Nikon’s New DF Retro Camera

Posted Nov. 5th, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

UPDATE: As I’m literally writing this post MYNIKONLIFE just announced Nikon’s new DF retro camera so all the speculation below is now no longer speculation. It’s real. Take a look for yourself. Much of what I wrote below was not about the specs but rather why.

The official announment of the new Nikon DF on MYNIKONLIFE.

The official announment of the new Nikon DF on MYNIKONLIFE.

Nikon’s on a roll and early tomorrow morning, 12:00am on the 5th. the predicted time, Nikon plan’s to unveil something old and something new. The Nikon DF, a camera that’s design and ergonomics is anticipated  to take us back to the 80’s, with a good chunk of 2013 thrown in. The 2013 is just for those who  have no interest in sending film off for processing. Thank goodness. From the leaked images and specs it seems to be quite an interesting picture

These are two samples, one silver and one black, of what is purported to be the new Nikon DF camera.

These are two samples, one silver and one black, of what is purported to be the new Nikon DF camera.

making tool. And the long drawn out description, “picture making tool” is exactly what it seems Nikon wants you to think of when using this camera. Picture making tool, not a camera. Camera can be described to quickly, it rolls of your tongue at 1/250th. of a second. Picture making tool requires you slow down and think about what you’re saying and eventually what you’re about to shoot.

This is a beautiful looking picture making tool. Don't you think?

This is a beautiful looking picture making tool. Don’t you think?

When looking at these leaked photos they remind me of the F3 film camera I shot clear back in 1987. Virtually all of the controls are placed on the top deck though I have to say, I’m not crazy about where the Exposure Compensation dial is. Oh’well, it won’t be as fast to change as my D4 or other D camera’s but that’s apparently supposed to be the point. You can’t shoot as quickly so you’re forced top slow down and think about what it is you’re getting ready to trip the shutter on. Will this move your photography forward? I’m not so sure. I love the looks of the DF, I love the idea, but in practice I’m not convinced I could make the pictures with this camera that at one time allowed me to make a very comfortable living.

Small and fairly light is what I've heard.

Small and fairly light is what I’ve heard.

Which brings me to why I think this camera may just be a major hit for Nikon. Quite simply there aren’t that many people making their living from photography anymore. So that group of potential buyers is a nonissue for this camera. Then there’s the folks who have earned their retirement funds in other occupations. Many of these folks, due to digital photography, have decided to try their hand at the creative process of capturing images. These people don’t have to worry about a camera forcing them to move a bit more slowly. Most them realize they won’t be selling thousands of stock images, shooting for Vogue or even Sports Illustrated. Ok, well maybe a few think they’ll land the swimsuit issue gig. But overall, the people this camera is targeted towards, are the  people we call Explorers. These folks are mostly interested in learning quality photography technique, experiencing amazing wildlife spectacles, taking part in cultural diversity, drinking a good wine, maybe scotch, watching sunsets and having fun interacting with other quality people with similar interests. These folks simply love photography and they have the time to slow down and check the F/Stop.

nikon-df_5There are already a few blog posts out there bellowing why this is not the direction for Nikon to go. One gentleman on fstoppers.com has a blog post titled, The Nikon DF Represents Everything Wrong with Photography. When I read his arguments I had to agree with some of it, like his critique about the DF not having video. He said, “You may not shoot video, you may not care about video, you may hate that still photography and video are merging. It doesn’t matter what your opinion on video is, the fact is that removing features from a product does not make a product “revolutionary.”  Yep, he’s right, but are their those who don’t give a darn about video. That could be an understatement.

nikon-df_6

I see this camera as just another product that Nikon is producing to try and capture photographers who want something different. Hooray to Nikon for thinking outside the box. Just because they build a very unique and different product doesn’t mean all their futures cameras will be just like this one. No, I think this is one of many models to come, kind of like the J1 & V1 experiment that seems to have down pretty well. I’m just hopeful that the next rabbit out of the Nikon hat will be a still camera with the horsepower to shoot 15 frames a second, uses Contrast Detection AF that works in Predictive AF at full FPS, has no mirror box, uses lenses half the size of current FX DSLR optics, has a touch screen LCD, has builtin GPS, builtin wireless, shoots video at 60 & 120 FPS, is weather sealed and bullet proof with an EVF with an Apple Retina display. Oh…..  and sells for about $1500.00US.  That’s the machine I’m waiting for but in th meantime I may just slow down and smell the coffee with the new Nikon DF hang in from my neck.

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There are 6 comments on this post…
  1. David & Shiela GlatzOn Nov. 9th, 2013

    Dan, interesting post. One thing that intrigues me is whether this would be a decent lower cost, lighter than a D4 low light/hi ISO body option. For example if someone was shooting with a D800 or D3x or D600 and wanted a great low light body to pair with the high resolution body, would this be an option? It has the same sensor as the D4. Obviously not the frame rate but 5.5 frames/second is fine in most cases. Anyway, not for me but would appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 11th, 2013

      Dave, the Nikon Df is getting great reviews for it’s low light capabilities. Your thought process is right on target. DxoMark recently compared the Nikon Df to the D3 and D4 and the Df came out on top in the low light category. However, the retro styling, although very fun to look at, makes it difficult to handle quickly. My biggest concern is the Exposure Compensation dial being placed on the far left of the top deck of the camera where you would most likely have to pull the camera from your eye to effectively change +/- exposure composition, which I do regularly. You can see the DxoMark test on Nikon Rumors

  2. DeanOn Nov. 5th, 2013

    Dan – just like your photos, you are “spot on” with your focus concerning the Df. While it certainly has some limitations, the Df seems like the perfect camera to take with you on a leisurely walk in the woods or through an alpine meadow in the spring. No time pressure, no deadline to produce . . . just a tool to help capture the simplicity of scenes we often race through at 10 fps. The Nikon Df is telling us (without screaming) to slow down and smell the flowers. And, hopefully, it won’t be too much longer before Nikon gives us that $1,500 Panasonic GX7 beater of our dreams!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 5th, 2013

      Dean, Thanks for stopping by and offering your insight. Always love to see what people are thinking. Lots of pros and cons out there on the internet. 43 Rumors has an interesting survey where they compare the new Nikon DF to the recently released Sony A7. The A7 is a bit more retro than other cameras but not as far as the Nikon DF. The survey asks people what they would like Sony to do. Here are the questions and the percentage based on each of the three questions. You can see the page for yourself here. http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/nikon-df-vs-sony-a7r-should-sony-go-retro/

      Question was: I would like Sony to…. (5089 people responded)

      to improve further a more modern design (51%, 2,607 Votes)
      to keep the current design philosophy (32%, 1,640 Votes)
      to make a more “retro” and maybe Minolta Film camera based design. (17%, 842 Votes)

      Interesting how the serious retro desire is not very strong at least in the Sony camp.

  3. Anne FieldOn Nov. 5th, 2013

    I’m thrilled with the new retro look, the price tag, and the lack of video. Way to go, Nikon!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 5th, 2013

      Thanks for your input Anne. Come shoot with us sometime.

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