Flash

The Df doesn't feature a built-in flash, instead relying on you using external flashguns. The Df either allows you to directly mount one of the company's Speedlights or adding a remote commander unit that will remotely control them.

Correction options

As with all recent Nikons, the Df is able to perform quite a lot of lens corrections for its JPEG output. It automatically corrects for lateral chromatic aberrations, based on image analysis (so you shouldn't find odd colored fringing around the edges of your images, regardless of what lens you use).

There's also an option to apply distortion correction, in the Shooting menu. This corrects for the geometric distortion introduced by the lens, and requires the camera to recognize the lens that's been attached (meaning it has to be one of Nikon's own lenses, and one modern enough to include a CPU that communicates the lens' identity to the camera).

The final correction option is 'Vignette Control' (again in the Shooting menu), which brightens the corners of the image. This applies only to D, E and G-type lenses (though unlike Auto Distortion Correction, you can engage it at any time - it just only does anything if you've got a compatible lens mounted). The feature takes into account the lens you've used and the aperture you've shot at, yet still gives the option to apply the effect in three levels (Low, Normal and High). Here you can see an example - despite being shot at F8, there's still some vignetting to remove.

AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm F3.5-5.6, ISO 100, 1/250th sec, F8
Vignette Control Off
Vignette Control High

Low Light performance

Shorn of its high speed capabilities, the Df's sensor's two main stand-out features are its low light performance and its low energy usage. And, if anything, there are suggestions that running the sensor at a lower readout speed may be slightly improving its low light performance, compared with the D4.

The JPEGs are pretty impressive - even getting towards the Df's highest settings, so long as there's some light to define objects in the scene, the Df's output is pretty usable. Noise reduction is well judged; striking a good balance between noise suppression and detail retention.

Out-of-camera JPEG Raw file processed with Adobe Camera Raw
(Luminance NR: 50, Chroma NR: 19)
100% crop 100% crop

Processing from Raw gives you some leeway to choose your own balance of noise suppression vs. detail retention, as demonstrated above. That said, the out-of-camera JPEGs work well up until the highest ISOs.

Shadow noise and Raw processing latitude

Here we have a look at how much latitude there is for processing Df Raw files, compared with the D610, D4 and Canon EOS 6D. The images here have been brightness matched and then over-exposed by 2.7EV. Sharpening has been left at default settings, with noise reduction minimized.

At base ISO, all the Nikons happily tolerate the dark regions of the image being pushed by 2.7EV, with no noise appearing in dark areas of the image. The Canon, by contrast, is showing a light spattering of chroma noise - suggesting it'll offer a little less processing latitude at low ISOs, for capturing high contrast scenes.

At ISO 25600 the D610 drops behind, but there's not such a pronounced difference between the Df and the 6D. Once downscaled to a common output size (8MP in this instance), the difference between the EOS 6D and the Nikon Df is pretty subtle. So, the Df out-performs the Canon at low ISOs by a fraction and has the edge over the D610 at high ISOs - giving an idea of the balance of capabilities it offers.

Overall image quality

The rest of the Df's image quality is pretty predictable. It has the same color response as we're used to seeing from other Nikon bodies, and the sharpening applied to the JPEGs is subtle and likable, revealing detail without looking too artificial.

16MP isn't terrifically high resolution by modern standards. The D4 and 18MP Canon EOS-1D X suggest that there are plenty of working pros who don't find this limit at all problematic, so it's unlikely many of the Df's audience will, either. Re-scaling images from the Nikon D610 and D800 down to the same resolution cuts much of the difference but the Df does produce very nice images in a wide variety of circumstances with little need for additional processing. As with recent Nikon models, if you just want to make small changes to an existing image or produce a JPEG having only shot Raw, the Df offers in-camera Raw conversion.