Nikon Df is Not Winning the Internets

Started 9 months ago | Discussions thread
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Richard Murdey
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Nikon Df is Not Winning the Internets
9 months ago

I've just finished a grand tour of Nikon Df reviews on the web. I can sum them all up in two lines:

1. The Df takes great photos, but its not for me.

2. Nikon had a good idea, but got the execution wrong.

First point first:

People, from Thom Hogan to Ken Rockwell, Wai Wong to Ming Thein, and writers for every camera review site in between, have scratched their heads while speculating who it was that Nikon was targeting with this product. Hipsters? (fstoppers) People in need of "Magic" (KR)?

Yet the Df is selling well. Very well.

Let me take a stab it this. Let's go back 4-5 years, D700 era. Okay, Nikon now has a full frame camera that is, in a manner of speaking, affordable. Who bought it? Of those total number of owners, what fraction actually made money from the photos they took?

Sure, a significant number of those D700's ended up in the hands of the ubiquitous wedding photographer, a lot, I think, went to business and industry, some were backup bodies for working pros who owned D3s, many were used by professional photographers at all levels. But, in Japan at a least, a huge number also went to "old guys who walk around taking photos". The serious hobbyist, long-time Nikon user. Ladies and gentlemen, there's your Df market.

What is wrong with the D700 as a walk-around camera? Problem no. 1. It's a boat anchor. The body itself runs nearly 1.1 kg with the battery. Problem no. 2. It's cluttered up with a lot of pro/studio features that people just taking photos aren't ever going to use. 3. It doesn't work with the "classic" Nikkor Auto pre-Ai lenses. 4. (most controversially) The photographic controls are abstracted to the LCD display, rather than permanent dials.

Seen in that light, the Df is obviously the upgrade to the D700, as seen from the eyes of the serious (Japanese) Nikon hobbyist.

Second point, briefly:

I invite you to sit down and design an F-mount camera with physical dials for ISO and shutter speed, that works with every lens from Auto to G and has a modern autofocus system. You'll end up with the Df, it's almost inevitable. You can include video, but then you have to add yet more buttons, ports, and menus into an already cluttered camera. You could remove the locks on the dials, re-position some, and re-style everything to be less obviously aping the Nikon SLRs of yesteryear - but the well-documented idiosyncrasies of the overlapped traditional-modern interface will remain baked in.

The only way out, as I've said before, would be to drop lens support: a radical move Nikon would never have allowed - make the Df a manual focus camera only. AiS (AiP) support like the FM3, ground glass screen with focus aid. It is my personal, selfish wish that Nikon had done that. The AiS lenses are still in the catalog after all, there are the Cosina-built Zeiss ZF and ZF.2, as well as Voigtlander and of course the massive Nikkor used lens pool. It could have been a poster-child for for the "real" experience of old-school, slow photography.

But let's be real: they'd be selling at less than 1/100 th the pace that the Df is at currently, and the red ink at Nikon HQ would be overflowing.

 Richard Murdey's gear list:Richard Murdey's gear list
Nikon D40 Pentax K10D Nikon 1 V1 Nikon D600 Pentax smc FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited +7 more
Nikon D3S Nikon D700 Nikon Df
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