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Nikon DF

Nov 5

In Equipment, In The Field at 8:03am

Anytime Nikon puts an “F” in the name of a camera, photographers who have been around for a while (and that would be me) take notice. My first motor driven camera was an F, which of course was a tank with a lens. I forget if it had treads. But the F was an undisputed classic of design and toughness. It was simple, as its name suggests. A rugged bunch of shutter speeds looking for a set of f-stops. The DF harks back to that simplicity. It’s a classic blend of old style film camera bundled with new fangled digitally fancy footwork.

It’s cool. It looks and feels kind of like….your dad’s camera. It certainly does not have the foreboding heft and street howitzer feel that attends walking around with one of the bigger flagship DSLRs. Some of those make you feel like Iron Man with a camera. You will pose for my picture now, or I will turn you into ash with my death ray machine! Unobtrusive, they ain’t. The DF is quiet, light and fast. It does not call attention.

 It was fun to use, for the brief period time I really charged with it. The pix here on the blog were all shot in one morning, and two afternoons. About five productive hours. I did not have much time, as these new cameras, once they get them in the pipe, they have certain markers on the calendar they have to hit. In that short time frame, I was indeed blessed once again by the dependably glorious light of Mexico. 

Also, even though we were on the clock, in Mexico, time is stretchable. Elastic. Wonderfully malleable. As is the light. Mexico is a land that abounds with possibility, and color. Also, many things become possible when you work with Hector Segovia and his marvelous crew at PhotoXperience Mexico. They are an amazing bunch of shooters and can-do people. I go back to work with them again in the first week of December, in the astonishing city of Guanajuato. What Hector is creating there is a learning center about photography for all of Mexico. I will be teaching with mix of Mexican photographers, along with guest instructors like RC Concepcion, Joel Grimes, and Frank Doorhof

My first big Geographic job was in Mexico, in the Copper Canyon, and area of rugged rocks, steep canyon walls, and legendarily reclusive Tarahumara Indians. One rustic, scenic way to see the area is to hop on the historic train run that winds its way deep into the heart of Chihuahua.

What Nikon wanted to do was dovetail the new efforts with the DF with some of my prehistoric efforts from days gone by. Which was cool. I dug into my Copper Canyon files, and there are pictures there I’ve always liked, even though I recall Nat Geo not being particularly fond of the story as I presented it. The editor at the Traveler magazine was displeased the Copper Canyon did not look like the Grand Canyon. I tried to insist I was not responsible for that, to no avail. 

Thankfully, I did not have to trek into the wilds of the Copper Canyon this time, but stayed on the enchanting streets of Guanajuato, and San Miguel. The colors there blend easily with the friendliness, and easy manner of the people of these towns.

One thing I mentioned earlier was the quiet nature of the shutter of the DF, so, I brought it into church.

The above two are in the realm of portraits, as both the subjects are working with me, and I am using flash to augment the existing light of the wonderful churches there. (It being Mexico, if you don’t like the look of a church, or perhaps, it’s too dark to work, don’t worry. There is literally another church down the block.)

Had a great time moving and shooting quickly with the DF. Again, just worked intensively with the machine only briefly, but the essence of what I liked was that it had a classic, well worn feel in my hands, and it was very light, and quiet. But, despite the lack of bulk, I did not say goodbye to state of the art AF tracking, chip performance, and liaising with a speed light, among other automated digital wonders I’ve gotten used to, living in the world of pixels. (One thing you do say goodbye to is video. This is a pure stills camera. Go click. Done deal.) I won’t include the tech specs on my blog, but hit this link for the Nikon site and tech info. They do a much better job than I could of parsing out the guts of the machinery. Mongo just use camera! They’ve also created a cool, smaller site, with a video interview, and the work of my colleagues, Bob Krist and Lynn Goldsmith are also featured. More tk….


Fadi Kelada says:

on November 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

Thank you Joe for this blog post. Is it fair to compare the Df with the Fuji 100s? (ie: body size, shutter sound, discreetness)

Jakob Gronkjaer says:

on November 5, 2013 at 8:46 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Joe. Curious how this stacks up in the useability stakes versus say a D600/610 or D800. Seems a touch (being very generous here) on the pricey side by comparison.

That old school feel has got to have limits to the added value, don’t you think?

Peter de Jong says:

on November 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

It is still not the camera who makes the pictures… 😉

Sam says:

on November 5, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’m going to try it out, looking for something different to my D4s for wedding photography.

Thanks for the review Joe.

Christian says:

on November 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

Great review, Joe. I thought this would be the *perfect* body for me, but shockingly Nikon decided to only put 1 SD card slot… *sigh*. All I want is something like a D800 without 8-bagillion megapixels.

Wally Kilburg says:

on November 5, 2013 at 10:34 am

I like the idea of the Df, and it looks pretty cool but the price seems rather high for a lot of mid level internal parts packaged in a neat retro body. I’d get another D800E or at least a D610 before this camera. Nikon totally missed an opportunity with this one.

