Published November 5th 2013

Why I (might) want a Nikon Df


Nikon's new retro style Df has stirred quite a commotion. Most of the comments aren't positive at all.

Nikon just launched a new SLR, and quite in line with a current tendency it's a retro-styled, old school camera, which bears the traits of older cameras from both Nikon's and many other manufacturers cameras of the heyday.

The reactions have been a mix of accolades for bringing back the cameras of “the good old days” and rancid rants proclaiming it a total misunderstanding and even a representative for “Everything Wrong With Photography”.

Well, I'd love to have a Df, and might even consider buying one in spite of the fact that I find the price a little steep.

And why is that?

Well, first of all I like the fact that Nikon has focused on the photography side of the camera. No video, no overload of facilities, no fancy electronic, mirrorless viewfinder, lots of neat, mechanical dials and altogether a camera that appeals to me.

I like the look of the new Nikon Df
Sony A77 and Nikon Df
Canon 70D and Nikon Df

I see all kinds of strange criticism of the camera not having enough AF points (it has 39!), not having enough megapixels (It has 16!), not having a high enough frame rate (it shoots 5.5 fps!), not having enough card slots (It has 1. That should do!), not having... yes, you get the idea. All those things that modern SLR cameras have and which people have come to expect.

I'm not the one who's in the “gimme more facilities” line.

I will happily queue in the “give me less” line and have wanted simpler cameras for a long time.

I don't need all those in-camera facilities. I'd much rather have a simple, fail-safe, easy-to-operate camera that does what it's supposed to – take pictures – and simply does it better than any other camera on the market. Or just as good, but with much less fuss.

When it comes to that, it seems that Nikon has made a straightforward choice: D4 sensor, D600/610 AF and a simple and sturdy body with a pleasant old school look. Some people might fancy modern designs, and it's not that I don't like modern cameras, but I'd take the Df look over many of the modern SLR's any day.

And the dials? Well, personally I'm a dial-man, and I love the mechanical settings, and certainly prefer spinning a dial rather than using convoluted button sequences or menus to get from setting A to B in a hurry. Dials are like arms on a clock: easy to decipher. Dials with locks is the way to go, and some of my favorite cameras have had dials galore. Kudos Nikon!

New looks vs. old looks
Lotus and Jaguar
Megelli and Triumph Bonneville
Pebble and Omega

Regarding the ironic “I look old ergo I'm cool” comments that I see a lot of, well, you know what? It's true! There's a reason why people love the Omega Sea Masters, the Jaguar E's, the Triumph Bonneville bikes. They do look cool! They have a sense of timeless style and quality, which a lot of people like.

I enjoy looking at and handling my Fuji X100, and wouldn't trade its looks for any NEX or J1 no matter how sleek and modern these cameras look. There's a reason why people revere the old Leica's and pay big bucks for them: quality and style.

I haven't been looking for any new camera for a long time, and neither the D600/610 or the D800 have tickled me the least bit. I have all the SLR-power I want and for simply shooting pictures, I'd honestly be able to do fine with my humble D5100 or even the D40 for that matter, as long as I had my lens lineup to choose from. I have no immediate need for 24 megapixels and honestly find 36 totally overkill. Some people love pixel quantity. I love pixel quaility.

The thought of my pancake 45mm, my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 or the 20mm f/1.8 on the D4 full frame sensor is certainly tempting, but a D4 is way too big an investment for me and I have big hunks of camera already in my D300s and my old D200.

The Df might just be what I want if I ever want to go full frame.

If it had only been slightly less expensive...

Update November 6th 2013
The Nikon Df has been official for a day now, and I'm left with two impressions:
1) The debate and discussions that this introduction has stirred is simply amazing. A lot of people might be negative, but they have a standpoint and take part in the debate. It's been a long time since a camera set so much in motion, and I personally consider that a feat in itself - and rather positive, actually.
2) The number of negative comments and rants is astonishing. As if Nikon aimed to insult photographers by bringing something to market, which is underwhelming, insufficient, altmodish, disappointing and altogether not up to the expectations. I find it hard to understand why people react as they do. If it's not for you, don't buy it! How hard can it be?
I still have to commend Nikon for doing what they have done.

Update November 7th 2013
I am NOT going to buy a Nikon Df!
I just saw the official price from Nikon Denmark, and the camera is going to be sold as a kit only - body and the redesigned 50mm f/1.8 - at a whopping 25,000.- DKK or about 5,500 US$!
It might be a nice camera, but I can buy two D610's for that price - in Denmark. At that ridiculous price it makes no sense at all.
I still find it a very nice camera, but honestly: half the Danish price would have been more like it, and could have tempted me. If I could get a body at the US price of $2,750.- I could be enticed, but at the Danish price it's goodbye Nikon Df for me.
I am probably more in love with the thought and the philosophy behind the Df than with the resulting camera itself.