Nikon Df Unboxing Video + Test Images + First Impressions While Actually Shooting Photos [gasp!]

When the Nikon Df arrived on the scene a couple months back, I tried to temper the hype (my own included) with a good dose of high expectations. Yes, it looked bad ass. Yes, it housed the same sensor as the D4. Yes, the optical viewfinder has 100% field of view.

But as a compact camera fiend and someone whose owned probably 50 cameras or more, I’m no pushover. So when Adorama shipped the Df to my door, I filmed the unboxing in old school 2006 internet style and wasted no time taking a test run (sparse couple images below).

To determine if the Df hit all the marks, let’s take a look back at those point by point…

From my original notes on appearance when the camera launched…. 1. Ergonomics. Roughly… “I like how all the dials/controls for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO give you the option of being really hands on with setting your exposure. Shooting this way really increases my connection with what you’re creating with the camera. The Nikon DF looks like it’ll do a nice job of recreating (or perhaps simulating) that experience of “making” pictures like the cameras of old… That feel helps me be connecting to the art just a little bit more–i.e. slowing down a tad– than some of my other tools in my shed.”

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on ergonomics having shot with this thing. I’m NOT happy with ergonomics. The dials are pretty cool and give you the retro feel, but they’re in goofy places and hard-ish to reach. The aperature dial on the FACE of the body at your right finger is bizarre. The shutter sound is nice. The grip depth is in no man’s land…not flat enough to feel retro and not deep enough to hold it like a “new”camera. Feels “plastic-y”. Which is easy to see why… because the shell of the camera is entirely largely out of styled plastic. The lens? Plastic.

Now my notes on The size. The size was a huge surprise – as you can see from the video. WAY bigger than I thought from the original marketing materials. WAY bigger. In truth I feel like the product shots were actually aimed to trick me into thinking this would feel like a little body. It doesn’t. Yes, it’s smaller than a D4 or pro body – but bigger than I want for lots of circumstances…similar to a D7000 of D600 or any pro-sumer higher end body. When I’m on a pro gig I use/need the pro body to lean on, bang around, pound nails and otherwise be tough and sturdy. But in this class of camera, I really prefer the portability. So what gives here? I dunno. They made up a nice advertising story about “back to basics” with a “real camera” but they among other things, it’s really just styled like an old camera. Also, rumor has it they couldn’t keep the guts cool enough to shoot video because mechanically that stuff takes up space. That’s probably why it doesn’t shoot video – not based on any “purity”. Jury is out. I like the purity angle, but it’s 2014…

I guess my reaction above says it all. There are good surprises and there are bad surprises. I think we know where that shoe dropped re: size.


3. The sensor. This is this cameras very best feature, bar none. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this sensor. It has the same 16.2-megapixel sensor as Nikon’s pro-focused D4, which is the best still sensor of all time IMHO. You can basically shoot this thing in the dark – can it focus in the dark? Not all that well it turns out. But I still love that they packed that sensor in this body. The images are buttery but not overly so like Canon 5d sensors.


MY ORIGINAL NOTES ON….4. Focus. It better be decent. Nikons have historically kicked everyones ass in this department. This better not be a let down. I hope the focus is fast and accurate. (Speaking of fast…we know it’s not fast in frames per second department. 5 ‘n’ change. Not bad. But not fast. Who cares really – that’s not what this camera is for.) We really do want the focus to be fast, however, if it’s to stand out from it’s peers. BTW, how is the manual focus mode? It better kick ass. I’m curious to see if there are any features to assist with this. There’s a lot of marketing around this camera pimping its ability to use all the old non-AI lenses, but the cameras from that time had focusing screens built for manual focus. Without tools like focus peaking, a split image screen, or a microprism screen, shooting with manual focus lenses might just be a pain in the ass. Let’s hope they get it right.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on FOCUS having shot with this thing. It didn’t measure up. It wasn’t fast. It was pretty accurate, but it wasn’t fast and accurate, which is what I really wanted. I’m sure that Nikon would respond…”but it has the same x and y as the z so it will do …blah”. It’s a great sensor, but the focus isn’t as fast as other cameras in the compact/mirrorless class. Which is sort of a travesty if you love Nikon still cameras given that that is a huge advantage for Nikon in nearly every other case.

