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Nikon Df Digital SLR Review

Nikon Df Digital SLR Review - The classically styled Nikon Df is designed for "pure" photography, find out how it performs in our full review.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Nikon Df
Price : £2,749
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Verdict
Specification

Nikon Df Black (4)

The new Nikon Df is a 16.2 megapixel full-frame Digital SLR that is said to be a fusion of old Nikon qualities with the latest digital technology from the other Nikon D range digital SLRs. It is available with a special edition of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens which has the same optical performance as the standard 50mm f/1.8G lens. The Df is available in black or silver, priced at £2749.99 with 50mm f/1.8G and only available as a kit with no plans for body only in the UK, although this may vary depending on country. 

Nikon DF Features

Nikon Df Black (5)

The Nikon Df features classic Nikon film-SLR styling, inspired by the likes of the Nikon FM-2/3, it features manual controls, including a large shutter-speed control dial, and a small mode dial on the top right which is locked and can be pulled upwards to unlock. It is designed to give the feel of a real camera, a camera for photographers, to enjoy the photographic process, without getting held back by electronic controls. Nikon says the Nikon Df is made for "Pure Photography". 

It's also possible to maximise existing non-Ai lenses, and also works with Ai lenses, making it compatible with lenses going back to 1959, using stop down metering with Ai lenses. This is accomplished using a new retractable mechanical lens coupling around the lens mount, and to take advantage of manual focus lenses, there is a new manual focus mode, where the AF points can be switched off. There are only 3 Ai lenses that are not compatible with the camera. For use of Non-Ai lenses the metering coupling lever can be moved out of the way, and the Df the first Nikon DSLR to officially support these lenses.

Nikon Df DSLR Black (1)

The camera features an electronic virtual horizon, as well as new 16:9, 1:1 aspect ratios. The design of the camera features a vertical Nikon logo on the camera, which is styled in the same way as previous Nikon film SLRs. It is also the smallest and lightest FX (full-frame) camera from Nikon at 710g excluding battery, or 765g with battery and memory card. 

Nikon Df Black (16)

The body is a weather sealed magnesium alloy body, sealed to the same standard as the Nikon D800 / D800E (waterdrop resistance, and anti-dust), and is available in two-tone silver and black or alternatively all black as reviewed here. The shutter life is rated at 150,000 cycles, giving it the same life cycle rating as the Nikon D600/D610.

Key Features

  • 16.2mp FX full-frame CMOS sensor (from Nikon D4)
  • F-mount, non-Ai and Ai lenses
  • 3.2inch screen, 921k dot reinforced glass screen
  • ISO100-12800, extends to 50-204800
  • Exposure compensation dial, ISO control dial, drive mode dial
  • 5.5fps continuous shooting, 150,000 cycles, 30s - 1/4000 shutter speed
  • Quiet shutter release mode
  • 39 focus points,9 cross-type, -1EV, f/8 compatible
  • Expeed 3 image processing
  • PASM dial (top, right)
  • Shutter speed dial, 1/3 step setting lets you set the shutter speed using the rear dial
  • Weather sealed to same level as D800/D800E 
  • 1400 shots per charge EN-EL14a (single frame mode)
  • Magnesium alloy used for top, rear and bottom
  • 100% pentaprism viewfinder, same as D4/D800
  • HDMI out supported
  • Compatible with WU-1a (wireless), WR-1, WR-R10 (radio remote)

Nikon DF Handling

Nikon Df Black (11)

The top of the camera gives the biggest clue that this is a retro inspired digital camera, starting with the metal dials, switches and controls, as well as the shutter release and central screw thread to accept manual shutter release cables that were popular with film SLRs. Nikon has developed the Df making it as compact as possible, whilst also giving a good sized textured hand-grip that extends round to the back so that your thumb also has good purchase on the camera. Although unfortunately the hand-grip is just rubberised on the back, and is textured plastic on the front.

The control wheels at the front and back are well placed to give easy access without having to stretch or move your finger and thumb excessively, and this should make using the camera comfortable for extended periods. The front control wheel is a vertical control wheel, which differs from the usual positioning of this control wheel on other Nikon DSLRs, however should still be as easy to use. The mode dial on the top right features P,S,A and M shooting modes, however the camera doesn't feature any of the "beginner" friendly scene modes or automatic modes, apart from P. 

