Tested: the 2013 Nikon Df

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My 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 my mind somewhat after using it for the last week or so. However, it is simply a camera that does not work for me, even though it should tick every single box – I love my F2 Titan, D800Es pay for most of my bills, I’ve used or owned just about every lens produced in the last ten years, and I admit to secretly coveting the D4’s sensor – but there you go. It is a camera which doesn’t quite make up the sum of its parts.

Note: This is not going to be written in the style of my past reviews. For a start, there aren’t any images. And there’s a good reason for that.

Let’s start with the long list of things Nikon did do right:

  • Put a very sensible choice of sensor in: the D4’s 16MP FX unit makes the most sense for most users. It’s more than enough resolution for most people’s output needs, providing pixel integrity is high; it’s a forgiving sensor both for camera shake/ shutter speeds and lens resolution thanks to its relatively low photosite density. It’s also capable of excellent dynamic range, great high ISO performance; the HI1 setting (25,600) is actually usable, as is HI2 (51,200). This of course means that it has the same excellent image quality as a D4, or perhaps slightly better given the intervening development time on the sensor between versions.
  • Made it back-compatible with pretty much everything: the aperture coupling lever even folds away so it can mount pre-AI lenses without damaging the body.
  • Made just about every important control an external switch or lever – ISO, exposure compensation, metering, shutter speed, aperture (with the right lenses), drive mode, exposure mode.
  • Made almost all of those controls lock: it’s a good and bad thing, though. The interlocks are small and not consistently or obviously positioned. I suppose one could get over this with time. You are also forced to use their chosen increments for ISO and exposure compensation though: 1/3 stop is overkill and slow for modern cameras; 1/2 stops are better and often whole stops are adequate. You’re probably going to do more push/pull than 1/3 stop just by manipulating the exposure curves afterwards anyway – and the sensor has far more latitude than a measly third of a stop. It’s not slide film.
  • Threaded the shutter for a good old-fashioned screw in cable release.
  • Left the autofocus in: I was initially on the fence about this, but I think it’s a good thing. Options are always a good thing.
  • There’s no video: that’s fine; DSLRs a poor choice for video use anyway simply because you have to use the LCD, and few have adequate stabilisation.

The problem is, there’s a lot of bad, too. Most of it is a comfort/ ergonomic problem: the vestigial grip is simply too small to be useful in supporting the camera, and too large to allow you a flat-fingered grip in the same way you’d use a mechanical Nikon. (Not having a film winding lever to nestle your thumb in on the back doesn’t help, either.) The camera itself is too physically large to be gripped in this way; the shutter position is too high/ flat and uncomfortable to use for any period of time except with the very smallest (think pancake, or 50/1.8) of lenses. The shape of the grip just makes my hands cramp into a claw, and various protrusions dig painfully into my digits – I may well have odd-shaped hands, but given how ‘right’ previous Nikons felt to me, I was surprised by how physically uncomfortable it was to use. On top of that, the strap lugs are poorly positioned: the right side one digs into your fingers. And here I was thinking only Olympus made this mistake.

Secondly, the feel of the body doesn’t match the price point – especially the silver version. Though the knobs and dials are metal, the top plate and lens surround look and feel like cheaply painted thin-section plastic. (If it actually is metal, why not finish it like metal?) The black (an odd design choice on a silver body, given the lines do not flow with the front ‘leatherette’) back and base plate are slightly cold to the touch, suggesting magnesium. Some switches, specifically the AF/MF selection lever, are really quite low quality. The battery door is prone to detaching and falling off when open. Other things simply don’t make any sense aesthetically: the retro-design might be beautiful in minimalism – such as the F2 – but somehow the proportions don’t quite work ergonomically, nor do they suit the thickness required by the additional electronics over a film body. It also doesn’t help that it appears a D600’s rear panel was grafted on en bloc. Finally, the Df is both larger and lighter than you’d expect, giving an impression of hollowness rather than solidity. Build quality is about the same or slightly worse than my D600, and not on the same level as the D800E (which sells for the same price in most parts of the world). It simply lacks that feeling of ‘specialness’ or the sense of occasion which the designers undoubtedly intended.

Thirdly, the control paradigm is confusingly mixed: you need to consciously pause and think for a moment to remember what’s done through the knobs/ levers, and what’s done through the menus. This will of course cost you shots. Even the mechanical control operation is not consistent: you have to lift some knobs to unlock them (exposure mode) and press and turn to unlock others (all exposure compensation and ISO settings) but some others still require unlocking only sometimes (shutter speed) or not at all (drive mode). And there is nothing preventing you from setting 1/2000s, wonder why the camera is showing a fluctuating exposure reading and then only realizing that the little mode dial is set to aperture priority – whence the camera of course ignores the shutter speed dial. But in M, the shutter speed is set from the shutter speed dial unless it’s in the 1/3 STEP position, upon which you have to use the very stiff and poorly positioned front dial. See the problem?

It would just have been easier if they’d followed the control paradigm of say the FM3A, which does a great job integrating ease of manual override with automation.

The biggest disappointment, however, is the viewfinder. Design aside, the large prism hump – without a flash – suggests that there should be an excellent finder inside. The folding AI coupling pin suggests that the focusing screen should be well suited for manual focus, since somebody took the time to engineer mount compatibility. But no: it only has the same 0.7x/ 100% specification as the D600/D610, and the focusing screen is also a standard one. It should really have a a coarser matte for easier focusing of manual focus lenses, or at least an option to interchange them. Worse still, my (new) camera arrived with a misaligned mirror straight out of the box. What the camera thinks is in focus (both by AF system and rangefinder) does not look at all in focus in the finder. Needless to say, any attempt at manual focusing yields consistently backfocused results. I tried three other samples – one store demo and two friends’ cameras – they were also similarly misaligned to varying degrees. If you can’t focus it consistently, it may well be your viewfinder*.

*I suspect the LCD viewfinder overlay doesn’t help, either: pull the battery out, and the finder never comes into focus. Only when the battery is back in and a current is being applied to the overlay does it become transparent.

This suggests one of several things to me:

  • The product was designed and specced by a marketing team who never takes pictures; they merely chucked a spec sheet at the engineers
  • It was designed to a price, but that price still landed up being high
  • After the resurgence of the digital Leica Ms, and the success of the Fujis, management thought retro was the flavour of the month and had to have something in that segment too
  • Whoever signed off on it has never used an F or even an FM3A, and as a result does not understand haptics, tactility or viewfinders

But the funny thing is, through some strange combination of fate it appears they’ve gotten the mix right for most consumers; every dealer I’ve spoken to says they’re selling well. I’m seeing them appear in the bags of people I know, too. I expect many buyers will do no more than pair it with the faux-retro AF 50/1.8 G ‘special edition’ kit lens that has an extra silver ring around the middle and wear it over their shoulder while looking cool in horn-rimmed glasses sipping lattes in trendy cafes. They might even take pictures with it occasionally, or try an old manual focus lens, but viewfinder misalignment won’t matter because they won’t use any output sizes larger than what hipstagram requires anyway. And they certainly won’t print, or have used a proper camera from the era the Df is meant to resurrect – so the difference will be lost. Perhaps it was a marketing masterstroke after all.

Call me biased, traditionalist, misogynistic, haemorrhoidal or whatever you want, but I cannot help but think that the Df was a missed opportunity. It does not feel or operate like the Digital F that Nikon no doubt intended.  If you’re going to make a retro camera, do it properly: I understand the need for controls for the digital bit, but don’t overcomplicate things – again, look at an FM3A – don’t tease with that folding AI coupling pin, a forgiving sensor and then spoil the viewfinder. Especially not when you’re charging nearly the same money as a D800E for it. If you’re sitting on the fence, I’d recommend buying a real mechanical camera and a lot of film instead. Not only will it be cheaper, you’ll be getting a far purer photographic experience. This is a camera whose initial rumor and announcement made me very excited, until I saw the final design and handled one in person. After a week of using it, that unfortunately has not changed.

This brings me to the reason why there are no images: on the occasions I’ve gone out to use it, it either rained very heavily (the Df is not at all weather sealed) or gave me cramps after holding it for half an hour. I didn’t produce anything I was happy with during those periods. The last thing I need to do is contribute to the visually mediocre rubbish already polluting the web. After a week, I admit I’ve given up. I don’t have the time to spend trying to find a new way of holding it or to realign the mirror. (It’s also not my camera, so I’d rather not take it apart). Put it this way: without some curiosity at some level, I wouldn’t have requested one to test. This is one of the very few cameras I felt really did not work for me at all – and it wasn’t because of image quality – that has never been in question. It’s not even a near miss; the simple fact is that haptics and tactility do matter, and matter a lot. Especially when the package and hype are trying to promise so much. Evidently though, I must know nothing whatsoever about cameras: the Df appears to be backordered pretty much everywhere. MT

Thanks to B&H for the loan; if you want a Df and it doesn’t give you hand cramps, they have them available to order in black and silver here.


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  1. There’s not a better camera in the hand then the Nikon F6; just feels right. Once I bought the GF-GR1 grip for the DF it became my most used camera. The sensor is amazing. and yes there are several issues that still annoy me to no end; but it’s the right camera for some of my work.

  2. I just dumped my 2 Sony Cameras A7s and 6000 and purchased this DF for a very good deal. I can’t be itgin to say how thrilled I am with it. Even though I am not a pro, it makes a huge difference in the photos i’m taking. I’m even thinking of doing video on a d750 because of what I perceive to be great color rendition. Love your articles and posts. Thanks

  3. harold1968 says:

    This sure is a polarising camera. I don’t think Nikon meant it to be a big seller, however by all accounts its flying off the shelves quite well.

    Perhaps Nikon’s aim was less dramatic then Ming suggests. Perhaps their aim was to give their best sensor for low light and easy results (i.e. a shooters camera, rather then studio), combine it with D610 guts and put it out in a new stylish body (some people love, others don’t, as is always the case when you go away from the bland norm). The dials are great if you love this sort of thing (i.e. have it all set with the camera off) which I do, but can leave them out selectively by using various auto functions.

    As the camera market is attacked by mobile phones, and given sensor technology is so good, the minutiae of improvements only of interest to nutty brick wall shooters on dpreview, manufacturers are looking more for ownership enjoyment and design. This results in a massive bifurcation of opinion on the GAS equipment forums on the internet and what people are actually buying. (e.g. Nikon and Canon are relentlessly attacked for lack of vision, yet are still the only profitable camera companies. Sony only going into the black when it starts to give photographers what they really want, not what they are told they want by review sites on the web. With the G1Xii and eos-M2 Canon show they are perfectly capable of turning on a pin head when they need to, the market obviously doesn’t want this, given the decline in CSC sales, showing that Canon and Nikon have effectively read the market correctly – and yes I love the Sony A7 and Fuji T1 but I like the Df and RX1 more …..).
    Seeing Leica’s dated X2 fly off the shelves to wealthy Chinese teens last week reminded me that Leica doesn’t care what Ken Rockwell says, they only care for their sales and target market. One is quite happy to exist without the other.

    All in all I love this camera. I have bought it and haven’t been happier with a DSLR for decades. I always had to force myself to pick up the D800E or 5Dii. With the Df I just want to keep it with me all the time, to get the picture when it comes up. That speaks volumes …

    • Harold-
      came across this site and review looking for info on an older gitzo studex tripod. Wow- funny how things lead you to places on the www. People have missed the boat completely on this camera. Most have never picked one up, don’t shoot and our a bunch of sheep following the misguided masses of camera reviewers on the internet. Once again, people who read vs people who are taking pictures. I wasn’t even thinking about a Df until I went to my local shop to check out the Fuji xt1 and there it was.

      I’ve shot Nikon since I was twelve aka 1986. I’ve been brand loyal. Later on in school I had to primarily shoot 4×5 and medium format. I focused on products and architecture and even shot portraiture with 4×5. 35mm was primarily used by those studying photojournalism, that’s it.

      Fast forward twenty years and I don’t shoot professionally or assist professionals anymore. I shoot because I want to and do the occasional job on the side when I’m called and asked if I would be interested. If I was shooting for money and I was in a studio or shooting architecture and had a choice, I would be shooting at least medium or 4×5 with digital capture. However, I’m not. For me, 35FF is the perfect compromise and the Df is the perfect body available. A) it’s compact for a FF body B) it doesn’t look like your run of the mill large chunk of molded plastic. C) it has Nikons best sensor. This isn’t even debatable. 16-24 is the sweet spot for 35FF. The 800 is fantastic in certain circumstances and flawed in others and complete overkill for most. Why you would want that resolving power in 35 is beyond me. Theres a good reason why the D4 is 16 and not 24 and certainly not 36. If you’re going large and need extreme detail for heavens sake step up to a larger format. All my friends working in fashion and shooting commercially in NYC and LA shoot medium and larger. If you’re covering sports and shooting Nikon its a D4 or D3. Not a D800. If you’re photojournalist its the same.D) It’s light for FF. I can keep going but whats really important are the fundamentals. I haven’t felt more at home with a Dslr ever. All of the complaining about focusing manually is bs. Ive got three ai manuals that work perfectly with it. Ive had no problems focusing. I still use an FE and in low light its practically impossible to focus with, split screen and all. The viewfinder is fantastic, autofocus is great, focusing points are more than adequate. I could use a second card slot but I don’t really need it. Ive never had a card fail me and if it did who cares. If I had a money job I would be shooting tethered. Otherwise I would be shooting a D4. I remember back in the film days when labs would screw up or film would be lost, etc.
      Obviously where the Df kills it is available low light, as you know. Its not even funny how this thing just shreds everything in its path. The 800 isn’t even close. Thats a big reason why pros shoot 4’s and 3’s. In fact, this sensor just kills it in every environment. However, I love shooting in dim lit interiors and on streets at night and it’s superior. This is child’s play for someone who used to shoot transparency film at night.