Jeff Colen says:

on November 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

The Df has the same sensor as the D4. I’m curious to see how it performs in extremely low light situations.
ISO performance from the D4 sensor is stellar.

Alex Sahagun says:

on November 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

Again, BIG thanks for the opportunity to hang out and have fun times! Take care my friend!!

John Car says:

on November 5, 2013 at 11:04 am

I was hoping the Df would be the replacement of my D700, but:

– With less AF points,
– Irrational placement of Exposure Compensation and ASPM dials (these two should be reversed),
– No build-in flash (or a small SB included in the price),
– No option for a battery grip,
– Crazy price (there is a limit at what premium I am willing to pay for retro look-and-feel)

I do not see one in my future.

I have to applaude the AF-On button at the rear, that’s something I always use and I love.

Nathan Chilton says:

on November 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

It’s so pretty! I love all the dials, both for the look and the control at your fingertips. I just wish I could justify buying a camera from another system for these reasons (I’m locked into the Pentax system at the moment.)

Brook Thompson says:

on November 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm

When I saw this camera I thought “This one would be cool to hang around my neck even if I wasn’t taking photos”

Mark says:

on November 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Great post joe! I love it!

hugh stockton says:

on November 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

the D4 sensor at around $3K, a pound lighter than the D700 (lighter yet if the D700 has a battery grip), large enough to not need a battery grip – what’s not to like? :)

Chris Klug says:

on November 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Great little post, Joe. Always a pleasure.

Frank Fazekas says:

on November 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Love the shot of the horses coming to a screeching halt. And of course the lovely Kimberly in flight.
Missing San Miguel,

Mirko says:

on November 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi Joe, thank you so much for you insight in this gorgeous camera!

I love your work, as the majority of the readers here and your videos have helped my image seeking instinct a whole lot.

However, regarding this DF, would you consider using it in an assignment for NG, editorial or different sessions you use? I understand that a different tool is used for different jobs, but would it replace one of your very workhorses, either in studio or in location? I’m asking this because it will draw the attention of MANY people and it’s so easy to get lost in the gorgeous design and D4 guts.


Gerard says:

on November 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Thanks for the review, Joe! I miss my old FM-3a and this looks like a fantastic replacement. Can’t wait for it to ship!

Jim Donahue says:

on November 5, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Nikon made Sure that it put a big enough price tag on it so that it wouldn’t get into the wrong hands. Thanks Nikon.. I am fully satisfied with my D7100 and my Fuji X10

Stephen Godfrey says:

on November 6, 2013 at 12:05 am

Always interesting to look back at old work and compare it with what you are doing today. While technically the shots are better emotionally there is no real difference, they are still killer shots.

I am keen to get it into my hands to try out.

Jere says:

on November 6, 2013 at 3:15 am

thank you so much for the review. Loving the photos but then again you always do amazing photos.

I would love to have a DF, it ticks all the boxes for the camera I want, love the 16Mpix sensor as well, a D800 would mean buying a new computer as well, so a little less pixels and more low light magic.

Only two things I dislike are the price which is steep and the other thing is not maybe a big problem, but I was hoping they would have dropped the focusing system of the D4 in it as well. Joe, do you think the focusing system is good enough that this would not be an issue?

Matt says:

on November 6, 2013 at 3:26 am

Missed opportunity by Nikon. Crappy D600 internals (shutter, AF-System), low-res D4 sensor, non-finished retro design, semiplastic body. All that at a ridiculous price.

Sorry Nikon, total fail.

Great shots from Joe, as usual. He could produce excellent results by holding up a piece of photo paper…


Iain Anderson says:

on November 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

‘Mongo just use camera’ – thanks for the early morning chuckle Joe.

Joe Ethridge says:

on November 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Great shots Joe! Thanks for the insight on the DF and the trip South of the Border. Having the ISO/Exp.Comp./Shutter Speeds/etc. on top of the camera is so convenient for my style of shooting. I’m basically a 50mm f/1.8 kind a photog anyway. Right up my alley! Video? We don’t have no video. We don’t have to show you no stinking video?

Rambler Man says:

on November 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

When Nikon bring out pro cameras I keep saying I like that, when I saw the Df I said “I want that”. Its a true camera designed for photographers, classic camera look and no video but with a great spec. Call me old fashioned but I do Want One.

D. Travis North says:

on November 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Like the aesthetic of the DF, but I’m not enamored with the camera itself. It fits in a weird place between the D4 and the D610. But it’s still an SLR, and so I don’t think I’ll give up the better outfitted main line of cameras from Nikon.

Now…if Nikon would come out with a rangefinder (with an F-mount) styled after the old Nikon SP – I’d buy that sight unseen.

Louis Sica says:

on November 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I like the idea of a lighter camera with FX sensor but the key question for me is whether the finder is high eyepoint like the Nikon F3. That means being able to easily see the four edges of the frame with glasses on without moving the camera relative to your face. Could you with the Df? No one seems to talk about this any more, but I think that not being able to see all edges at the same time subtly affects your ability to visualize the picture you are going to end up with.

