Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)

Started 7 months ago | User reviews
InTheMist
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Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
7 months ago

I'm that guy. I always have a camera with me.

I want a full frame, fast, low light, low weight camera in my bag all the time. I don't want to wait for the little computer and monitor to boot up. I want the camera to get out of the way.

First, the Formalities
It's been a tradition of mine to post my DSC_0001 for new cameras that I get, even when I screw it up and face the wrath of the internet jackals.

OOC JPEG, slightly brightened. 50 f1.8 SE (Kit)

As you're pixel peeping these images, keep in mind that several have reported that the shutter count isn't zero from the factory. Some have 200-300 snaps. I take that as a good thing, believing (hoping?) that the camera has been well tested.

Additionally, as of this writing (Dec. 12, 2013) Lightroom/Photoshop doesn't support the .NEFs yet, so I've used Exiftool (google it) or Exifchanger on the Mac app store to change the camera type to D4 if you want to edit the Raw files. Thanks Horshack for the tip!

Lens Selection for Ergonomics
I got the Dƒ to be a smaller alternative to my D800. Virgin tripod hole, throw it in the bag, run-and-gun. Bash it, knock it, abuse it, use it, love it.

Since size is an important feature of this camera, let's talk about some small lenses first. Thanks, Nikon for making me buy another 50/1.8 because at launch, only kits were available in Switzerland, and many countries. The grip is really not deep, in fact, the camera is noticeably slimmer front-to-back than any other FX camera. This is pretty much irrelevant because from the screen to the lens mount, it's about same as my D800. That means with a lens attached, they're the same depth.

I tried all my lenses, including my holy trinity and 300 f2.8 just for fun. Yeah, it's clear, this camera likes small lenses. The heaviest lens that I could recommend is the Sigma 35/1.4 Art (awesome!) but it's a pretty weighty package in a smallish lens.

The lens that surprised me, and the only zoom I have that I liked from a size-and-weight standpoint is a shocker: the cheap and cheerful Nikkor 24-85 f3.5-4.5G kit. I actually prefer this over the 24-120 f4 because it's small, light and doesn't extend/creep when held with the front element down.

I got the Dƒ for lightness and low-light run-and-gun shooting, so I don't really fit in that other category that would find he Df attractive: users with lots of legacy lenses.

Shot on a D800 with 24-70 f2.8 in Raw

If anyone has a favourite legacy that works well, please comment.

Here is the sigma mounted:

Taken with a Nikon 1 AW1 with the kit zoom

Image quality
What do you want to know? It's the D4 sensor with maybe a few years of foundry improvements behind it. It's great - better in low light than the D800, no matter the down-sizing magic. I did try some tight crops, like I sometimes have done on my D800, and didn't even have enough pixels to fit my 27" display! I haven't seen any purple banding like I do sometimes on my D800 at high ISOs.

It goes without saying: great ISO performance, but frame and compose wisely.

Dƒ and Sigma 35mm f1.4

Shutter
1000 shots and still a clean sensor!

Quiet. Almost D7000 quiet, including a nice, silky quiet mode. Nothing like the D800 at all.

Body
I can't believe some people want it to be heavier. It's just right, IMO. It has a very premium quality feel. I got the silver. Obviously, right?

Actually, I thought silver may be less intimidating, but most importantly, I use my cameras. My D800 has been everywhere from frozen mountain top to howling desert and it's not all uniformly black any more. As the Df is going to be my new run-and-gun beater, the silver will wear better because there is less paint to wear off!

Seriously, tho, I find the body very classy. It's a looker!

Focusing
For you D800 owners like me, I've had no focus issues, not even any fine tuning required.

However, whoever decided to put this focusing system in this wonderful camera needs a kick on the groin. It's really my only complaint.

Sensitivity? Meh, it's ok.

For example on ISO Hi 0.3, kit lens wide open, searching high contrast objects in my house late at night in an area that give me a 1/50 shutter speed (matrix metering) and you know what I could autofocus on? Nothing.

At ISO 12800, 1/50 (f1.8), it's starting to able to focus on high contrast things adequately. A bit brighter and it's fast and confident, though having all the focusing points grouped in the middle is annoying when using the rule-of-thirds.

