t viable for me (bad focus screen with no replacement available, crippled live view, and no electronic viewfinder), so I was hoping that the Df would be that.

    But where is the electronic viewfinder with magnified viewing and focus peaking that I wrote to Nikon asking for three years ago? Or a hybrid finder or dual finders that allow both manual focusing with a split prism “A” type focus screen optical viewfinder as well as an electronic viewfinder? Why doesn’t the Df have on sensor phase detect focus so that electronic focus assist is guaranteed to be correctly calibrated and can operate with live view?

    The lack of mention of a specification for the focus screen, and apparently no mention of available replacement focus screens (or possibly by one report only a ruled “E” screen lacking a split prism) signals to me that the Df will likely be as unusable as the D800 for doing manual focus with my aging bad eyesight. How can a company that designed beautiful interchangeable finders for the Nikon F, F2, F3, and F4 not be able to do a decent job with manual focus even when they set out to make a camera specifically for manual focus lenses?

    How could Nikon continue to be so clueless as to design a Df camera specifically for manual focus lenses that seems far behind the D800 in sensor technology and yet doesn’t fix the D800’s manual focus deficiencies? I can’t see why I would even consider buying the expensive Df if it is not significantly better than the D700 I already own and have enjoyed using for years, and the Df seems not to solve the manual focus problem.

    So after a half century with Nikon (I got a Nikon F as a gift in 1965 and have used a series of Nikon bodies ever since), it looks like they have finally succeeded in selling me a Sony A7r to get the D800e’s magnificent sensor in a smaller electronic camera optimized for manual focus.

    • Hi Fred, I have quite good eyes, but when I shoot manually I shoot not only because I like it but I need to do it as my cameras cant use AF in that conditions.As you see below my pentaprism and pentamirror are quite dark but I can do it. So sometimes even with f/1,2 I see only almost darkness. Second thing is Brighter lens is less visible grid on focusing screen is. So at f/2,8 I clearly see mark at 1,2 in completely darkness I have to quess there the cut is. To show you condition of what I’m talking about: Photos at ISO over 6400 f/1,2 and time 1/8-1/30s.
      You only need to use proper technique, focus on plane not place there you need focus, look at contrast areas and end of objects. You need to thing about 3D shape of focus plane. Sometimes you need to focus at back focus of front focus. Its difficult but fun 🙂
      (gear info : K-5+K3 Focusing Screen (AF Frame/Grid), K200D + old focussing screen) Lenses: 50 f/1,2 77 f/1,8 31 f/1,8)

      • one more thing – if there is focussing screen it is exchangeable – like in K200D – officially not but I put there manual focussing screen

        • Unfortunately, it is no longer true that “if there is focussing screen it is exchangeable” because the newer Nikon cameras’ exposure measurement is ruined by putting a split prism screen in front of the exposure sensor. Katzeye is the world’s leader in replacement focus screens but they have not yet been able to make them work since the D700. Even with the D700, Katzeye had to use a tiny split prism which is not nearly as easy to use as their screen for the D7000, for example. Part of this inability to create a manual focus screen for the D600 and D800 apparently is lack of cooperation by Nikon, but Nikon changed the pentaprism and exposure metering design just enough with the D600 and D800 to interfere with using focus screens optimized for manual focus, like the wonderful old Nikon “A” type screens. It appears that they may have done the same thing with the Df, which is a mismatch with Nikon’s claim that the Df is for manual focus lenses.

  19. i think it needs more buttons 😉

  20. I actually think it looks good. However the lack of a split image focusing screen makes no sense. I want to buy it. I’m the guy they targeted (I think) to buy it. Started out with a brand new FE in 1978. Weaned on Ai-S lenses. Still got em all. Recently added used, minty FM3a, F6 and D700. I’m keeping the F6 forever (it’s the best) but was looking for an “FE like” or “FM3a like ” digital body in leiu of the D700. So I am the guy! And yet no spilt image focusing screen. Can’t do it. Sigh – maybe in a year or two when its under $2000 or the Df2 comes out with the split image focusing screen. Until then I’m shooting with what I have.

    • I had also started with Nikon FE’s. They were the best, light and handy. If only Nikon had just put in a digital sensor into a FE body, I would go for it, manual focusing and all, especially with the AI-S lenses.

  21. You are right about the viewfinder. There’s no point in being able to mount all those great mf lenses from the past if there is no proper focusing screen. In my opinion this is where pretty much all digital cameras have failed. There are all sorts of adapters for all the mirrorless cameras on the market but no real effective method for focusing all these old lenses. I own a Sony Nex 6 and sorry, but focus peaking just doesn’t cut it for me. I can’t get used to it and I don’t enjoy it. The magnification option is simply disorienting for me. Nothing beats a rangefinder patch or a split prism for manual focusing. Nikon should have at least made an optional split prism focusing screen for the camera. I’m still saving up for my F6 though, so this announcement really doesn’t matter to me.

  22. Too bad Nikon didn’t do the Nikon SP rangefinder as a retro digital – with coupled parallax focusing. With, say a new 28mm lens, with an adapter for the DSLR lenses, just for show. And their own sauce for incorporating the digital aspects. THAT would have been an interesting new camera.

  23. Tom Hoglund says:

    Special new lens to match the retro vibe but without an aperture ring? Hmmm

    I was hoping for serious Nikon mirrorless interchangeable lens that would compete with my X-Pro1. Rangefinder style (X-Pro1, S2, M3) is much more compact than that big SLR mirror hump. Sooner or later, Nikon needs to get on the serious mirrorless train, as its leaving the station.

    Of course, if Nikon wants to get serious about the size convenience of mirrorless, they need a new line of lenses that take advantage of the shorter flange to sensor distance to make not just the camera, but also the lenses, smaller. And Nikon, don’t get too hung up on full frame vs DX size sensor. Fuji squeezes more quality than most people can use out their APS-C sensor. That would let people use their smaller DX lenses (with adapter) on Nikon mirrorless cameras until new lens line is filled out.

    Remember when Fuji first came out with DSLR and used Nikon’s design? I think it’s come full circle with MILC.

    • Nikon backed the wrong horse with mirrorless; it made technical sense and is/was a very competent camera; the problem is that it was impossible to sell. Now it seems the marketing people have taken over entirely…

  24. Taildraggin says:

    At best, consider it the D700 with the sensor its update should have had, with knobs. That’s a good place.

