First Impressions: Nikon Df

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 1 out of 5
Yeah, but: A v1.0 product with 50 years of history.

Counter Opinion: I hated the Nikon Df from the moment I picked it up. The handgrip is awkward, the front dial is impossible to turn, and the camera feels far less valuable than its price tag should require. I wasn't one of those who was stoked with pre-launch enthusiasm, so the strength of my adverse reaction caught me by surprise.

My reaction would have been much milder if I hadn't spent the weekend with my D800, which is the current pinnacle of design engineering that the Df superficially rejects. And there are some distinct disadvantages that the size and shape of the Df (pronounced "df") has when compared to the FX D-hundreds series. The battery is the smaller EN-EL14, inherited from the entry-level SLRs, and its single lonely SD card also lives inside the battery compartment. The round eyepiece says "pro", but the details disagree.

But as I handled the Df more, my objections diminished. The handgrip can't be held with a fist, the way the D-number series is, but instead is held between thumb and middle finger, like a flat-fronted camera. Or, to cite a more tragic digital precedent, like the Sony A330/380. I do still wish that the fake-leather-texture plastic was a grippy material, like on the D800, instead of hard, like on the Canon Rebel T3. No, not T3i. T3.

The front dial of the Df is something I really had a hard time with. It's incredibly difficult to turn and hard to reach. But a few seconds in the menu is really all that's needed to switch the aperture control from the front to the back dial, which makes the problem go away. Except for changing certain setup parameters, such as from single-point to all-area AF, there's not all that much that needs both dials. Exposure compensation has its own dial, as does shutter speed. What else is there?

Thankfully the Df does retain the extremely useful auto-iso ability despite having a dedicated iso dial. It works exactly the same as on the button-and-dial Nikons, with the auto-iso menu setting defining the upper limit, and a user-selectable minimum iso that can be set through the dial. So in auto-iso mode the fancy physical control only sets the iso floor, which rarely needs to be changed, but it is nice to have it right there on top of the camera where we can keep an eye on it. And I suppose auto-iso could be turned off, should it be necessary.

I'm not buying a Df: it doesn't suit my needs, it doesn't play well with my Nikons F5, D800, or V1, and if I want a pure photography experience I'll run a roll of film through my m-mount Zeiss Ikon. My uniformed opinion is that it's over-priced; some retailers are already quietly discounting it despite it being less than a week old. But after spending more time with it I have no doubt that the Df is going to turn out to be a really great camera that completely suits some people. It's just too bad that Nikon has trained people to wait for the Christmas price-drop, or the inevitable iteration, before committing to it. Nikon simply hasn't sparked the passion that the Fuji X-series inspires.

Counter Opinions are quick "sales counter" product reviews.
As always, viewer discretion is advised.
Last updated 30 nov 2013


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