Nikon Df review

Looks and build quality

The Nikon Df stands out because of its retro-design. That is based on the classic Nikon SLR’s from the seventies and eighties. It looks somewhat like a modernised Nikon FM. With its classic looks many people will not even notice that the Df is a modern digital SLR camera. My review Df is all black, you can also get the Nikon Df in silver with black details. That version looks even more like a classic film SLR. I really like the design of the Nikon Df. I think Nikon successfully converted the old designs to something modern with retro details without becoming tacky.

On the front of the camera the pyramid-like prism housing stands out. That is the part that looks the most like the classic Nikon FM. Besides that you’ll find the vertical adjustment dial on the left of the lensmount (looking at the front of the camera). While a horizontal dial may feel more familiar the vertical dial works almost as good. Also on the left side of the lens mount you’ll find two programmable buttons.

Nikon Df review

When you inspect the mount itself you’ll notice the small aperture-feeler tab. In contrary to other modern Nikon DSLR’s you can fold it out of the way on the Df. That makes it possible to use any Nikon F-mount lens built since 1959, even the Pre-AI lenses. A nice extra for people who want to use their classic lenses on the Df.

On the right side of the mount you’ll find some other controls. On the side of the prism housing is the BKT-button to adjust the bracketing settings. Below that is the lens-release button and just a little lower is the AF-control switch. That will look and feel familiar for Nikon-users. You have a small switch to choose AF or MF. In the middle is the small button you can use to adjust the AF-mode. The Df also has got a classic flash sync port. On the bottom right side is the small and subtle golden FX-logo, showing the Df is a full frame Nikon. What you won’t find on the front of the camera is an AF-support light. Just like the Nikon D4s it doesn’t have one. With the slower AF in dim light (more about that later on) it could have been a useful extra.

The mounts for the carrying strap are also on the front of the camera. That is great since it keeps the camera from tumbling over when you mount a heavy lens.

On the bottom of the Df there isn’t a lot going on. Besides the tripod mount you’ll only find the combined battery and SD-card compartment. The lid itself is nice as it is kept closed with a lock that looks like the ones you used to find on old SLR’s, a subtle retro hint. It is a shame the Nikon Df only has got one SD-card slot, making it less useful for professional jobs.

On the back the Nikon Df looks like a normal Nikon DSLR. There is the sharp and bright 3.2 inch screen. Unfortunately the screen doesn’t swivel. Around the screen are the ‘normal’ Nikon controls. The Df does have a dedicated switch to choose the desired metering mode, that cheaper Nikon DSLR don’t have. You can switch between centre weighted, pattern and spot with the flick of the switch. On the top right of the back is the horizontal control dial to adjust settings, conveniently located to use with you thumb. Nikon has used an 8-way controller. You use that to scroll through menus and select the desired AF-point. You have an L-setting to lock the controller to prevent accidental use.

Nikon Df review

The live view button is also on the back and while it may look similar to the normal live view buttons Nikon uses on all its DSLR’s its missing something. Normally these have two function, activate live view and switch between video- and photo mode for live view. That second function is not available on the Df, for a simple reason: the Df doesn’t have a video function. I don’t mind, I almost never shoot video with my camera. And it seems in line with Nikons statement that the Nikon Df is designed for ‘pure photography’.

The OVF has got a round eyepiece, just like the other high end Nikon full frame cameras like the D8x00-series and the D4s. Of course the OVF has got 100% coverage when using FX lenses. With a magnification of 0.71x the OVF is big and it is also bright. Since I’ve been using cameras with an EVF a lot the last years I do sometimes miss the magnification option you have for manual focusing. But because the OVF on the Df is big manual focus is still manageable, especially with the rangefinder focus conformation in the EVF.

Nikon Df review

On top of the Nikon Df you’ll find the adjustment dials you can use to adjust the settings. As you may expect all of the used buttons are metal, no cheap plastics here. The whole body of the Df is made of metal, Nikon has used a light magnesium alloy to create it. The big top-dials may make old-school SLR users feel right at home. On the left side is the dual function dial with the top one handling the exposure compensation. The bottom one sets the ISO values. Both have their own locking button to prevent accidental use. I really like that as the exposure compensation on my Sony A7 is messed up 9 of 10 times I take it out of my camera bag.

Nikon Df review

On the right of the prism housing is the dial to set the shutter speed. The dial only offers full stops, but you can use the 1/3e option. In 1/3e setting you can use the control dial on the body to set the shutter speed in smaller increments. Below the shutters speed dial is the drive mode selector. You use that to switch between single shot, continuous low speed (you can set the speed in the menu), continuous high speed, silent mode, self-timer and mirror-up. The on/off switch is below the shutter release button. That works fine, but I would have loved an extra ridge for some extra grip to switch the camera on using one hand. The shutter release has got the option to use a classic wire release to activate it. Next to the shutter release is the PASM switch. You have to lift it to use it, making it kind of hard to use when you have the camera to your eye.

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