First things first...gotta keep the lights on. In case you want to be the first on your block with a Nikon Df:
...That out of the way, this was my reaction when I first saw the pictures of the Nikon Df: Omigod, be careful what you wish for.
People have been asking for a digital sensor in an FM2/FE2 body for a long time, and this is apparently that racehorse designed by a committee*. My preliminary impression was that it proves that: a) Nikon doesn't get retro, and b) Leica retains its crown as the only camera company that actually gets the concept of Jobsian simplicity.
Another way to think of the Df: it's a D610 with dials. If you like dials, this might well be a good thing. Or a very good thing.
Of course, it's not really a D610 (a camera I think I really like, by the way, although I've only played with a D600 briefly). The Df has, very roughly speaking—along with no video (yay!) and greater support for older lenses—the sensor from the D4, the battery from the D5300, and only a 1/4000th top shutter speed.
One thing it's not is an FM2/FE2 with a digital sensor in it. In the words of Yuan Sheng: "We were at the Nikon Singapore media event earlier, and...my first impression is that the camera is really fat." Thirty life points to the first reader who spots a photograph on the Web of the Df next to an actual FM2 or FE2.
My email inbox thinks the Df is likely to disappoint older photographers who actually knew and loved older Nikons, and that it will only have "retro appeal" to younger photographers, who are more likely to see it in the light of current DSLRs and don't see past the styling cues.
But a camera can be a working tool as well as a styling exercise and an aesthetic creation. And as I look at the Df more, I can start to see the logic in it. Leaving behind the FM2/FE2 styling cues (which strike me as retro done wrong) and any pretending toward metal-manual-mechanical simplicity, it does look like Nikon's engineers have done some significant thinking about the control interface of a modern camera and the ways in which a camera might be designed to leave certain things out, as well as jam everything in. I do like that double ISO/compensation dial on the left-hand side of the top deck.
In any event, I'm always saying that people should never judge a camera until they've held it and used it, so I'm not going to go all-in with the chorus of complaint and criticism that is sprouting all over the Web (and in my in-box) along with the interest and enthusiasm. The Df is emphatically not what people who wanted a digital FM2/FE2 were asking for; but it might be something else interesting and useful. And who knows, maybe it will have a good influence on future Nikons. We'll have to see.
And now, I'm off to read Thom Hogan. This should be fun.
*Old joke: A camel is a racehorse designed by a committee.
**CORRECTION: That's actually a Zimmer in the picture, not an Excalibur. Thanks to Doug C. for the correction.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
James Symington (partial comment): "I just dumped my large Nikon outfit—D800E, D600 and a whole load of lenses—to move to the Sony A7r which is small enough to actiually use with some pleasure. The introduction of the Df has not even slightly made me rue that sweeping decision."
D: "I really really really like what I see. I actually postponed purchasing a camera to see what this was actually going to be. With the current buying incentive on the D800 there is only about a $300 price difference between the Df and the D800e. Even though I love what the Df represents, I ordered a D800e this morning. For the price, 'The Big Dragoon' gives much more bang for the buck."
Chris Lucianu (partial comment): "The Df is exactly the kind of retro Nikon I expected. Alas, it is also precisely the kind of retro Nikon I dreaded."
Rory O'Toole (partial comment): "As a Nikon user I'm disappointed, and especially with the price point. Correctly priced (more X-Pro1 range), I would probably be interested—if only to get that D4 sensor in a smaller, cheaper body."
Andrew Molitor (partial comment): "If this was just a cash grab, they'd have jammed a Nikon 1 into an FM styled body and sold it for this same price. This thing is actually a legit semi-pro body, with a feature set that's pretty much in line with the price."
Richard (partial comment): "Based on specs alone I see no reason to get this camera at all."
James Sinks: "When I finally saw pictures of the real deal, my first thought was, 'That is one ugly turd of a camera.' My second thought was, 'It must have been designed by people who grew up in the nineties based on what they think old farts want in a camera.' My third thought was, 'Why on earth would anyone want to pay D800 prices for a less functional, more complicated, more fiddly D600?' My fourth thought was, 'The Sony A7r seems like a real winner.'"
Jeff1000 (partial comment): "It’s retro in the way that the modern Volkswagen Beetle is retro: a Beetle body on a Golf chassis."
Eamon Hickey: "I'm glad that Thom Hogan, almost unique among commentators so far, correctly identified this camera's closest style predecessor. It's the FA.
"The FA was a sales flop, but Nikon's engineering self was very proud of that camera internally. There's also a sense in which the FA was a fusion of old and new, so I'm sure its ghost lived in the minds of this new camera's designers in several ways.
"I don't know what this camera will be like to shoot with, but I always thought a 'digital FM2' was a bad idea. For me, modern camera control systems (pioneered by the Canon T-90) just work better than the old dials (and I speak as someone who learned on a Minolta SRT-101 and owned an FM for a decade). And those modern control systems, especially, work better for digital cameras.
"There was never any way that Nikon would leave out autofocus, autoexposure, 1/3rd stop shutter speeds, an LCD, etc., and they were always going to support their modern lens communication protocols (i.e. no aperture ring). That means a design like this one.
"I don't know if the Df will be a sales flop, like the FA was (although high price was part of the FA's problem and might be, too, for the Df), but at least the Df isn't a cookie-cutter DSLR. Hard to predict what the market (in this case, a small target market) will think is cool."
Semilog: "I've had an FM, an FM2n, and four FE2's. I had an FA. I hated it. This looks like the FA, only worse."
Soeren Engelbrecht (partial comment): "To my eye, it doesn't look like a committee design—more like 'OK, guys: Team A does the front and top, and Team B does the back and sides. See you in two months!!'"
Bahi: "I agree with many of the commenters on many points but disagree strongly on one: sales potential. The Df will sell very well. It's part camera (and an excellent camera, at that, if you don’t own a recent, full-frame digital SLR), part status symbol, and part fashion statement.
"A casual, well-heeled buyer of this Df will like its retro appeal, its construction, the 'Made in Japan' label, the dials and the image quality. Its faults will be seen by professionals or very serious amateurs—they're not the market Nikon is serving with this model. It has the D800, D610 and D4 for those folks. The fact that you will be able to do technically excellent work on it in a wide range of shooting conditions is the icing on the cake. Take this camera out and there will be lots of positive comments from the people around you…as long as they're not pros or serious amateurs themselves."
Imre Karafiath: "I remember when the D200 was discontinued at a closeout price of US$600. If that happens to the DF I'll buy one then."
ronin (partial comment): "I completely disagree that Nikon does not understand Apple-like design minimalism. Nikon delivered the most Apple-like camera ever, the V1. Leave the V1 in full automatic and it will amaze you."