      “Sitting around sipping lattes with a Df and whatever glasses you’re wearing?” Please.. That would be any number digital Leicas. I shot M3’s and 6’s and the games over. I’ll take a Df over any Leica on the market. What a hypocrite. Weatherproofing is no better on the 800 as well.

      The xt1 is a beautiful little camera but, its not quite in the same league. That sensor just isn’t anywhere near as good. Nikon could learn a few things from Fuji but sorry, despite what everyone would like to believe that format cannot compete with the best sensors available in 35 FF. Is it good enough or better than most people need, absolutely. I’m not here to bash Fuji because they are doing wonderful things.

      Anyway, I could go and on. But you know, because you actually own one and use it. It’s not perfect, but its really good. Its a serious imaging tool that lets us get back to the joy of shooting. It works well, it has dials. It’s as small as it gets for a FF DSLR, people think its film so I’m not mistaken for a pro. Its capable of producing insane quality. Did I mention it had dials and no video bs?

      Take Care and enjoy your camera. I guess the jokes on everyone else.

  4. I agree that the view finder is the greatest let down of this camera. I would have excused all other flaws if I could only have used my manual focus lenses properly on it. How great wouldn’t it have been with a split screen and microprism ring around it?

    This also tells a lot of how Nikon is run as a company. Obviously those in charge has no proper understanding of their products.That a mistake like this could happen unfortunately does not bode well for the future.

  5. Greg Hoyle says:

    Not sure what to make of this review. I had a similar reaction to the grip and strap holder, at first, but in my first week with this camera I had the opposite experience–I ended up really liking (okay, loving) it. Once you embrace the Df, as a unique camera in its own right, and not make it some camera you have used in the past–try this: for a visual person, at one glance, you can see the settings! And it’s light(!), easy to carry, not the D800 or D4 beast. And being a center focus type shooter, the 39 vs 51 is a pretty small issue. As for video, I never likes the cumbersome DSLR videos and extraneous buttons that add clutter. Most importantly, the key reason to fall in love is the amazing images. Very usable to 12800. Those D4 folks have had a sensor worthy of the $6,000 price tag. That two stops advantage is better than my old D800. Great shots in plain old room light. The way this thing feels–I love that it is a camera, not a computer with a lens attached. Admittedly, the computer inside is a zillion times better than film. (Who wants to wait days or weeks to see a shot, when it can be there in a nanosecond and focus checked for detail with the press of one button, once!) As for the viewfinder–no problems on my copy. So, in conclusion, after reading this critical review, I am left wanting to say to the author that while I admire his well written, thoughtful comments, I think that he was fighting it, never really taking it for what it is–a new idea for a camera, not retro, but reason. Probably the simplest, easiest to use, finest IQ of any camera in years, maybe ever. (Ok, the Fuji X100s was great too, for usability, but way too limiting beyond the simplest shots.) My advice for anyone thinking of getting a Df is to consider this as a new concept. Buttons, not menus. Visual, not guessing at settings. And, IQ that let’s you set the auto ISO to a broad range and forget that low light was ever a constraint. Try this camera–it’s a refreshing experience.

    • Agree 100% with what Greg Hoyle stated. I too was on the fence with the DF until I had it in hand and used it after a few hours. I own tons of other cameras and the Nikon D4 stays at home until called upon. I got rid of the D800 (with less than 500 shutter clicks) because I didn’t enjoy using it. The only camera that has sat on my desk and played with while doing my day job tasks was the Leica M until now…. the DF is played with all the time. People just need to quit complaining. Open your mind and understand that this camera is for a specific small portion of the market. Photography to me is not only creating / capturing the image but also being able to “feel” what I am doing. I guess a good analogy to this is that the DF is like a stick shift transmission car in a world that is dominated by automatic and automatic type transmissions. You want all the modern stuff… Nikon makes D610 and D800’s for that purpose. Sorry Ming, I disagree with you on this review and surprised. By the way, take a Leica M without the grip and walk around with it in your hand all day. I bet you’ll be saying the same thing about how your hand now hurts.

      • I did say exactly the same thing about the Leica M. It’s very uncomfortable. You need the ThumbsUp to make it comfortable; the new little thumb rest on the M240 is useless.

      • Jorge Balarin says:

        For me the DF is like an auto with modern engines but ergonomics from one hundred years ago. Doesn’t make sense.

  6. To address some of the ergonomic problems you had.

    I had all of those problems too for the first hour. I had to adjust the way I hold and operate the camera. I used to hold the camera with three fingers on the grip and used my forefinger for the front command dial and shutter release button. I adjusted my grip to use with the Df so that my forefinger is on the shutter-release at all times and my middle finger rests on the front command dial. This brings the grip up higher and makes it more comfortable as well as places the strap lug between the fingers. I find it’s way quicker to adjust settings on the fly this way. I wish I had been doing this a lot sooner.

  7. Hi Ming
    I got a black Df with “special edition” 1.8
    Full frame, light to carry all day..
    My d800e and my F6 stay at home with my other lenses

  8. The outrageous fact here is that your camera (and others that you also have knowledge of) came with a misaligned mirror. For a camera costing nearly £3000, that is totally unacceptable. It was not even just one camera. As far as I can tell, my EOS 650D focuses exactly as it should. Clearly a camera with a misaligned mirror will not, and the price difference is huge. How come nobody is commenting on this?? This is a basic ‘taken for granted’ requirement surely. I’ve often wondered how many cameras never achieve accurate focus because of manufacturing inadequacies. Quite unacceptable at this price point. Not what we expect from Nikon.

    • The misaligned primary mirror affects manual focusing, not AF. It still AFs properly, but when something is in focus it doesn’t show that to be the case in the viewfinder. And yes, it’s unacceptable, but guess what – almost every single Nikon I’ve bought – 15 or so – has been misaligned out of the box. Most people don’t notice because they do not attempt to manual focus, or simply assume that it’s their eyes which are off and try again.

      • So, how do you rule out that it is due to your eyes? How did you measure the misalignment?

        • Easy. Put it on a tripod and focus using live view. Put the mirror back down and look through the finder.

          • So, Ming…what do you do when it’s misaligned? Send your brand new camera right back to Nikon? Sorry if it’s a daft question, but I wonder if it’s something you do yourself.

          • Were the viewfinders such that they actually show the DOF as it appears on the sensor, you would see where the focus is. But given that the viewfinders are not even designed to show the plane of focus at large apertures, I would think that also a combination of eyeglass prescription, diopter adjustment and spherical aberrations (focus shift) could be interpreted as a misalignment.

            • True, except I was shooting with my contact lenses in (tested at 20/10) and no diopter adjustment. That leaves focus shift – but on every single lens? It doesn’t explain why I get more consistent results after adjusting the mirror, though.

      • Oh right. Very interesting. Thanks for the reply.

  9. I am sorry to hear about the poor focusing screen. I have been shooting travel photos with a Sony RX100m2, using the flexible spot focusing. This lets me put an auto-focus point anywhere on the screen, and I can even tune up the focusing with focus peaking. When turn back to my D600, with its limit auto-focus area (the D800 is not much bigger) and poor focusing screen, I am constantly frustrated by having to focus and recompose. Especially when chasing a toddler.:-) In the manual focus film world, one could focus a fast lens pretty much anywhere on the screen in reasonable light. It would have been great if the DF had brought back that experience.

  10. Sad to say, marketing savvy wins over substance, every time, these days.
    Those young ones below age of 27 are so gullible. 🙂

    • Hah!

    • Nolan Haynes says:

      Considering that I’m 25 and wouldn’t even have touched it with a 10 ft. pole when the Df was announced makes me what? Please don’t paint all youth with the same brush. We are not all rich and have everything handed to us on a silver platter. Even if we do save up the money needed, a considerable amount of research goes into such a purschasing decision because we know that it must last several years.

  11. My favorite sentence in that entire review was, believe it or not >> “The last thing I need to do is contribute to the visually mediocre rubbish already polluting the web.”

    Haha. Totally in agreement about that.

    It seems the Df has polarized most of the photographic community. Some just “get it”, while others feel Nikon missed the boat in several key respects; price being one of them. Some love the retro, while others believe it’s largely a parts-bin Frankencamera.

    I think if one has a stable of Ai or Ai-s lenses they want to shoot on a contemporary camera with a high-quality sensor, and/or want the D4 sensor in a [relatively] small, light-weight body, this camera is going to appeal. I wouldn’t underestimate the number of folks who fall into the latter category, actually.

    I shot with the Df for a few days and ― quibbles notwithstanding ― it made sense to me as I walked around and used it. Whether I could have lived with it over the long-haul, or for semi-pro work, is entirely another question, however.

    With two Nikon DSLRs in my stable already, I ended up adding an OM-D … so perhaps that’s telling.

    • Like Tom, I really cannot see – literally – how this viewfinder is adequate for critical MF work. The sensor’s lower density gives it some more leeway for critical focusing, but it’s no snappier, brighter or larger than a D600. And that’s a disaster for MF. It even has an LCD overlay – pull the battery and the whole thing always goes dark/ fuzzy – which is a no-no for clarity. Lastly, if you’re going to use it in AF mode – then why not get an AF camera that’s optimized for it and has the right controls for it? I have used it, and it really does not make any sense in the way it has been executed – but it’s also important to note that it’s actually not far off. A better grip shape and finder and we’d be there.

      • I agree that manual focus could/should have been better executed. I take it you find the green dot focus confirmation insufficient?

        Personally, I’ll also quibble about the 39 autofocus points; should have been 51 at this price point. After all, the D7100 has it.

        I have to say that when compared alongside the tech in the OM-D E-M1, the Df seems positively antediluvian. Just have to educate myself now on how to get the most out of the M4/3 sensor. btw, Ming, meant to ask: Does your PS workflow video more or less apply to processing for all sensor formats? You use the same basic techniques from M4/3 to medium format?

        • The green dot works if your lenses are f2.8 or slower. For f1.4s…no dice. You will find that there’s quite a bit of focus ring travel over which the green dot stays lit; the extremes are never in focus.

          Yes, the PS workflow applies for everything – from iPhone to medium format; the amount of latitude and correction required of course differs with each camera, but the principles remain.

      • HI Ming,

        I just happened to read this review earlier this week and then glanced over DPreview’s review. For the negatives they have pretty much concluded what you said including difficulty with manual focus related to viewfinder, suspect build quality and grip considerations.
        I tired a Df at the Nikon showroom yesterday and felt I agreeed with both you and dpreview on these points. Shame, the quality of the photos it can potentially produce is stunning. I was considering picking one up to use with a Zeiss 35 mm f2 distagon.

        I may have to consider a Canon 6D, where i can easily change the focussing screen and the better grip and haptics being other positives for me.

        I sincerely want to thank you for you no holds barred, un -coloured ( or when coloured you make it clear it is so) review style. You are one of the very few!

        • Thank you. I’m one of the few purely because I don’t depend on the people making those products advertising with me for income…

  12. Phil Harris says:

    Pathetic, truly pathetic.
    At least title it “Untested”.
    A thorough waste of your time and anyone who reads it.

    • Maybe I should have added some ads, photos of brick walls and called it the best thing since sliced bread. Oh wait, there are plenty of ‘photographers’ already doing that.

  13. Ming, you are so wrong about this camera. I look cool in horn-rimmed glasses and sip lattes in trendy cafés and I wouldn’t be seen dead with one of these over my shoulder, it looks absolutely horrid.

    • Good man. You’ve earned your right to a Hasselblad. 😉

      Merry Christmas, Mark!

      • Hasselblad? Isn’t that something people use to actually take serious pictures? That won’t do at all. All one needs is a Monochrom for posing and a GR for the occasional snap. Job done.

        Merry Christmas to you as well Ming, I haven’t completely forgotten the assignment but am currently tied up by the FCA who seem to think they need to regulate my business. As soon as I have avoided the orange overalls I will get back to the important stuff.

        • Not if you destroy your light seals and load it with expired film!

          Pschh. Regulation? FCA? Who on earth do they think they are?! Take your time. 😉

  14. I’m a big MF lens shooter and when this camera was first rumored I was fired up about it being the MF shooters dream machine. Needless to say I was very disappointed to find out just what you said about it. They didn’t go retro enough! If ONLY they would have put the viewfinder of the F3HP in it. Maybe the next version???

  15. I’m finding the results from the D4 sensor to quite amazing. The Df is an addition to my D700 kit and the latter is still my event workhorse for events and other situations, especially where strobe plays an important part.