    I agree about the Franken-camera styling. At least in the photos, it looks like they’ve ‘commemorated’ every film Nikon I’ve used since 1979 by putting a bit of each into a single camera. That, the price and the 600’s AF have the same effect. But, I still like the idea of that sensor, knobs and smaller size (and no video crap). Yes; confused.

  25. Tom Hunter says:

    Nikon has ignored the D300 owners and is pandering to an unproven group in putting this poorly though out design.

    • I agree with the ‘ignored the D300 owners’ bit; however, the hipster crowd has already proven to be willing to shell out money for Leicas and Fujis and every other retro-looking contraption…regardless of the photographic potential. At least the imaging portion of this is going to be solid…

  26. I have to be honest, I thought that the author was indeed a bit biased towards Nikon but happily it does not seem to be the case.
    My opinion is exactly the same, at this price it has to be special but besides the different design and sensor choice there is not much else in it, just a marketing act. Maybe they’ve learnt from Apple? it will turn out in the upcoming promo videos 🙂
    The A7/A7R is a first attempt and imho not a bad one at that but there are issues which needs to be addressed and the system is far from maturity. Maybe in the later rounds.

    • I’m not biased towards anything; if it’s s*** I’ll say it’s s***. I honestly don’t know what this is, other than retro-hipster design overkill and priced like marketing wet dream.

  27. Since I am pretty disappointed with the Nikon DF, I still hope that you will get to test an A7/A7R one day. I really would love to hear your opinion, especially about the b/w ability. I really love the b/w results I can get out of my Ricoh GR and Sigma DP2 and DP3 Merrills without having to tweak an awful lot in post.
    That said, I really miss a viewfinder because shooting at arm’s length isn’t really my cup of tea. And often enough I’d like to use other focal lengths than only 28-45-75mm. I know the E-M1 is a great camera and also capable of delivering very good b/w results, but I’d really prefer a handy full frame camera with at least 24 MP. One gets pretty spoiled with image quality once you have seen what the Sigma DP Merrills can do up to ISO 400-800.

    • If somebody is going to send me one, I might consider it. But Sony Malaysia are utterly useless when it comes to online media, and frankly, I don’t have the time to waste to test cameras that support companies that treat me like dirt.

      • That’s more than understandable, especially for you as a professional. I don’t hold Sony in high esteem neither, but if the A7 or A7R proves to be the camera for my requirements, I’ll bite the bullet.

  28. Thank you, Nikon, for having confirmed my choice to buy an F6 😀 😀

  29. I kind of like it. My first thoughts were not as positive, but it has grown on me since I first saw it. I have yet to be completely happy with any mirrorless camera and still use my DSLR more than I thought I would. One of my wished had been that the DSLRs would lose the modern DSLR-look (big grip and flash) but retain it’s other advantages. So, maybe this is it.

  30. If you want to read an essay on where we’re headed vis a vis photography:

  31. Thank you for the article, Ming. I agree very much and like your clean and sober style. I have to add though, that looking at the new lineup of Nikons DSLR-s, I get a feeling cameras are about to become a tool to transport money from many many accounts to very few accounts.

    • I think that’s pretty much what they are already. Just look at Leica and Hasselblad prices – especially those rebadged Sony abominations…

  32. Good points overall, but something caught my eye here:

    “…it’s going to tolerate a little misfocus, camera shake and generally be less demanding of technique. In that sense, a bit like film, really.”

    Well, it doesn’t matter if the sensor is 5MP or 36MP, misfocused image is misfocused, shaken image is, well, shaken and technique matters every bit as much. D4 provides corgeous imaginery with proper technique but also unusable mess with sloppy shooting style. The exact same applies to DF.

    • I’m not talking about hugely missed focus, or big amounts of shake. A large pixel is more tolerant of these things than smaller ones; and yes, technique that provides perfect images with both will always look perfect, but most people don’t have that. Very slightly less will result in something messy on 36MP, but perhaps still acceptable to most on 16MP.

  33. I am not impressed either. Sure the IQ will be great but that’s where glory ends. Nothing new or exciting, too expensive for me anyway.

  34. Yay, I can finally take “Pure* photography” again after so many years of “unpure photography” since the digital revolution. I can even get the “photographic legacy, legendary performance, elegant yet sophisticated controls, tactile reassurance of adjustments, slenderness, intuitive control layout and solid operational experience” that have been missing for so many years in my shooting according to Nikon. But, really?

    *from Nikon PR

    • “Yay, I can finally take “Pure* photography” again after so many years of “unpure photography” since the digital revolution.”

      Where’s the “Like” button?

  35. My theory is that the Nikon Df is Nikon’s attempt at a “halo product”, something they need quite badly, considering the D600 and D800 quality issues. Their hope is that the Df will create a new positive buzz for Nikon products and re-invigorate their customers.

    If you look at Fuji, this strategy seems to have worked quite well for them. I remember them showing the X100 at CES one year. The feedback was so positive that Fuji rushed the product to market, even though it had some design/performance compromises. The X series cameras, at least so far, brought Fuji cameras back from the dead, at least for a limited niche market (and for the near future). My guess is that Nikon rushed this product to market in a similar fashion, by cobbling together available potpourri of good components.

    The big problem is that Nikon missed a very big chance here. They had a chance to showcase their company and show off innovative new technologies (such as adding an AF component to their full frame sensors – for AF speed). Fuji, at least, had the hybrid viewfinder. Perhaps Nikon rushed it to market?

    That being said, I think critics are being unduly harsh on Nikon. Olympus took 5-6 generations to create the EM-1. Nikon’s last “big and unqualified” success was the D3 / D700. Hopefully, the failure of the NIkon 1 System won’t prevent Nikon from innovating in future products. As Ming stated, perhaps the next generation retro camera will be that much better?

    Let’s hope Nikon listens and gives us a lighter, more compact, simply designed / nimble camera / new retro? rangefinder next time.

    • “I think critics are being unduly harsh on Nikon. Olympus took 5-6 generations to create the EM-1.” Really? How long has Nikon been around? I think the criticism is “duly harsh.” This company is so stuck in its own old paradigm/business model (sorry, that’s $2 in the Jargon Jar), that the word “innovation” has become anathema. This is not stylishly retro, it’s a reflection of a company stuck in reverse. #nikongearforsale

      • To be fair, true innovation is difficult. Look at Apple. Everybody is waiting for the next big thing from them… There is huge disappointment when it does not happen.