Nikon Df Black (12)

The optical viewfinder is a 100% pentaprism, as featured on the Nikon D4 and D800/D800E, and on this camera features a round eyepiece along with dioptre correction, and is bright and clear to use even in dark conditions. There is a dual axis electronic level with the horizontal electronic level viewed in the optical viewfinder if required.

On the back are the usual Nikon buttons that you would find on other Nikon DSLRs such as the D610 and D800 etc, although there is also an AF button, as featured on the D800/E and D4 which will aid those who like to fine-tune focus, or use manual focus. The bottom left i button can be used to quickly access and change settings on the back of the camera. 

Despite the option to set the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on top, there is still the usual control wheel on the back, along with a front control dial, so that those used to other Nikon Digital SLRs will be familiar with the operation of the camera. This lets you adjust the shutter speed digitally when the shutter speed dial is set to 1/3 step, which also acts as the auto shutter speed option when not shooting in S or M modes.

Df ShootingMenu1 E (Custom) Df Compatibility With Non AI Lenses 2 E (Custom)
Df Compatibility With Non AI Lenses 1 E (Custom) Df PictureControl2 E (Custom)

The menus on the Nikon Df should be familiar to anyone who has used other Nikon Digital SLRs, with the options neatly categorised, and there is the usual MyMenu where you can put your favourite options giving you quick and easy access to your favourite settings. There are also a number of settings to support Ai lenses, so that you can let the camera know about non-CPU lenses, such as older Nikon lenses. Picture control lets you adjust sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. 

Nikon Df Black (15)

The bottom of the camera is where you'll find the locking battery and memory card compartment, with the camera featuring 1 SD card slot, unlike the 2 SD card slots found on the D600 / D610, and some will be disappointed that there is not side-access to the memory card. The battery life of the camera is rated at 1400 shots, thanks to improved electronic management, and the camera uses the same battery as the Nikon D5300

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Nikon Df
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response N/A
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.45
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.5
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5.5fps (100 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5.5fps (27 shots)

Focus speeds and shutter response are both excellent and the camera has very good shot to shot times. Continuous shooting is at 5.5fps and can shoot up to 100 shots in JPEG before stopping, or 27 shots when shooting raw before slowing down. 

Nikon Df Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Nikon Df Sample Photos


Sample Photos - The camera produced good results, with pleasing skin tones and good colour and in low light noise performance is good. The 50mm f/1.8G lens focused well even in low light whether using the optical viewfinder or live view. Model: Lucy Woodroffe, Makeup: Sarah Gray.

Nikon Df Lens test images


Lens Performance - The camera delivers detailed images with good exposure and excellent colour reproduction. The 50mm f/1.8 G lens that comes with the camera as part of a kit delivers excellent images with sharp detailed results, and the lens is very resistant to flare, even without the deep hood that is provided. There is a wide range of lenses available from Nikon and other manufacturers and prime lenses perform extremely well. Focus is reliable and quick.

Nikon Df ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance -Noise performance is excellent from ISO50, all the way up to ISO1600 and ISO3200. Noise reduction is quite low (on default settings) compared to other Digital SLRs, meaning that detail is retained in images even when shooting at ISO speeds as high as ISO6400 and ISO12800. Detail drops off a little at ISO25600, and at ISO51200 noise becomes quite dominant. ISO102400 could provide usable results, however we would recommend avoiding ISO204800. We left the camera's High ISO NR setting on Normal, and the options are High, Normal, Low and Off. Dynamic range is less when shooting at the Low 1 setting equivalent to ISO50.

Nikon Df White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm result under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving a slightly better result. AWB under fluorescent lights gives a slightly blue result, and using the fluorescent preset gives a slight magenta cast. For best results, therefore, we would recommend using custom white balance or adjusting the white balance to suit, alternatively you can shoot in raw and then correct the images later. 

Nikon Df Outdoor images


Dynamic range is good, although using the D-Lighting option you ensure that the dynamic range is extended even when shooting JPEG images. These examples show D-Lighting off, D-Lighting Auto, and HDR (Combines 2 shots at up to 3EV difference). The options can be left on Auto or adjusted to a number of different levels. 

Nikon Df Digital filters


Digital Filters - Digital filters aren't available when shooting, instead these are available in playback mode under the retouch menu. 