    The Df is used for family/friends/events/street along with my mirrorless X100 and N1V2 (mainly in travel/street). The Df results are simply astounding and I find the handling quite easy and the viewfinder very MF prime friendly.

    I find it interesting to hear your differing viewpoint and I’m not surprised by the number of followers who feel the same. The Df is certainly a different camera and not a incremental extension of any of the current Nikon DSLR lines. It’s a pretty risky venture based on it’s positioning in a quality lineup. I haven’t been affect by the four major areas you list as detractors. However, given that this camera doesn’t have a parent in the Nikon system, it’s really difficult to give it a blanket recommendation to someone who isn’t knowledgeable enough to know their real photographic requirements and participate in the evaluation of how this camera might fit into their photographic need. With other Nikon DSLR it’s always been possible to say it’s a Nikon, “you know it’s just like a ….. with the following improvements…..”.

    I was prepared to give the Df some time for me to get over the handling and control bumps, but they just haven’t happened. The autoISO implementation is excellent for my usage and with an occasional quick override with the iso-dial and the ability to reassign the Fv and Pv buttons, I’m finding that using my battery of manual focus lenses and the ability to “toggle” autoISO ON/OFF with just simply a button press (and command dial turn) makes for a very fast handling and versatile camera configuration.

    In any event, Happy New Year. I enjoy your perspectives.


    • It’s interesting to see how polarizing the camera is from a handling perspective – it seems it either works for you, or it doesn’t. I spoke to a chap at NPS this morning who found agreed with my opinion of the finder – he too thinks the DF was a near miss, but the sensor is out of this world.

      • Not sure you’ll post this, but I think you missed the idea behind the Df. Like you I’m a working professional and I have a variety of requirements that my bodies and lenses must meet. Using the Df for some time I became accustomed to it’s handling & operation. It’s been many years since I used film bodies and the DSLR form factor has me trained. But once I got used to it I appreciated the feel and controls of the Df more than the blob-o-plastic that is my D800. It’s smaller, lighter and the IQ is simply incredible. Looking at the specs I feel a lot of folks got pre-biased and I see evidence that you did as well. But in usage? My D800/D700 requires AF fine tune on most of my lenses. So does every FX camera my friends and I have owned from Nikon. The Df did not, and I’m talking about 4 of these. My D800 has mediocre WB while the Df is spot on. The real LCD of the Df allows for full zoom and no jaggies. With a little pancake prime the Df is smaller than my D800 with no lens attached! This kind of small size coupled with this sensor is just too much for many of us to pass up. There is no other camera like it. If you don’t need that in your work, then move on of course. But I need what this camera does as it’s a viable tool in respect to IQ and workflow. Responding to the retro appeal? Some will and some won’t. No one EVER said my previous DSLRs were pretty, but the Df has gotten than exact response several times already. It’s NOT for everyone, but it seems that the shooters who don’t like it also have a peculiar need to classify the Df along with the people who will use it. That’s not something any pro I know would ever do and I’ve been in the business for a lot of years. The Df has BETTER IQ than a D4 in the smallest FX body from Nikon. The AF is superb (well tested by me) and does several things better/differently than my D800. What DSLR would make a better 2nd body than the Df working in an artistic capacity? Well, I must say that the reactions/reviews and emotion the Df evokes has been terrific. My other DSLRs seem bland and less fun. And when I’m out shooting for myself, fun is what I want. You say many here agree with you, but look again; most have not touched the Df or used it for a few minutes. Now look at the response to your report on DPr and you’ll see a FAR different response and perhaps an unhealthy one at that. I think SOME of those taking issue with the viability of your test are spot-on. Rather than respond emotionally I think you’d do well to re-examine your “test” which doesn’t seem to be much of a test at all. Happy Holidays. Bob

        • Wouldn’t it be better if they’d just put a D4 sensor in an F6 body? Image quality of the Df has never been in question; it’s handling. I don’t think the D800 is as well made, but it isn’t plastic. The Df – at least the silver one – is. The doors are loose and shoddy, and give me no confidence about weather or dust sealing. I also didn’t realize all of the other Nikons had ‘fake’ LCDs. No AF fine tune? That wasn’t the case here, and even worse, my mirror was misaligned out of the box – how on earth are you supposed to focus those pre-AI lenses if that’s the case? Why bother even making the coupling prong fold at all?

          There are only two differences between this test and every other one I’ve done: images, and that I didn’t like the camera. The former is because of the latter. It is physically uncomfortable to me. I do not see how holding it for longer is going to fix that. If it fails at its primary mission, then it doesn’t work for me. Your mileage may vary, and that’s of course why we have choice. I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to waste trying to force something that adds no value or utility for me. Even if I like the DF it will not increase billability or number clients. They will still ask for more pixels and I’m back to using the D800s or medium format anyway.

          If I want fun, I’ll use an original F2. Not a physically uncomfortable imitation of one with a terrible viewfinder.

          • So…according to your comments, you had a defective camera. Mine has PERFECT focusing with AIS lenses and this is the only FX camera I’ve owned that did not require AF tuning. So why did you not return it and procure a working version? Also: I have the black Df sitting in front of me. There is not one seam, panel or door that does not fit tightly. I can lift it with the battery door; try that with the D800. And if the VF is terrible, then so is the VF on the D800/D4 and D600. I assume you made that remark relative to manual focusing, but thus far I’ve had no trouble with it.
            I can’t argue the ergonomics. No camera is right for everyone and I respect your view on that.
            But I’m sure you “know” that some will love the handling. Don’t you see that your test is shortsighted in not covering this tweaked Df sensor? Isn’t the final analysis in the IQ and overall performance? Yes, I know you said it’s great, but you really didn’t get into it at all. If I review a car, but the seats don’t work for me, I can STILL review the rest of the car and give a balanced review. To do this one must step outside of oneself.
            I can make a list of things I don’t like about the Df and D800, but they are my top picks at this point in time. I can’t imagine why you don’t see how this camera will work perfectly in some kits. Cheers.

            • By your logic, you should have read the whole review in a balanced way instead of switching off and choosing to focus on the parts that irritate you. Yes, the camera was defective. I can’t return it easily for another one because this was a) a loaner from B&H, on the other side of the world, b) the other four Dfs I’ve handled here exhibit the same mirror miscalibration problem, as do all of my other Nikons – this is unrelated to AF fine tune. Are you sure we are on the same page? And yes, if you look at my comments on the D800 and D600, their finders are crap, too. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be looking for aftermarket focusing screens to solve the problem.

              The only difference between this test and my normal reviews is that I declined to publish images because I was not happy with the end composition and artistic qualities. It has nothing to do with the sensor performance, which you can judge irrespective of the subject. I ran the same battery of tests I normally do.

              I’m sure it’ll work for some people. If you are one of them, that’s great; I’d go out and take photos instead of trying to explain your purchase to me – it does not work for me and no amount of text will change that. It’s a camera and a tool, not a something that has to be defended.

  16. Ming,

    LOL – the Df was a missed opportunity? Your test was the missed opportunity. Everyone I hear from who owns one loves it. I’ve had more satisfaction out of it as a camera than the rest of the cameras I own put together. I can even focus a Noct optically! Certainly I haven’t had any kind of issue focusing my 28 F2 AIS, 50 F1.2 AIS, 105 F2.5 AIS and indeed my 58 F1.2 (Noct-Nikkor) AIS. I’ve also had fun with the Voigtlander pancakes to good effect. This camera is great for manual focus photography.

    I appreciate you had other reasons to be frustrated, but the Df rocks. Try my set for size: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sgoldswo/sets/72157638217409113/

    I’m sure you’ll say the image quality wasn’t the problem. However, the key here is the amount of fun this camera is to shoot with (which I think comes through in some of those shots). If it clicks with you, you’ll barely want to pick up another camera. Just give it another chance…



    • I’m glad it works for you. But judging from a lot of the comments here, I’m not alone. It doesn’t make sense to spend time forcing something that doesn’t work especially when there are plenty of other more interesting things to do, like make images…

      • I see a lot of comments here that support your view from people who haven’t used the camera. I see lots of views elsewhere from owners which are consistent with my own.

        Seriously, I recommend giving it a real try. I genuinely think this could be Nikon’s most important camera for years. No, it isn’t perfect. Yes, it is bloody good fun…

        • I wanted to. I tried to. But I’m not going to waste any more time using a product that is for the hundredth time physically uncomfortable to hold and has a really poor viewfinder. If I want AF and ultimate image quality, I’ll use the D800E. I don’t care about how the camera looks, I care about how it functions and whether it helps or hinders me in making images. Here, it’s definitely the latter.

  17. Rex Gigout says:

    The Df’s ergonomics and handling seemed tolerable, almost like-able, until I reached for the shutter button. From FM3A to F6 to D70s to D7000 to Coolpix A, every Nikon in our household has a natural (for me) shutter button position. I would love the D4 sensor in a smaller-than-D4 body, but would have preferred the D800 (or F6!) form factor. I can be “pure” and retro with an FM3A.

    With the decline of my right hand and wrist, I have considered using the D4 as part of an “orthopedic” camera rig, with a left-hand grip incorporating a mechanical shutter release attached to the Df’s threaded shutter button. Such a rig would, however, negate the Df’s discreet size and appearance.

  18. I picked up the black Df after hearing similar comments about the silver feeling cheaper. Don’t know why, to this day I haven’t handled a silver one. I do love my Df, including the ergonomics but I do understand it won’t be for everyone. You can say that about any camera system.

    • The black one looks and feels much better. In general, cameras are designed for an ‘average’ hand – they will fit most people reasonably well. But the number of people for whom the DF just doesn’t feel comfortable is rather surprising…

      • I actually have larger hands. I don’t use mirrorless cameras for this reason. Handling a camera like the Sony A7 or Olympus OMD cameras has the same affect on me as the Df had with you. Every time I handle one of those I wonder how they get so popular. Too big for being “pocketable”, too small for long term handling. The Sony A7 being the worst of them because the modern AF lenses basically removes any size advantage, then you’re just stuck with a small uncomfortable body with a big lens attached. The Df is as small as I’m willing to get with my cameras. At the same time I don’t want something as huge as the D4. I would call the Df close to a “perfect” camera for me as it gets. Considering how well they have been selling I would bet others agree. It feels like an actual camera instead of a mini computer in your hands (like the Sony A7).

        • The A7 has the right size and balance with its own two native primes – the problem is there are only two of them. The zooms and adapted lenses are silly and yes, defeat the point of the small body. An OM-D with pancake zoom or pancake primes is definitely jacket pocketable.

          I suspect if you’d handled an F2 or F3 you might not be so happy with the feel/ build of the Df. It is not even close to being the same. And let’s not even talk about the viewfinder.

          All that said, I’m now starting to suspect the Df works for large hands, but not smaller ones.

          • Bjørn Rørslett says:

            It is easy to come to the opposite conclusions. I grew up with the Nikon F and F2 and in my opinion, the Df is right up there with these classics. In fact, if anything the Df handles better than my F2 Titan. Period. This is what I conclude after having used the camera on a daily basis for a few months. The finder is the best Nikon has made in decades and makes focusing my 35/1.4, 50/1.2, and the Noct 58/1.2 a breeze,

            Many people don’t bother to learn how to use the Df, or try to use it like they are accustomed to with their DSLRs, and hence arrive at strange conclusions. You have to learn to hold it properly as this is not like the average DSLR that can be used with your right hand only. Use both hands. Set up the camera to make it optimal for your own shooting and then everything falls into place. Start by setting the camera to using the aperture ring as a default and swap the front/rear controls. Then, use ‘M’ mode and enable custom option f11.

            There are many factual errors in your article, but I leave it at that. Like a number of other commentators I found your condescending style of writing a royal pain. Boosting your ego is one thing providing an information source to the photographic community at large is another. The problem now is one evidently cannot take your statements at face value. You dislike the camera. Fair enough. But have you tried to understansd why others love it? This is not about being hipsters, for sure.

            The Df will be an enjoyable camera for many and others won’t understand why. This is the reality.

            • Well, good for you. I never said it wouldn’t work for all OR that it didn’t have its merits.

              But perhaps evidently you and I must have gotten different cameras. I dislike it because it is physically uncomfortable with strap lugs that attack the web of your right hand. The controls are illogical and excessive, period. I’ve tried every single set up already; I don’t even shoot the digital Nikons as-configured either. The viewfinder is poor and difficult to focus like all modern Nikons. And I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand that people have different shaped hands. I’ve explained all of that clearly and logically.

              There is no need to come here and undermine my credibility just because I disagree with your opinion, Bjorn. That’s rather petty and far below what I expected from a ‘respected authority’ like you. You will also notice how there are open comments on this site, which are all read and replied to. I wouldn’t do that if I wasn’t attempting to be fair to all.