I can focus and recompose, but I prefer moving the focusing point.

Mirrorless?
Do. Not. Want.

Speed is important to me. I count the mirror as a feature, not a detriment.
Every mirrorless camera I've tried has been disappointingly slow in some area. I also do not like to look at the world through a tiny computer monitor. I shoot stuff that moves under sometimes tough conditions.

Some of my favourite images came from a camera that literally two seconds earlier sat forgotten in the bottom of my bag.

Forgotten except for the weight, that is.

Size/Weight
I find it much better than the D800 which rode in my bag almost every day for 18 months. Noticeably, lighter. It's a bit taller than the D7000 and weighs the same.

Don't underestimate the weight difference. I like it.

Knobs
It's got plenty of those! I can't help but think that Fuji did it better with shutter speed and aperture. The PASM dial is superfluous. I think locking the shutter speed dial is unnecessary, and locking the exposure compensation dial is a huge mistake. As soon as the "new" wears off, a drop of superglue is going in that exposure compensation detent hole. I've gotten used to the locking ISO dial - to the point that I kind of like it.

The back and front buttons are pure Nikon and familiar.

Recommendation
Would I recommend this over a D800 or D610? No.
The D800 is a much better camera for almost the same price, the D610 technically very similar, for a much lower price.

So who is this camera for?

I think the Dƒ could go well with photojournalists or people who shoot that kind of style: street, rough. But why would they put the leader in low-light sensor technology in a camera with a focusing system that under-performs in those environments? Wouldn't a PJ already have a D4?

Wedding and events? Something excellent in low light, but looks unassuming, even classy? Maybe that's it. But aren't wedding people being asked to do video these days? Forget about video, there is none.

It's also not a true "poor man's D4" because of the 5.5 FPS (although the buffer lasts a looong time). It also just doesn't have the grip to help using long lenses more comfortable.

So, who's left? Someone who wants a nice looking backup/addition to another FX camera, shoots a lot of street or low-light and/or panics at the though of being more than two meters away from a full frame camera that can start in 0.2s in case he misses something.

I can't help but feel that this camera is shooting for a niche that is perhaps too small.

Do I fit on that niche? Yes, I do. So while I've given the individual detailed scoring sort of pedestrian ratings, I give this camera 4.5 stars as an overall score. If they had had a better focusing system, it would have five.

That assumes the price comes way down, fast. At the current asking price of nearly US$3000, there are simply better buys out there.

Some more sample images below:

Very forgiving in post processing and beautiful dynamic range. Again with the Siggy.

Some more thoughts and samples on my blog.

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It's more important how an image looks as a thumbnail than how it looks at 100%.
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 InTheMist's gear list:InTheMist's gear list
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InTheMist's score
4.5
Average community score
4.1
bad for good for
Kids / pets
great
Action / sports
okay
Landscapes / scenery
okay
Portraits
great
Low light (without flash)
excellent
Flash photography (social)
great
Studio / still life
good
= community average
Nikon Df
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Shotcents
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

Great write-up!

BTW, DXO just crowned the Df the best low light sensor available, topping even the D4. So now all of the clowns who were crying that their D800 and D600 were "almost" as good as the D4 can forget it. The Df is a new benchmark. To some folks it won't matter and neither will the Df style or handling. They can buy a different camera. That's why we have choices.

Thanks again,

Robert

 Shotcents's gear list:Shotcents's gear list
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InTheMist
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to Shotcents, 7 months ago

Shotcents wrote:

Great write-up!

BTW, DXO just crowned the Df the best low light sensor available, topping even the D4. So now all of the clowns who were crying that their D800 and D600 were "almost" as good as the D4 can forget it. The Df is a new benchmark. To some folks it won't matter and neither will the Df style or handling. They can buy a different camera. That's why we have choices.

Thanks again,

Robert

Thanks for the DXO news, I'll check that out.

I just have to say, some would read my review and think I don't like it.

*I* really like it - even love it, but I'm just not sure that everyone else will.

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Shotcents
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

InTheMist wrote:

Shotcents wrote:

Great write-up!