Value For Money

The Nikon Df is available for £2749 from specialist Nikon retailers, which makes it noticeably expensive compared to other full-frame cameras available. Here are some of the alternatives available:

Nikon D610 - 24 megapixels, 6fps, £1339 body only
Nikon D800 / D800E - 36 megapixels, 4fps, £1962 / £2349 body only
Nikon D4 - 16 megapixels, 11fps, £4225 body only
Canon EOS 6D - 20  megapixels, 4.5fps, GPS, Wi-Fi, £1450 body only
Canon EOS 5D Mark III - 22 megapixels, 6fps, £2329 body only
Canon EOS 1D X - 18  megapixels, 12fps, £4845 body only
Sony Alpha 7 - 24 megapixels, 5fps, Wi-Fi, £1300 body only
Sony Alpha A99 - 24 megapixels, 6fps, GPS, £1999 body only

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Nikon Df Verdict

For those that use their camera in low-light conditions, such as weddings, music festivals, gigs and night photography, the Nikon Df delivers excellent noise performance, thanks to the 16.2 megapixel sensor from the Nikon D4, albeit without the same expense. In addition, those that value direct access to shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation, this camera will feel like using a true camera, without the overly digital (and often complicated) feeling of many modern Digital SLRs. However, for those that are interested in video, or have a more limited budget, they will be better served by the Nikon D610, as the Nikon Df does not feature a video mode, the D610 is also over £1000 cheaper than the Df. 

For those that don't necessarily want or need the high resolution 24 and 36 megapixel images from the Nikon D600/D610 or Nikon D800, and for those that want the best possible performance in low light, the Nikon Df makes an extremely logical choice. However, there will be those that are disappointed by the AF points being centred around the middle of the image, for example it's difficult to focus on subjects at the edge of the frame without either recomposing after focusing or using live view.

There is also the price, which is noticeably more than both the Nikon D610 and D800/D800E. However if you want high ISO performance and low noise, the Df is one of the best performing Digital SLRs from Nikon in this area. With excellent ISO performance, the Nikon Df would no doubt make an excellent full-frame video DSLR, but unfortunately this feature has been left out of the camera. Thanks to the excellent noise performance and image quality the Nikon Df could be a great choice for anyone with an investment in Nikon glass, particularly if you have older glass that you haven't been able to use previously. Although as with other large investments, we would recommend you try the camera out in person to see if the handling is to your liking.


 
 
  For those that want the best possible low-light performance and direct access to photographic controls the Nikon Df delivers.

Nikon Df Pros

Excellent noise performance
Excellent battery life
Excellent image quality
2 year warranty
Full 375 page printed manual 
Large bright optical viewfinder
Support for old Nikon lenses
Manual controls

Nikon Df Cons

Lacks video mode
Front grip texture is plastic, not rubber
Bottom memory card slot / only 1 slot
High Price
No flash

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Nikon Df Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
Lens
Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels16.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4928
Pixels (H)3280
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)36mm
Sensor Size (height)23.9mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution921,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • AF Fine Tuning
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity50 - 204800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Bracket
Exposure Comp+/-5
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5.5fps
Video
Movie modeNo
Video Resolution
    Video FPSN/A
    Stereo SoundNo
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNo
    Interface
    HDMIYes
    USBUSB 2
    Storage
    Card Type
    • SD
    • SDHC
    • SDXC
    File Type
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    • TIFF
    Power Source
    Battery TypeEN-EL14a
    CIPA Rating1400
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsBS-1 accessory shoe cover, BF-1B body cap, EN-EL14a rechargeable Li-ion battery, MH-24 battery charger, DK-26 eyepiece cap, AN-DC9 strap, UC-E6 USB cable, String for eyepiece cap, ViewNX 2 CD
    Dimensions
    Weight765g
    Width143.5mm
    Height110mm
    Depth66.5mm

    View Full Product Details

    Explore More

    Photographs taken using the Nikon Df

    The TreeLochanCrummock WaterThe Firstsnow - 2.The First Snow .RocksMyllylampi Shadows.Vihti.Black rock cottageKirkkojärvi -2.Kirkkojärvi scenerys.The very last of the autumn leaves.LighthouseKatajanokka.S.S.
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    Comments


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    frenchie44 8 239 United Kingdom
    12 Dec 2013 2:44PM
    this is the sort of camera I like, this is the type of camera I was used to before digital came in, the modern digital cameras have no visual appeal, if I did not have 5 canon slr's and 6 lenses to suit, I think I would go over to Nikon gear just to be able to have this Nikon DF
    12 Dec 2013 4:46PM
    Love the idea but what market is this camera aimed at?

