Back in the early 90’s I began my professional photographic career shooting medium format and 35mm film. One of my first 35mm cameras was a NIKON FM2 and with the release of the NIKON Df I feel like Ive gone a full circle. Holding the Df felt very nostalgic it reminded me of a bygone era in photography, when image making was all about the decisive moment. A time when photography was a slow contemplative process that involved planning, knowledge and masterful in camera artistry…but enough of the romantic nostalgic stuff…what is it really like shooting with the Df.
Holding the Df in your hands feels really nice. The build quality is awesome with a magnesium alloy chassis and has the same weather proofing - (water drop-resistant and anti-dust ) as D800/D800E. The styling is just divine and can only be describes as digital retro film body. As I began to find my groove with all the nobs and dials the camera was an absolute joy to shoot with. My plan was to shoot with the D4 and have the Df as a secondary camera but the more I used it the more I loved it and eventually just shot with the Df. Swapping from the Df to the D4 was like getting out of a manual car into an automatic with a sequential gearbox and a V12 engine under the bonnet. So was the Df slow? Absolutely not, I’ll get to that in a minute.
What lenses can you shoot with on the Df?? For the sake of balance and comfort I feel that the primes work best. On the weekend I shot with the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and the 85mm and 105mm. Having said that I also tried the 14-24mm & the 24-70mm zooms and they were also surprisingly comfortable to hold but the real test came when I put on the 70-200mm, the shots were great but not an ideal camera-lens combo, your hand starts to tire as you try to balance the camera.
Primarily when I shoot, I have the camera on manual mode, as I like to have a consistent in camera end result, but also it frees me to concentrate and focus on the “moment”. This is something I have been doing since my film days. As a wedding photographer, my style is very much storytelling and I don’t want to miss any moments. The big test was the focussing and it passed with flying colors. The Df focussing was very fast and on par with a D800 or a D610. The autofocus system has 39-point with 9 cross-type sensors capable of 5.5 frames per second if needed (ideal for the runaway bride shot). Both in single shot and on continuous all of the images were pin sharp.
The 2,016-pixel RGB 3D color Matrix meter performed just like it does in my D4. Essentially everything about this camera is a D4, same sensor same processor so the results were not surprising. Great skin tones and color rendition with amazing low light capabilities. The Df has i-TTL flash exposure when using a Nikon Speedlight just like a D4.
The only Raw converter available at the moment is the NIkon Capture NX2 so on the day I shot both raw and Jpeg on the fine setting. The images below are the jpegs with minor image corrections. As expected, the low light capabilities of the camera are awesome, identical to my D4. Cant wait for the Adobe Camera Raw to be released hopefully soon.
Shooting with the Df has brought back the experience of making a photograph. You feel different when you use it and its something that is really hard to explain, you really need to go and experience this for yourselves. I have always been a strong believer that the camera is just a tool and we as photographers make the difference however the Df has sparked a new found passion in making pictures, if it makes photographers think like photographers then its a good thing.
In conclusion the Df is a professional camera, precision controls, affordable price and excellent image quality.
A big thanks to my bride and groom Frankie and Natalie for a wonderful day.