MY ORIGINAL notes on this… 5. Pro shit. I’m excited to see how “professional” the camera can be. Can I pound nails with this thing? Is it heavy and durable? We use a ton of different cameras for video, but the D4 is my go-to camera for EVERY SINGLE commercial photo shoot we do. Could the DF could come along on our shoots as a good BTS rig? Even in our BTS stuff we expect pro quality That would be nice if this delivered. I will always have a couple D4 backups, but for the solo photographer, the DF could potentially save pro photographers some weight and coin if (and only if) it can produce professional results in a pinch.

I can’t tell if it has an alloy metal chassis, but its exterior is plastic-y. That isn’t pro. This isn’t a pro backup camera. The images look really nice, a great sensor but it falls short in other categories.

OVERALL
This is a good camera. Actually it’s a great camera. It will make nice pictures. It’s just not the camera I thought I was gonna get. If you LOVE Nikon you should buy this body. You will not be disappointed if you take what I’ve said here with a grain of salt. I know they are selling like hotcakes so the world really likes this camera. I’m just a tad hard on it. Like I said above, the plus on this baby is the D4 sensor in a much cheaper body. Beautiful dynamic range and looks great in low light. Another plus is that Nikon is at least watching what other manufacturers are doing with their products. The negatives are that they don’t know what their consumers want. Generally speaking we are not posers. This camera’s appearance it trying too hard. And it’s too damn big. But like I said – if you’re a photog who loves Nikon – you might be pleased as punch – so take my words here w a grain of salt.

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df HERE

IMAGES
I did have a short day around our cabin making pizza with my pal Jeff and then taking a quick walk on the beach to grab a few snapshots for this initial post to you guys… I intentionally shot slow moving, simple stuff where I thought this camera could perform. It worked well for that – but I knew the limits. The below are just very very minimally processed jpgs. You can see the magic simplicity with this sensor. It just WORKS. (check out the one image with the white house, the open, dark garage with the lightbulb on, during the day. Crazy subtle. THATS the kind of camera I want in my pocket. Portable.

It also does a nice job with a completely flat scene on the grey beach on a grey day shooting photos of grey stuff. Again, quality sensor. Focus? it was a pain to shoot inside and nail the focus shooting at F2.2 etc. But overall you can tell this camera works. If you can take the gimmicky styling it’ll do you right. If you can’t, then you’ll need a different sword of choice.

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0203

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0173

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0220


Nikon Df camera in silver

Nikon Df camera from rear

Nikon Df camera side view

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df details HERE

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Fisher-Price says:

They spent FOUR YEARS developing my ultimate dream machine, with a pricetag in the region of $2500, and they make the shell out of PLASTIC!? I would love a small-ish Fx DSLR with manual controls, so much so that I’d be prepared to sell off my (considerable) collection of Nikon gear and switch platform if needed, so when I heard about this camera I got very excited indeed – but please god no NOT A PLASTIC ONE! *facepalm* The cheapo plastic viewfinder cover part on my FM3A makes me sad every time I look at it, but at least the rest of the shell is chromed brass which looks great even after 5+ years of heavy use. I’d hate to think what the Mf will look like after even a couple months on the road :( Have they lost the know-how required for fabricating pressed brass shells? It seems Nikon don’t understand what makes the hearts of a die-hard manual camera geek tick. On the positive side I’ve just saved a pile of cash – I will NOT be buying this toy. Help me Olympus, you’re my only hope.

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ron sullivan says:

Not sure I would buy the camera ! Thanks Chase, great info.

http://www.ronsullivanheadshots.ca

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I liked the article but would not buy the camera ..

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The top, back, bottom, and internal support frame of the Nikon Df are made of magnesium alloy (metal). Only the front plate behind the metal lens mount area, is made of tough polycarbonate (plastic). This camera has a somewhat better build quality than the Nikon D610, D600, D7100, and D7000, including better, D800-level weather sealing. It is not “definitely plastic all around” as stated in the video at 3:17 to 3:25.

Harry V. says:

Well, I guess for me it would have been perfect to get something like the Fuji X-E2 from Nikon. With all this AI-S lenses out their, this would be a no brainer for every Nikon user to buy as a more pocketable option. A nice EVIL-Viewfinder with something like focus peaking or in best case digital split image would have been helpful too. Both would be perfect as a firmware upgrade for Live View of current Nikon DSLRs as well, especially for filming and of course for the good old AI-S lenses which would suit perfect on such a camera. It’s really a shame that still your only MF-Option is guessing or hoping for a static object and magnifying the screen. What’s a shame too, with the DF ….NO movie mode? Come on Nikon their are alway’s occasions where I love to switch to movie mode and capture some impression in moving images! Just the look is not enough for me.