    The price tag is hefty for non-pros and surely anyone who makes a living through photography is used to thumb dials and LCD displays by now!
    mikesavage 12 248 2 England
    12 Dec 2013 6:43PM
    Nice piece of kit, but unless I already owned a battery of Nikon lenses I'd plump for the Sony Alpha 7 and save myself some serious cash.
    pablophotographer 3 464 185
    13 Dec 2013 2:09AM
    Would a tilting screen be a hubris to ask for?

    I can't own it but if I could why not?

    Till that moment if I want full frame I will continue using a Zenit ME film camera from the 80's.
    RJPhoto 2 9 1 United Kingdom
    17 Dec 2013 11:36AM
    Still in two minds over this. Love the styling, love the approach, and we all know the picture quality will be right up there... but why the 16mp sensor? That is suited to low light, but why kit it with a 50mm lens. Ok it's good, but low light for me = wide angle or zoom depending on job (landscape / event work). The burst rate is good but not brilliant - not a patch on D4 and not even to D610 level, so not so good as those for sport or nature. Street photography is where it is probably best at, and for that the lens I'd say a big fat 'yes' (although I'd probably argue that a 35mm would be better still). But at this price? Surely the 24mp sensor from the 610 would have been a better marriage if this is a pure photographers camera, giving that little bit more quality without a huge sacrifice on noise. If this camera was a thousand pounds less, it would get me to convert from Canon to Nikon faster than my sync speed, but for now, no.
    18 Dec 2013 8:25AM
    Excellent review, but I see no reason to drop my D700 camera for it.
    iancrowson e2
    4 211 129 United Kingdom
    18 Dec 2013 11:43AM
    I handled one in a store yesterday. The best advice in this review is to try the camera before you buy.
    It may look something like a Nikon film SLR in the promotional photos but it does not look or feel like one in the flesh.
    In my view disappointing and comes with a very cheap and plastic feel to it.
    kodachrome 3 474
    18 Dec 2013 4:59PM
    At this price, don't let your heart rule your head.
    18 Dec 2013 11:10PM
    All I'm going to say is that this is a good, neigh, great camera that leaves a smile on your face every time you shoot with it. People can have any opinions they like, but the pattern I've noticed is that owners think it's great, non-owners perceive weaknesses. I couldn't disagree more with the chap who thought it was cheap and plastic, it may not exceed my M240 in build but it feels better screwed together than my D800E - little things like the battery door release add to this impression.

    The camera feels great in hand and, in my opinion, the controls are well thought out and superior to modern DSLR controls for personal use. About the only criticisms I can come up with are the mode dial and the focus screen, but to be frank the OVF is better than the D800/E for manual focus anyway and the mode dial tends to remain at A (and I adjust aperture and Iso).

    The camera is relatively light, the body's not much bigger than my X-Pro1 or M240 and it's a body to mount primes on. It feels great with older AIS primes mounted, particularly the 28 F2, 50 F1.2 and the 105 F2.5. The 16mp sensor isn't a champ at Dynamic range at base ISO (although it is above base ISO) but it's got better noise performance than just about any other camera. Really. You'll be manual focusing in complete darkness and this camera will see more than your eyes.

    Another nice point is that people react well to this camera. They look, they smile, they ask you about it. It's a very positive experience. The image quality is nice too - it's just got a slightly more subtle colour and contrast than the D800 with the same lenses. Yes it lacks resolution, but in practice its a non issue - 16mp on 35mm is not the same as 16mp on APS-C.

    All in all, I think Nikon have a very hot camera on their hands here. I'm incredibly impressed and very glad I bought it.
    franken e2
    12 3.2k 4 Wales
    23 Dec 2013 5:54PM
    I can think of so many ways that I could spend this sort of money on photographic gear and be much better off than buying one of these.

    I've never been concerned as to how people react to cameras that you're using as it nothing more than a tool.
    kodachrome 3 474
    26 Dec 2013 8:35AM
    As one photo journalist said, it seems to be a very expensive exercise in nostalgia for a limited market. Its also begs the question why did Nikon use a 16mp sensor on a FF camera, where as all their latest DSL's are 24 +.

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