Df and 'conventional wisdom'

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
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VBLondon
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Df and 'conventional wisdom'
10 months ago

I feel like a fairly ordinary camera user, more 'hobbyist/enthusiast' than the average person, but much less so than most of the posters here; also lucky enough to be able to afford some expensive gear. I recently sold my D3S in anticipation of a Df due from the first batch. I also happened to go through all my photos for albuming/archiving over the 4 years I've had the D3S. This reinforced my views on few points.

A bit of context. I shoot perhaps no more than a few times a month, unless on a vacation. I've taken 12000 shots (actuations) in 4 years with the D3S and kept about 1000/year. I only keep NEFs. It's one reason I've invested in Nikon; I want the Raw files for the future and I think I'll likely be able to process NEFs 20 years from now.

I have no interest in post-processing except as a necessary evil. I use View NX because it's fast and simple. Capture only very rarely to touch-up. My workflow is to delete all the unwanted files and for the rest, where I need to, crop, adjust WB, perhaps tweak exposure. I just don't have the time or inclination to do more.

1. Megapixels

After the great pixel debate following the D800 launch, I was totally convinced at a technical level that the high MP sensor is a better solution. More detail, more DR and practically no penalty in high ISO noise scaled to like-for-like output sizes. I've also heard, endlessly, the argument that the large files sizes are easily mitigated with "cheap memory" and faster modern PCs.

The balance of this is that I'd pay a premium for fewer MPs. Why?

Of the 4000 keepers, I am not sure there are any that would have benefited from 36MP or 24MP. I don't crop massively or print huge. 12MP is fine and I doubt I'd have noticed if it has been 8MP or 10MP. A small number might have benefited from better low ISO DR, but that's very secondary for me.

However, working with NEFs 3x the size would have been a massively tiresome chore, even on a fast desktop PC. I shoot a lot of photos I want to keep (and keep as NEFs) rather than a few I cherish. Even 12MP NEFs are undesirably slow to manage in any volume. 36MP would be pointless and something I'd pay to avoid. I don't want to convert to JPEG for further workflow and archive NEF, I just want a single NEF file.

2. Low ISO

I really noticed the improvement from the D700 to the D3S in low ISO performance. I don't understand the general thing in the photo media (DPR, Thom's site etc) to treat the ISO performance of most non-P&S cameras as 'good enough'. It isn't. Flash is a pain indoors and terrible outdoors. Evening events, indoors and outdoors, provide some of the most memorable moments of our lives. What good is an outdoor "bright faces dark background" flash photo? People say an FX DSLR is 'intrusive', isn't it massively less intrusive than a smaller camera plus flash firing away? If you are a great photographer and a black-belt using whatever Noise-Whizz plug-in is the latest, I am sure you can mitigate the ISO performance of a smaller sensor to some extent, but the point is that photographically it makes a big difference in fairly regular circumstances to have the low ISO performance of the latest FX sensors. I don't care in the slightest about video, tilting rear screens, creative art filters and all the other stuff that fills pages and pages of reviews. I do care about being easily able to consistently capture pictures I like in dim indoor or evening outdoor conditions. FX makes a meaningful difference in this, much more meaningful than 95% of the camera attributes reviewers attach so much importance to.

The balance of all that is wanting an FX camera with low MP and the latest generation sensor. The D700 has the former, not the latter. The D4 is great, but big and expensive. My D3S was getting a touch too bulky and heavy. I've moved from using the latest big AF-S primes and 2.8 zooms to smaller AF-D primes, so I don't need the grip and balance.

The Df meets all those needs, and, as a bonus, has more attractive styling than the jelly-mould DSLRs that looked great in the mid-2000s but look a bit bland to me now. I think the Nikon marketeers are smarter than all the web pundits, because if you have those needs, you are likely to pay a premium - only because all the rest of the market has moved to high MPs (it'll be hard to buy a phone, let alone a camera, soon with "only" 16MP). Yes it's nearly as expensive as a D800. But if someone wanted the attributes of a D800, or D610, they wouldn't buy a Df whatever the price - after all it has the "feeble" 16MP sensor. But if you want the 16MP, the Df is your only choice anywhere in the market other than the D4 at 2x the cost.

Sorry for the long ramble. Just a few personal perspectives on the Df - and to explain why, unlike Barnaby Briton, I don't think the Df is "silly" and why there's a rationale for the Df beyond the retro styling.....although I probably would have bought it just for that....

 VBLondon's gear list:VBLondon's gear list
Nikon Df
Nikon D3S Nikon D4 Nikon D610 Nikon D700 Nikon D800 Nikon Df
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