Medium-term review of the Nikon Df | It’s a keeper


Back in March 2019, I shared the writeup detailing my personal experience with the released in 2013 Nikon Df and how this controversial camera stood up to its tagline of ‘Pure Photography‘  here, and now 4 months after that, it is probably a good time to report further on my thoughts.

This is actually my favorite setup, if you can accept the front-heaviness.

And if you are in a hurry …

In short, the Nikon Df is a keeper. 

The Nikon Df is not going to be able to keep up with newer cameras of the likes of the D850 or the Leica Q2 in terms of Autofocus performance, but the Df simply shines where it was designed for – pure image quality.

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

Those who know me know that the cameras in my dry boxes can change pretty fast (yes, I am ashamed of it so pls keep the nagging for another day) but the Df has managed to make me want to keep it.

I dug deeper and soon realized 3 reasons and 3 disclaimers.

    1. The Nikon Df actually uses the same top-end sensor as Nikon’s top of the line D4, and in many reviews, much positive has been spoken of its ISO performance with some even calling it the King of Low Light.
    2. It is pretty difficult to find a high performing DSLR that can compete with the Df in terms of size.
    3. Sometimes in the megapixels race of today, we forget there is an advantage in the Df’s 16 megapixels sensor which is simply more forgiving and easy to work with. 

This is how compact the Df is in my average Asian sized hands. 

Df with Nikkor 28mm f1.4E

Handling wise, once set-up properly there is very little need for any extra fiddling when shooting and the complicated looking dials stay there looking pretty – rightfully so and I enjoy shooting the Df in mostly in Aperture-Priority mode. 

The Df with the 50mm f1.8G limited edition. 

The 1st disclaimer is that the Nikon Df is not for the photographer in a hurry, you will have missed shots now and then, and you may end up taking a few extra shots of the same scene to make up for it but then, how many cameras nowadays can guarantee a 100% AF hit rate? (nope, the Sony A9 can’t too) 

Df with the Nikkor 28mm f1.4E

The 2nd disclaimer is that you will need to do work on the image files too, I only work with the RAW files from the Df. However, the white balance and colors are so accurate that they require minimal post-processing, and I am saying this is in comparison to some 2018/9 released cameras.

And I have to say this, but any self-respecting photographer should rightly post-process his or her files when needed. 

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

This shot below was not a ‘one shot one kill’ but it does show that the Df in the right hands (and there are many better than mine) will perform right as needed. 

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

One simple criterion I keep to when deciding on the ‘keepability’ of a camera is that if it can capture images of my 3 and 5-year-olds moving around erratically, it is fast enough, and the Df is fast & reliable enough for me in this sense.  

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

Other than the 3 reasons why, what about the one last disclaimer? 

The Df totally shines when used with the best of Nikon’s lenses, the 28mm f1.4E, 58mm f1.4G, 105mm f1.4E and there is a significant difference in the image quality I do see vs when using the Nikkor 50mm f.1.4G or the 28mm f1.8G. 

This is not to say the standard Nikkor lenses aren’t good, I am simply wanting to compare between good vs excellent here and like all other brands and systems, there is always a hierarchy of lenses and yes, in the case here, it does show in terms of image quality. 

Df with the Nikkor 105mm f1.4E

There’s nothing much to say now, other than to say that yes, the Df is a keeper. 

Thank you for reading. 

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