BTW, DXO just crowned the Df the best low light sensor available, topping even the D4. So now all of the clowns who were crying that their D800 and D600 were "almost" as good as the D4 can forget it. The Df is a new benchmark. To some folks it won't matter and neither will the Df style or handling. They can buy a different camera. That's why we have choices.

Thanks again,

Robert

Thanks for the DXO news, I'll check that out.

I just have to say, some would read my review and think I don't like it.

*I* really like it - even love it, but I'm just not sure that everyone else will.

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Of course they won't. No one camera is right for everyone. My wife HATES the D800 and the way it handles. But she loves the way the Df feels. I hope I don't need to get a 2nd one. She's been pretty happy with the D5100 so far.

BTW, I agree on the big lens front. On the other hand a lot of that is coming from using my D800 with grip and being very used to that. The Df feels much smaller and lighter. It'll take some getting used to but actually think it'll be fine with bigger glass in the end.

I've dug in and decided two wait at least a month or two before pulling the trigger. I'm gun shy after AF issues with my early-adopter D800.

Keep us posted and congrats!

Robert

 Shotcents's gear list:Shotcents's gear list
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Patrick McMahon
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Well analyzed and written
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

Thanks ITM,

Having read your earlier points I know we are of the same "niche" audience/customer. You did an excellent job here giving a review.

I enjoyed reading it as I look forward to my camera's arrival.

be well and enjoy!

 Patrick McMahon's gear list:Patrick McMahon's gear list
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HSway
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

I think we are spoilt for choice when it comes to FX sensors. You look enjoying that great kit, that’s the best place for it.

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InTheMist
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Re: Well analyzed and written
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

Thanks ITM,

Having read your earlier points I know we are of the same "niche" audience/customer. You did an excellent job here giving a review.

I enjoyed reading it as I look forward to my camera's arrival.

be well and enjoy!

Thanks Patrick.

Hey, when you get your Df, could you kindly post some samples using your Sigma 50 1.4?  I looked at that hard several times. Perhaps incorrectly, I didn't think it would hold up to the D800, but it could be the sweet spot on the Df.

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InTheMist
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to Shotcents, 7 months ago

Shotcents wrote:

...

I've dug in and decided two wait at least a month or two before pulling the trigger. I'm gun shy after AF issues with my early-adopter D800.

...

Robert

I've had NO problems with AF in fair to decent light. In fact, I'm even more confident with it than my low-serial D800. Some of my lenses need double-digit correction, on my D800. The Df, zero.

The D800 is going to the service center now that I finally have an FX alternative.

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Patrick McMahon
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Re: Well analyzed and written
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

Will do, I enjoy it a lot on the D700. I am interested to see how it feels and performs on the Df.

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Fogsville
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

InTheMist wrote:

I think locking the shutter speed dial is unnecessary, and locking the exposure compensation dial is a huge mistake.

fwiw, this is the way the F3 is, too. The shutter dial locks when you put it into A mode (like the Df locks when you put it into 1/3 step mode.) Otherwise it's free to turn just like the Df. The exposure compensation dial on the F3 is locked in a similar fashion to the Df (but harder to access as it's over on the left side next to the ISO dial and up against the prism (and hard to read, too.) The ISO dial on the F3 also is locked and is a PITA to operate. But of course with film you never need to adjust the ISO unless you change film ( for push/pull/over/under you can just change exposure or exposure compensation.) There certainly seems to be some 'F3 influence' built into the Df.

I like the looks of the Df overall. I appreciate the older type font of the word "Nikon" (I've always hated the slanted and bold type style of the current logo), although I dislike that it was done just as a cosmetic "reminder" like they did with the kit lens and its cosmetic silver ring.

I also like the Df (i.e., a DSLR) for all the same reasons you do; instant start up, fast focusing, real optical finder, etc... It's why I like using them. Despite that I have a D3s and D800E (good combo, imho), I would like a D4 spec sensor in a smaller package. But I've kind of come to the conclusion that for me the modern ergonomics of the Nikon DSLRs are super efficient and fast to use. Despite that I do like analog dials and such (I still use a Leica M4 and an M6 for 35mm, and also a 4x5 Linhof), I think I've finally come to appreciate the efficiency and user customization of the command dials and button functions on the modern Nikon DSLRs (and including the F6 film body.)