        The camera market is very mature and super saturated. I think companies like Nikon are struggling on what to make next.

        I’m not saying you should like the DF… I’m merely providing a theory of why they produced it, even though it may not be well conceived or received.

        I think it will sell better than the D600, once the price drops a little.

    • Joel Venable says:

      If I recall correctly, Fuji originally built a prototype x100 and showed it off at a few shows with little to no intention of actually selling them, then it went viral and then they pretty much had to make it. The buzz happened organically because it was a great product.

      On the other hand, Nikon designed this camera and they assumed it would get the same response (hence the dreamy, fluffy advertising campaign that I’m sure some advertising company made a fortune producing).

      However the camera is not purist in any sense. As many people above pointed out, the camera was designed by focus groups (Make it retro, but modern at the same time!). I think what’s so frustrating about this camera is that it’s pretty darn close to the target, just a near miss. However, we know from past experience that Nikon doesn’t make minor corrections and immediately take a second shot. They walk away from the target completely and try to race a marathon.

      On another note, if I could make changes to the Df: Keep the manual dials and add an aperture ring on the body as someone else had mentioned. Add split prism finder (maybe even make the camera MF entirely!!!), have the camera shoot RAW only (so we don’t have to care about WB), and have ZERO digital controls. No buttons, no LCD, NOTHING.

  36. I fully agree with criticism. I was expecting Df to have and improved viewfinder with maybe Fuji-like hybrid technology. But there is nothing that makes using mf-glass more easy.

    There is some bling bling in the appearance but I cannot agree Df being good looking or stylefull. Definately not good desings in terms of aestetics. More like cheap imitation of F3.

    And tehnologically Df is about recycling D4 and D600/610 parts. Even D7000 parts in terms of af. Very difficult see the point of 3000e price tag – much more than 2x what D600 costs over here.

    I must say I am disappointed. I was waiting for a “modern classic”. Df is not obviously it.

  37. plevyadophy says:

    They nearly got it right

    Well, in my view as far as ergonomics goes, they nearly got it right and it’s a sin, stupidity beyond stupidity that they didn’t get it right; and as for good looks they have just done a slam dunk.

    As far as ergonomics goes, I have always said that if I designed a cam I would design it so that that Aperture, Shutter, ISO, Exposure Compensation, and PASM were all adjusted by external dials ….. and Nikon have done just that. Awesome.

    But then there are the flies in the ointment. I think it daft that they put the often used Exp Comp dial on the left (thus forcing you to regularly move your left hand from where it ought to be permanently stationed ….. supporting the lens) and the least used PASM button on the right. That seems daft beyond stupidity.

    Also, all them buttons to the left of the LCD simply shouldn’t be there; they should be placed on the right of the LCD, so that one can engage the buttons with the thumb of one’s right hand. In my view, good ergonomics means that a camera is operable almost entirely with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand; each button, dial or what not that is placed on the left of the camera and forces you to move your left hand from cradling the lens is an act of stupidity so the fewer things on the left of the camera the better.

    Then the mother of sins. In typical idiotic Nikon fashion, and the reason I have never owned a Nikon nor never will, they have over-complicated the damn thing. The ergonomics look awesome at first glance but are rubbish in actual use; all them fekkin awesome looking dials have to be unlocked before use instead of being able to use them with a swift reflex action of the thumb and forefinger. Dumb idiot design, dumb!! Typical Nikon over-engineering.

    A friend of mine is critical of the camera for not having an EVF. As for OVF, yeah we should send them to the headmaster to explain themselves; but as far as OVF cams go this thing could have been perfect but it seems that they got close to perfection and then got scared and instead decided to do some foolishness. Take for example that HUGE prism hump; with the hump that big I would expect to find either a pop-up flash (there isn’t one!!!) or an enormous viewfinder view (there isn’t one!!! a mere 0.7x magnification, which isn’t anything to boast about; with a hump that size I would expect something like 0.8x at the very least)

    I think as far as this new retro camera craze goes Nikon have got a slam dunk as far as good looks goes; they have p!ssed on everyone else and that’s some achievement given how cool the Fuji X-Pro 1 cam is and how handsome Oly’s retro cams have been. But the problem with this Nikon cam is that it seems to be form over function; an ergonomic failure.


    • The whole prism/mirror assembly is obsolete. The best thing some of the Fuji’s do is put the viewfinder on the end of the camera body so that your nose is not pressing against the back/LCD. You can’t do that w a mirror/prism assembly. Not that Nikon is trying to do anything like that with this dog. It’s retro, alright. But not in a good way.

      • That Fuji finder is either an EVF or non-TTL. There are still plenty of reasons for a good TTL optical finder instead of a non-TTL one; parallax, for one. Focusing, for another. And if they were to use an EVF, then it would either mean a much larger body than required due to the F mount flange distance, or new lenses.

    • The size of the prism “hump” doesn’t necessarily mean better magnification. The standard F3 prism finder is smaller and has better magnification than the F3 HP prism finder. It’s all about eye relief these days, people with glasses. I don’t wear glasses, I would have preferred a better finder for my eyes, but I realize you want to get the most market here; and since it is not a modular finder you go with what works. And here it is, the D800 finder.

    • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

      Oh bloody me. I`m a bit tired of all that negative response especially you mr plevyadophy and your-How handsome Oly retrocams has been. Oh yeah, so why they didn`t do digital Pen F but went with less then 18×24 sensor for a body that design like is far cry from the clean cut lines of OM-1?

    • Retro for the sake of retro is giving in to marketing pressure. Retro for the sake of usability is to be applauded. But messing it all up to try to please everybody is the sign of a lack of focus and an extremely weak will.

      • plevyadophy says:

        Yes, indeed Ming. I have to agree.

        Looking at this camera a little more, I have a few more thoughts on this thing.

        Locking dials. I do indeed understand the desire for and supposed need for locking dials. To my mind though, they are over engineered over fussy nonsense and should NEVER be needed in the first place if the camera was built properly; they are just there in my opinion to give a veneer of well thought out sophistication. I hate them with a passion. It’s a pity I probably can’t meet you to do a live demo as to why they are stupid beyond belief.

