Nikon Df Review

Review Date : Fri, 6 Dec 2013

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Nikon Df Review - Is the new full frame Df the Nikon purists have been waiting for? Find out in the What Digital Camera Nikon Df review

Pros: D4 sensor delivers superb results at higher sensitivities; Solid specification even with the absence of video; Legacy lens support
Cons: Too big; Doesn't feel quite as premium as it should; Awkward position of the exposure compensation dial

For those who grew-up with, learnt on or just enjoyed using some of Nikon's classic film SLRs such as the F3 or the FM2, there has been a desire to see Nikon produce a digital equivalent since the arrival of the D1 almost 15 years ago.

It's perhaps thanks to the likes of Fujifilm and Olympus, with their retro-inspired models such as the beautiful X100S and OM-D E-M5, that's tempted Nikon to have a stab at a retro-tinged DSLR after witnessing the success and excitement these rival models have generated.

And so we have the Nikon Df, the anticipated retro-styled full frame DSLR. Is it the camera Nikon aficionados have been waiting for or has Nikon left it too late?

Nikon Df front view

Nikon Df Review - Features

Skipping past the design for a moment and lets take a look at what's under the skin of the Nikon Df. The good news is that Nikon's gone with a full frame sensor, but perhaps not the one quite few people would have opted for. Instead of using either the 24.3MP chip from the D610 or the 36.3MP sensor from the D800/E, Nikon's opted for the 16.2MP from their flagship D4 DSLR.

Personally, I see this as a much more natural and logical fit for the Df than the other two available sensors - while the extra resolution may be desired in some situations, the extra flexibility and performance of the 16.2MP chip at higher ISOs is much more in-tune with the more spontaneous situations the Df is designed for, rather than being plonked on a sturdy tripod for hours on end. That's not forgetting that it'll also be a bit more forgiving with older, pre-digital optics than the ultra-critical 36.3MP sensor would be.

While the sensor's come from the D4 the AF unit's been transferred from the D600/D610. The Multi-CAM 4800FX module offers 39-point AF points, with the central 9 points cross-type variants, with the system capable of locking on to your subject in conditions as poor as -1EV.

That's not forgetting the fact that the AF is hooked up to the Df's Scene Recognition System to allow for sophisticated predictive AF tracking in continuous AF.

Nikon Df with lens

Lens compatibility

The Nikon Df has not just been designed with AF lenses in mind, offering a few nice touches for those looking to use old and new manual focus lenses. The standout feature is perhaps the inclusion of a collapsible metering coupling lever that enables older non-AI Nikon lenses to be attached to the Df.

So whereas on another Nikon DSLR an non-AI lens would tend to jam when mounting was attempted, the Df's AI indexing tab can be folded out of the way, allowing you to attach one of these older optics. You'll have to tell the Df you're shooting with a non-AI lens via the menu and to meter you'll have to use the command dial on the front to set the desired aperture before setting it physically on the lens as well.

A little bit of a long-winded process maybe, but if you've got some old non-AI lenses then it's a welcome addition and something not possible on any other Nikon DSLR.

The optical viewfinder has been lifted directly from the D800, so there's a 100% field of view and a excellent magnification of 0.7x, while there's a 3.2in 921k-dot LCD display at the rear.

Interestingly, while live view is possible, the Df is the first Nikon DSLR since the D90 to go without video functionality. Whether you see this as a welcome omission or not will be down to your shooting preferences.

 

Nikon Df front angled

 

Continuous shooting

While its not intended for action, the Df is still capable at shooting at pretty fast 5.5fps, while the shutter has been tested for 150,000 cycles. Its a little disappointing to see a maximum shutter speed of only 1/4000sec and not 1/8000sec like the D800/E or D4, while a flash sync of 1/200sec is a little slower than the D800's 1/250sec.

Finally, the battery - the Df uses a relatively small EN-EL14a battery that's also used by the D5300 and which Nikon reckon's good for approximately 1400 shots.

While in some territories the Df will be available as a body-only option, the Df will only be available as a kit with a re-skinned AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens in the UK, with a design more in-keeping with Nikon's manual focus lens line-up. While I can see the appeal of this combination, I can't help feeling that those interested in the Df will more than likely already have a 50mm in some form or other amongst their kit and as such it would be nice to see a body-only option also available in the future.


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Price as reviewed

with 50mm lens
£2,749.99

Scores

Scores
Design 17/20
Image Quality 19/20
Performance 18/20
Value 16/20
Features 18/20
Overall Score 88%