Gianluca says:

It’s Nikon (Brit pronunciation) almost all over the World, including Japan (I guess they know how to correctly pronounce it ;-))

Bob says:

Folks here are being hard on you. I own a D800 and got the Df as a second body. It’s sort of like the 3 bears. I don’t like the D610 feel at all and I want something better at high ISO. I don’t want another D800; that’s no fun. A D4 looks great, but I wanted something smaller. So here’s the Df in my hands. It’s the smallest FX from Nikon and that’s a fact. The controls? I got used to them and I like using the dials outdoors and the wheels indoors. I love the ISO dial. I tested the AF against my D800 and the truth is that I almost never had an issue getting the Df to lock focus and it felt about as fast with my 70-200 VRII and 85mm 1.8G. Then there’s the quality. This is the first FX camera I’ve had that needs no AF tuning (and I have a nice bunch of lenses). The shutter sounds better. The top switchgear is metal and feels better than the D800. It’s not shaped like a X box controller. I’m over 50 so this handling was refreshing. There are some things I don’t like and the next version will be better, but GOOD LORD the files are stunning. I mean they are better right of the camera than my D800 even at moderately high ISO, which I did not expect. You made a mistake as the thing has a lot of metal, but I noticed my friends silver one does give a “plastic impression” while my black one feels like a metal brick. Weird. After 3 weeks this has become my favorite walk-around camera. Thanks for the review; the Df is not a perfect fit for everyone, but least we can agree that it’s still a very capable machine in the end. Cheers!

Greg says:

Bob, It is amazing how emotional the responses are to this camera. Now that I think about it the silver one did feel much a lot more plastic like especially compared to the Pen and Fuji cameras.

Chase, I doubt it would change your opinion of the camera, nor do I really care what you like and use to produce your art. That said my office is right down by the JP Patches statue, or within walking distance of your studio. If you want to borrow min to compare and contrast the black one with your “silver” one let me know. It is the least I could do for someone who has been such a positive and encouraging voice for the hobby and industry.

Bob says:

That’s a generous offer and Chase should take you up on it!
In the end all of the foibles of any camera have to amount to something significant beyond what reviews and specs show. After 3 weeks? It’s just a great camera. Everything works beautifully and the images are wonderful. Everyone comments on how great it looks and my friends all find it LESS plasticky than the D800, so Chase’ comments seem strange to me…but then he has the silver one!

Greg says:

I really don’t personally care if you like the camera or not but I did want to point out that it is not marketed as a “pro” camera. I really don’t care about brands or what tools people use to create awesome images. Full disclosure I did buy a Df after my carry around x100’s quirks started to make me avoid taking pictures. I went into Glazers planning on buying an X-mount Fuji and expecting to hate the Df. But the cost of buying a whole new set of lenses and realizing that the quirks really didn’t get in the way for me. That may have been due to a decade of self torture with a Ricoh XR-P. Being a fellow Seattleite the high ISO capability was the final reason I went with the camera.

Without dumping the F mount Nikon will most likely never be able to produce a full frame camera that is much smaller than this camera.

The flange focal distance of the F mount is 46.5mm, behind that number you need to fit the filters, sensor, sensor mount, main board and LCD. So any F mount camera will be thicker than your Olympus ep-3. Nikon is much lower depth compared to

I hope comments format well here but here are the stats showing how “thin” the Nikons are behind the focal plane.

Camera mount “flange depth” “body depth” “Film plane to back”
Df Nikon F mount 46.5 66.5 20
Sony A7 Sony E-mount 18 48.2 30.2
X pro 1 Fujifilm X-mount 17.7 42.5 24.8

Does any of this really matter? No, but you seem so disappointed in the size that I wanted to point out that the F mount was probably the limiter on the size.

Thanks and keep those awesome images coming.

Chase says:

I thought this thing was ugly from the get go. It’s “new nostalgia” and it shows.

faisal says:

If these images are not processed then its awesome.

Near Adelaide says:

I was also intrigued by the size question, so went to my local camera store with a Nikkormat FT-3 from the archive.

And took a quick grab of the Df and the FT-3 side-by-side, photo at the URL following.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/68039985@N08/11213892414/in/photostream.

