Haven’t seen so much heated debate about a camera in years. You get a D4, Leica M and film camera in one, for the price of not even a D800, and the end of the world seems near. People panic. Nikon D4 performance at half the price with hints of an M feel. I’m sold — read my a bit biased hands-on report with first impressions. The camera feels homey, seems fast, responsive, is beautiful and with premium finishing. Pair it with a Zeiss Makro Planar 50mm F2. It’s one of these rare cameras that aren’t announced every so often. It’s one of these cameras that Canon has to follow suit. There is “hope that Canon will introduce some serious gear just for photographers,” writes CanonRumors. Not the videographer. And now this firestorm on the Net. Nikon of distaste, writes Lee Morris on PetaPixel: “The Nikon Df represents everything wrong with photography.” PetaPixel itself counters: “This camera represents what many of us have lost as photographers”, while forum entries — as on DP Review — bless us with pure poetry: “Pure photography. Pure marketing. Pure garbage.” Oh well.
The Df is now the low light/high ISO champ in the smallest/lightest DSLR package. Truth is, the Df makes the D800 look like the camera it was not meant to be. Those crying out loudest against Nikon’s ingenious Df that will bring tons of new Nikonians into this brand of tradition, those pulling their hair out over a camera that is small, light, has extreme low light capabilities and looks like a gorgeous real camera with screws, metal and dials, well those want a Df no less. It’s just that they’re buried in their own gear and assumptions.
Class warfare among camera enthusiasts. Nikon pandering to collectors? Like a watch company? Some are utterly confused. What’s the point of a camera that does what it should do: give you control over the basics. No more, no less. Others hysterically denounce the pricing albeit this is one of the best sensors available in a near-perfect package. While $2,750 body only hardly sounds competitive, let’s be honest, it’s a camera for a small market share. The majority wants buttons and video and a menu on steroids. The Df is a minority camera for people appreciating quality, style and retro chic — and smaller files.
Unflinching, honorable voices pitch themselves in and fire up the rejectionists. Thom Hogan says the Df is not about the camera, Nikon wants you to buy into its style. To him the dials are the least intriguing parts of the camera; all they mean is returning to a slower approach to shooting he abandoned a long time ago. Then, the bitterness — the mashup camera:
This is your father’s Oldsmobile. If you’re under 40, you might not catch that reference; it has to do with the way GM tried to bring themselves into the future via body changes and advertising. What I worry about is that it is only the father that’s asking for it. The Df very well may be the first camera marketed and sold to the AARP crowd. First women, then surfers, now retirees. What’s the next niche target mashup camera going to be?
Isn’t this fun. And with photography I try to stay away from politics… One thing is sure: this Df is not as easily replaced by a smartphone as other cameras. On the other hand it’s too late for Nikon to beat Fujifilm to the retro thing while everyone’s new darlings, the Sony A7s, take a completely different positioning path.
No need to question the Df’s performance. It’s not a sports camera. It may take several iterations to get this Df “more right.” Over time we’ll get incremental improvements, adjustments, redesigns. For now, and this is really a shame, there are no focusing aids of any sort, such as split screen or micro prism that are found in manual focus SLRs. I’m waiting for a Nikon response to this question of how to manually focus lenses. They must have thought of something.
I have to reserve judgment as to how useful the Df is with manual focus lenses — isn’t this what the Df is all about… — until the camera comes in for review. But sometimes there is a quality to a first that’s unique, not repeatable and here to stay. The Nikon Df might just be such a first.
You can order the Nikon Df and Special Edition 50mm F1.8G lens from
- Amazon (black body / silver body / black kit / silver kit / 50mm F1.8G SE)
- B&H (black body / silver body / black kit / silver kit / 50mm F1.8G SE)
- Adorama (black body / silver body / black kit / silver kit / 50mm F1.8G SE)
Release date is Thursday, November 28, 2013.