One of the theories of the cosmic balance is based on the idea that everything takes place in cycles, cycles in which familiar sequences of events repeat, thus making the world constantly exposed to the effect of the already seen… Déjà vu?
The fact that history repeats itself is supported by a mass of evidence, and the same can be said about the trends in the world of fashion. Until only recently, technology was more or less immune to this phenomenon, as long as the market race was entered by financially driven contestants, who had not joined the digital era on time or had done it with a lack of energy. A few years ago when Olympus presented its digital version of the Pen camera series, formerly popular worldwide, it appeared that the photography-loving public became simply hypnotized by the idea of modern cameras packed in a retro design. Indeed, in the years to come, the market was flooded with a whole bunch of various cameras of all classes for which the common denominator was the fact that they combined compactness, a large sensor, and very often - retro design. Compactness is something that designers resort to whenever they sense there is some saturation with complicated technical devices, while primacy over classic compact cameras is established by choosing a large sensor as a pillar of the entire conception of mirrorless cameras, skillfully packed behind the acronym MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera).
The camera that we are about to discuss here resisted the trend that each retro camera is at the same time necessarily a non-DSLR, i.e. MILC, even though the producer is not (remember the Nikon 1 MILC system). Despite the rumors that had prepared the ground for the arrival of a new camera that would aim at the spirit of a bygone age, which at the same time presented themselves as the high-end Nikon MILC, reality is that the retro idea did come true, yet in the package that surprised many. That is how the Nikon Df, a camera that, out of the current gamut of popular DSLRs of this producer, technically stands out only thanks to its design. And none other than – retro. Heating up the atmosphere on the eve of the promotion, with the recipe that we already had a chance to see in this field, included a series of commercials whose primary goal was to tickle people’s fancy – to offer fairly little, but quite enough for a wave of nostalgia to rise in people’s hearts.
Whether the retro design was produced for the purpose of following trends, alongside preserving the favor of those who do not regard the MILC category very highly, or whether it really has to do with upgraded functionality, remains to be seen in the final review. At first glance, it seems to be only Nikon’s response to the growing popularity of the cameras such as Fuji’s X-series APS-C mirrors or Olympus’s OM-D. The fact that Nikon with the 35mm sensor did not have in mind the clash with the aforesaid producers tells us it all boils down to fulfilling wishes of long-time clients, but also of those who like that retro style for one reason or another. As Nikon would call it – the Digital Fusion, i.e. the combination of the former, the slow and measured way of work, and the contemporary technology, which is at the same time the official explanation of the name of this camera. Out of the initial rumors, not much has left – the Df is not a MILC, and it is not very small either. Retro? That should already be clear.
We are here concerned with one thing – is the retro design of the Df created with the aim of marketing or is something out of the old times implemented in such a way that will really raise the new camera out of the heap of others, increasingly similar models? Perhaps the marketing campaign that hides behind the slogan 'Pure Photography' hides something more than just playing the emotion card? The promotion on the eve of Christmas holidays? Cunning, no doubt. Still, if emotions do not prevail, the financial moment with many people definitely will. Unfortunately.
We must admit that we are not often in the situation in which we do not have anything to compare the new camera with. Although it has all the subsystems in common with the existing models from Nikon’s cuisine, the Df does not have a previous generation since it is the initiator of a new one. Be that as it may, the specifications are important in order for us to understand where the new camera is located on the technological scale:
|Announced||January 5, 2013|
|Type||DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex)|
|Sensor||16.2 MP Toshiba CMOS, 3:2 aspect ratio;
Full-frame 36 x 23.9mm (8.6 cm²)
Pixel density 1.89 MP/cm²;
|Formats||RAW (NEF), TIFF and JPEG|
4928 x 3280
FX (3:2): 4298 x 3280; 3696 x 2456; 2464 x 1640;
DX (3:2): 3200 x 2128; 2400 x 1592; 1600 x 1064;
|FOV (crop factor)||1.0x (Full-frame/35mm)|
AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition
100 - 12800 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV increments,
H0.3 (16000), H0.7 (20000), H1.0 (25600); H2.0 (51200); H3.0 (102400); H4.0 (204800)
|Processor||Nikon Expeed 3|
|Color Space||Adobe RGB, sRGB|
|Electronic Level System||
Virtual Horizon in one axis and both orientations;
LV and OVF view
Image Sensor Cleaning; software Image DustOff reference
Nikon Multi-CAM 4800FX, Phase Detection, 39 AF points,
9 cross-type, 7 central, sensitive to f/8;
operational range -1 to +19 EV
Single-servo AF (AF-S);
Continuous-servo AF (AF-C);
Auto; Single; Dynamic Area AF (9; 21; 39); 3D-Tracking