            • Hi Bjorn,

              If you don’t mind me chipping in on a slow Sunday lunchtime, sat in Tokyo traffic:

              The finder is the best Nikon has made in decades and makes focusing my 35/1.4, 50/1.2, and the Noct 58/1.2 a breeze
              [bolding is mine]

              As we were talking about previously, I literally can’t see this and wonder if the hyperbole is intentional, or not. A breeze? And a breeze with a Noct, no less. The only reason we’d mention that lens is the uncommonly wide aperture, and the implication can only be: it’s a breeze to hit focus at 1.2 through this Df finder. Otherwise, why mention the Noct. So, a breeze on the Noct, i.e., a breeze at 1.2? I have to call you out on this one… Really Bjorn? If you’re using the green dot, and that’s what claims for focus actually rest on, then the finder is almost irrelevant to the point—only being utilized for framing and composition, in effect. Genuinely, I’m baffled by the confidence: I’m partly skeptical, yes; but also curious, how could it be *that* simple, to you… i.e., what am I doing wrong? As you and sgoldswo advocate, maybe it is a case of time with the camera.
              I need that green dot all the way; and agree with MT’s point that it’s not reliable below around 2.8. I can definitely attest to that, on Nikons from the D60, through D7000, D3 and the F5, too. There is zero premise for thinking the Df green for should be different; though if it’s an article of discussion at all this is already an admission that the finder is not adequate. Green dot is for “in focus, pretty much.” Not, “snap! That is focused, son.”

              The best finder in decades? I’ve only been into photography for a year, so perhaps am not qualified to comment (I hope that wouldn’t be a claim made) but my camera collection extends longer into the past than that. Not to mention the camera models I’m not lucky enough to own but have tried and covet. And I would instantly put the F6 finder leagues ahead (that was from 2000-and something, no? Not even a decade prior). And yes, if we allow your ‘s’ in ‘decades’ to be taken literally, then F2, F3, F4. You know these cameras better than me, Bjorn, so as before I’m genuinely baffled and curious how you could put the Df over and above.

              I’m fine with us all reverting to “whatever works for you/me” peacemaking: it’s the grown up thing to do and completely a-OK. But it’s eminently possible to do that, and on the other hand admit that the finders of old are objectively better. Because they are. And I’d have thought this is the only tack to take, in order that camera makers would get their act together, generally speaking, and put a bit of care and effort into finders again. Which they’ve let slip purposefully. An unforgivable sin, in my view, as the whole modus operandi and spirit of photography is about first seeing.

              A postscript about taking things at face value and etc…
              Here is Ming’s opening to the article again:

              My initial thoughts on the Nikon Df … were not positive, mainly due to the way the camera was marketed and executed. I’ve changed my mind somewhat after using it for the last week or so. However, it is simply a camera that does not work for me, even though it should tick every single box

              It’s right there, at the top of the article: the first but we read and the marker for an author’s intent.
              To my palette, anyway, that’s a bit more fair and balanced than something like, say:

              … If anything the Df handles better than my F2 Titan. Period.
              Or, yes:

              The finder is the best Nikon has made in decades and makes focusing my 35/1.4, 50/1.2, and the Noct 58/1.2 a breeze

              I think Ming was totally wrong on one thing, titling the article “Tested” was a mistake, and I’m sure readers, rightly, expect pictures of brick walls and cats — CD and tape collection, and distant cars parked from the veranda in MT’s case — when they see those words. The gap between what that title promises and what the article is has definitely pushed a lot of people’s buttons (though you need pretty thin skin to get your buttons pushed as easy as that).
              One thing’s for sure though: this wasn’t a review and to see so many of my fellow commenters unthinkingly call it one is disappointing… A mistake you yourself did not make Bjorn. And well done for that.

              Back to the traffic!

              • Please stop the misinformation. I just tried my D800 with manual focus using the following lenses: 50mm f/1.4 D, 85mm f/1.8 G and Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0. All three are spot on using the focus comfirmation dot at the widest aperture.

                I never had a single one of the Nikons I have owned fail me using manual focus with the focus confirmation dot. That includes several film cameras F100, F4, F5 besides D80, D2H, D90 and D700.

                • Try this: stop when the arrow just changes to the dot at one end. Take a shot. Then repeat at the other end. And do it again via live view, critically focusing for optimum sharpness at the same point. The three results will be different. There is no misinformation here, just do the experiment for yourself. I’m not the only one who’s reported this. I cannot get critical focus at f1.4 using the dot alone – there is a small, but significant range of focus ring travel for which the dot stays lit and definitely is not covered by DOF especially on the D800E.

                  Film and larger-pixel pitch cameras have a larger circle of confusion and are more tolerant of focusing errors.

                  • Also, the Dot Tune procedure described on the FM and DPR forums (tuning MF with AF microadjust) assumes a range of focus over which the green dot is lit because the procedure has you set the microadjust value to the middle of that range. Anyway, knowing how PDAF works in SLRs, it’s a wonder that it works as well as it does at all. Measuring right on the sensor (magnified live view) with the aperture already stopped down to its intended value (to eliminate focus shift) is the only way to guarantee focus on any given lens.

                    • Dot Tune doesn’t seem to make any difference for me. I wonder what I’m missing…

                    • My impression is that Dot Tune is more for conveniently determining the right microadjust values for the AF system than making MF assist accurate. I just thought it was interesting that the fact that the green dot stays lit over a range of focusing distances is a given in the procedure whereas some people here seem to be in denial over that.

                • Anders, I’m not sure if you’re getting the wrong end of the stick from my tone, or if it’s something else, [and it isn’t lost on me that this is the second of my comments that you’ve responded to, and welcome too, I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to the comments and responses] but that dot not being dead-on, stone cold in focus for me is not misinformation. It’s my experience. You’ve just responded with yours.

                  But in your case, it’s not misinformation.

                  I’ll leave it at that.

                  P/S In the interests of science, though, what were the subject-camera distances in your test with the D800 and AF 50 1.4D, AF-S 85 1.8G and CV 40mm 2?
                  [And presumably your target was in the middle of the frame? I have the 85G too, and love it, but like its G siblings, which I have a few of too, wide open it is optical aberration city anywhere off centre]

                  i) Green dot works better closer in than further away. That’s in my short and amateur experience, again [sorry].
                  ii) Unless I’m mistaken, Bjorn was talking about Noct nikkors above. Not 1.8Gs or CV 40 2s… he did of course mention a 1.4 maximum aperture lens. So, OK, if you can hit focus reliably with the green dot wide open with your 1.4, well done, genuinely. Now, how does that make the Nikon Df finder a breeze to manually focus with?

                  Interesting on your F5 though, Anders, I recently got one and I find, just as with my other Nikons, at further than 3m away, give or take, the reliability of the dot drops right off… I got myself a DK-17M eyepiece for the camera to try and improve the situation; I’ve finished a first test roll, but being on New Year’s holidays now and wishing to spend the little I holiday I get with my family and not my photography, that roll can wait until I’m back to the World to develop. Be interesting to see if I upped my hit focus rate or not.
                  [AF lenses hit focus just fine on it, by the way]

              • Osynlig fog says:

                I’ve come from using large and medium format film cameras which ask more of your focus abilities than any small format “full frame”. The viewfinder in the Df has more contrast and is easier to focus than any other digital Nikon I have used (D800, D3, D600). It’s not quite up there with the F3 but sometimes I prefer the Df Finder to the FM2. The build quality is excellent.

                It’s incredible that MT tests the camera holding it with his right hand. Perhaps Nikon should have attached instructions that cameras with classic ergonomics you hold with your left hand. A friend said he had seen a big grip generation guy try to hold a 500CM by the crank. If MT has indeed ever held an older SLR he would have known how to hold a Df.

                • “It’s incredible that MT tests the camera holding it with his right hand”

                  Funny, but I hold my F2 with my right hand and have never had any problems. And I’ve posted enough work here from V series Hasselblads that it’s clear I couldn’t possibly have held them by the crank; I actually think these things are ergonomically excellent. Perhaps the internet should come with instructions on how to be polite…

  19. Hi Ming

    Thank you for taking the time to do the review and speaking your mind about the Df. It is not a camera for me but I can understand how many can be swayed by the retro look and the D4 sensor in a smaller package. For me I found my Ricoh GXR M mount mode 2 peak focussing mode to be the best and I have sold most of my other cameras in favour of this. And I do not need to justify to anyone why I stick with Ricoh despite its 12.1 M sensor. So if the Df works for you, great but do not get too carried away when it does not work for others. The world is round.

    Chia C N

  20. Hey Ming!
    Is there any way to customize the DF viewfinder similar to what you did with your D700? I would be perfectly happy affixing my 50 1.2 to the camera permanently if only there was a better manual focusing system. I share your sentiments with regards to the other issues, but for the most part I can get used to it. I’m really in it for the sensor.
    Thanks, and a very happy holiday season to you!

    • The screen is fairly easily removable, but it appears to be the same physical size as the D800’s screen. (I’d really rather not remove either if I have to, too easy to get dust inside.) However, that also means it’s the largest Nikon has used, making donor screens scarce; on top of that, the new Nikon screens also have a step/ groove cut into the side for the holding mechanism; I suspect cutting this is going to be very tricky with any degree of precision. Bottom line: you could do it if you can find a large enough donor screen and have patience and steady hands.

      The sensor definitely is a cracker, though.

      • Thanks, Ming! To clarify, I was wondering if there was a company who customizes in this sort of thing. I would never trust myself to such a task. I’m sure I would pay plenty for it, but honestly, it would make it nearly perfect for my needs.
        Thank you again for indulging my questions! I’m a huge fan of your work, and appreciate your feedback!

  21. Ming Thein,
    I twiddled with the A7r for a bit, it feels reasonably solid and i love the layout. Haven’t tried the Nikon Df, but katzeye replied me that they are working on a microprism/split prism focusing screen, just that it takes time. I plan to start photography all over with manual focus lenses. Which do you think is better? Focus peaking on the A7r or aligning the split prism/micro prism on the Nikon Df ?

    • It’s not really fair to make assumptions about a product that isn’t out yet – ease of focusing really depends on how good the focusing screen is. The F2’s split prism focusing screen is much better than the F6’s split prism screen, for instance, and both are worlds apart from the D4’s matte screen.

      The A7 will have the advantage of showing actual exposure, which the Df will not. And I suspect the ergonomics are actually going to be better, too.

  22. Jorge Balarin. says:

    Thank you very much Ming for telling us the true. My impression is also that marketing ideas overrolled real photographic reasons. It’s a pitty that Nikon managers don’t ask people like you, before producing such unintelligent designs. Only seeing a Df full of dials and small numbers in a store (so confusing for me), I felt it was not a camera for me, but after reading your review I’m completely sure.

  23. tony oaten says:

    Weather sealing is a bit of a misnomer on Nikon cameras, take your D4 out in pouring rain, it gets trashed and Nikon will tell you
    it’s not a waterproof camera, with this in mind I’ve never taken a chance with any of my Nikons.
    Waterproof jackets and lens covers are the order of the day as far as I’m concerned, especially if I’m out all day shooting sports in the rain.
    Enjoyed reading your informative review, thanks very much for sharing your findings.
    Seasons greetings


    • That’s rather disappointing, having seen (and tested) the limits of what say an Olympus can take – I haven’t spent an extensive amount of time with a D4, but I can only assume that it’s as good as a D3 or better – and I didn’t have any issues with that camera and tropical downpours (providing your lenses are also sealed, of course).

  24. I rented a Df for over the Christmas holidays to see if I like it. I put a nikkor 85 f1.4 manual focus lens on it and went out for a bit. First off it is hard to hold one handed. But when you use two hands the balance becomes quite nice. Much like my FM2 without the motor drive. I bought the motor drive for the FM2 so I could shoot one handed.

    Hardest part is remembering to focus. Camera to eye and half shutter press and it is still blurry. OPS….

    Is it a camera for me? Well I will know in January if I don’t want to give it up. It is definitely not a camera for everybody, Rather it is a slow thoughtful camera to use.


  25. This is an unusually good and useful camera review.

    Based on your review, for people that are likely to shoot hand held with light weight, auto-focusing lenses, the Df may be an ideal choice. On the other hand, with heavy, fast (shallow DOF), manual focus lenses, the Df might be uncomfortable to hold and challenging to focus. That’s my simplistic takeaway 😉

    As an ex designer of laboratory instruments, I too am troubled by the potential dial/menu conflicts. The logic isn’t clean.

    Merry Christmas. Please take the day off. NNTR.

  26. I still have my Canon F1. Admittedly, I do not use it often; however, when I do take it out and exercise the mechanism, which continues to work after decades of stagnation, I remember what a joy it was to use, and curse myself for being to lazy to be bothered with film. I often wish some manufacturer would simply take a camera like the F1 and add the bare essentials to allow the thing to render a digital image, i.e. add a sensor and means to extract/convert the data. Heck, I would not even insist on a digital viewfinder and would be willing to wait until I could get it back to the computer to see what the thing has rendered- it would be just another aspect of the old charm of film photography. I wonder why the execs at the camera companies insist, for the most part, on screwing this retro thing up. I would buy such a camera, as described, in an instant- even at F2 price……… But, it would have to be just like the F1. BTW, I still have the optional waist level finder that can be used to replace the pentaprism on F1……..Why was that great ideal abandoned?

