Nikon Df - The Reality Check Review Locked

Started Jan 6, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Shotcents Veteran Member • Posts: 4,472
Nikon Df - The Reality Check Review

Since Xmas morning I've been using my Nikon Df side by side with my D800 and friend's D4 (he also owns a Df. I bought the Df because I liked the interface and have always enjoyed the easier-to-get quality at higher ISO compared to my D800.

Since I already own a D800, I wanted a 2nd camera to have the following qualities:

1) Smaller and lighter

2) FX sensor Small files

3) Faster FPS

4) Superior ISO range to my D800

Not on my list...retro design, manual focus improvement, video.

Overall Design - The reality of the handling and controls is that it's pretty sweet. If you look at pictures or handled the camera for a few minutes OF COURSE it felt a bit alien. It is not shaped like my D800 and as others have pointed out, you hold it a bit differently. The Df can be operated with it's dials or with the command wheels, just like a D800. There is no difference. But the Df gives you the option of not lifting the camera to adjust settings. I can read the dials easily (unlike the D800 LCD) and change settings even if it's off. If you do street/candids this is useful. Of course some folks can't adapt or won't. For them the Df is not going to work because the dials are not getting used. Bottom line: This is a super light DSLR that taxes my grip less than the D800 and operates two different ways. The interface is more versatile once you're used to it. If the camera was "modern" I'd still enjoy using those dials.

My father is not too cool at times about photos, but here I reached down into the bag and ball-parked my settings (not possible with a D800)...grabbed a rare shot where he looks like my father....if you know what I mean.

Feel - I have serious doubts about people who say the Df feels light or like plastic. No one holding my camera has said that. It feels MORE like metal and more tight and solid than my D800. The dials are very well machined and operate with a feeling of precision. I should also point out that the shutter is quieter and doesn't make the hollow CLACK of my D800, though that's outside of the "Feel" group!

Autofocus - Since I already own a D800, I did not buy the Df to shoot action at the edges of the frame. But I did fully expect the AF to be excellent and on par with my D800 in practical terms using the center point. I tested the AF in all kinds of bad lighting. With the focus assist light on the D800 disabled, I could find no situation where AF lock was handled by the D800 and not the Df.

Simple test shot below - The D800 actually did struggle a bit in this setting, but it only happened once. The cat statue is in near-total darkness, AF point is at the cat center. I could not see the cat's spots with my eyes, too dark. The Df obviously could.

The Df was able, using center point, to lock on pretty much anything I tried. And that was with the 24-85 VR kit lens. The D800 was it's equal, but not provably better. I did not test the outer points of either camera, but this is likely where the D800 will do better. If you are looking for an FX full frame AF spread, the Df and D610 are not for you. If you have a D800 or D4 you may not need to duplicate that aspect (My case).

High ISO - This has been the subject of a lot of debate. Those who shoot the D4 generally understand where the Df does better, while the folks who download files and don't work with both sensors feel the advantages are too subtle to be important. I could say the same thing of many expensive lenses, which deliver small but desirable improvements for some. The way my Df handles high ISO with zero fuss is quite nice. I can get a very good looking 8X10 out of a shot like this (ISO 10000) and I don't have to do much tweaking.

ISO 10'000 using 24-85vr in horrible mixed lighting and also from a TV screen.

I can get pretty solid results from my D800 up to 3200 and with care, even 6400. But the Df simply holds color, contrast and has more DR to work with at elevated ISO. As the D800 is pushed above 3200 it begins to get a magenta cast at times as well. Even the JPEGs look great out of the Df at high ISO.

Summation - I think this may be my favorite FX DSLR of all time. It really seems to have no flaws or weaknesses for my needs. On the other hand I would not choose it as my 1st camera. That vote would still go to either a D800, D4 or D3s. The Df (and those bought by friends) have required no AF fine adjustment on any of our lenses, including 3rd party. This adds to the sense of buying a solid product with good quality control. Experience "out of the box" has been the best so far. If a camera feels "right" in it's handling that wins a lot of fans (as the Df is obviously doing). Out of the current line up, only the Df (so far) seems to have achieved problem free status.

But just like any radical departure from current design standards, a camera like this is going to get jeers as well as cheers. Disliking the Df is fine, but understand that it's a perfect fit for many educated shooters. If you don't like it, that does not mean you're NOT an educated shooter. Maybe you truly need the 51 point AF for your shooting or maybe the Df feels wrong in your hands. Those are perfectly valid reasons to buy a different camera. On the other hand it's obvious that the Df has stunning IQ, solid AF, and good build. All that's left is to question whether it's going to fit in YOUR kit.



 Shotcents's gear list:Shotcents's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7700 Nikon D800 Nikon D5200 Nikon D5300 Nikon Df +11 more
Nikon D3S Nikon D4 Nikon D610 Nikon D800 Nikon Df
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