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Nikon Df Hands-On Preview

We go hands-on with the new retro styled Nikon Df full-frame Digital SLR, with a 16 megapixel sensor and weather sealed body.

| Nikon Df in Digital SLRs

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (3) (Custom)

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 will be released with a special edition lens the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1.8G which has the same optical performance as the standard 50mm f/1.8G lens. Available in black or silver, priced at £2749.99 with 50mm f/1.8G (only available as a kit) with no plans for body only at the moment, although this may vary depending on country. The Df is due to go on sale from the 28th of November at selected retailers.

Nikon DF Features

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (2) (Custom)

The Nikon Df features classic Nikon film-SLR styling, inspired by the likes of the Nikon FM-2, it features manual controls, including a larger 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.

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (22) (Custom)

The camera features an electronic virtual horizon, as well as new 16:9, and 1:1 aspect ratios that are available during live view. 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 at 710g excluding battery, or 765g with battery and memory card. 

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Df Ambience 6 (Custom)

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. 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 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 (shutter sounds great according to Nikon)
  • 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 Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (7) (Custom)

The top of the camera gives the biggest clue that this is a retro inspired digital camera, starting with the metal dials, switched 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 rubber hand-grip that extends round to the back so that your thumb also has good purchase on the camera. 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. 

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (8) (Custom)

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.

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. 

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. 

Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Df ShootingMenu1 E (Custom) Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Df Compatibility With Non AI Lenses 2 E (Custom)
Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Df Compatibility With Non AI Lenses 1 E (Custom) Nikon Df Hands-On Preview: Df PictureControl2 E (Custom)

The menus on the Nikon Df are the standard Nikon menus that you find on 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 Hands-On Preview: Nikon Df DSLR Silver (14) (Custom)

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. 

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 should deliver excellent noise performance, thanks to the 16.2 megapixel sensor from the Nikon D4, albeit without the expense of the Nikon D4. 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. We will be reviewing the Nikon Df fully as soon as possible when production versions of the camera become available.

Nikon Df Hands-On Photos of Equipment

Nikon Df Specifications

Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
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 modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • AF Fine Tuning (Micro Adjustment)
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity50 - 204800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Bracket
Exposure Comp+/-5
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5.5fps
Movie modeNo
Video Resolution
    Video FPSN/A
    Stereo SoundNo
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNo
    USBUSB 2
    Card Type
    • SD
    • SDHC
    • SDXC
    File Type
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    • TIFF
    Power Source
    Battery TypeEN-EL14a
    Battery Life (CIPA rating)1400shots
    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

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    Photographs taken using the Nikon Df

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    ianrobinson Avatar
    ianrobinson 14 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
    5 Nov 2013 9:35AM
    Hmmm, more like a piece of jewellery if you want my opinion, very nice look, I do love the look but the camera is nothing special other than looks for the price tag.
    frenchie44 Avatar
    frenchie44 17 342 United Kingdom
    5 Nov 2013 2:40PM
    I wish Canon would bring out a similar camera, metal top and base, but the main things i would want is, PASM, no other settings, no live view, no video, no artistic effects, a really good camera set up for manual and semi manual use. that would be my perfect cqamera.
    Niknut Avatar
    Niknut Plus
    13 3.7k 82 United Kingdom
    5 Nov 2013 5:43PM
    As the shutter-speed dial doesn't have an 'A'(auto) setting, is it redundant when the PASM
    dial is set to 'A' for Aperture-priority shooting ????
    Glynn Avatar
    Glynn 17 1.2k 1 United Kingdom
    6 Nov 2013 3:34PM
    I like this Retro looking Nikon although it's not cheap at almost 3K and only 16 mega pixel, well you can do better with that kind of money to spend.
    Flashman01 Avatar
    6 Nov 2013 3:51PM
    This looks gorgeous and appears to be what I really wanted when I was fist looking for a Nikon DSLR back in 2006. I would be very tempted to buy this as I much prefer the way my old FE and FA film cameras operated, including the manual focus which is, in opinion far superior for accuracy than any auto-focus system. Unfortunately the one and most important thing I can see immediately is the lack of a suitable manual focus focusing screen. What is the point of making a camera that can use some of Nikon's oldest lenses and not at least giving an interchangeable focus screen. I wanted this camera to come with a split prism/microprism screen. I shall wait and see what reviewers make of the potential lack of and its ability to manual focus. However it looks like it will be a success despite this as it will produce images at least as good as the D4 because of the use of the same sensor, at a fraction of the price of a D4.
    dafteric Avatar
    dafteric 14 5 United Kingdom
    6 Nov 2013 3:56PM
    It may be just me but apart from the leatherette on the prism housing it looks more like a Pentax MZ3/5 from the top.
    dudler Avatar
    dudler Plus
    20 2.2k 2064 England
    6 Nov 2013 9:24PM
    I think that this is a very interesting camera.

    The retro part goes beyond styling - it will make full use of a load of lenses that don't work on most recent Nikons.

    I reckon that if this camera is a success, it will lead to more, higher megapixel cameras with real controls. The price is high because there may not be many sold - but I reckon that it may convert a few dial types to proper controls. Sometimes, they simply work better than command dials and all that sort of thing.

    Very interesting that it doesn't include a video mode. It looks like a camera aimed at serious togs only, which I like.

    As a previous Minolta (and current) user, I run a Sony - I'd jump at the chance of a sony-mount camera like this, with (preferably) the 36 mp sensor. So much nicer than the 7R as a concept, and probalby as a working camera. The only thing I'd like better is the same sort of body, with a Contax RTS mount...
    BobEH Avatar
    BobEH 18 17 United Kingdom
    23 Nov 2013 4:08PM
    Very ugly looking beast. The dials look clumsy and the vertical dial on the front looks like a two fingered job. That can't be good. Using old lenses is also problematical, dust, fungus and generally wear and tear. No doubt there are some good manual versions for sale but they would probably be recent and not designed for digital. The Pentax K3 is probably the best designed and ergonomic camera currently on offer.(in fact most Pentaxes are good) However with a D4 sensor the image quality of the Df is going to be bang on. In fact you would not want anything better. Other plus points include, small size and weight. But why sell it with a 50mm lens, anyone interested in this sort of camera will already have one.

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