    In comparison, I think of the Kindle/Nook electronic book products. I was a late comer to the electronic book because I am a book person. Something about submitting to the Ereader repulsed me. Today, I would be hard pressed to give up my Ereader. It is perfect; one of those rare advances in technology that allows you to retain all the aesthetic enjoyment of something you love, while adding nothing but convenience. The print appears the same, the process of turning a page is essentially the same. Reading Victor Hugo on Kindle is just as enjoyable as reading my print versions of his books. I am glad Nikon had no role in conceptualizing the Ereader.

    I believe your emphasis on “haptics” is righteous. Whether it was intentional or not, the old Nikon and Canon DSLRs possessed a great deal of elegance. The two, elegance and haptics, seem to go hand in hand. Elegance, if it truly resides in an object, is enough to make it desirable and worth the extra money. As far as the F2 is concerned, its only relation to elegance is that “elegant appearance” it may have been one of the many “targets” the boardroom listed when the model was conceptualized. The F2 is a parody. And almost insulting for that reason. I am sorry, “insulting” may be too strong a word……….But you get my point.

    Great writing Ming. I perceive you have a great love for elegance.

    • “I often wish some manufacturer would simply take a camera like the F1 and add the bare essentials to allow the thing to render a digital image, i.e. add a sensor and means to extract/convert the data.”

      I think that’s what a lot of us were hoping for with the Df. Sadly, no dice.

      I too was against the ebook originally – until the airlines started to become militant about weight; bringing only one book on a 12 hour flight is a bit tough if you’re an insomniac on planes like me. At least the iPad is multifunctional and lets me carry a good selection…

      I don’t want to come across as being righteous about tactility haptics etc – but if you have trouble using a tool for its intended function because it’s physically uncomfortable for the sake of form over function – and I’m not the only one who finds this with the Df – and on top of that the form is compromised, what’s left? Elegance isn’t something that comes out of pure design only – especially not for a functional tool – it’s what you get when form follows function, and it’s how the early SLR designs were arrived at in the first place. But to try and force that form onto something with a different function makes no sense – and that’s what the Df is.

  27. As an owner of the DF I understand the love it / hate it feelings it cause. To me it is a camera for spending time on the process of photography, while at the same time benefiting from the quality of a high quality sensor and its embedded image processing package. I also find it a prime lense camera, and it provides a great combo with my prime AIS (35mm f1.4, 85mm f2, and 135mm f2) lenses and my AF-D (24mm f.2,8, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8). Traveling light with a copuple of primes it is a great camera. Have also tried it with my 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. With these lenses the camera become too light in such way that the balance and grip does not feel right. With these lenses I prefer my good old D700 (with grip) or even my F4s.

  28. bertram eiche says:

    I still own and use the FE2. I hoped the DF could be the digital Version. Oh, well.
    For 3000$ i can buy, shoot and scan a lot oft Film.

  29. don hogfan says:

    Great review. I agree NIKON missed an opportunity.
    Imagine an F2 Titan with a D4 sensor. No LCD, no AF, just RAW. I am salivating.
    But then again that might have been a classic for few.

    • I thought that was what it’d be as well; I was also salivating. Definitely a missed opportunity, but perhaps smarter than we give them credit for: why increase cost for something that few will appreciate, and even fewer will know how to use?

  30. Thanks Ming for confirming ALL my concerns after seeing initial specs. and other “fan boy” reports… I was hoping for a camera that never came up…

  31. NeutraL-GreY says:

    I read this whole article with a smile on my face. It is nice to see someone on the web that says it like it is. I think it would be a good decision if the big camera companies consulted with you about what really needs to happen on future cameras.

  32. Dirk De Paepe says:

    I loved the idea of a camera, where everything has it’s own physical control, very much. And on pictures it quite looks good to me. But the inconsistencies you discribe, really surprised me. Coming from Nikon, tested by Ming Thein?!
    I think I’m gonna send a friend of mine, who was really thinking about buying one, a link to your review. At least he needs to thouroughly try before buying – without getting carried away by the looks…
    Thanks for your honest personal opinion, Ming – as always.

    • No problem. I like physical controls too – very much so – and when executed well, like on the F2 or Hasselblad (everything is on the lens rings!), are fantastic. The Df is inconsistent in the way it applies these – push to turn? Lift to turn? etc. And ergonomics aside, that’s the main problem. Some things that do not need to be on physical controls are, like exposure program. If anything, they overdid it…

  33. Ming,
    I completely agree with your review. The back and the viewfinder told the true nature of this camera as soon as it was released.
    The Df is a good choice for those who want the sensor of the D4 in a less expensive and more lightweight body. Not for those who are looking for a digital F or FM3a.

    • I just wish they’d put the D4’s sensor in a D800 body. Or better yet, an F6 – which I still think is the gold standard for smaller non-integrated vertical grip bodies in every way – finder, shutter/ mirror mechanism, ergonomics…

  34. hi, ming, you opened the review by saying “My initial thoughts on the Nikon Df were not positive, mainly due to the way the camera was marketed and executed. I’ve changed my mind somewhat after using it for the last week or so”. Have you? I don’t think you did. haha! You were absolutely right not to give this half-baked poser of a camera any more time than it deserves: a long list of cons with two bullet-points of pros. Next to the intelligently designed and solid built Olympus EM1, the df is a downright bloated hollow cheap-felling and ugly ergonomic nightmare. The top view of the camera gives the impression that someone has just stepped on it and squashed it sideways making it look like a body-focused Contax AX without its simplicity in design. Sorry for the diarrhoea of adjectives, but it is really beyond me that Nikon, with its Giugiaro design heritage, could just manage to develop this lump of mishmash. Merry Xmas!

    • Well, I dismissed it summarily. I’m very positive about image quality though – and the sensor was a great choice given the audience and potential range of uses. But…that’s really about it.

      I doubt Giugiaro did this one…

  35. Excuse me, sir. This is what you call a test? It`s not for you, fine. However, when using the title “Tested”, I expect better from a serious blogger. By the way, I bought the DF although I don`t fit into your cliche of horn rimmed glasses and latte. My first Nikon and my first DSLR since about 7 years. Oh, and I don`t use the kit lens with it. Sorry to disappoint you. And lastly I carry it with ease in one hand, with the 1.2/58 Noct Nikkor mounted. Maybe some gym time might help your physical fatigue after 30 minutes of holding it.

    • And that’s problem number one. I AM NOT A BLOGGER. I am a commercial photographer who happens to write, unlike all of the other sites out there. There is no point in shooting brick walls at different ISOs or including pictures of cats. Crappy pictures by people who don’t know what they’re doing frankly make their opinion about as valuable as an ashtray on a motorcycle. What’s the point of reading something by somebody who doesn’t know how to use the tools? But, there are plenty of those ‘reviews’ to read, all paid for by the camera brands. Notice the lack of advertising? This site doesn’t pay for itself by magic, nor do I get paid for the 5-6 hours a day I spend on it. I pay for the site through my commercial work and I’ll write whatever I please.

      Gym time? Right. Physical fatigue is not the same as discomfort. I can and do walk around with a 3kg Hasselblad in hand all day on location without issue. A knife blade isn’t very heavy, but try carrying it edgewise for ten minutes and see if you feel discomfort. People’s hands do come in different shapes, some grips work for some, not for others.

      • “……..unlike all of the other sites out there”. I used to be a regular reader of this site. But the condescending tone, misinformation (eg Df not being weather sealed) of a “commercial photographer” who uses this web page to reach a broader audience, not the least to market products and courses, make me say goodbye and all the best to you. Maybe the holidays give you a few minutes to reconsider the difference between fact and personal opinion. Funny enough, your condescending tone targets those who one day might become customers of yours.

  36. As usual an excellent and I’m sure fair and unbiased review Ming. I don’t like it at all, for many of the reasons you have given. They should either do retro properly, or not bother. This is a poor half way house, not designed by (or perhaps even for) photographers. As you said, a missed opportunity.

    • Or not: how much of the market is real photographers, and how much of it is hipster wannabes?

      • True too! I’d say 90% hipster wannabes and 10% real photographers. So yes, it is probably fine as it is. For 97% of photographers, digital cameras were good enough 4 years ago. Now it is just marketing.

  37. BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO! Great “review” and you back what you say. We’re not missing pictures at all (at least I am not) … why would they look special in any way or different from what you’d get with s D4? The marketing people would want us to think that. But we aren’t stupid, are we?

    To a certain extent I feel it unfortunate that the camera sells well because that way it won’t teach Nikon a lesson: do not make “me too” products. This is a me-too product. On the other hand I’m happy when Nikon make money, because it may help them to continue making really good cameras.

    We are almost in 2014 and I’d rather have products that honor the technical advantages we currently have instead of mimicking things that were left behind for a reason. Not to bash minimalist mechanical cameras, but a D4’s ergonomics are pretty awesome.
    Why not give us integrated radio flash or let us control remote flash from the camera’s menu? Let us have WiFi and GPS in our pro DSLRs and not wannabe old-timey products.

    • They shouldn’t look any different. In fact, you bring up a good point there: at this size, my images should not look dramatically different with any camera. The device does not change the way I see or compose, though it might improve or reduce the output quality. It might make the process easier or more pleasurable. Nothing more, nothing less. Cameras are merely tools, after all.

      The Df is a me-too product, but it almost feels like they’re making a mockery of their own selves – and that’s rather odd in itself. Integrated radio flash would be wonderful. I suspect licensing agencies are the challenge here, not technology – after all, we have radio triggers and flash heads already.

      One important point to note though: the D4’s sensor is finally in a cheaper, smaller body. I suspect that Nikon are learning from the D3/D700 pairing: do not cannibalise yourself too early; that limits profits.

  38. Like many others, I was seduced by the Df’s marketing campaign (readers of this site are probably more interested in/knowledgeable about “pure photography” than anyone else), but it’s ended up being practically the polar opposite of what I want from a camera. Build quality, viewfinder, price (in the UK, at any rate), complexity, even the way the dials have been implemented… blah. That nasty ‘special edition’ kit lens sums up the whole project for me.

    • Price: in the US, it’s the same price as a D800E. Here, it’s 20% cheaper (!). No idea what it is in the UK. I suppose at the relative price it’s going for here, it’s not so bad, but in countries where it’s the same price – and I’m using the D800E as a sort of benchmark because it really does deliver the ultimate image quality you can get in FX today, Sony A7R aside (and that has shutter shock issues) – it really makes no sense.

  39. I watched the latest Superman movie the other night: MAN OF STEEL. Great film. Besides Henry Cavill’s Mr. Universe circa 1960s level insane muscles — is it me or are male actors now in a body building arms race? by 2020 if you can’t sprint 100m sub 10seconds or topple a row of VW Beetles over, etc., I doubt you’d even get an audition… anyway — besides that and many other interesting and noteworthy points about this great film, I was happy and chuffed to see Amy Adams’s Lois Lane doing her steely eyed, CNN game face INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER inside a bona-fide alien space craft, just like that, with — wait for it — a Nikon D3S! (And what looked like an SB-910)

    = Instant entry to the pantheon for Miss Lane

    Yes, even Lois Lane knows to pick the D3S! Why didn’t she go for a D4?
    (Slightly inferior AF modules/system? Haptics? Prefers the even more forgiving yet clean pixels of the older model? Maybe it was that legendary D3S high ISO performance which, in practice, everyone feels is still better than the D4? These are questions only the Daily Planet reporter can answer!)

    But would Lois Lane even CONSIDER the Df??

    Of course she wouldn’t!
    But why that tone? Why is that so ludicrous?…

    You and I both own F2s, Ming, as I’m sure others on here do, too. Remember Dennis Hopper’s reporter in APOCALYPSE NOW? Uncle Denty (as the actor sometimes liked to be called) walking about with a gaggle of Nikon Fs and F2s and GN auto nikkors jangling round his neck? Countless other instances of newspaper photogs in films with an F series SLR… I don’t know a lot but the venerable Fs, all the way through the F5, were known as reportage cameras. The AK47s of journalistic image making—tough, outwardly simple but inwardly cutting edge, heavy but portable; and a massive onus on a big, clean, no-bullshit finder—a finder meant for business. No ifs buts or maybes.

    If a digital body is going to use the mythical “F” — even if it doesn’t have the courage of its convictions to capitalize that F — then it should do all that stuff. Exactly all the stuff you just said, MT. And it’s not rocket science—we don’t even work for or at Nikon, and we’ve managed to figure it…

    Until the day that Nikon do,


    • Tom, I’m going to go break out the Titan tomorrow. And do something stupid like put the Otus on it for the hell of it, because I can, and because I can actually focus the damn thing. Well said!

      • Oof! I pinned up the camera equivalent of a page3 you sent me a while back — the Otus mounted on the F2T — I’m sure the actual results from the best of Zeiss on the Hall of Famer Nikon will be even more print worthy.

        Hopefully your D800E screens will find their way to you sooner rather than later. On this exact topic, I scratched a katzeye screen in my wife’s D60 today trying to jiggle it in a bit straighter [it was ever so just off center — focus boxes and katzeye center circle don’t line up –and that sort of thing drives me crazy]. Of course I was Indy Jones in the Aztec temple level careful and steady with a delicate thing like a fresnel focus screen in the tweezer claws… no, it was putting the screen pin [the little wire frame that holds the focus screen in] back that did it. It just wouldn’t go back in [never went in convincingly the first time I did it], popping out every time [katzeye screen is ever so slightly too thick]; kept failing. Kept trying again. The law of averages kicked in, and on one of my attempts to get it back in there, the metal tool I was using slipped and scratched a corner of the screen. Call me stupid, OK. But I call Nikon stupid for sending us to these lengths JUST TO HAVE WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING AS STANDARD AND WHAT USED TO BE!