Maybe of interest,

Mick

Tor says:

Hello, It seems like you manage to misunderstand what this camera is. I still use an FM2 and 500CM for the simple reason that I can’t work well if I don’t have real exposure control. Luckily we finally have some choice, so I can finally start working with a digital camera. I know there are plenty of photographers like me in my field (fine art photography). I really don’t care whether it looks like it came from the future or the 80’s (the people who go on about “looks” don’t get that design is not about looks). I have only handled the Df for half an hour in a store and I was also surprised at the light weight. Not dense like an FM. The thing is, if they made it out of brass it would be too heavy considering the size. I think I will get used to the light weight and, after a week, actually be grateful it isn’t heavier. You write that it feels all plastic which surprises me as it has the nicest feeling shutter release of all Nikon bodies by far. Really outstanding metal shutter release and great shutter sound. The surface feels the same or better than any other Nikon DSLR – only lighter. I agree they should have made it smaller by removing the autofocus. A totally unnecessary function considering the concept. The FM3a or a Leica doesn’t need it – the Df doesn’t need it.

Probably one of the main concerns for the customer of this sort of camera is how it works with manual lenses, specifically ais Nikkors, yet you don’t take off the ridiculous kit lens. You also avoid writing how the perceived quality of the body is lowered when held together with the cheap and plastic 1,8G. An observation a ten year old would be able to make. If I put the 50 1,8D on my FM2 it significantly cheapens the feel of the camera. In the store I put an ais Nikkor on the Df and the camera felt really good and not plasticky at all.

Because you only test it with the POS kit lens you use it just like you would a D800 – with control wheels. Well what’s the point then? Why test it at all? Also, you wrote yourself that an important point with this camera is how it is to manually focus, yet you don’t stick a manual lens on and you don’t test it?

When you write that you have to “LOVE” Nikon to enjoy this camera you are just pulling off a really cheap and manipulative semantic trick designed to please those who prefer conventional DSLR’s and unconsciously feel threatened by this different camera. And that speaks loads about your integrity, or rather, the lack of it.

Too anyone honestly interested in this camera – look elsewhere, because Chase Jarvis is not interested in writing or thinking about the camera, he is interested in stroking a certain group of people the right way. Good critique is valuable, sadly this “review” is either of two things: ignorant and incompetent or manipulative and cynical. Opportunistic populist drivel! Yuck!

Ben says:

Yeah look — I reckon a review from the gut is worth 10 from the head.
I have a problem with your attitude to kit lenses. Why should we simply acknowledge that manufacturers make “POS” kit lenses. The kit elms with my Olympus OM-D is utterly bombproof. It feels so good to work with.
If a camera doesn’t feel great and rock solid out of the box, not after you’ve pimped it with extra gear, I think it’s missed its mark.

Martin L says:

Speaking of drivel…I’ve just read 5 paragraphs of it; it’s time that I regret, I want it back.

Harry says:

Wow, you really took a shot at his integrity just for sharing his opinion? I think that speaks more to your integrity, or rather, the lack of it. It seems to me like chase is just sharing his opinion on this camera based on the things that matter to him and the things he needs as a professional. Obviously people will look at things differently based on their needs, some may love it, others may hate it. Citing how you think this camera is great while insulting the man for expressing what he thinks just makes you sound pompous. If you don’t like what he has to say, do your own unboxing video and express your opinion.

Tor says:

Alright, so today I got home to a good internet connection and could actually watch the video as well. My previous long, and pissed off, post was based on the article. I still stand by my thoughts but as my temper has cooled I apologise for having an unnecessary hard tone – I should have made an effort to express myself more politely. Sometimes it’s just hard to be firm and polite at the same time you know.

It’s not a matter of “just expressing ones opinion”, that’s exactly what he is not doing in the text and that is why I was angry. In the video, sure, he came across as sincere and honest and I have zero problems with the video. But, the text is manipulative. Either consciously or unconsciously. In my opinion that style of writing – a sort of baiting if you will, is a thing I see more and more on these types of blogs. Read between the lines.

Regarding the kit lens. The 1.8G is a very good lens but it feels like crap and if you test the Df its insanity not to test it with a lens featuring an aperture ring. The whole point of the camera is to bring the opportunity to use real controls instead of wheels and menus. I write in my first post how Chase Jarvis wrote initially about testing the viewfinder, manual lenses, and then when he gets the camera he shoots just as he would a D800! Well what is the point then I ask? Other than that he completely missed the point of the camera and its intended customer.

