Another Df first timer...

Started Jan 30, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Ray Sachs
Ray Sachs Forum Pro • Posts: 10,580
Another Df first timer...

I got a loaner of a Df a couple of days ago - I should have it for about six weeks. The only lenses I got are the 24 f2.8 and 35 f2.0 "D" lenses. I've never been a DSLR shooter - I last owned an SLR in the early '80s - just film obviously. The fanciest feature any of my SLR's ever had was aperture priority, which was pretty new at the time - I thought that kind of auto-exposure aid was some kind of trendy gimmick and would never last.  Since I got seriously back into photography about four years ago, I didn't want anything to do with carrying a big bag of gear around, so I've avoided DSLRs and I've been shooting mirrorless, mostly m43 and Fuji.

But about a year ago I got an RX1 and now I'm thoroughly infected with the full frame bug. Since I expect it's gonna be a while before there's a mirrorless full frame system with a varied enough set of lenses for me to jump in. I decided to start looking into DSLRs. I STILL don't want to carry a lot of gear and I tend to be a prime shooter anyway, so I decided I'd only go DSLR if I could use one of the smaller bodies (D610, Df, or 6D) with some smaller primes.

I don't need super-fast glass - with modern sensors anything in the f1.8-2.8 range is OK for me even with smaller sensors so it'll do with full frame as well. I knew from the RX1 that f2.0 will give me the narrowest DOF I'd ever want. So, for a combination of size and cost reasons, I decided to just check out the "D" line of lenses to see if they're adequately sharp and contrasty, understanding they're not gonna be up to the standard of the incredible Zeiss lens in the RX1 or the higher end DSLR glass.

I also envision only using such a camera for lenses from about 20-90mm or so. The size advantage of m43 becomes pretty overwhelming with longer lenses and the Olympus 75mm f1.8 and the Panasonic 35-100 f2.8 are all I really need for long lenses. And I LOVE the face detection features of Olympus, which appear to be only available in live view with the Df - let me know if I'm missing something here. For ultra wide, I'm open minded but I'm really happy with the Panasonic 7-14 so I might switch or I might keep that. I really like the flip out screen in the EM1 for low angle ultra-wide shooting too... But for a bag of wide to neutral to short portrait length lenses, I'm looking to go full frame.

I decided to go with the Df mostly because of the D4 sensor and the slightly smaller/lighter profile than the D610 and 6D. And Nikon over Canon because the "D" lenses looked like what I was looking for in terms of size, weight, manual aperture rings, etc. The retro dials don't matter to me and I actually considered a slight negative given the location of the exposure comp dial, which god clearly meant to be on the right shoulder of the camera, not the left.

My initial impressions are quite positive. The camera with these lenses doesn't feel a lot larger or heavier than the Fuji X-Pro I had for about a year and a half. Although I've gotten very accustomed to, and really LIKE, the excellent EVF's in the newest mirrorless cameras (the Olympus VF-4 / EM1 evf has to be seen to be believed), it's nice to shoot with a full SLR OVF again. Manual focus seems much easier than I'd read it would be, even without a split prism or other focussing aid. I wouldn't say I prefer it, but I like it a lot and it's a nice change.

I tend to shoot aperture priority with auto-ISO (particularly with Nikon's great auto-ISO logic) about 95% of the time or more, so the shutter speed and ISO dials are almost completely lost on me and, as I said, I hate the location of the exposure comp dial. Aside from exposure comp, though, I've figured out the camera well enough to make the interface work for me quite nicely. And frankly, as accessible as spot metering and the ever-handy AEL button are in today's cameras, and as much latitude as the current sensors have, exposure comp is becoming and less and less important adjustment. With an aperture ring on the lens, I rarely have to use the rear control dial and almost never the front one.

I've got a week in the Bay Area coming up where I should really be able to give this gear a good workout. So far, just a few shots around the house and on a frigid, single digit temperature, morning walk at a local ag preserve yesterday. Here are a few early shots. The lenses aren't the sharpest I've ever seen but they seem to work well with the 16mp sensor - would probably be disappointing with something like the D800 but I think I'd be happy with them with this body/sensor. They don't hold up to extreme pixel peeping but for the way I actually view photographs, I think I'll be fine with them. And the files this sensor produces are sublime - just an amazing combination of clean and smooth with whatever level of detail the lens can manage. The high ISO is everything I'd been reading and observing.

The color and detail this retains at ISO 12,800 is pretty astounding to me - taken in a VERY dark hallway...


Canon EOS 6D Nikon D4 Nikon D610 Nikon D800 Nikon Df Olympus E-M1 Sony RX1
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