Nikon Df: A retro-style full frame camera (which is totally overpriced)

Nikon-Df

For a long time no product being rumored in the Nikon world has sparked so much anticipation and excitement as the retro-style full frame camera which’s existence leaked not long ago. A lengthy teaser campaign followed with six videos showing a photographer roaming the Scottish highlands, rediscovering photography.

Today Nikon announced the Nikon Df – A full frame camera with the sensor of the D4 in a retro-style body. There are two versions – silver/black and pure black. The body design follows the Nikon FM2, a very successful film SLR. Nikon added many control dials on top of the Df. There is a dial for ISO, shutter speed, bracketing, shooting mode and a PSAM dial. The dials have a very solid clicking sound when being operated, another feature which adds to the “retro” experience. I have to admit that I love the silver and black design. And for long I have pondered swapping my D300s for a full frame camera. So the rumors about the Df got me very excited and I thought my piggy bank’s days were numbered (again…).

But it came different. To make it short – the technical specs make the Df a very interesting camera for me, but Nikon blew it by selling it at a ridiculously high price. The camera with a custom 50 mm f1.8 lens ships for – hold your breath – 2.999 Euros. Remember: The D800 sells for about 2.100 Euros at the moment. Hey ! A higher price is ok if the Df outperforms the D800, but that is not the case. I am not bashing the camera, I am bashing the value for money. So please read everything that follows with that in mind.

Let’s take a look at the tech specs of the Df:

  • 16.2 MP sensor from the D4 (D800: 36 MP sensor). That’s a big point for the Df, because the D4 sensor is said to be the best in the market at the current time.
  • 39 point Autofocus system (D800: 51 points)
  • No video mode ! (D800 makes excellent HD movies and is also marketed for filmmaking)
  • Body: metal plate on top and bottom, in between plastic (D800: full magnesium alloy)
  • One SD card slot (D800: SD plus CF slot)
  • No internal popup flash (D800 has one) – only a minuscule minus because besides from using a popup flash as CLS master it is good for nothing.
  • Fastest shutter speed: 1/4.000 sec (D800: 1/8.000 sec)
  • Flash sync time: 1/200s sec (D800: 1/250 sec)
  • Burst speed: 5.5 frames/sec (D800: 4 frames/sec; but the D800 is not built for speed anyhow)
  • The body is smaller and lighter than the D800 body (approx. 2 cm thinner and 240 g lighter than the D800)
  • A retracteable lever can be used to operate old AI lenses (that’s nice for people who have old lenses, but modern lenses should be the majority among users).

The D800 offers way more functionality and flexibility for a significantly lower price. So what are the selling points of the Df ? It all boils down to three main aspects: Superb sensor, retro design, most compact Nikon full frame available.

That is a little bit thin for such a price. So who is supposed to buy that camera for that price (again – 2.999 Euros with lens) ? It seems Nikon target wealthy people between, let’s say, 45-60, who owned a film SLR back in the days and want to have the “old feeling” of shooting back. Perhaps people who have tons of old lenses (hence the AI lever). Nostalgia. Target group sounds like architects, designers, artists, hipsters (ok, that’s not a profession ;-)… people who usually pay attention to design and have money.

I am somehow disappointed. Value for money is significantly imbalanced. You pay a lot for the design (which’s practicability has yet to be proven; think about shooting at night – the dials are not illuminated !). While the sensor – I keep repeating myself – is a strongpoint the rest of the specs disappoint (again, at that price). The only innovative feature is the AI lever. If you ignore the retro design you have a camera with “downgraded” or missing capabilities (think about video, shutter speed) at a ridiculous price.

Bottom line: Definitely no piggy bank slaughter for me ! I am not complaining about the specs themselves. I could live with them perfectly, but not for that price !!! For the last time – value for money is totally out of balance. Let’s see how the price will develop. The D800 was 2.899 Euros upon release, now (1.5 years later) it is at 2.100 Euros, that is a price drop of about 28 percent. So if I project that on the Df price we would still be around 2.150 Euros in 1.5 years from now. Still too much for my taste. Seems like the D300s replacement will have to wait.

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One thought on “Nikon Df: A retro-style full frame camera (which is totally overpriced)

  1. Pingback: Why I chose a D610 over a D7100 | Lumenatic

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