If at least Nikon would have skipped autofocus, P and S modes we wouldn’t have these silly misunderstandings. Was the release of the F4 this chaotic as well? (considering the Df and F4 have very similar ergonomics and controls)

Tor says:

I have thought about this and I have say that I regret being foulmouthed and attacking Chase Jarvis integrity. I am sorry.
Even if someone actually does write drivel, it doesn’t mean you should respond by lowering yourself even further. I had a really bad day, one of those days where everything goes wrong, The rather innocent article was just that tiny little drop that makes the glass spill over.

I hope that all of you have a nice day, especially Chase Jarvis.

Well that’s good!

I’ve lost my envy and can move onto to something else now :)

It looks too big for what I might have wanted, and I already have a D4 to look tough with!

Kris

Jon says:

Shame that,

I’m not sure who they honestly were aiming at with this – I understand wanting to offer D4 sensors in more affordable packages (a la D700), but the sort of people who will want a D4 sensor, are generally pretty serious about their photography and not fussed about gimmicks? The people who are more concerned about the aesthetics of the camera, are maybe not so concerned?

Perhaps it would have been better to shrink the D610/D800 into a small form factor F body? Keep the cost lower (not competing with D800) and bring out a successor to the D700?

But hey ho, what do I know! :)

Cheers for the opinions Chase, those shots at the beach are stunning.

j says:

Shot a 2-day theater festival with a rented dF as a second camera alongside D800. Fantastic images. Focus worked fine for me. Weird controls and a bit awkward with a big 80-200 lens mounted. Can’t decide if I want to buy one or not. But I wasn’t sorry to have it for the weekend. Results were awesome.

Chase says:

indeed. the images that come out of this sucker are really really nice. Gotta jump thru some hoops for it to perform…which may for some and might not for others.

Anonymous says:

But which camera did you prefer?

adrian says:

The hype was huge, but in my humble opinion this camera is missing some features, and I am not talking about the video mode.

Tony Clark says:

That reminds me of my first camera, a Nikon FM and 50/1.8 that my Father gave me for Christmas. I loved that camera!

Chase says:

i really wanted it to be the same form factor as that FM. THATs what I wanted it to feel like in my hand….with the D4 sensor. But alas – not the case.

The sensor is still gorgeous. The package… not.

Tuana says:

The camera looks much better in the ads.

David says:

That. Is. a. BIG. Camera.

Wow, really wanted one to travel with but I may as well take my main body and make use of the extra pixels. It almost looks a bit comical, like the guys that strap body kits on their Japanese 2 sweaters to make them look like Ferraris. Shame as I bet the images will rock.

wac says:

Since you don’t love it maybe you should do a giveaway with it. Or just send it my way.

Just saying.

Al b says:

No mention of video at all? Many folks will expect to shoot something of video with it.

Erik Hecht says:

The camera doesn’t shoot video. Wah-waaahhhh….

johan says:

It doesn’t shoot video

James says:

” Actually it’s a great camera. It will make nice pictures. ” – that’s a pretty low bar these days. You probably should have dropped the other shoe. I was going to buy the Df; I learned on an F. Held the actual thing – wanted to love it – skipped it. Too damn big and and too damn plastic.

For what it is worth this is why I appreciate having a local camera store still. I get to go look and play before I buy.

RG says:

Actually, the DF body has a Magnesium alloy top plate, bottom plate and back plate. Its chassis I read is part magnesium alloy and polycarbonate. The front plate is polycarbonate. In terms of build quality, it is very similar or a little better than the D610, but not quite the build quality of the D800 (full mag alloy body and chassis).
Stating that the Nikon DF is “entirely/predominantly” plastic is misinformation.

Size wise… to each his own. It’s the smallest and lightest FF DSLR that Nikon makes. I agree it can’t compete with mirrorless in terms of size.

Chase says:

ok RG – i’ll let you read the specs – but it’s plastic where it shouldn’t be plastic. It feels like plastic in your hand – ie nothing like a pro body should feel. my olympus ep-3 feels waaaaay better in my hand for half the price, flash included, faster focus, more FPS, etc etc.

it feels like plastic and performs like plastic.

RG says:

Fair enough… Others like the feel of it while others don’t.

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