New Df owner first impressions

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camerosity
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New Df owner first impressions
3 months ago

I've been shooting with Nikon cameras since 1987 when I got my first Nikon, and FE2. Shot with that until 1996 when I got an FE as a second body. Then in 1997 I got an FM2n. In 2000 I got a Nikon N70, and in 2002 I got an F100. Bought a F3HP in 2005 (which I still have) as well as a D70. Sold the D70 in 2006 for a D80 and sold the D80 in 2007 for a D300. Sold the D300 in late 2008 for a D700 and shot with that until last fall when I got a D800 and sold the D700.

The D800 has superb resolution and great controls. However, I bought it specifically for a trip I took to document a historic ship. One thing I hate about the D800 is the sound of the shutter. It just doesn't sound right to me at all. I also began shooting with a Nikon 1 V1 and fell in love with the mirrorless format and many Nikon 1 lenses. So the D800 began to be left behind most of the time when I went out shooting. The Coolpix A arrived as a small portable high quality point and shoot a few months ago.

The Df has the best shutter sound of any Nikon DSLR I've ever used. It is a really nice quiet muffled click, and there is nearly no vibration. I feel very confident hand holding at slow shutter speeds with this camera.

The Df intrigued me due to its design. I had owned a Fuji X100 for half a year and loved shooting with it. Loved the manual controls, the shutter speed dial and the aperture dial made sense to me and were very intuitive to use. So when the Df arrived I thought I wanted to check it out.

The plastic covering on the front grip is a major disappointment. The rear thumb rest has a rubbery feel, but the front is just plastic. Really a poor choice by Nikon.

I found a "Demo" Df body for sale from an authorized dealer for $2199 and it arrived today. I found it only had 3 clicks on the shutter, so a new camera for the most part.
I love the small size of the Df. I love the quiet shutter. And I love the analog shutter speed dial and ISO and EV adjustment dials. I can glance at them and know exactly where the settings are. However, the lack of any ability to change settings when the rear display is in 'i' info mode is bizarre. With my little Coolpix A, I can hit the 'i' button and make numerous adjustments, and it saves a lot of time that would be spent digging in to the menus. Why they didn't do this with the Df is beyond me. The Df is seriously a camera designed by a committee who couldn't agree on basic items like this. The 'i' button functionality should be there, like the Coolpix A, but somehow they left it out. A mistake.

The front command dial is a total piece of crap (I've already mapped the aperture control to the rear command dial). Whomever thought that was a good idea was definitely high at the time. The PASM dial is also puzzling. The Fuji X100 had it right. It had an A on the shutter speed dial, and an A on the aperture ring. Both those settings enabled meant Program. Take the shutter speed dial out of A and it is now in Shutter priority. Take the lens out of A and put the shutter speed dial in A and it is in Aperture priority. Both out of A and it is in Manual mode. Easy, right? I guess Nikon didn't think of that, which makes camera operation confusing. If I have the shutter speed dial set to "1/3 Step" and the camera in A mode on the PASM dial, you'd think that if I take it out of "1/3 Step" and manually select a shutter speed, that the camera would switch to M mode. Nope. Still in A mode, just ignores my selection. I think someone on the committee decided that novice users would be too confused by this, and so they overrode this style and demanded the PASM dial, which really doesn't need to be there in the first place.

So far image quality looks superb. I haven't spent enough time shooting with this to really evaluate it, but 16MP is enough for 99% of my photography. I rarely ever need to zoom in and crop. Having come from film, I habitually use the whole image as cropped in camera.

I am not so sure about high ISO performance. I haven't had time to evaluate that very much either. But I know it is at least one stop better than the D800.

I also don't feel the need for two SD card slots, though I do like being able to have one CF card for RAWs and one SD card for JPGs in the D800.

The Df will also bracket 2 stops apart, compared to the 1 stop difference the D800 offers. This is a feature even the Coolpix A has.

I wear glasses but the viewfinder is fine. I am not bothered by the smaller eye point. As one blogger pointed out, since there is no built in shutter, the eyepiece is closer to the glass anyway.

I got the chrome Df, but thought I wanted the black one. But the more I look at the silver one, it brings me back to the chrome FE2 I had right out of high school. Still have it but it lives on a shelf now and hasn't been used in about 5 years (I have pretty much stopped shooting 35mm film at this point).

$2199 is a pretty decent price, and it was enough to bring me to pull the trigger on this camera. Next I'll test some manual focus lenses, such as the Nikon 28mm f2.8 AIS and the 105mm f2.5, and also the 180mm f2.8 AIS ED.

Here is the second image I took with this camera. Sorry it's so boring:

Nikon Df test shot while on my drive home.

 camerosity's gear list:camerosity's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 Nikon Coolpix A Nikon 1 V1 Nikon Df Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 +8 more
Nikon Df
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