        This constant talk by some about them being needed to prevent dials moving from where the photog placed them is utter nonsense. The simple solution is to make the dials have enough resistance such that they do not require locking. The only cams I have where I have a locking option on a dial and it is actually needed is on my early generation Canon 1D series cams. And the reason it’s needed? Bad design. Simple. The main rear dial is large, which ain’t a bad thing in itself but it means my thumb comes into contact with it a lot easier and then …………… stupidly the designers didn’t have the sense to make the dial stiffer (i.e. have more resistance), choosing to make it almost “free wheeling”; that there kinda silliness then requires this additional option of a locking feature (and of course more features on a cam gives the semblence of sophistication). No other cam that I own (I have five within 5ft/2.5m of me now) or have used/like has had the need for this silly locking nonsense.

        And if they really must have that silly locking thing, why not be clever about it, like Olympus have been, with their new OM-D E-M1 cam, where the locking button can be pressed to engage a lock and then pressed a second time to disengage the locking mechanism for peeps like me who hate locked dials and prefer to use our cams without such interference.

        As for the vf, yeah I take onboard the point raised by others re having a good eyepoint as this cam seems to; I can well see that having a good eyepoint for those who wear spectacles (like myself) is a good thing, but still, with that HUGE prism hump I would expect something for it (flash or huge magnificiation).

        Looking further into the development of this cam, it seems to me that Nikon are treating potential buyers like idiots, it’s as if the marketing department have said “oh look, all these peeps are really into retro nowadays, lets cobble together a cam from existing parts and then change the entire top plate (replacing it with some retro looking dials) and they will fall for it! Voila!”

        If you look at the other retro cams, and cam makers, they have something special that one can point to that makes the camera what it is or gives a halo to the producer; Oly have the new sensor and super fast contrast-detect af with onboard phase detect as well as that insanely awesome 5-axis (or 4-axis as CIPA say it must now be called) in-body stablization whilst still paying homage to cameras of a bygone era; and Fuji, in their X100S have that insanely clever veiwfinder (e.g. the ability to offer split-screen focusing without the need for a split-screen focusing screen) and Fuji have the X-Trans sensor (not something I am overly keen on, but it does have it’s merits and supporters).

        And what does Nikon have in this camera to point to? Erm, erm, erm……… oh yeah, you can physically attach any F mount lens to the camera but erm, you can’t focus them easily because you can’t have an interchangeable split-screen focus screen. So what other great wonders of unique technology or features have Nikon brought to the table? Erm, let me see now, erm, erm……………. can someone help me here please?!!!

        This camera is a big fail on so many levels. But then, if enough people buy it for a modest profit to be made or simply to break even, the “bean counters” at Nikon will say I am wrong. 🙂


        • I think sometimes we have to step back and realize that there’s a fundamental disconnect between camera companies and photographers. The former want to make a profit, any way possible. They do not really care about photography or even pretend to, most of the time. Hell, a lot of them have now started selling the things as lifestyle accessories or aspirational symbols. Photographers want to make pictures, not care too much about the camera. See the problem?

          • plevyadophy says:

            Hey Ming,

            You’re a bad guy.

            Now you gonna get me on my hobby horse now that you have mentioned that word “aspirational” 🙂

            I was at a Hasselblad event last month in London, and I was shocked to see that they actually dared to display those two idiot cams teh Lunar-cy and the Stellar (which ironically sounds like the name of a particular alcoholic drink!!) and …….. wait for it ………….. displayed them in glass display boxes as if they were the fekkin crown jewels! 😦

            So I thought to myself “let me tease these Hassy peeps about these silly cams”. Well, to my surprise two senior members of staff (who for obvious reasons will remain nameless), out of earshot of each other and at different times, said to me that “this camera is not for [serious photographers], it’s for a different market”. I kid you not, they both pretty much said the same thing. I also said that I thought these cams tarnished the name of Hassy (I mean, gosh, at least when Leica make one of their special edition “sun dried ostrich testicle skin” M series cams, it’s a real Leica cam and not some outdated or low end cam from another manufacturer)

            My cynical response was to say “what you mean is, it’s for ostentatious Gulf Arabs, corrupt Chinese government officials and tacky wealthy Russians and mafioso?”. I received a non-comittal response from one member of staff and the other gave a wry smile.

            I think that says it really and pretty much supports what you have just said.


            • Sadly…I’ve heard the same things as you. But hey, they were clearing out V-series gear now that it’s discontinued*…

              *Why?!! All that needed was a modern 6×6 digital back, and I suspect they’d have made a killing: the real deal, not a retro-inspired wannabe. Oh well, I got several new film backs at criminal prices, so I’m not complaining.

  38. Hi, Ming. An insightful write-up as per usual. Given the length Nikon went to make the Df backward compatible with pre-AI glasses including but not limited to that collapsible aperture coupling pin, MIA since F2, I totally share your bemusement over the lack of an interchangeable focusing screen that enables proper manual focusing with the regressed helicoids. And the look of the camera is like an engineer’s wet dream and designer’s nightmare. I beg to differ with you though on the choice of a low pixel count sensor for the retro GMO. I believe the majority of the buyers would use it for considered photography such as landscape, portraiture or architecture with their old Nikkors. Therefore, having a 800e heart pumping out as many pixels as Sony allows it currently would make its target customers hesitate less in reaching for their credit cards.

    • It’s certainly a marketer’s dream, at any rate.

      Again: two versions would probably have made more sense; a 16MP one and a 36MP one. Or better yet, a 36MP one that can also put out 18MP pixel-binned raw files.

    • No, not MIA since the Nikon F2, the Nikon F4 has a meter coupling lever release button (see the Nikon F4 user manual p. 70).

      • Just dragged the F4 out of its box where it has been taking a nap for the last 10 years. Yes, you are spot on about the collapsible pin and I should have remembered. Thanks for the correction.

  39. David Cope says:

    It looks like they threw my FA and D700 into a Waring blender with A dash of old Minolta grip. Blech.

    I do think comparison to Leica is a bit unfair. There’s nothing hand-assembled about this and I suspect it’ll be built somewhere with wages amounting to spare change/hour compared to Germany.

    • It’s made in Japan, and I’m pretty sure their wages there aren’t spare change per hour. That said, I’m also not really in favor of hand assembly as it tends to result in a huge variance in tolerances…

  40. A camel is a horse designed by committee.

  41. It should be a $2000 USD (or less kit) then it might make more sense.

  42. I am beyond frustrated regarding the viewfinder. The fixed, non-replaceable viewfinder which is not optimized for manual focus (i.e. will not show shallow depth of field, is optimized for brightness alone, and has no focusing aid such as a split or a microprism array / collar) is a total dealbreaker for me. Not only that, but it just does not make sense given the promotion of this camera. For a camera in which the ability to use manual focus lenses of any vintage has been touted, why on earth did they cripple it with this screen?

