Its a funny world! One would imagine that in this day and age, everyone wants everything to be ‘modern’ – incorporating the latest, sleek, aerodynamic, futuristic, artistic design. Well, not everyone! Th ere are those who love the ‘old stuff ’. And for such photographers, Nikon has obliged by producing a ‘fusion’ (hence the ‘f’ in Df) of the old and the new – the Nikon Df. Looking somewhat like a Nikon FM2 and FE, the Df is a mix of old charm and new technology!
So what’s so great about this ‘old timer’ masquerading in a new avatar? Well for one, it uses the same tried, tested and loved imaging sensor used in the pro model – the D4!
Design and Build Quality
As indicated above, the Nikon Df is designed to look old-fashioned (retro). The body, made with magnesium alloy, appears reasonably strong yet lightweight at 765 g with battery and memory card. (I say ‘reasonably strong’ because we have seen better build quality on many other Nikons). The ISO dial, exposure compensation dial and the shutter speed dial have a release-lock to prevent accidental changes. Th ere is even a thread to attach a cable release, something that most young-generation photographers may have never seen before! The memory card on the Df resides in the battry compartment, which has a welldesigned cover and latch. The Df can use almost any Nikon F-mount lens and the body is available in two versions, silver with black, and all black.
The Nikon Df is a 16.2 megapixel D-SLR using the same image sensor and the Expeed 3 image processor found in the D4, Nikon’s top-ofthe- line professional camera. This combination, along with its extended ISO sensitivity (100-12,800, but expandable up to ISO 50 equivalence at the low end and up to ISO 204,800 equivalence at the higher end) allows you to shoot in as low a light as you might dare, without unduly worrying about digital noise raising its ugly head. Its autofocus system employs 39 AF points with 9 highly accurate cross-type sensors that lets you autofocus all the way down up to f/8. And it lets you do that at up to 5.5 frames per second.
Nikon manufacture some of the finest optics available and photographers are still using Nikon lenses which are over 30 years old! Hence the Df is designed to work with (almost) all those lenses: AF-S, AF-D and AF Nikkor lenses. In addition, a tiny meter coupling lever (on the left of the body) makes it possible to use AI (Aperture Index) as well as non-AI lenses.
Lift and rotate the exposure mode dial (on the camera’s right) to select between Program (P) – with Program Shift, Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S) and Manual (M) exposure modes. For long exposures in Manual mode, the shutter speed can be set to Bulb (B) or Time (T). In ‘P’ mode, the camera automatically adjusts the aperture as well as the shutter speed. To use the ‘S’ mode, press the shutter speed lock release (on the shutter speed dial) and select the required shutter speed. The camera will automatically set the required aperture. To select an aperture in ‘A’ mode, turn the sub-command dial on the camera front. In ‘M’ mode, you select the aperture with the sub-command dial and the shutter speed with the shutter speed dial. Bracketing of exposure, flash level, Active D-Lighting and White Balance is possible on the Df.
The Df offers several release modes: Single frame (S), Continuous low (CL), Continuous high (CH), Quiet shutter release (Q), Selftimer and Mirror Up (Mup). The user can choose between FX (36 x 24) format or DX (24 x 16). When using the DX format, the equivalent focal length is 1.5x the lens used. Auto DX Crop is also available that automatically selects a DX crop when a DX lens is attached. The maximum image size in pixels when using FX is 4928 x 3280 and 3200 x 2128 when using DX.
Various image quality settings are available with the Df: NEF (Raw), TIFF (RGB), JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, JPEG Basic, Raw + JPEG Fine/Normal/Basic. Image quality can be set through the Menu or by pressing the QUAL (Quality) button and rotating the main command dial until the required setting is displayed in the information display. NEF files can be recorded in 12-bit or 14-bit and can be lossless compressed, compressed or uncompressed.
To autofocus, the Df uses Nikon’s Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection with a detection range from -1 to 19 EV (ISO 100, 20 degrees C). AF modes available are AF-S (Single-servo AF) for stationary subjects and AF-C (Continuous -servo AF) for moving subjects. AF can be activated either by half-pressing the shutter release button or by pressing the AF-ON button on the camera back. You can, using a custom function, disengage autofocusing from the shutter release butt on and allow only the AF-ON butt on to autofocus. In AF-C mode, the camera will initiate predictive focus tracking if the subject moves toward or away from the camera while the shutter release butt on is half-pressed.
