Andalucia with the Df by Wayne Goodman, on Flickr
I recently purchased a Nikon Df, after trying the D600, D800e and Sony A7r. The Df was never on my radar until I'd tried the others, which just did very little for me. I don't know why... they're all incredible cameras but I didn't gel with any of them for various reasons such as colours, weight, looks etc. The Image quality is very similar between them all but the Df was just an instant like.
So I took the camera to Spain last week on holiday and it performed exactly as I'd wanted. It wasn't perfect, as the grip could be bigger but every negative I've heard about the Df apart from that, just didn't really show itself to me personally.
I'd heard it was very fiddly to use, with all the dials etc. However I found the only real dial to be a fiddle was the ISO dial on the far left. This actually didn't matter though as the Df has such great ISO performance, I mostly set the ISO to auto and the camera did an excellent job. 99% of the time, in Auto ISO mode, it ventured no higher than 400. I noticed a couple of shots at 1200 or so ISO which were still obviously fine, however it did on two occasions boost itself right to 12800. Surprisingly, these images were still fine, as long as the RAW file isn't edited as it just shows the noise as soon as you play with exposures. With a bit of noise reduction though, you'd have a very usable image, and certainly something way more usable than any other camera I've used. When the camera did jump to 12800, I just switched back to manual ISO and hand-held at around 3200 with sharp results.
There are some features of this camera that I think were the clincher for me in terms of wanting to keep it. For starters, the first thing I noticed was the incredible optical viewfinder. I'd sold my A7r on the day I picked up the Df, so I'm unsure if it was just coming from an EVF to a viewfinder or not, but what a difference. Reviewers say how "amazing" the EVF of the A7r is, but IMO, you still cannot beat a high quality optical type, such as the Df. Of course it lacks low-light abilities but I really didn't struggle at all... if you did, you could always use the LiveView as that boosts the brightness to compensate for dark situations. The viewfinder on the Df just seems so much more crisp compared to the A7r, and I would even say the D800e, but I can't fully confirm this without a side-by-side.
The other thing for me that was an "ooooh I like that!" experience was the shutter. I've heard reviewers go on about shutter release mechanisms and never really got it... until now. The first half press is very subtle but you know you've locked focus, followed by a very surefooted, high quality and well damped "click". It just feels different to any other camera I've used. PLUS, there is a very easy to use lever that slides with your shutter finger to any of the other modes for the shutter such as fast burst (well, it's not fast but that won't bother me) and timer etc. One of these modes is "Quiet". Now on the D800e, I found this to be a little poor as it was the same noise but dragged out. The Df however, has such a well damped sound to the release that the Quiet mode realy does work very well IMO. It's nowhere near as quiet as say a Canon setup, but it's definitely preferable to the D600/D800e I had.
Focus... this is something people have wondered about as it's the same system as the D600. For myself, it wasn't really an issue. In some ways, on paper, it's counter-intuitive to have the best High ISO sensor coupled with a focus system that doesn't work brilliantly in low light. However, not once did I miss the photo I wanted. It WILL struggle more than say a D800e, but I found the same focus performance with the A7r and that's no real slouch either in reality.
The weight of the camera wasn't too bad. I use a Black Rapid sling type strap so the weight is a non-issue, however when hand-holding using my 24-85mm lens (after this trip, I'm going to switch to primes as I was hoping to be able to put up with the 24-85mm purely for size/range, but it's not going to work unfortunately), it wasn't heavy enough to tire your arms after a while.
Looks... well this was an interesting one. Has anyone ever had comments from the fairer sex on their camera? I did, twice! "Nice camera" I heard, both times from pretty girls lol. I found this quite odd but I have the black version and the looks have definitely grown on me, so I guess it doesn't look too geeky. I think it looks professional enough for most use, but stealthy enough for street photography, especially combined with the quiet shutter.
The front and rear jog dials are customisable. A lot of people thing to change aperture, you HAVE to use the top dial, but you don't. You can use a thumb dial and it makes life very easy indeed. I then saw a review that stated if you can do that, "there's no point in having the top dial" but I think for some people, there will be and you have the choice. There's nothing wrong with any of the dials IMO.
One last thing... the file size. The D600 files were around 30MB. The D800e and A7r were around 40MB. So when you start seeing 20MB or less from the RAW files, that's a very nice change.
So I'm happy with the Df. Its quality, size, weight, looks, performance etc are all "up there" and am now going to go in search of suitable prime lenses for my next trip. The 24-85mm is excellent on paper, and indeed smaller than my 24-70 (hence me taking it), however it just has too much distortion and lens flare which is a massive shame as it's the ultimate travel zoom lens for a full frame DSLR otherwise.
The price is a sticking point, but they're available at different price points around the Globe, and some are down-right reasonable for what's basically a D600-sized semi D4.
Here are some of my photos from the trip...
Flickr: Wayne Goodman's Photostream