        We’re not talking some not yet attained, pie in the sky holy grail; we are talking existent, and historical tech. that the makers willfully withhold for no photographic reason. As I’ve mentioned to you before, MT, really, this is a scandal—photography is about seeing, cameras are tools of photography, camera makers make viewfinders that are hard to see through ON PURPOSE.

        Wait. WHAT?

        • That would have been the Otus on the F6 – it hasn’t been on the F2T yet 🙂

          Still no news on my D800 screens. But I’ve gotten a second D800E in for the second screen, if it ever arrives…I kid. I need it for a whole slew of jobs in January, and the mismatched ergonomics of the D600 are fine when it’s a backup body for studio work that’s never used, but when you use it for reportage…it simply drives me bonkers.

          Try using plastic tweezers. Better still, tape over the ends with scotch tape to prevent scratching. At least you didn’t have to cut/ file one down yourself – try doing that without leaving any marks on the visible area 🙂

          Maybe the whole focusing screen/ viewfinder debacle is just a convoluted attempt to move everybody over to mirrorless…but then why continue production of the F6, which has one of the finest viewfinders made? Sigh.

          • Sleep deprivation kicking in—the F6! Doh! 🙂

            OK, I’m off. Goodnight and Merry Christmas, Ming and all. Happy holidays 😀

            See you in 2014!

  40. Congratulations to your brave review. You will not get a lot of new friends in Nikons marketing department with that.
    But I have to wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote. What an epic missed chance is the Df! The stupid viewfinder, the cheap plastic look of the silver version, the controls… it is a shame what Nikon made. And how many years did they work on that? It is unbelievable. Maybe they let a team of interns design the Df while the true Nikon geniuses work on something really groundbreaking. At least Thom Hogan thinks that. I personally think they have no idea what to do against the wave of mirrorless designs coming up and tried some retro stuff.

    • No, I’m sure I won’t – just as I got a bit of a cold shoulder after the D800E’s left focusing problem (that said, I just bought another one from NPS today, actually).

      I’m inclined to agree with you, sadly. ‘Groundbreaking’ will be 48MP on an FX sensor, and diffraction at f5.6. We’ll have to use PCEs for everything to maintain pixel sharpness and still retain sufficient depth of field.

      • Some hours after my post above Santa brought me the true sucessor of the classic Nikon cameras. He brought me the first camera in the digital age which let me easily manual focus one of my 30 years old classic Nikkors. And the camera is not a giant brick like my D800, instead it has the size of a classic FE. And the best of all: it has a full frame 36mp sensor. Of course you know that it is a Sony A7r.
        I’m looking at those two cameras in front of me, and I’m a bit sad. After 33 years of shooting with Nikon SLRs I think I will leave the Nikon ship, as soon as Sony has some more lenses available.

        Nikon should have made a Df with the size and the amazing EVF of the A7 and put the D4 sensor into it. That would have been truely an earth-shattering innovation in the Nikon universe.

  41. Michael Matthews says:

    Upon seeing the topic, I was ready to blip right by it. Nothing could be more moot than considering the performance and qualities of a niche camera at this price point. Then I started reading, lured in by the first few lines. All the way to the end. This is a perfect example of why your writing has emerged as a sort of gold standard among reviewers. Calm, deliberative evaluation in intricate detail, all of it very interesting. In the US at this time (perhaps even more so in the wider world of blogs) the minimal reaction to any disagreement appears to be outrage. Reading a post like this feels almost therapeutic. I’ll shut up now, because this has crossed the line into outright fawning and is getting to be embarrassing. But, please, do keep at it.

    • Thanks, Michael. There are times when I feel somebody has to say something, but they’re all either sponsored by the brands or too afraid of leaving referral dollars on the table. And that’s one of the reasons why we land up with mediocre products…

  42. ” It simply lacks that feeling of ‘specialness’ or the sense of occasion which the designers undoubtedly intended.”

    Extremely disappointed to hear that. For me, that’s the major draw along with the D4 sensor on here. It sounds like a project that started out with great intentions and a good mission plan only to be ruined later by eroding it’s original vision with focus groups and accountants.

    • Pretty much. If you pick up any single digit Nikon, you’ll know what I mean. The Df does not have the same feel as even the D800; it’s more like a D600.

  43. Excellent article, as very, sir.

    I’ve not handled one, but I can’t help but feel disappointed especially from a company with such a photographic heritage as Nikon. We can only hope that a DF 2 will come along and change things. There’s definitely room for such a camera.

    The retro fashion is a strong pull for all these companies in these economically hard times.

    • The idea is sound. The execution isn’t. Let’s see if there is a version 2 – one other camera I’d like to see developed is the Coolpix A…

  44. Iskabibble says:

    Call you misogynistic????

    • Son of Sharecroppers says:

      Ha! Perhaps MT meant “misanthropic.”

    • Or, well, excuse my French, but the Df being a bit of a c–k tease… maybe he did mean misogynistic?

      A misoneist may have been a good phrase for MT’s line… or even a misocanist [from misocania, a new one on me that (and *that* was a meta-joke)]…

      P/S I found this one too:

      Someone who hates practicing the piano.

      ?? Is that for real?? Any Greek speakers out there [as it’s literally all Greek to me].

    • Eh, I’ve been accused of worse. Might as well be complete!

  45. Could you possibly have been any more condescending towards anybody who actually likes to use the camera? I mean, suggesting they must all be hipsters who never take a photo is a good start but I’m sure you can do better.

    • I could, but I’ve got better things to do.

    • Marc, I get what you mean, but think you’re asking for MT to be equivocal—-and that’s the last thing we want in an opinion piece [this is not a review]. Above all, I know you’d agree that it’s OK for MT to be a bit curmudgeonly on his own blog, isn’t it? And it’s certainly OK for you to say “hey, seriously?”
      [That’s the beauty of this interactive media]

      To take up your premise: let’s say people who like this camera feel condescended to. Before reacting, those feelings of theirs need to be investigated a little further—where does the warrant for their embarrassment come from? It can only come from themselves, i.e., if MT’s jabs sting a little, it probably has more to do with what a person is really thinking themselves than any objective malice on the author’s part. I guess the problem is that no-one ever wants to be wrong, have made the wrong purchase.

      If I were a Df owner, and actually liked to use the camera, I’d be on here naysaying and telling everyone why they are wrong; and why I made the right purchase. I’d craft that case with all my might and push back. Saying my piece, just as others say theirs. It’s a classic mistake to assume everyone is the same as oneself; but still, I don’t see many advocates for the Df on here… It is what it is.

      All this said: I often attempt to emulate the noble methods of Thomas Aquinas and try to temporarily be an advocate for something that’s not for me, and put its case in the strongest terms… When I try this with the Df, I can’t find one facet that isn’t better done by another camera. Which leaves the only option that this camera is an aesthetic, subjective choice on the part of those that buy it. And it follows, that that is hipsterism and uninformed decision making.

      It’s worth mentioning: if that rule were true, then I’m also massively guilty of hipsterism and uninformed camera buys. I only bought a Bronica SQ to look cool; it turns out I do like it though [self-fulfilling prophecy!]. I completely ate sh*t on an RX100mk2 and optional EVF, recently. I wastefully lost over 300 USD to the camera Gods on that [selling it back to the shop before it was completely worthless and I’d be stuck with it and no closer to p/xing for something that was really objectively good and photographically useful]. So I’m as knee deep in the pretension as anyone.

      And I still chuckled at MT’s barbs up there. This is only a blog we’re talking about [sticks and stones, etc].

      I’m not picking a fight. I’m not trying to defend MT who has already answered you and can do his own talking at any rate. I’m just killing time on a Christmas morning, at work, waiting for a sales meeting to start 🙂

      Now where are my horn-rimmed Oliver Peoples at?

      • Ouch, working on the 25th?

        Tom, dress sense aside, there’s a difference between hipsters and photographers: one buys cameras to make images, the other because it makes their image. If you know how to use it, and use it well, I don’t think that’s hipster at all.

        I own a Titan and a noct and arguably that’s the pinnacle of retro hipster snobbery, except I also meter by eyeball to within half a stop and develop my own film.

        However: buying the DF on the basis that it’s different and therefore cool or retro is stupid: it’s an ergonomically compromised design with a crap viewfinder that does not at all fulfill the image it aspires to. It’s very telling that the camera was bundled with an AF 50mm and not a manual one. The ONLY legitimate reason I can think of buying one is because you need the D4’s sensor on a budget and can’t find a second hand D3s.

        • At work. Was yesterday, am today, will be tomorrow. And the day after. Then four days off. Then back to work! This is officially known as THE JAPANESE WORK ETHIC 🙂

          Looking at the price of new Dfs and used D4s… If that much capital were about to be sacrificed at the altar of photography, I’d lump another grand in and get a full-fat D4. And naysayers to *that* could step off and BOW at the brilliance.

          Did Santa bring you anything special MT? 🙂
          He brought me…

          Socks 😮

          (And I needed them 😮 )

          • It’s better than the self-employed ethic, I haven’t had a day off in > two years. Video test shoot this afternoon before a job. Usual social media and site maintenance this morning, plus prepping the back end for the two new videos launching tomorrow…

            If I wanted the real camera experience with that kind of money, I’d buy an F2 Titan. Or a complete ‘blad system. Oh wait, I did…

            I think Santa doesn’t work in Asia. I got another D800E, but that’s a business expense I have to pay for, and it doesn’t arrive til tomorrow…

        • The Df is a lot lighter and smaller than the D3s and the sensor is better. People that are interested in the Df would have no interest in the D3s at all as it is a big and heavy beast.

          The 16 MP is also absolutely perfect for everyday shooting, as it is much easier to handle than for instance the 36 MP D800 which is not very forgiven and easily gives blurry pictures if you are not very careful or use a tripod.

          I’m not sure why you say that the Df is not weather sealed at all, when Nikon states it is weather sealed to the same degree as D800 which is the same as for instance D700 and which is more than sufficient for most use.

          I also think your conclusion about people buying this camera just to look cool is interesting, but not very likely in my opinion.

          The only thing that I don’t like about this camera is the price, but Nikon seems to know what people want and what they want to pay for it.

          • The seals looks a bit rudimentary to me. My battery door doesn’t fit well at all. If be concerned about exposing it to serious moisture – much as I don’t do with the D700/800 either…

            No question the sensor choice was a sensible and very good one: it’s forgiving compared to the D800s which demand the best technique and lenses.

            It’s not the idea of the camera that bothers me so much as the compromised execution, especially at the price they’re asking.

            • Actually I guess the weather sealing should be a little better because it doesn’t have the apparently weak points of the built in flash on the D800 or D700, but I’m not sure if this is the case.

              Anyway, I would certainly have preferred a 16 MP sensor in my D800 as it is just incredibly hard to shoot hand held compared to my previous camera which was a D700.

      • Tom, sorry to hear about the RX100. What happened?

        I have to wonder if the Df is making The A7’s case for Sony. If I had an old cache of lenses I wanted to use with digital, there are very few good choices out there.

        • Hi Andre, and Merry Christmas!

          The RX100mk2 is a GREAT camera, awesome in so many ways, and I was close to being head over heels for while there. But it just wasn’t for me. Four unassailable marks against it:

          1) I’m not dexterous enough for the small size and seriously seriously missed hunching up and getting a viewfinder to my eye. I bought the optional EVF to try and ameliorate that — and my first time out with EVFs, that was overall a positive experience with only one major reservation (which I’ll bore you with another time perhaps) — but it didn’t work and that Sony EVF buy is the worst purchase I’ve made in a long long while. And I knew when I bought it too. And I still bought it. That was stupido #1. As if being hideously overpriced to start with wasn’t enough, it was worth less than a quarter of its ticket price the instant it became “used.” Stupido #2. First time I’ve ever been stung like that on camera gear. Probably won’t be the last; but I won’t let it happen so easily next time—when I realized the lack of a finder was a terminal problem for me, I should’ve called time on the RX then and there, instead of sinking yet more money in.

          2) I just couldn’t shake the feeling, looking at my data day in day out (and I made over 5,000 frames in the month or so I owned it) that it was closer to what the iPhone gives me than what my camera cameras do. The way the highlights clip and the hue shifts up there at the top, in particular the way red clips so savagely and quickly in bright scenes (regular sunshiney day), skin tones, the high degree of luminance noise at pixel level… It was all AWESOME for a camera this size — I mean, you can shoot the RX100mk2 at 3200 and basically be OK! That is bonkers — but as a morning / lunchtime / after work walkabout camera, I want a bit more performance (yet I don’t make this demand of my iPhone, per say). But there it is. I’m selfish. I blame my equipment.
          I tried the trade (what I’m used to for portable convenience) with this camera and figured that that trade wasn’t worth it to me. I’ll take a bigger body for better data fidelity. But mainly (see 1) I’ll take it for better haptics.

