Nikon Df Review
The Nikon Df is their first retro-styled digital camera. The Nikon Df brings a highly mechanical interface into the digital era. This full-frame DSLR is certainly a hybrid though with dual control-dials, plus dedicated dials for EC, ISO, Shutter-Speed and Exposure modes.
The Nikon Df is built around a 16 megapixels FX CMOS sensor with an class-leading sensitivity range from ISO 50 to 204,800, matching the Nikon D4 reviewed here. This serious photography tool offers a complete set of manual-controls and compatibility with Nikon lenses dating earlier than 1977 thanks to a retractable lens-coupling tab. Modern lenses use electronic contacts which obviously still work with the Df.
The DSLR can shoot continuously at 5.5 FPS. It's durable mechanical-shutter provides 1/4000 to 30s shutter-speeds, plus Bulb exposures. The camera body is full weather-sealed and its has an extra-large optical viewfinder with 0.7X magnification and 100% coverage. A 3.2" LCD with 920K pixels is there to review images and preview capture in Live-View.
This in-depth camera review analyzes the Nikon Df in terms of features, usability, ergonomics, performance, image quality and controls.
Nikon Df Features
- 16 Megapixels CMOS sensor
- Full-Fame Nikon FX format
- Standard ISO 100 - 12,800 range
- Expanded ISO 50 - 204,800 range
- Customizable Auto ISO
- Built-in Dust-Reduction
- JPEG, TIFF, RAW or JPEG+RAW Output
- PASM and Bulb exposure modes
- 1/4000s - 30s Shutter-speeds
- EC, ±3 EV, 1/3 EV steps
- FC, -3...+1 EV, 1/3 EV steps
- Matrix, Center-Weighed, Average & Spot metering
- AEB, 2 or 3 frames, maximum 3 EV steps
- AEB, 5 frames, maximum 2 EV steps
- Flash Bracketing, 2 - 5, steps as AEB
- Exposure Fine-Tuning, ±1 EV, 1/6 EV steps
- Fixed 1/3 EV expsure steps
- Also 1 EV steps for shutter-speed
- HDR, 2 shots, 1-3 EV steps, 3 blending levels, single image or series
Focus & Drive
- 39-Point Phase-Detect autofocus system
- 9 cross-type points, sensitiv down to -1 EV
- Single-Shot and Continuous focus-drive
- Single-Point, Dynamic-Area and Auto focus-point
- 3D Tracking AF with OVF and Live-View
- Contrast-detect AF for Live-View
- Face-Detect AF in Live-View
- 5.6 FPS Drive, 100 JPEG or 29 RAW
- Customizable Self-Timer, 1-9 Shots, 2-20s Start Delay, ½-3s Interval
- Quiet-Shutter with delayed mirror-return
- Mirror-Up and Exposure-Delay, 1-3s
- Multiple-Exposure, 2-10 shots, optional Auto Gain
- Interval-Timer, 1-999 times, 1-9 shots, 1s-24h interval, delayed start 1m-23h59m
- Optional Autofocus Fine-Tuning
Viewfinder & Displays
- 100% Coverage viewfinder, 0.7X magnification
- 3.2" LCD, 920K Pixels
- Illuminated top LCD status display
- Single-Axis Digital-Level
- AutomaticTwo types: Normal & Preserve Warm Colors, Preset, Kelvin and Custom4 Memories WB
- Preset White-Balance fine-tuning, 2-axis, 13-steps
- Kelvin White-Balance fine-tuning, 1 axis, 13-steps
- 6 Picture Styles
- Automatic or Manual Sharpness, 10 steps
- Automatic or Manual Contrast, 7 steps
- Automatic or Manual Saturation, 7 steps
- Manually Adjustable Hue, 7 steps
- Manually Adjustable Tone-Curve, 3 levels
- Virtual WB Bracketing, 2-3 frames, 3 steps, 2 axis
- Virtual Active D-Lighting Bracketing, 2 - 5 frames
- Optional High-ISO Noise Reduction, 3 levels
- Optional Long Shutter Noise Reduction
- Optional Distortion-Correction
- Optional Vignetting-Correction
- Optional Active D-Lighting (ADL), 5 levels or Auto
- Optional Dust-Off reference photo
- In-Camera RAW development
- Dedicated EC dial
- Dedicated ISO dial
- Full-stop Shutter-Speed dial
- Dual control-dials
- Drive mode switch
- Exposure-Mode dial
- 8-Way controller
- Combined AE-L/AF-L button
- Separate AF-On button
- Customizable Function button
- Customizable DOF-Preview button
- Focus-Point lock
Body & Construction
- Nikon F-mount
- Lens meter-coupling
- Weather-sealed body
- Hot-Shoe and Sync-Port
- Wired remote port
- SDXC memory slot
- Proprietary Lithium-Ion battery
- 1080p HDMI output
- Metal tripod mount
Capability - What can it do?