Thanks for your review and the fine pictures.

Brian says:

on November 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It’s just not possible to come out with an RF camera with an F-Mount; a Digital S-Mount would work. I don’t think Nikon will come out with an M-Mount camera, so I just use Nikkor glass on an M Monochrom. and M9

The DF is the first Nikon DSLR that I’ve wanted in a long time. I will be trying one out in a shop when they come to market, and look forward to teardown report. I have a lot of older Nikon glass.

Andrew Livelsberger says:

on November 10, 2013 at 1:22 am

Thanks Joe for the information. Really enjoyed it.

I think people are missing the whole point of the camera. The fusion pay of the camera is not that it has traditional controls, but it has both traditional and modern DSLR control schemes. You can control exposure however you like.

According to Nikon prediction manage Hiro Sabata, yes it has a 39 point AF system, but it is not the same one that is in the D610. It has been specially tweaked for the Df.

You are getting the D4 processing engine for less than half of the price of a D4.

People need to stop getting sucked into the marketing hype of higher MP.

There isa lot more to this camera and i think that one people geta chance to actually use it, there will be a lot of the negativity wiped away.

Photography should be and really has at the end of the day Amartya been about the end result and not the platform. What this platform offers is reminder of the more innocent days of capturing image and they providea tool to help you do that, without all the things you do not.

Joe McNally says:

on November 11, 2013 at 6:13 am

Good point Louis….I’m not even aware of it anymore, as my glasses have just become part of the way I see, somewhat ruefully….

Caroline says:

on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 am

The basic specification is the one I told friends I would be happy with but that was over fifteen years ago!

They take all this time and finally come up with something which looks like a bloated mid range SLR with a sharp cheap looking hot shoe on top and want to charge fashion accessory price for it so that people who want such a camera are priced out of the market…

Leica have managed to make something with the look and feel of an “M” series camera, this should have had the look and feel of something like my prism only F2 and it might then have even been tempting at this ludicrous price.

In the days of film there were always desirable cameras but nothing under the price of a small car gets my juices going…

Sad missed opportunity…

Jerome M. says:

on November 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hi Joe,

Just for the heck of it : Knowing you’re one of the few who actually had this new camera in hands, could you tell us what this big selector under the on/off button is ?



Joe McNally says:

on November 12, 2013 at 8:48 pm

that’s your f stop control, Jerome…all the best…

Olivier says:

on November 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Caramba! outstanding serie…

Nate Crouch says:

on November 15, 2013 at 12:24 am

First time posting but I can’t help it. I’ve often wished for a camera that was smaller and lighter than a d4 d800 and even the d600. I have owned each one of those and I’m excited about the df because it not only delivers but it’s small and quite and anyone doing candids knows that can’t be overrated. It takes me back to a teenager taking pictures on my dad’s camera. We had no second film slot. If it helps me take better pictures I’m all over it and I see this camera helping me be more creative and enjoy photography just a little more and if you’re a full time photographer you understand. I can’t help but take pictures, I’d just love to enjoy it just a little bit more. Will I buy the df, not right away cause the d4 and d800 stole my money and with it my soul. But when I get enough money I’m gonna buy the df and steal back my soul.

lovey says:

on November 20, 2013 at 12:17 am

But i heard that the nikon df is not so high demanded in market now. its coming up with the same d4 sensor. this nikon df is now available in india:

Scenegraphy Studio says:

on November 21, 2013 at 3:56 am

Very curious about the Nikon Df camera. While it looks different from modern cameras, with the Nikon D4 (which I have) features built into the Df, I think this is going to be a great camera.

Might purchase one in the near future for light travelling photography.

Bharat Pania says:

on December 6, 2013 at 6:53 am

Your each pictures are inspiring with innovative lighting ,
composition evoking mood

Claude Biron says:

on December 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I’ve had my Nikon Df since Nov. 28th, and it has exceeded my expectations. It’s D4 quality with half the weight, half the size, half the shutter noise, and half the price. The fewer AF points don’t really matter. The lack of video is a selling pint IMO.. I love it!

Abdul Khalid says:

on December 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Got my Df last week and I cannot stop having it round my neck since, even though I am suffering from cervical spondo. Being brought up with the FM2/FE2 in my younger days, old memories can never be erased. I always liked big ones to fit my big hands though, but this one seems to win me over even with the many misses pointed out. I can live with them since I only take pictures and do most of the controlling! Great shots you have here… great cam… But I still keep my D800.

Gareth says:

on December 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Hi Joe,

Great work. I am saving my penny’s for the Df as I still exclusively shoot film. This is something I have wanted Nikon to make for many years. How did you find the useability compared to the D3 and D4 which are molded to ones hand?

One of my favourite images is your copper canyon train at night time (above), what film did you use (assuming it was a Nikon F)??

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