    All that I want is a camera with which I can easily and accurately use manual focus primes. I would love a simple, clean digital version of my leicaflex, but would settle for any new dslr or mirrorless entry which permits easy, accurate manual focus. Personally, not a fan of magnified views as I find them disorienting.

    • I agree with you. A missed opportunity and a very strange engineering choice – almost certainly driven by the marketing department and not photographers.

    • It only goes to show that the camera was designed to milk money out of the retro look crowd.

  43. Great article again, Ming.

    I agree to a lot you’ve said. To me, it’s not retro enough for real enthusiasts, and not good enough for the price. The body is not completely metal, it has a plastic front end. The shutter seems to be taken from a D600 (max. 1/4000, Flashsync max. 1/200 Sec., 150.000 act. lifetime), hopefully without the oil leak. I believe Nikon chose the D4 sensor as a marketing trick, in order to make the similarities with the D600 not to obvious, and to argue the price by using the “flag ship sensor”.

    A missed opportunity in my eyes: mediocre technology (AF system with 39 very centric points), a D600 body with slightly harder edges, and an unnecessary amount of dials and numbers. I want “retro” done right and stick to my Fujis for that.

    Best regards

    • I still think they should have left AF out and put in a proper viewfinder instead. No point in having full AI/ pre-AI lens compatibility and no way to focus them quickly and accurately…

  44. One thing Nikon gets thumbs up for is leaving video out of this thing. Finally, a camera for people who just wants to take photographs and not be cinematographers at the same time! However, I must agree with Ming in saying the confusing mix of retro mechanical camera with digital DNA might provide a less than pleasing experience. Sometimes when you try to make everyone happy you end up making no one happy.

    • Actually, it seems odd given that they’ve pretty much managed to cram everything else in; if they’d left out AF and included a proper viewfinder, that’d be more impressive.

  45. Iskabibble says:

    Stunning, epic failure from Nikon. No split screen viewfinder??? Why the hell not? My god, with a finder like that this camera would be AWESOME! Without it, I have lost all interest in it.

    Heelllooooo Sony A7, here I come!

  46. This camere has an appeal to those of us old enough to remember the classics 40 years ago. Then many of us couldn’t afford them, nowdays that is not a problem.

  47. To me the camera looks like Nikon is clutching at straws. Trying to make a DSLR into a slim film camera. If they had made this into a mirrorless FX camera it would have been possible to make it looking like a nice retro camera.

    What I see is a digital camera with a retro facelift and it doesn’t look good just cluttered.

    I would have liked to have seen a clean digital FM2 with few controls (dropping a lot of the digital controls) and new lens with aperture ring. I really don’t understand why they don’t make aperture rings on the lenses any more, especially now that one is using the DSLRs more for video work too.

  48. Much like the J1 V1 I want to be very excited about this camera. Unfortunately also like J1 V1 I think to myself what did they do? No split prison? Exactly how are we going to focus those older lenses effectively?And really do I need’ dials for everything on the top of the camera and seemingly nothing important on the back? Then I get to the price. Retro has a very high price point. As a life long Nikon shooter I don’t know what frustrates me more. The time period where Canon was killing us and all we had was the D2H and had to talk about EFFECTIVE megapixels or now where I look through the lineup of cameras and don’t see too many from top to bottom that excite me.

    • I presume you mean split prism. But yes, you hit the point precisely: we cannot focus those lenses easily anyway with the standard AF focusing screens.

      Retro is a marketing tool, nothing more. The ergonomic reasons simply aren’t there; I’m glad Olympus abandoned them for the E-M1. Too bad it seems that Nikon have just gone overboard.

      Of the recent announcements, the only thing that really piques my interest is the RX10…

      • Rx10 huh? Actually me too. Previously considering GH3 but the monstrosity, no. Too bad RX10 has f8 and above equivalent DOF but for most applications, it may just be the dream cam.

        • I have a GH3 and it is great for video, does nothing for me when it comes to stills. I only bought it for the video.

        • I see the long end complementing the E-M1 nicely, but then again, it’s about the same price and weight as the forthcoming 40-150/2.8, so maybe not.

  49. Good points about the modern viewfinders, Ming. As a former user of a Contax RX that is what I mainly miss in DSLRs. Specially because using my Carl Zeiss lenses (C/Y mount) on an Eos 5D by means of an adapter has been a terrible experience. I have had some succes with the Distagon 21/2.8 thanks to stopping down and using hyperfocal. However focusing the Planar 85/1.4 has been an exercise in frutration: impossible for me to get any accuracy.

    After reading your review of the E-M1, and watching your excellent shots with it, I have ordered one. I am thinking of buying a Novoflex adapter to make another try with the Planar, getting advantage of the electronic loupe in the viewfinder or the screen. Any thoughts about this solution?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.


    • Part of the problem is mirror alignment; the other part of the problem are the focusing screens. The 85/1.4 may not have the resolving power wide open to perform well on the E-M1; it doesn’t really work on the D800E either, which has larger pixels. You’re better off selling it and getting the 75/1.8 instead if you want something in that FL.

      • “The 85/1.4 may not have the resolving power wide open to perform well on the E-M1; it doesn’t really work on the D800E either, which has larger pixels.”

        That looks like a good theme for a future article 🙂

  50. Word.

    Also, UK price £2,749—yep, GBP. And it’s not even available body-only here.

  51. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    After having a second ( first ) look at topside picture of Df, I do can see similar layout pattern to my old MZ5n. Thumbs up. Anybody liking mechanical watches should like this. All the settings at a glance, engraved in metal, instead of TV screens crammed with letters and numbers. The only thing I hate is this hot shoe hunchback riding the top of prism ( the same goes for Olympus M-1 ). Spoils the line. Remember the old OMs with detachable hotshoes? Now, that`s design.
    I think, when all the dust settles, Nikon made a smart move to counter stagnated DSLR sales. There`ll be a plenty of Nikon afficionados, having caches of of Nikkor classics which look a bit silly and outdated on the modern electronic monsters and which will look just fine on retro Df.

    • Yes the detachable hotshoe that use to crack with use and age.

    • Joel Venable says:

      “Anybody liking mechanical watches should like this…”

      Until they see the nightmare of buttons on the back of the camera. It’s like a Tagheuer knocked up a Casio and this is their bastard child.

      • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

        What nightmare? Just turn the LCD off, forget the buttons and take pictures without chimpinizing. Beside it there`s a lot of mechanical-electronic bastards around. Think about F1 formula racing. Where they would be without all that electronics, paired by the way with combustion engine invented 100 years ago. Steampunk ain`t everybodys darling but cool for sure it is.

      • I’m a big mechanical watch nut and this definitely isn’t appealing on that level. I have to agree with you Joel, it’s like two mid-range mass compromises that should have stayed out of the gene pool had a drunken unprotected fumble one night.

  52. William Jusuf says:

    when seeing the look for 1 st time
    thats too much complicated button

    if its pure photography
    we could make 1 shutter speed dial + 1 ISO speed dial
    make spot or center metering
    Apperture is in lens

    screen is not that big and can be reversed so it become screenless
    viewfinder is 100 % optic bright or hybrid with high res EVF

    done 🙂

    maybe thats just me

    • It’s not just you. This is trying to have the best of both worlds, but making it the worst instead.

      • The Df actually serves to underline how good a job they did with the D700’s ergonomics, IMO.

        • Oddly though, they keep making near misses: the D700 needed an easier way to access live view, which the D600/800 have; the D600 lacks some of the direct controls of the D700/800, and the D800 lacks the U1/U2 custom positions of the D600. And they messed up the grip shape on both. If I was the cynical sort, I’d almost say they were doing it deliberately to keep us buying new models…

          • Agreed on all counts. Though live view could be assigned to the Fn button on the D700, as one of your readers kindly pointed out to me immediately after I’d sold mine >.<

          • Like someone else posted, why of why didn’t they just create a camera with the viewfinder/body from the F6.
            $2750 is a lot of money for this camera, and it looks like a toy. Sony A7R seems like a much better buck for the money.

            • I think they’re so fixated on differentiating their products to try and force people to spend more (either by going for a more expensive model, or by buying more than one camera to do different things) that they’ve lost all sense of perspective. Also, there seems to be a real lack of vision at Canon and Nikon at the moment; it’s all designed by committee.

              • The design by committee approach seems to be what’s going on at almost every big company; as a result, we land up with very little innovation – or even worse, factions and products that have no support/ longevity. Conversely, we’re unlikely to see much maverick innovation because the cost of entry is so prohibitively high…

                • DPReview have just published an interview with Sony’s Kimio Maki entitled “‘Every six months I want to do something new'”; might explain that company’s product-ADHD…

                  • Yes, it does. And it’s frankly scary to anybody thinking about investing the kind of money Sony is charging for a ‘system’ these days…

                    • Disappointing that they decided to introduce a whole new mount for the A7/R, I thought. I realise the reasons behind that were at least partly technical, but still, do NEX and existing Alpha owners really want to start from scratch with a non-mature system? I wouldn’t.

              • Peter Boender says:

                Todd, for the Nikon part I tend to agree with you (I don’t know Canon, so no opinion there).
                For DSLRs Nikon seems to be pushing us to FX. The DX line-up is totally neglected or mishandled. No serious lenses (apart from that sole 35mm f/1.8), still no successor for the D300s. Instead they keep churning out reiterations of the D3000 and D5000 series, with minor upgrades between models, while there are still boatloads of previous models available at the dealers… Their effort in mirrorless is ill-defined: who actually wants a Nikon 1? Now Nikon is trying to jump on the retro train, to keep their DSLRs afloat. I wonder how many of those they’ll sell, as I think it’s grossly overpriced for its abilities. Will it sell for this price for its retro look alone…?
                It’s a shame such a great engineering company makes such strange and wrong market decisions. It looks like they are getting more and more alienated from their user base…

                • I think it spoke volumes that the (very successful) hype campaign for the Df contained nothing of substance photographically; it was all about generating a buzz, teasing the looks and to a lesser extent the design philosophy. Technical details and photographs taken with the camera didn’t emerge until after the reveal. Priorities?

                  • Isn’t that pretty much how all camera campaigns are conducted these days? It seems that even the camera companies are so jacked up on their own hype that they forget the purpose of selling cameras is so people can make photographs!

                  • Right Andre, I’m with you! Moar Art Auto Scene Slideshow Hipstagram modes plz, Nikon 🙂

                    • Don’t forget Pet Smile Beauty Retouch!

                    • I was shooting some street shots last night with the E-M1, and had to turn off eye-detection because it kept putting white rectangles on some trees.

                    • I either use single point AF or MF – no AF system is going to get it 100% right all the time. These are the least frustrating options…

                    • Yes, agreed. S-AF on the middle point is probably what I’ll use 99% of the time. I’m about this close to disabling the 4-way pad on the back, too. I turn off each annoying feature as I accidentally encounter them, but I am glad Olympus gave us the power to turn off features, unlike say Sony.

                • I wonder how much of this is due to their dependance on Sony-supplied sensors though…

                  • Peter Boender says:

                    They are using Toshiba sensors too…

                    • “Todd, get with the program! Photographs are those things that Instagram filters work on.”

                      And that, for better or worse, may be the most cogent observation in this whole discussion – and the clearest reflection yet of how clueless the “big camera” manufacturers are becoming. Can you say “Blackberry” ?

                    • Well, Apple is the world’s largest camera maker by volume…but I have to take my hat off to them for distilling down what a camera really needs: exposure/focus and shutter. Too bad about the overcooked files, though.

                    • “Blackberry” ? … iPhone is THE most popular “camera” according to Flickr statistics

  53. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    A notice on top layout, just have a look at old Pentax MZ5n, an example of purposeful simplicity. Not talking about Leica M. How many dials you need after all?

  54. bertram eiche says:

    … and mediocre again, as usual.
    Seems like the last “pure” photography tool with digital is the Leica M.
    Leica M is expensive but so is the Nikon DF.

    • I’m not sure about the ‘purity’ of the M either, to be honest – is the EVF implementation a subtle admission that the RF isn’t quite up to snuff?

  55. The D700 that I considered selling to replace with this, will probably stay. I might even buy a Katzeye focusing screen for it 🙂

  56. stewart wall says:

    I shoot professionally with the OM-D EM5 Ming.

    I initially like these new Nikons and the way they have the relevant dials. I started work in 1978 with a Nikon FM and for 20 years I had a shutter speed dial and an aperture ring.

