Body & Design

Of the two color options, silver will be the 'main' version available in the USA - that's why we're using product photographs from this version more prominently throughout this review. Initially there was a split in the office between the black and silver versions but, upon seeing the silver version (with its interesting variety of silver finishes and tones), most concluded that black was the better-looking option.

Color aside, the Df inherits a lot of DNA from Nikon's earlier film SLRs, most noticeably the FM2 and F3. There's the same angular, leatherette-clad pentaprism housing, the high, ridged (and locking) dials on the top plate, the gentle, not quite full-height grip from the F3, and a folding Ai tab on the lens throat which allows for the safe attachment of pre-Ai lenses - something we've haven't seen since the film era of Nikon SLRs.

The Df offers dedicated exposure compensation, ISO and shutter speed dials (all with individually locking buttons), alongside the standard programmable front and rear command dials. The practical upshot of this approach is that, in terms of manual exposure control, the Df operates pretty much as 'traditionally' as you want it to. For instance, you can set ISO manually using the lockable dial, or leave it set to auto via the menu system (in which case the ISO selected on the dial serves as the minimum ISO sensitivity that auto ISO will use).

The shutter speed dial is essentially optional. It can be used to manually set shutter speed in full stop increments, or you can leave it locked to the '1/3EV' position and use the camera's command dial to input shutter speed in 1/3EV increments instead.

Lens compatibility

Despite its 1970s styling, the Df is an autofocus camera. Unlike entry-level Nikon bodies, but in common with its other full-frame peers, the Df has a built-in AF drive motor, and as such it will focus automatically with Nikon's AF and AF-D lenses (and equivalent third-party options), as well as more modern AF-S designs with built-in focus motors.

Like other modern high-end Nikon DSLRs, up to nine 'non-CPU' lenses can be programmed in for use with the Df. When one of these is attached, aperture is adjusted using the dedicated ring on the lens. Importantly, you can also attach very old, pre-Ai (automatic indexing) lenses to the Df, which opens up a lot of creative opportunities.

When a non-CPU lens like this (technically still current) 50mm F1.2 is mounted, you can shoot in manual or aperture priority mode with full metering support.

The interesting thing about the Df's design is that while it has the Ai indexing tab around the lens throat, it can be folded out of the way, to allow older non-Ai lenses to mount without jamming. The professional F5 (1996-2004) was Nikon's last SLR to include it.