The Nikon Df is a high-end professional DSLR. As such, it has every photographic feature expected from its class and a tremendous potential for expansion. Its Nikon F-mount accepts more lenses than any other digital Nikon. A new tab flips into position to meter with legacy non-AI lenses which predate 1977. Given its full-frame sensor, the Df shows the same field-of-view with an F-mount lens as a film camera.
The Df was introduced with Nikon's Pure Photography advertizing campaign. Its retro-style only tells part of the story. Mechanical dials give direct access to fundamental photographic controls while the Df accepts a classic wired remote and sync-cable for external lighting, in addition to having a standard hot-shoe.
There are two things one will not find on the Nikon Df. One is a built-in flash. The other is video. While it offers limited Live-View functionality, there is no way to record video. This makes it surprising they even bothered with an HDMI port which is still useful to playback images and send Live-View to another display.
Professional photography features are all there. Full manual-controls allow shutter-speeds of 1/4000 to 30s, plus Bulb exposures of an indeterminate maximum length. The aperture range is, as always, controlled by the lens in use. The Nikon Df leads in terms of ISO with a standard sensitivity range of 100 - 12800, expandable to 50 - 204800. The standard sensitivity range is available in 1/3 EV stops and the expanded one in full stops.
Its impressive ISO range means the Nikon Df is able to capture images in extremely low-light photography. Its 16 megapixels CMOS sensor features the largest pixels of any current digital camera, just like the D4 reviewed here
Nikon D4. Its autofocus system is not as sensitive though, as it operates down to -1 EV versus -2 EV for the D4.
This DSLR offers flexible metering options with Nikon's Matrix, customizable Center-Weighed, Average and Spot available. As often is the case for most Nikon DSLRs, Average metering is available instead of Center-Weighed since the metering switch only has 3 positions.
The number of white-balance on the Df is impressive. There are two versions of Automatic WB and 12 presets, including 7 types of Fluorescent, plus both Kelvin and Custom WB options. All these, even Custom WB, can be fine-tuned in 13 steps along A-B and G-M axis.
The list of Drive modes is truly extensive. There are the usual Single-Shot, Continuous, Self-Timer and Mirror Lock-Up, plus Quiet and Exposure-Delay modes. Continuous is available from 1 to 5.6 FPS while timers can capture 1 to 9 shots after a 2 to 20s delay wtih a ½ to 3s interval. Quiet slows down the mirror and delays its return until the shutter-release is let go. Exposure-Delay performs automatic MLU for 1, 2 or 3 seconds before capturing a frame.
Additionally to all those Drive modes, the Nikon Df offers Multiple-Exposure, Interval-Timer and bracketing for exposure, flash, white-balance and Adaptive D-Lighting. Up to 5 frames can be bracketed, depending on the chosen parameter and increment.
Autofocus on the Df is highly flexible. There are 39 AF-points and the camera can choose one automatically among 9, 21 or 39 of them. 3D Tracking is available and uses all 39 points. A single point can be selected instead. Manual Focus is available and includes Nikon's Range-Finder feature which indicates which way to turn the focus-ring.
The Nikon Df has an extra-large OVF with 100% coverage and 0.7X magnification. The camera body is fully weather-sealed. As always, a weather-sealed lens is required to complete the seal.
There is a single-axis Digital-Level which can be seen in the OVF and a dual-axis one visible in Live-View. WB but not exposure is previewed in Live-View. Face-Detect AF is also availble in Live-View which uses Contrast-Detect to focus.
Nikon Df Highlights
Sensor-Size: 36 x 24mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|16 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 50-204800|
|Nikon F Mount|
Extra Large Viewfinder
|Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|5.5 FPS Drive, 100 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3.2" LCD 920K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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