    I know what the exposure is before the camera tells me so looking at this top plate it looks like I could change the shutter speed with my forefinger and aperture with my thumb and easily switch between manual, auto and program as required, I like that idea. Only concern is catching the on/off switch when changing shutter speed.

    • My concern is with so much digital DNA, who knows how much can be overriden with the command dials? What do the front and back dials do when we’re using the top plate fixed dials, for instance? It would be rather meaningless to set up exposure but find something else has inadvertently changed. Or that you need the digital modal controls anyway for the rest of the camera.

      I’m with you on a proper implementation for mechanical/ manual controls, though. I have that on my Hasselblad V with the digital back, and other than the crop factor, it’s the purest digital photographic tool I’ve used.

  57. Ron Scubadiver says:

    IMO, Nikon should have put the D4 sensor in a D800 body instead of this D610 with a stack of coins on the top. Not for me. The engineering and tooling money could have been spent on updates of their 20mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/2 primes.

  58. I think it looks super cool. Check Pictures here:

  59. It will be interesting to see if Nikon’s quality control will pick up for this premium priced D600 variation ;-p Perhaps a better grade of oil on the mirror? Or free postage for warranty work?

    The dial for exposure compensation looks like it will be a pain to use for anything quick as you’ll need two hands and full attention to access it. Also that front grip is a sad compromise… they could have learned from others and kept the camera clean but also sold a nice grip for more profit. And so on….

    They should have done this as a moderately priced and more compact DX body along with a set of DX primes. It would fill a niche and allow owners to buy into the rest of the Nikon system, while also keeping the loyalists from jumping ship.

  60. Michael Werner says:

    Apt Analysis. To me this also appears as a hipstercam (or hipstacam?;)) If one does the retro thing it should be done the whole nine yards and reduce the number of buttons to the minimum.
    Personally I was never a big fan of the retro designs, from an ergonomical standpoint designs like the D700 or the OM-D EM-1 seem to be more adequate. As for this design it reminds me of the FA, but uglier. Even without the price nothing for my bag.

  61. It’s as if Nikon created this camera to steer non-pros towards the D610. The restaurant knows that you probably won’t buy the most expensive item on the menu, but having it there makes the second most expensive item look like a bargain.

  62. Torsten Reimer says:

    There is one thing about this camera that really worries me: the price. Maybe not so much the general price, but the UK price. In the UK, Nikon’s suggested price including the 50mm lens (it does not appear to be available without the lens) is £2749.99. That is about $4400. Admittedly, it includes VAT/sales tax, but even so I can get a D800, the 24-70mm and a 50mm 1.8g for that price from Amazon UK right now. Or the D600 with the same lenses plus the 28mm 1.8g and a flash. You have to want the 16MP sensor or the design really badly to make that seem worthwhile, I think. Why Nikon think the camera is worth $1000 more in the UK is beyond me.

    • As far as I’ve seen, Nikon’s UK pricing has always been seriously out of whack; I have no idea why. Even discounting VAT, it’s simply unfair.

      • Torsten Reimer says:

        That’s sadly true, although some people overemphasise that difference as they don’t consider that VAT is included. Even so this price difference is particularly bad. Let’s just hope it does not reflect the market price. As far as actual market price is concerned the UK is not much worse than the US with the current exchange (which is why I have pretty much stopped buying gear from B&H during NYC visits as it is often not worth it. Anyway, very odd pricing – the camera would have to feel amazing in my hands to make it worth that much more money.

        • You can buy a mint Leica M9 for that money. If I recall right, when the D800 was announced Nikon UK hiked the price on the D800 following the rush of pre-orders by £500. The price dropped over the following 8 months till it hit about £2k or thereabouts. If you can’t wait for the Df to drop in price could always buy a ticket to New York with the difference and buy a Df there + some goodies!

          • Torsten Reimer says:

            Yes, you could indeed. Thankfully, I see no reason to replace my D600 with the Df, so I am not in any danger to be tempted.

      • It’s the same in rest of Europe.

      • Ron Preedy says:

        3 possible reasons:

        a) Nikon expect the Pound to devalue relative to the Yen soon – entirely possible;

        b) Nikon UK is greedy and wants as much of the early adopters cash as they can get – entirely possible;

        c) both of the above …

  63. Ozan Alakustekin says:

    With my humble experience, I can say it is a huge disappointment from either perspective for the ones like me loves Nikon and awaiting for an alternative/light/ easy pick up gear. It is not light, small and what I’ve noticed is d4 sensor installed however with 5.5 fps. That’s somehow meaningless.

    • I don’t think it’s possible for FX with a decent finder, decent build, lots of manual controls and the digital innards to be light and small; the Sonys fail on pretty much all of those parameters, by the way. The Df is a compromise – that much is clear. Question is whether it falls on the right side of compromised or not…

  64. Funny that I read your article after typing extremely similar comments in other places. We’re definitely of the same mind here, in that the manual focus experience is the key. Certainly does seem to be too many controls. If it sells well enough, then we may see a future version move in a different direction. I really think we could do with just one rear command dial and call it a day.

    As to whether I would add this as a back-up camera, I’m a bit less certain it would be a good choice. I’m using a D3 instead of a D800, and doing different work, though I’m not sure a Df would create the right perception. I could almost just put a sticker on the back of my F4S and claim it was the latest thing from Nikon. 😉

    • I was asking myself the same question, actually – does it make sense as a backup? No, I don’t think so either. I’d rather have a second identical body to whatever is primary (in this case, another D800E) or as close as possible if I need a different sensor. I certainly don’t want to have to fumble with the controls if switching in a hurry. It’s one of the reasons my E-M1’s setup duplicates the D800E as closely as possible…

  65. Would have been cool to see it as an F2 Titan.

  66. I find the placement of the shutter very odd, The PASM seems to get in the way (again do we need a PASM on this camera?). It doesn’t seem to have the right balance between digital and analogue, this was where the X100 was so successful (ignoring everything else).

    In general I think Nikon ‘learned’ from the D3/D700 – not to release a D3 in a smaller body and charge less, sadly as the consumer we lose out and get this as a miss match.

    For anyone wanting a the FX experience and not requiring 36mp, the D700 is still king IMO.

    • The PASM dial isn’t necessary – you could just have an A position on the shutter speed dial, and run the thing in aperture priority the whole time otherwise. This is how it was back in the day; I doubt any serious photographer is going to run it in P mode anyway – too much DOF to control. Perhaps they were making concessions for the hipster crowd…

      Sadly, I’m inclined to agree with you on the D700. Now if only they’d use the F6 body for the non-integrated grip cameras…reagrdless of sensor.