          3) The RX100mk2’s purpose in life was to be a weekend pocket camera to take out with my kids and not worry about an extra item of luggage, a massive SLR swinging about my neck and crashing into kids like a wrecking ball (this happens, really, and it’s not fun). But it failed in the performance stakes. I’m thinking mainly about things like response time. It was always two or three beats behind me and I missed a ton of stuff I’d routinely get with my wife’s D60, say. And because of that, the user experience was NO FUN AT ALL. I can’t understate the importance of this when it’s your weekend (the only time you see your family) and you’re out with the kids and the sun is shining and, etc. I just want to casually shoot; capture the easy moments and enjoy it. I’m not trying to photograph the next cover of Vogue or anything. So when the camera can’t even keep up with me in these leisurely non-serious situations — or if it can’t keep up, then get out of my way — that’s a problem. I knew it wasn’t a camera for me when the penny dropped that things like moving focus box can’t be assigned to the back dial and you’d have to go three layers deep into a dialog each and every time you wanted to move a box a bit this way or that. Someone as Sony doesn’t shoot live targets. Yeah, just set for centerpoint focus box and focus and recompose… Kids don’t stay all that still though… But over and above: I can do focus recompose with anything — that doesn’t cost as much — and it’s one less point on the board for the RX. Frankly though, all other cameras I own or have owned had this functionality right there on the back dial/keypad, and I’m the type that uses it. Maybe I’m just too Nikonified?

          4) This thing attracts dirt and detritus like A MO’FO. They put so many little nooks and crannies (hallelujah I got to use ‘nooks and crannies’ in a comment!) and baffles and finely machined tidbits on it, the crud just gets in and is SUPREMELY ANNOYING. I was forever brushing and blowing and wiping it. Often to not much success, and often having to break the full-on cleaning apparatus out—to get the stubborn bits out the needless sonic baffles on the lens housing, etc. It drove a tidiness freak like me INSANE.

          I got some really good pictures with it though and would heartily recommend this camera to anyone [with the caveats about fiddlyness, relative IQ (cost-performance ratio in mind), dynamism and cosmetic care].

          Except for that EVF, it was a great experience and great machine. Just not for me. And when it’s not for you—there’s only one thing to do!

        • Andre, sorry I went on a complete bender about the RX100mk2 there.

          I think you’re spot on about the Df making Sony’s A7 and r look better.

          Having had a think about your related point, I think the thing about film lenses being worth it, really worth it, on digital bodies is just a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. A myth. A kind of unjustified belief. Great news for the vendors, they can just string us on and on. We might get some lucky sensor-lens punches here and there, but are legacy film camera lenses, generally speaking, going to look better or worse resolved at 36Mpx? Perform better or worse? I’m quite sure the answer is worse, on both counts. Even when it works quite well, like Ai-S lenses on my 12Mpx D3 or CV glass on my 6Mpx R-D1s (the only two examples I can speak to), even then it’s still not optimal.
          What I’m trying to say is: digital sensors are not film. I know that seems a stupid thing to say out loud… And I am a bit thick… But people, myself very much included in dizzier moments, considering throwing down nigh on 3grand on 36Mpx of state of the art digital sensor tech., for the purpose of putting a lens from 1960, designed for film and fabricated with all the limits of the day, on that sensor… Seems a bit of a strange decision. A luxurious one, no doubt. (And people buy luxury goods all the time: there’s nothing out of the ordinary there.) But yeah, put like that you stop and go “woah.”

          What’s the reason we don’t want to use film cameras with our film era lenses? (Well I do want to do that, and do do that, but you know what I mean.)

          I wish I had millions of dollars of free capital because I’d start a company to tackle that exact problem. Photography-business counter culture, if you like.

          But the A7 and r for me are more exciting because of what’s to come. Designed for purpose digital glass. We’ve seen what Zeiss did in this category with the Otus. And they are the premium partner for this Sony camera system! I’d have bought into it already if 1) the AF controls and system were designed and implemented by real-world pro photogs, and 2) I wasn’t hopelessly wedded to Nikon.

          I bought some Nikon-lens coffee tumblers at Nikon Salon today.
          (Ming and co., can taste the smugness when I post some snaps to my FB later 🙂 )

          That’s how far gone I am. Oh! One last ramble: killing time in the salon I played with the Coolpix A, again. Post RX100mk2, I won’t be buying a camera like this any time soon. But it wasn’t out of the blue, because I’d been looking at some old D7000 RAWs before going out, and think that was a great sensor. Even better now optimized in the A and GR, etc. the D7000 body was horrid for me and I’m glad I got rid. But that sensor. And that’s when I realized, if I were to buy a little camera, I don’t won’t zoom or a fixed lens; I want interchangeable. I want an interchangeable, Coolpix A, with dedicated DX lenses, rangefinder size, three or four primes total, that is all. And a modular EVF that I can change when dots move on. And that was my point, my reservation about EVFs, mentioned in the RX garble above: I think EVF resolutions and gamut are gong to be the next “Mpx wars” as we saw in sensor resolution. Great for the makers. They just bolt an EVF in to the body, upgrade it on the next body in a year and everyone has to switch again (well not has to, but, yeah, anyway). I mean who is excited about the EVF in the NEX7, now; or the Panasonic GH3, say. How about in a year from now? And so it goes. This A7 and A7r EVF that we all think is brilliant. Bet you in a year’s time it’s “meh.” But you’re stuck with the camera!

          That’s why I want modular EVF.

          But I did that with the RX100 and I was a bag of nerves every second it was mounted.


          • The A7R makes a lot of sense with its own native lenses that were designed for the system. It does not make any sense with legacy glass and adaptors…

            • Iskabibble says:

              Amusing. I know a top class pro photographer using an A7R and ONLY legacy manual focus lenses. He earns his livelihood with this set up. I am sure he would disagree with you.

              • He certainly would. Different tools for different outcomes/ results. What doesn’t work for me might work for somebody else, and vice versa. That’s the beauty of choice, isn’t it? 🙂

      • I really appreciated your reply, Tom. The thing is: I don’t even like the DF personally. It’s not the right camera for me. But I’m not ridiculing everybody who likes it as being a hipster.
        That was my issue with MT’s rather petty notion that everybody who actually does like the DF must be a hipster who doesn’t care about photos. So the ergonomics don’t work for him, fair enough. He’s welcome to make fun of the camera.
        It’s just intellectually lazy to claim everybody who doesn’t agree with him (and likes the camera) doesn’t give a damn about photography and is only trying to look cool. Can he do it? Well, of course, it’s his blog after all and as a tech blogger it probably works for him in that it makes him gain attention.
        But that doesn’t mean he won’t have people coming here pointing out the more petty and nonsensical parts of his writing. 😉 I love his blog despite his tendency to come across as a bit self-important at times but hey, he’s got a feedback form for a reason, right? :p

        • Hey there Marc. Not at all; I like writing to interesting people, people with a point of view. So it should be me thanking you. But In that regard — interesting opinionated people — I think it’s easy to see you’ve got more in common with Ming than not in common. It’s just a question of touch, style maybe… As you say.

          Anyway, can we talk about cameras some more? 🙂

          Marc, I had a gut feeling you may not be into the Df yourself. What was the snag? I’ve tried to warm to it, but just can’t get there. First up, it’s way out of my league economically; but I figured I could try it in store… and because when you know you know, if it was the one, it’d be the same brilliant camera in a year or two when everyone and everything has moved on, and second handers would be more my wallet’s speed. So it’d just be a matter of waiting it out. I want to run that D4 sensor and see what I could do with it, you see. But it’s all for nought, because I knew straight away I hated this camera. I didn’t even need to pick it up, though I did and, all I could think was “no no no.” So I do agree with the guys saying this is perhaps a polarizing camera. A “marmite camera” they might say back in my homeland [UK]. Second, and the killer blow, is that finder. I’m flummoxed by some of our community talking about this finder with MF lenses like it ain’t no thing; talking, in fact, like the Df finder is actively GREAT for manual focus—and what are *we* all on about. I’m truly taken aback. Sgoldswo, down below, seems really confident and happy with the finder and power to him/her; but I feel like it must be a different camera that I’m playing with in camera stores and the official Nikon Salon, because NO WAY that finder is anything like adequate or fitting for the manual focus gestalt. It’s confusing because many of the guys there saying the Df finder is a-OK *are* guys who’ve shot pre-AF era film cameras. And know what it used to be like. That’s why I’m confused.
          I own and shoot a lot with a Nikon F2 [meterless eye level finder] I had the “A” type focus screen and recently managed to find a “K” and bought it and swapped out the “A” for it. I keep the “A” in my drawer and might swap it back in again. Changing screens is a breeze on these cameras that were designed for it: with things like manual focusing, or architectural or sports photography firmly in mind. A or K, they’re both assuredly good for MF. And both are so so far superior to what’s in the Df, it seems rude to even compare. I shoot a 6×6 format Bronica SQ-A, all manual focus lenses of course, and the DOF gets pretty thin on medium format as well mistakes appearing that much bigger [depending how aggressively we enlarge], so hitting focus becomes ever more important. I mostly use the SQ-A’s waist level finder with pop-up magnifier, though I do have a prism finder too and use it. Again, both finders are so so far superior to what’s in the Df, I’m baffled how anyone could advocate for what’s in the Df as being all you need for MF, not a problem, etc. There’s no snappy matte, no fresnel, no split prism, no microprism collar… It’s just the dull D600 screen. That is all. But we get accounts of the Df being just perfect for manual focus lenses that can open up to f/1.2. Really perplexing. I must have much worse eyesight than I thought…

          Or is there some option in the Df menus to change the finder appearance? Who knows. Not me!

          I suppose there is the DK-17M magnifying eyepiece, which judging by the Df’s finder shape, would go in OK. I have this extra for my D3 and F5, which both have beautiful big clear finders to start with. Even so, they are AF workhorses, designed to be so, and I find the DK-17M is necessary for manual focus Nikkors and Voigtlanders on those two bodies [if we care about sharp, correct focus]. Now, I’ll say that again, the DK-17M is necessary for critical focus [done manually] on the F5 and D3… Is everyone suggesting that the Df finder is better than the F5? Than the D3? That’s a big NO SALE, this end. This is assuming we’re talking about the same Df that’s marketed as “Nikon Df” in the shops I go to.
          The test would be if advocates for the manual focussing capabilities of the Df finder would accept a split-prism screen if Nikon came out with one tomorrow. If they say yes, then that’s an admission that we might have gone a little overboard on the pro-Df side, regarding this focusing screen. If they say no, than that is proof positive that they have gone overboard on the pro-Df stuff… It’s an easy case to make—go to any camera shop, pick up a Df, look through the finder… The prosecution rests.

          So I think it’s fair to say, this is an AF-centric camera. In which case, what’s all the retro affect about?

          I’m cool with the Df, as it happens. Here in Tokyo it’s a Grandad’s camera: from the print ads to the actual people picking them up in store—-all Grandads. Everyone else [everyone younger than retirement] is at the Sony corner playing with the two A7 models. Really. I go to the camera shop almost every lunchtime as I work within convenient walking distance, and the Df stand is ALWAYS deserted, and the A7 is always chokka-block. Yet, wouldn’t you guess it, the Df sales seem to be doing well; and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony is having trouble shifting serious volume on the A7 models. But both seem like first attempts and should be applauded [in the hope they don’t end as first and last attempts].

          As for the people who buy them? I’m actually yet to see anyone with either out on the streets of Tokyo. But yeah, just on first principles, I doubt a hipster — as we know them in the west — would have the independent means to drop 3K on a camera. Never mind be so up on photography to even know there was such a thing as the new retro camera from Nikon called the “Df.” I do get what Ming was pointing at, though. And the caricature is not so far off target.

          Nothing, though, will ever top Silvester Stallone in EXPENDABLES 2 leaning around from the cockpit to take a snap of his two war comrades with a LEICA M8.2! with a summilux or something on it 😮
          I’m still not decided if that was so IN or so OUT of character 🙂

          Cheers Marc

          • Tom, I can assure you that the OVF of the Df is better than the most recent batch of Nikon DSLRs for MF. I don’t know why you don’t think so, but I can assure you that I continue to use it with a variety of MF glass and I’m happy with the experience. The Flickr set I linked to should help to evidence that for you. I should make clear that I own an F6 and FM3A, as well as a D800E and a D600, and I’ve used all of them with a wide variety of MF lenses.

            Would I have preferred a MF aid in the VF? Yes. Is the VF better than focus peaking? Yes. How wide an aperture do I feel happy to optically focus using the VF? F2 to nail it each time. Why is it better than, say a D800E, principally because it is a little bit dimmer, which allows you to see what’s in focus easily. That’s it.

            Critically, I think you need to shoot with the Df for a hour or more to realise just how good it is, so many who pick it up in a shop may not get it.