The user can also select Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF (9, 21 or 39-point), 3D -tracking or Auto-area AF. Single-point AF is best used with stationary subjects; the camera will focus on the subject in the selected focus point only. In Dynamic-area AF, the camera will focus based on the information from the surrounding focus points if the subject briefly leaves the selected point. 9-point Dynamic-area AF is JPEG Compression JPEG, Fine Quality, 100% (6.6 MB) JPEG, Standard Quality, 100% (4.1 MB) Sharpness & Detail Aperture: f/11.0 Shutter Speed: 1/13sec. ISO:100 Noise at 100% ISO:100 ISO:H4 Colour Accuracy Colour checker shot using Auto White Balance in daylight. Auto Levels applied. recommended for subjects that are moving predictably; 21-point Dynamic-area AF is recommended for subjects that are moving unpredictably; use the 39-point Dynamic AF-area for subjects that are moving quickly (like birds in flight) and cannot be easily framed in the viewfinder. In 3D-tracking, the system uses colour information within the point of focus to track the subject. The camera automatically shift s the focus point to follow a moving subject (using the 2,016-pixel RGB sensor) but at the same time uses what is called Predictive Focus Tracking that forecasts the position of the moving subject when the actual exposure takes place (Because of the short time-lag between the pressing of the shutter release button and the actual opening of the shutter, a fast-moving subject may not stay in critical focus. By analysing the subject’s movement, direction and speed, the system pre-focuses at a point where the subject is likely to be at the point of actual exposure). If the subject should leave the viewfinder, you need to lift your finger off the shutter release butt on, re-compose with the subject in the selected focus point and then proceed to take the shot. In Auto-area AF, the camera automatically detects the subject and focuses on it. If you use a type G, E, or D lens, the camera will also detect human faces. In Live View shooting, the Nikon Df uses its fast contrast-detect AF, (similar to that in the D4). It can display the composition at up to 19x for accurate focus confimation perfect for tripod shooting.
Besides off ering a very wide range of ISO sensitivity as mentioned earlier, the Df also provides Auto ISO. Th e user has a control over the maximum sensitivity, minimum shutter speed, and if ‘Auto’ is selected, the camera will choose the minimum shutter speed based on the focal length of the lens. Note that the minimum value for Auto ISO sensitivity is automatically set to ISO 100. Exposures can be set using the Matrix, Center-weighted or Spot metering. When using Matrix metering, the camera sets the exposure according to the tone distribution, colour, and composition. Further, if type G, E, or D lenses are used, the lens-to-subject distance information is also fed to the metering system for additional metering accuracy. In Centerweighted metering, the camera meters the entire frame but places greater emphasis in the center of the frame (the centerweighted area can be selected if a CPU lens is used). In Spot metering, the camera meters a circle of 4 mm at the center of the frame (approx. 1.5% of the frame). Exposures can be compensated if needed (+/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps).
Shutter speeds on the Nikon Df range from 4 seconds – 1/4000sec, plus Bulb (B), Time (T) and X-sync at 1/200 sec (X). The shutter speed dial has a position marked ‘1/3 STEP’. When set to this position, shutter speeds (in S and M exposure modes) can be adjusted in increments of 1/3 EV by rotating the main command dial. The shutter is tested for 150,000 cycles. White Balance ensures colour accuracy in spite of the illumination being coloured. The Df offers the following White balance: Auto (works between 3500-8000K), Incandescent, Fluorescent (7 types), Direct sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, Choose colour temperature, and Preset manual. WB can be fine-tuned. As with other Nikon models, the Df too offers Picture Control to personalize the look of your images. The Picture Controls are: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. Each Picture Control can be fine-tuned (customised) in terms of sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation, hue, filter effects and toning. It is possible to share the customised Picture Controls in another DF model.
Some very important features on the DF (also available on other Nikon D-SLRs) are Active D-Lighting, HDR imaging, Multiple Exposure, and Interval Timer. Active D-Lighting is very useful in preserving details in highlights as well as in shadows in high contrast lighting. (You could also use D-Lighting, – not Active D-Lighting – in the Retouch menu for a similar effect. Active D-lighting is used when taking the shot; D-lighting is used after the fact). HDR allows you to combine two different exposures (one measuring the highlights and the other measuring the shadows) to create images with adequate detail in highlights as well as shadows during contrasty lighting. Unfortunately, the Df uses only JPEG files to create HDR images. Multiple exposure allows you to record a series of 2 to 10 exposures on the same frame for creative effects. Interval Timer lets you automatically take shots at pre-set intervals.
Live View shooting on the Df offers a magnified view which is very useful for critical (manual) focus. The supplied lens is a ‘Special Edition’ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. It has 7 elements in 6 groups, including 1 aspherical lens element. It uses a 7-blade rounded diaphragm and has a minimum focussing distance of 0.45 m (18-inches). Filter diameter is 58 mm and the lens weighs approximately 190 g. I am unaware as to why it is called ‘Special Edition’.
An accessory shoe is available on the DF but there is no built-in flash, though the camera supports Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. Compatible flash units are: SB-910, 900, 800, 700, 600, 400, 300 and SB-R200. Flash compensation (-3 EV to +1 EV) is possible. The following Nikon flash units can be used in non-TTL auto and manual modes: SB-80DX, 28-DX, 28, 26, 25, 24, 50Dx, 30, 27, 22S, 22, 20, 16-B, 15, 23, 21B and 29S. (Please note that some of these offer only limited features). Studio flash can also be used (Note that Nikon recommends studio flash having lowtrigger-voltage only – under 6 volts).
The camera is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery (EN-EL14a). Camera dimensions are 143.5 (W) x 110 (H) x 66.5 mm (D).