Nikon Df Review: Nikon’s new full-frame retro DSLR certainly looks the part. But can it walk the walk? Find out in our Nikon Df review video.
Nikon’s retro DSLR turned plenty of heads – and not just for its sleek design. At £2749.99/€3350/$2996.95, the Nikon Df price tag has made many photographers do a double-take.
While the 16.1-million-pixel, full-frame Nikon Df might feature a new (If retro) styled body, the majority of its components are familiar.
The AF system for example, uses the same Multi-CAM 4800 module as the D610 and Nikon has opted to use the same sensor as in the Nikon D4, with data handled by an EXPEED 3 processing engine, the same engine as is found in the Nikon D610, D800 and D4.
Our head of testing Angela Nicholson takes a look at what the camera has to offer in her Nikon Df review video.
Hi I’m Angela Nicholson, head of testing for Future’s photography portfolio and this is the Nikon Df.
As you can see the Nikon Df has a retro design with dials to control shutter speed, exposure compensation, sensitivity and exposure mode on the top of the camera. If you take a closer look at the exposure mode dial you’ll notice that there are no fully automatic options or scene modes, just program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual.
This dial has to be pulled up before it can be rotated and it’s a bit on the fiddly side, especially if you’ve got cold hands or you’re wearing gloves. The shutter speed, sensitivity and exposure compensation dials also have locks, but they use button locks, which are easier to operate.
The shutter speed dial has markings running from 4 to 1/4000 of a second, adjusting in whole stops. There’s also a B for bulb mode and a T for time mode along with an X for flash synchronisation.
This 1/3 step setting allows the rear command dial to be used to set shutter speed and then the value can be adjusted in 1/3 stops.
If I mount the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 D lens which has an aperture dial, I have the choice of how I set aperture. I can use this front dial provided that the aperture ring is at the orange 22 mark, or if the option is selected via the menu, I can use the ring.
Unfortunately, setting an aperture via the ring and a shutter speed on the dial doesn’t put the camera into manual exposure mode, you still need to set the exposure mode dial to the correct point. And if the dial is set to program mode the position of the shutter speed dial is irrelevant.
Similarly, if the Auto ISO sensitivity control option is selected in the menu, the sensitivity may not be what the sensitivity dial indicates – something to watch out for.
Inside the Df is the same 16.2 million pixel full-frame (or FX) sensor and EXPEED 3 processing engine as the top-of-the-range Nikon D4. This allows sensitivity to be set in the native range of ISO 100-12,800 with expansion settings taking this down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 204,800 – the same as the D4.
Our tests reveal that images have a high level of detail and noise is very well controlled up to ISO 12,800, even ISO 25,600 shots look pretty good, but the highest expansion values are to be avoided except for in emergencies.
Colours are also very good straight from the camera, but as I found with the D610, the a 3.2-inch 921,000 dot LCD tends to look rather cool and this can trick you into adjusting white balance unnecessarily so that you wind up with images that are a bit too warm.
In other respects the screen is good, it displays plenty of detail and doesn’t suffer excessively from reflections.
Nikon has given the Df the same optical viewfinder as the Nikon D4 so it has a 100% field of view. It’s nice and bright, but some manual focus fans may be disappointed to learn that the focusing screen isn’t interchangeable. Fortunately, the LCD screen provides a good enlarged view for manual focusing.
The Nikon Df has the same 39-point AF system as the D610 and it works well with good lenses like the 70-200mm f/2.8, getting subjects sharp quickly even in pretty low light. It puts in a reasonable performance with the 50mm kit lens mounted, but it struggles a bit more in low light and when one of the peripheral, linear AF points is used.
The focus mode is controlled in the same way as on Nikon’s other recent DSLRs, by using this switch to select manual or autofocus mode, and then pressing this button and rotating the command dials to select the various AF options. It’s a quick and easy system that can be used with the camera held to the eye.
The Df is quite chunky and feels nice and solid. However, the grip isn’t as tall as it could be because of the location of this strap lug. I was concerned that this and the strap would get in the way of the shutter release button when the camera is in use, but it’s not as problematic as I feared. I tend to carry the Nikon Df by the strap on my shoulder or in my hand with the strap around my wrist and I haven’t had any problems. Those who like to carry the Df around their necks may find it a little more awkward though.
Despite it’s quirks many will find using the Nikon Df a pleasurable experience that’s as rewarding as the images it turns out, some however, won’t be able to forgive it’s high price and lack of video capability.
PAGE 1: Nikon Df Review video & transcript PAGE 2: Our original Nikon Df announcement story
PAGE 3: Our original Nikon Df preview video