            • Hi Simon, thanks for your take. As I said above, I’m sure my eyes aren’t as good as I think they were because I have looked through that Df finder more than a little — cumulative camera time from a few spots, over an hour, easy — and I’m afraid I need the green dot all the way (and everything that that implies).
              With the F2, say, I don’t need any conscious thought to “in or out of focus?” It just happens. I find myself straining through the Df finder and second guessing a lot and reset-refocusing a lot. Maybe I have bad MF technique as well as bad eyes but niether show up on my film cameras, the D3 or my wife’s D60 with a lovely little Katzeye screen I put in there… So, sorry to put it so bluntly, but I doubt it. I think it’s just a case of a finder that’s not as good as it could and should have been. Being better than the D800E screen for manual focus, is not much of a brag. But yeah, when you’re caught up second guessing yourself about focus because it’s not readily apparent in the finder, you’re out of the moment and lose that spark of interest that made you even put the camera to your eye in the first place. And taking pictures, then, isn’t as fun (or it isn’t to me, at least). And I’m not a pro, so to me, photography and cameras being fun is of prime importance. The sine qua non.

              I looked at your set the first time you posted, Simon. Some good stuff in there, I like it, and your blog’s template is lovely, by the way; but the connection between this set and the Df finder and ease of focus is not readily apparent to me. Maybe if you had some photographs of moving targets shot reasonably open, and close in? Or on longer lenses. Or photographs where you’ve chopped the image into planes, depth-wise, with the focus. But I hesitate to write that on two counts, as 1) I don’t want that to come off like a critique of your photos, which I like, and 2) I don’t want it to come off like I’m saying the MF experience for you can’t be valid because it isn’t so for me. I believe you when you say the finder is working for you. And as I just said about myself: it’s obvious you’re enjoying the camera!

              I hope they make a mirrorless Df mark2, same in every way as the F2 (size, weight, shape, controls) and just as you can interchange the finder prisms on the single digit Fs — all the way up to the F5; not on your F6 unfortunately, though who could complain about that finder — I’d want an interchanging EVF prism that can be updated as resolutions and gamut and what-have-you moves on. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

              Cheers Simon!

  46. For me what annoyed me the most about Df was that they marketed it as a camera made for older lenses, but they made nothing to improve the manual focus, today’s DSLRs focusing screen isn’t made for manual focus and I’d really like a split focusing screen…

    I was planning to buy a X-E2, but I put it on old waiting for more specs and the release of the Df because I have a few small, compact Nikkor lenses and it seemed the perfect combo for street/travel photography. As the Nikon was released the price and many of the points at this post sent back me to my original plan and I bought a X-E2. The funny thing is that, with a mount adapter, I think I have a better experience when I mount those lenses, like my Nikkor AF 85mm 1.8, on my Fuji than I would have with the Df. An EVF with focus peaking makes manual focusing simple and it’s size and form factor is perfect (the AF 85mm is roughly the same size as XF 18-55mm f2.8-4).

    • Precisely – the viewfinder on the Df is so poor and the ergonomics so uncomfortable, that frankly using adapted lenses on an A7 or E-M1 is much, much easier.

  47. Interesting review. My initial thoughts about the Df was a great disappointment. However, most reviews I have read – and in particular among those who favors the DSLR style – has been quite positive. I still don’t think it is a camera for me. It’s simply too huge and doesn’t offer me anything I need over my D600. Which may not be the best Nikon DSLR, but it still holds up very well.

    It’ funny how we get all these great cameras nowadays, but I really can’t find the one I like. I buy, try and sell the same camera several times. The only camera I was truely enjoying shooting these past 10 years was the GF1. I stuck with m4/3 for a while. Left Panasonic for Olympus, but was not more happy. The E-M1 reminds me about a small DSLR and is ugly. Have only handled it in a store but except for the grip-thing it looked very familiar to my old E-M5. I’m currently in the Fuji camp when it comes to mirrorless, but the only camera I sort of love is the X100S. The X-E1, I still have but it is quite annoying to use. Sluggish AF, mediocre EVF and poor battery life. It is not as well built either (X100S feels more solid). As for compact I use the GR, which is fine, but I wish it had been closer to 50mm. I had the RX100 for about a year, but we didn’t quite get along very well (slow shutter speeds in A mode and terrible menues). There are a few other cameras I haven’t owned but am interested in (RX1R comes to mind). However, they all have major drawbacks like AF speed, number of shots per charge or subjective user experiences.

    • I think it’s because the manufacturers are finding it easier to fill the sub-niches than spend some time really concentrating on what matters…I have the same problem as you. Right now I run three systems – Nikon FX, Olympus M4/3 and Hasselblad V (excluding the compacts) – and they all have their uses, but no single one is perfect for everything.

  48. Based solely on your product photo I would buy it! Based on your thoughts I would not and won’t buy it.
    thy nex-6&60/2.8 stays. Looking fwd to your thoughts on α7R 😉 _hopefully we might get these?

  49. Nikon is a mass producer. Also, it is not sure actually if they still have the know-how to produce a viewfinder like in the F3/4 today. And if so, it is not sure if people would buy it if the price would have increased another 1k$ just for a nice optical viewfinder and some decent knobs on the body.

    I think that probably next year or so we will see a “retro” Nikon with EVF, much cheaper to produce, easier to use with old glass as well, and everybody will be happy.

    But the important point for me is that, maybe, we will also see some redisigned pro-bodies, that follows a mare classic design.

    • They do have such a finder: it’s inside the F6, which is still in current production. In fact, that means the tooling and design are already amortized and depreciated, so the cost shouldn’t be anywhere near that much.

  50. Torsten Reimer says:

    Ming, I am confused. You say “the Df is not at all weather sealed” whereas all other reviews I have seen say it is weather sealed – and that is what Nikon are saying too: ” superior dust-prevention and weather-resistant performance equivalent to that of the D800 series”. This means either Nikon are lying and everyone else bought it without checking or you may have missed something? See http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/df/features04.htm#a14

    • Nikon might claim that, but they do not warranty it. The gasket around the battery door is a joke – it has no flange to seal against, and the door itself has a habit of falling off when open. It’s loose to boot – that does not inspire confidence about tightness of fit or ability to keep moisture out. I am certainly not going to risk it with tropical rain, especially when it is not my camera but it IS my liability. I don’t even dare take the D800 out in that kind of weather; that’s what the E-M1 is for.

      Nikon also claimed the D2H was weather sealed, but guess what killed mine: water ingress into the battery compartment! 🙂

      • Torsten Reimer says:

        Thanks for clarifying that. I’d still think that, even if it is poorly executed and not warranted, saying “not at all” weather sealed is a little strong when your concern seems mostly with the door. Anyway, still good to warn people about issues – I’d have expected them to get at least the sealing right…

  51. Couldn’t agree more, I went out and bought a Hasselblad 503CX instead, thanks to Nikon for letting me down.

  52. Kurt Kramer says:

    After the the qualifiers such as enough resolution, size, etc., the one thing I’m looking for is the ability to use my older lens. AI-s 28 f/2, 35 f/1.4, 50 f/1.2, 180 f/2.8, etc. I’ve been watching & waiting for years, so the news of a retro camera stirred my hopes. Still in Barrow, AK for two months before I return to P.T. WA, so my ability to test one will have to wait. I’m not optimistic at this point, as the few positive reports I’ve read used only fast glass vs midrange which may leverage the (weak) focus screen. Other reports are not so kind. A Nikon owner since 1982, but since they won’t give me a break with my older lens collection I’m finally considering other options like the E-M1 or A7. Probably the best chance to allow use of legacy glass, and it’s not looking good. I didn’t care about looks, ergonomic, etc. as I can adapt to most anything, but I can’t focus on what I can’t see. All I wanted was a decent screen. Quite sad.

    • Well, it certainly will mount pre-AI glass, but focusing it is seriously not easy for anything faster than f2.8. You can get perhaps a 30-40% hit rate with a 50/1.4, but that’s really pretty poor for a camera that was supposedly designed to appeal to the MF crowd.

      You might change your mind about ergonomics after handling it for a few minutes. It’s really quite thick.

      • Peter Boender says:

        Agreed on Ming’s focusing experiences with this camera. I tried the Df in Nikon’s Tokyo Ginza store when they just became available. They had a 50mm f/1.2 Ais to go with it. After playing with it extensively, I found it really hard to focus (this is with an f/1.2 lens…), and didn’t like the focusing screen at all: not bright enough. I found myself using the focusing arrows and green dot at the bottom of the viewfinder a lot. So, for a camera that is specifically marketed to cater for all that old MF Pre-Ai, Ai and Ais glass, there is a lot to be desired.

        Secondly, although they made it look (when you look at the front) like an FA or an FM3A, the Df feels nothing like that when you hold it in your hand. It may be lighter than a modern digital pro body, but it’s just as bulky; the body is very deep. It just doesn’t feel as compact as my old FA. Heck, even my F100 feels better in my hands.

        Suffice to say I’ll take a rain check on this one.

  53. Now you know what letters DF stands for: “digital fool…” 🙂

    • Steve Jones says:

      No….no…it means “Digital fake” Well, that was my first impression when i picked it up. Looks solid but certainly doesn’t feel like it.
      Is there a lot of empty space inside the chassis??? Even the Nikon FG feels better to me!

      • Disappointing failure?

        I don’t think there’s a lot of empty space inside because it isn’t much smaller volumetrically than a D600; perhaps the shell sections are thin/ stamped?

  54. Great read. It is very interesting to see the influence of your former business life in your reviews. Good marketing and a big name can make quite something of a product. A very frustrating and but important thing to learn for engineers.
    Looks like I am one of the many retros out there. Your product shot makes that thing shine seductively. Your words show the other side.

  55. Ming, I agree with your comments completely. With the teaser announcements, I was dreaming of something with a beautiful Leica S2 style split matte focusing screen, with film SLR size and handling. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.

  56. Rogier Willems says:

    I criticized the Df until I actually held it in my own hands in the store. Bought it and really like it.
    The viewfinder is great, the controls intuitive and the image quality is amazing.
    At first the light weight disappoints as one would expect more heft to the camera by the looks of it. But frankly I really wanted a lighter camera.

    This Tool also gets positive response on the street. Not that I want compliments for my camera but people tend to perceive this camera more positive than the other big dslr’s

  57. Vestigial grip! Great! I haven’t used the Df, but from the images and specs, my main criticisms were the grip size, which looks quite small for a modern FF DSLR (ie. one with mass), and the inadequate viewfinder with no interchangeable screens. I use a matte screen on my FF and it’s critical for nailing focus on the fly (of course, nothing beats magnified live view). I personally find that the Canon 6D and 5DIII have the most natural grip, both in term of shutter button position and grip thickness. D600 and D800 have an awkward feel where they are very wide at the top and thin below, though I suppose one can get used to anything.

  58. Have you seen the commercial video? The guy with this camera, in a beautiful nature, very calm..
    This Df surely is not a workhorse, not for fashion, not for wedding, not for studio works, not for sports action… For all events mentioned earlier, they got D4, D3s and also D800e if u want speed, ergonomic, high dynamic range etc.. . DF, is for leisure.

    • Yes. Those people are STAGED. The situations are STAGED. They do NOT represent reality. If you actually bothered reading my review, you’d know that my main issue was with comfort/ ergonomics, not speed or image quality. Regardless of what it’s for, you should actually be able to hold it for more than half an hour without getting a cramp! Do you spend your leisure time deliberately pursuing discomfort?

    • The “guy with the camera”: hipster!
      Still does not make it work as Ming explained… If I wanna be a Hipster, I take my Leica M (and shoot, of course)…

  59. David Heintz says:

    Excellent review! No kind of real innovation here. Interesting that the DF and 58 1.4g came out about the same time.

    Try formatting the card on a DF. Right to the menu sytpsten, just like my wife’s RX100. So much for hands on!

    • I thought I was the only person who used the two-button wipe…

      • David Hansen says:

        Absolutely not, the two button formatting is a brilliant design!

        Thanks for the review. I handled the Df in a store and was not impressed at all, I’ll keep my D3 thank you Nikon.

      • Maybe I’ve been on chemical and nuclear plants too much, but I’m a menu-wiper. I take the extra seconds because I have to confirm each step and see the “format complete” result on screen before I can believe it’s done. I even point my finger at the screen as it returns the result [a hold over from the “point and say” safety trade-craft that gets drilled into young engineers and plant technicians everywhere (in the civilized world)].

  60. I guess focusing that Noct shown in your product shot with this camera is a lost cause then?

  61. I was cautiously optimistic for this camera as well. Sad to see that it misses the mark while Olympus and Fujifilm have done so well, and continue to improve quickly.


  1. […] sensor is now going on two years old; it’s been superseded for low light by the one in the Df, and more recently by the D4s. Though the DXO numbers might be higher, there isn’t a lot of […]

  2. […] the only card being played is the retro one; that makes no sense for reasons I detailed in the Df test. Simply put: a different machine needs different control logic, even if the output is the same. I […]

  3. […] neatly to the question of ergonomics, haptics and tactility. I recently conveyed my thoughts on the Nikon Df and received a lot of heavily polarized comments and emails; that is one camera that either […]

  4. Anonymous says:

    […] Pues Ming Thein la pone a bajar de un burro.Tested: the 2013 Nikon Df ? Ming Thein | Photographer […]

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