|AF Micro Adjustment||For 12 lenses in ±20 increments|
|Wireless Flash Control||N/A|
i-TTL Hot-shoe & sync, 1/200 sync-speed;
-3 - +1 EV compensation
2016-pixel TTL RGB sensor
|Light Metering Modes||3D color Matrix Metering III;
Center-weighted (75% of the central part of the frame - circle 8-20mm in diameter);
Spot (~1.5% in the center of the frame)
|Min Shutter Speed||30 seconds, bulb|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/4000 s|
Single; Continuous-Low; Continuous-High; Self-Timer; Mirror-Up; Quiet Shutter Release
25 RAW, 21 TIFF, 100 JPEG or 21 RAW+JPEG images in the FX
53 RAW, 29 TIFF, 100 JPEG or 30 RAW + JPEG images in the DX
|Exposure Compensation||-3 to +3 EV in 1/3 EV increments|
Optical, Pentaprism, 100% frame coverage; 0.70x magnification factor; eyepoint 18mm
Active D-Lighting; HDR; processing and developing RAW
Fixed, 3.2“ TFT-LCD; 4:3 aspect ratio,
921,000 pixel resolution with an ambient light sensor
Yes, 100% coverage;
Image sensor metering
|Live View AF||
Contrast Detection CDAF;
Single-servo AF (AF-S); Full-time servo AF (AF-F)
|Remote Control||Yes, wired electronic or mechanical remote control|
Optional, with Nikon WU-1b adapter
|GPS||Optional, with Nikon GP-1 or GP-1A adapter|
|Storage||Secure Digital (SD); SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I), i EyeFi support|
USB; HDMI Type-C; GPS/Wi-Fi/Remote
|Weather and Dust Sealing||Yes|
|Battery||Nikon EN-EL14a, 7.2V, 1230mAh, 49g|
|Battery Endurance (CIPA)||~1400|
Magnesium alloy and plastic body; black or silver;
144 x 110 x 67 mm; 760 g;
Technical characteristics: Nikon Df
Whether we will consider this decision as a result of playing safe or a lack of inventiveness, it depends on the point of view. In any case, Nikon once again succeeded in ruffling the public by putting on the market a camera that is in many aspects regarded as the unique combination of different technologies, but with a certain degree of compromise, which causes resignation in some, and gives indescribable satisfaction to other people. The sensor is definitely one such characteristic – while until yesterday it stood for the object of longing, since for the price of the camera one can easily buy a good second-hand (sometimes even new) car, today this camera is considered inferior by many people, primarily owing to insufficiently competitive, by today’s standards for no reason special, resolution of 'only' 16MP. Leaving aside what every one of us privately thinks, the fact that a D610 offers a 50% higher resolution for less money results in a considerable confusion, although the quality of the sensor under no condition should be compared with regard to the simple amount of pixels on it. Even the entire gamut of APS-C Nikon offers 24MP as well. Can the Df’s 16MP in some other spheres define some new standards and in that way justify this stride in the domain of risk? We’ll see!
The rest of the camera is more or less already seen. The AF system, the burst, the viewfinder… there are virtually no new things on the list. However, there are no functions that we are used to, either. First of all, there is no crucial non-photography item – the video mode! Yes, you are right, the Nikon Df has no video! None! On the list of the omitted subsystems is also the built-in flash, which in turn affects the wireless control of the flashguns. Many people will not like this and we believe that Nikon was aware of it when they composed the list of the characteristics of this camera. However, 'Pure Photography' insists on the fundamental values of photography, so the logic behind this decision can be understood. On the other hand, the live-view is here after all, and thus the display, so the malevolent can be justifiably critically inclined.
The design is definitely what captures the most attention. After the initial elation, further acquainting with the camera reveals that the retro design is not an end in itself, yet that it was carefully embedded so that the camera could be used twofold - both as a retro camera with retro controls and as a modern DSLR, whose primary commands are represented by two control wheels by means of which all basic parameters are controlled. How much is the implementation of that concept successful (?) … well, that calls for a more serious test.
A unique camera is followed by, to some extent, a unique package. In a completely black box, which hides the look of the body only with a poor text and the familiar logo, there is more or less a standard package of equipment:
Nikon Df, the content of the kit package with an AF-S 50mm f/1.8G SE lens
The content depends on the order packet, and the Nikon Df is offered in two variants: the 'body only' variant, which contains only the body and the accompanying equipment or a kit with an AF-S 50mm f/1.8G SE lens, which is only a slightly redesigned version of the well-known AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens. In addition to the body and the lens, in the kit package, which we tested, there are also: a BF-1B mount cover, a BS-1 Hot-Shoe cover, an EN-EL14a Li-Ion battery and an MH-24 charger with an accompanying plug for the European electrical outlet; a DK-26 viewfinder cover with a hand strap, an AN-DC9 shoulder strap, a USB cable, a CD with the accompanying Nikon ViewNX software for the review and basic conversion of RAW files and a printed user manual. The accompanying equipment of the kit lens consists of a front and a back cap, an HP-47 lens hood and a CL-1013 soft bag.