      • Seems like a visual and operational muddle to me, like they set out with the “pure photography” paradigm in mind but it got dilluted in the board room. We’ve ended up with a brand new model line that’s already suffering from feature creep.

        F6 body and shutter mechanicals with a choice of 16, 24 and 36 megapixels at different price points plz.

      • Speaking of PASM, here’s a free idea for anyone who wants to implement it: have two control rings coincident with the lens mount, like the RX100’s front control ring, except two of them stacked behind the lens mount. They have click stops, a hard “A” stop on one end, a mechanical interlock so you can rotate both rings at the same time, and a little LCD/e-ink screen that shows the A and S settings even if the camera is off. These rings control a camera’a aperture and shutter speed.

        Both set to A = program mode
        Aperture ring set to A = aperture priority
        Shutter ring set to A = shutter priority
        Both off A = manual with Hasselblad-like shifting.

        We also get to preset and see the exposure setting without turning the camera on due to the little display.

        • That’s almost how some of the early consumer grade AF Nikon cameras worked, such as the N5005, if I remember the model correctly. AF lens could be set to locked aperture and they had shutter speed and aperture wheels that could both be set to A for Program mode. Not a pretty camera though, very plastic.

        • You know…if you don’t mind manual, you could just get a Hasselblad…

          • Did you mean me? I do have a 500 C/M, and love it!

            Steven, I think the Fuji X cameras work like that, too.

    • @crazy … “this was where the X100 was so successful (ignoring everything else).” The X100 is like a new camera now with it’s latest firmware upgrade.

      • I need to update the firmware when I get home. I’m a bit peeved with the X100 build quality though which for me was poor. Dust everywhere in the viewfinder and even beneath the front of the lens!

        I’ll give it a go again, I thought I had a Nikon A coming (cheaper than a GR in Europe), but a problem with the supplier so lets see.

        • I had a first batch model – dust problems on mine too. The later versions were better…

          Haha, you can always buy a GR now!

          • I bought mine from the refurb store, i thought this would be the safest option to avoid the whole sticky blades scenario. And if it did happen then I had the warranty. The dust annoyingly only developed after the warranty period! I don’t think it’s worth selling because of this issue and getting that much money back. So firmware update and let’s see. It was otherwise a nice camera to shoot with and no X-trans nonsense!

            I think I may go GR – simply because it offers me a different shooting experience and the Nikon A will be a bit too familiar.

            I’ve made my decision to probably get an EM-1 with the 12-40 early next yr for a lighter travel option (also looking for a different experience)….and a Hasselblad is still in the pipeline 🙂

            I’ll keep the D700 and FX lenses I have….for flash the CLS is still brilliant and maybe one day Nikon releases an FX camera I want to buy!

            • I think perhaps you should just acquire everything I have on this page. 😛

              Let’s just say there’s a lot of logic, angst and past experience behind my choices…

              • Sadly Ming it does seem as if it is slowly heading in that direction! Only difference is I don’t need double of everything 😛 . You and I have a similar philosophy on gear!

                I think making mistakes is also part of the journey. Thankfully I don’t shoot for a living, so many things are not required (except I’ve been eyeing stuff like the Gitzo tripod up for many yrs and that Arca head is rather tidy too ….). So I can shoot for pleasure and buy within my means. Now that is a great position to be in 🙂

                Luckily I don’t blame you for the Hasselblad itch – I blame my friend and his juicy prints 🙂

                • Then it’s simple: you need a GR, the 21 adaptor, an E-M1, the 12-40 and 75, and a Hasselblad.

                  I guarantee you’d blame me if you’ve seen my prints…

                  • sigh, I actually have exactly that on the want list…..add in the Gitzo tripod and the Arca ballhead and I am in Gearhead Nirvana. I would have to sell the FX stuff, which at the moment I can’t bear to do, so will build things up slowly 🙂

                    No doubt your printing must be darn good – you have a keen attention to detail. But I have to admit, my mate is not too shabby at all, he’s pretty experienced with his own darkroom and anything big he wants printed he sends off to his ‘trusted German’ to carry out. He’s Austrian, they seem to demand things done well…..

                    We’ll get some of your blad prints up in my Fantasy Gallery when it opens in the yr dot 😉

                    • The Gitzo and Arca head will probably make more of a difference than upgrading bodies, actually. Stability is very, very underrated. And it brings with it the ability to shoot at optimal apertures, base ISO, get perfect focus via LV, etc.

                      No need to wait for that, you can always get one now 🙂

                    • I think you are 100% right on the Gitzo – it also challenges me to something else as I’m not that experienced with tripod work.

                      Haha….maybe next round. First I need to move and assess the measly wall space that European flats provide.

                      Right back to work mate – nightshift isn’t that slow 🙂

  67. I agree with your article. I think it will be successful, but for no good reason, other than aesthetics. Personally I am not very impressed for the same reason you aren’t either Ming.

    Lack of a focusing prism is a huge missed opportunity in my view. It would have made the product stand out, and it would have justified the premium.

    • It still has an optical finder; the question is, how good is it?

      • The viewfinder is apparently “light years ahead” of the D800’s and has a lot of snap with fast manual lenses making focusing them a breeze. That’s according to Bjorn Roslett you had a chance to play with MF lenses on it. Definitely good news.

        • If that’s true, it’s great news. But the omission of a split prism is still very curious though; there’s no way any plain finder can be faster or more accurate for MF work than that.

  68. Peter Boender says:

    But it looks gorgeous, doesn’t it? (As for the rest, i totally agree with you).

    • Honestly…no. It looks like a D600 rear-ended an F3, in a not very neat collision.

    • Nope … it looks like a mess. Was REALLY hoping for a FM/FE look

    • It looks pretty good to me, especially in black. But they could have gone for even more simplicity in the controls department. I do like the traditional shutter speed and ISO and exposure compensation buttons, but there are couple too many buttons on the back. I also think they should have put the metering pattern selector on the side of the finder, like the F4/F5. I also would be more interested in a 24 or 36MP camera with similar controls than the Df. I hope this camera does sell well enough for further developments and more simplification.

  69. The only thing I’d want from this is the sensor.


  1. […] initial thoughts on the Nikon Df (which can be found here) were not positive, mainly due to the way the camera was marketed and executed. I’ve changed […]

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