Somewhat ironically, I'd like a Df (same size/shape/style, and sensor) but without the analog top dials. And no, I don't want a 'D700.' While I now prefer the D4/D3s/D800 style of user interface, what I do dislike is the 'plastic blob styling' of current DSLRs. But every time I'm using my F3 (I still like film!) I realize how far we've come with fast and efficient functions with the modern layout of dials and buttons (look at the praise for the OM-D E-M1 for its design and ergonomics; and it is pretty nice I have to admit.)

Thanks for the review!

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SamG10
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

informative user's review and very well written.  Thank you.

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Undergrd
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to SamG10, 7 months ago

Thanks for the nice write up...

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ainos
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

Fantastic write-up! Fun to read and oh my, now I REALLY want a DF. Silver, of course.

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adhall
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to Shotcents, 7 months ago

Shotcents wrote:

Great write-up!

BTW, DXO just crowned the Df the best low light sensor available, topping even the D4. So now all of the clowns who were crying that their D800 and D600 were "almost" as good as the D4 can forget it. The Df is a new benchmark. To some folks it won't matter and neither will the Df style or handling. They can buy a different camera. That's why we have choices.

Thanks again,

Robert

I think it's worth reiterating that low light performance is only one indicator of sensor performance. Other factors to consider are resolution, dynamic range, colour depth...

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InTheMist
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to ainos, 7 months ago

ainos wrote:

... Silver, of course.

Obviously! 

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larrywilson
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

Darn it, the df brings back memories of shooting with my old film cameras.  My old Pentax cameras were very small and I packed them everywhere, just threw them into my vest and away I went.  I am camera poor now so I have to pass this one up for a while.

Excellent review, for me its a beautiful low profile body, best low light sensor, light and small, beautiful travel and street camera.

Larry

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lighttoart
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 7 months ago

I also own the Nikon Df. For me, the camera is a great fit having shot with an FE in film days. I like the

weight, the images produced are beautiful, and I do use the mechanical dials. I guess it's like riding a bike,

those FE motions are still in you. My favorite light lens so far, which gives incredible results, is the classic

Tamron 90 SP  Di  Af  Macro (no image stabilization). Light, fast, incredibly sharp, very inexpensive used

since it is an older lens. A lens I just purchased on Ebay and has yet to arrive is the Vivitar Nikon mount  70-150

Kiron MF AF zoom f3.8. Very inexpensive, small size; excellent reviews. We'll see. I must agree with a

previous poster whose wife really liked the camera. I am a woman with small hands. Having owned the

D700 since it's release, I find the smaller grip and lightweight very nice. I also use the newer Nikon 28-300

ED Vr zoom. It is lens heavy, but I've adapted to supporting the lens with my left hand. I am not a wide angle

shooter. Right now my bag consists of the Tamron 90 Macro, 50 mm kit lens (which I think is very good,

not fully tested in daily use) and the Nikon 28-300 Vr. All this fits into the same bag I used for my Micro

four thirds with minimal weight compared to my D700. The defining element for me in buying a camera

is image quality and I think the Df delivers. Thank you for the great review. I agree, it is a niche camera,

but for me t's a fit.

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Ian M.B.
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 5 months ago

Great User Review of the Nikon Df 'In The Mist'. . .  you should be a DPR Reviewer. .  very helpful mate.

You've really helped me in my decision making. .  it's pouring rain here in Sydney right now (Sat. March 1), but as soon as it clears up I'll take one out for a 'run'.

Thanks a lot!

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BobSgt
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to InTheMist, 4 months ago

I too have a Df and love it. You asked for a lens suggestion; I am using an older 35-70 f2.8 AF. If you have access to one I recommend you try it. I believe you can find them used for about $400

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InTheMist
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Re: Dƒ Review (plus DSC_0001, sample images, favourite lenses and more)
In reply to BobSgt, 4 months ago

BobSgt wrote:

I too have a Df and love it. You asked for a lens suggestion; I am using an older 35-70 f2.8 AF. If you have access to one I recommend you try it. I believe you can find them used for about $400

Thanks for the tip, I'll give it a try.  I think my local shop has a few in stock.

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