The Nikon Df in 2019 – is it worthy of Nikon’s tag of ‘Pure Photography?’

This is not an in-depth spec based discussion of the Nikon Df, one of the most controversial digital SLR camera that was announced in November 2013, 6 years from today and more of a personal take towards this hidden gem of a camera that probably encountered way more unfair discussion focusing on its design and specs over its performance and imaging quality. 

Screenshot 2019-03-03 at 8.01.43 PM
Advertising poster for the Nikon Df. credit: Nikon.

A quick history

Most of the controversy was due to Nikon’s pre-launch teasing of the camera being a representation of ‘pure photography’ (which later simply meant no video functions) and the defining of the letters “Df”, as the “Digital Fusion” of retro style and modern technology.

In a world where every DSLR looked just like the next DSLR , it was little wonder that purist film shooters and digital users hungry for a breakthrough product pushed expectations way up beyond reason.

The Nikon Df with a most impressive piece of glass, the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G in 2019

When it was announced that the Nikon Df was basically a DSLR with a retro design, D4 sensor and D600 guts with a USD$2750 price tag, we soon had a bunch of well, mildly speaking – people who weren’t very happy and very rapidly, soon made the Nikon Df a much loved, or a much hated product – but nonetheless, one of the most discussed camera releases from Nikon. 

If it interests you, the specifications for the Nikon Df can be found here.

Now in 2019

I had the fortune of being loaned a set of the Nikon Df with the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G and a Nikkor 50mm f1.4D for a period of 1 week from a great friend and out of pure curiosity and being really a 90% mirrorless user (don’t judge, I only started my foray into photography around 8 years ago) I tried out this setup for a week. 

Do not be mistaken, though the controls can be hard to get used to, the Df is one heck of a beauty. 

The stacked-layer design of the shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO dials is beautiful and give uniqueness to the Df, however in practical usage required getting used to.

A simple google search will bring the related discussions up and I don’t plan to write close to 400 words on this aspect and all I can say is coming from Fujifilm with their love for dials and a quick tutorial by the owner of the camera helped me settle in pretty quickly. 

And simply, I just wish to show the imaging quality potential of this King of Low Light (this nickname as my friend refers to it) and how maligned the Df is, where it is a camera that simply seeks to do what it was demanded to do well – Photography. 

Disclaimer. 

  1. I had a week with the Nikon Df and the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G , Nikkor 50mm f1.4D duo. 
  2. All images (including those of the camera) shared here were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom to my preferences. 
  3. Na, no one paid me to write this all. Nikon never will, and my friend just wishes to poison me enough to forsake mirrorless and buy a Nikon Df. 

and here we go, 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200, 1/2000s

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 

Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.8, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f1.8 ISO 200

 

Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200

 

Nikkor 50 f1.4D at f2, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 

Amazingly for a camera of this age, the Nikon Df really excels in imaging quality, with excellent dynamic range and producing very impressive results. ISO performance from 100 to 12800 is definitely a range I will employ with confidence (in comparison I will not go above ISO 3200 in a MFT camera), with plenty of detail and practically no loss of colours and details. And yes, being a D4 sensor after all, there is very little to complain here. 

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 

Do a search around, and anyone will very quickly realise a lot of negative comments about the Df were from users who never picked up the camera.


Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

 

I haven’t shot a DSLR much for sure, and have no idea how let’s say a D850 or D500 or even the long forgotten Canon DSLR flagships are supposed to perform, but I will readily admit that Nikon did fulfil its promise to deliver pure photography performance to the owners of the Nikon Df, it is a product in it’s own league, and difficult to measure against others in a world of DSLRs, where standing out may not be kindly appreciated. 

 

Nikkor 58 f1.4G at f1.4, ISO 200

Thank you for reading.

 

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keithwee

Keith Father, Teacher and Life Photographer. Lives a life of positivism & seeks to photograph Life & his 2 toddlers Kei & Lynn.

12 thoughts on “The Nikon Df in 2019 – is it worthy of Nikon’s tag of ‘Pure Photography?’

  1. The Df is as close as any manufacturer has come in producing the type of digital camera I want (a digital camera for film photographers). But I doubt even a lottery win would get me to hand over the $$$ for one of these; I just don’t see that the simplified design is worth a premium price.

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  2. The Df has become something of a cult camera, and for good reason. The image quality is fantastic, and the 16 mp resolution resolves well with all of Nikon’s legacy glass. The older AF-D primes shoot great on the Df. While the price has held firm for mint examples, gently used bodies go for only about $1200 on eBay. Well worth it, in my opinion, if you are sitting on a bunch of older Nikon lenses and miss the way those old manual F film bodies handled. The camera is far from perfect (the mode dial and exposure compensation dial really need to swap places), but the image quality is unparalleled. That sensor is pure magic.

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  3. Nice review. So nice to see still reviews of this camera. Thank you.
    I happen to own the Df and it is a great joy to use.
    The picture quality has something special. Just to be in control without distraction to menus works so well.

    I primarely shoot only with manual lenses which slows me down maybe but I inhale every moment so much more.
    I engineered a method to modify the old glass so they meter correctly on the Df, without destroying the aperture ring. All these old lenses are made with great dedication.
    They compliment the Df in every aspect and picture wise it is great.

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    1. Thank you and very nice to hear from a fellow Df owner 🙂 especially someone who goes beyond using native lenses and tinkers like you. The 16MP of the Df will definitely for sure work excellent with older lenses , especially those with character.

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  4. Une prise en main chez Bic Camera à Tokyo qui devait durer 5 mn et je suis resté 1h à tester, une vraie tuerie de propreté d’images ! j’avais l’impression d’avoir retrouvé mon F4 argentique.

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  5. I may pick this one up. I’m very happy with the D700 and mostly D series lenses (G 1.8’s are also a fantastic value). I like the control layout and wouldn’t mind a nice drop in weight. For stills, I’m not sure it gets much better.

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    1. I had the D750 back then the the Df is definitely better in image quality 🙂 the only comparable better I’ve seen is the D850. Hope the Df fulfills your needs!

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