Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Nikon df a new camera that looks old

I just don’t understand the quest for retro looking cameras. When the market for cameras is now firmly the digital natives, those who grew up after film had been committed to distant memory, why make a camera that harks back. Most people under the age of about 35 expect to navigate menus to access information and make settings so why create a camera that eschews that stylish minimalism and puts the major functions on controls that require manual operation. I think the clue is possibly in the price, the body and standard lens, a 50mm f1.8, will sell at about $3,000. This means it will appeal to those who have money and of course many digital natives are still trying to get theirs. You may correctly say that I am a cynic but I would counter, let’s have a rotary dial on the next iphone, yes I am curmudgeonly  but I do not live in a land that instinctively believes old is better.

OK rant over, this is a full frame digital camera, really good news; it only has a 16mp sensor, pretty bad news; it doesn’t offer video, really good news. I could probably gone on in this vein but you probably want to facts. DP Review is the place to go as usual

silver34 intro-001 top

After being leaked almost as thoroughly as the NSA’s surveillance programs (right?), the Nikon Df is now officially here. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, the Df is a 16MP, full-frame DSLR with the sensor and processing guts of the company’s flagship D4, and an AF system borrowed from the D610, all packaged up inside a body inspired by a much earlier generation of film cameras. In fact, from the front the Df looks like an oversized Nikon FM (and not dissimilar to Canon’s F1N).
For those of us raised on film SLRs the effect is rather intriguing. We understand that the Df has been at least four years in the making, and the glee of its creators is almost palpable in the many specific design cues obviously taken from earlier SLRs including the FM/2 and the long-lived professional-targeted Nikon F3.

Nikon Df key features

16 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor (same as D4)
ISO 100-25,600 (expandable to ISO 50 – 204,800 equiv)
Maximum 5.5 fps continuous shooting
39-point AF system with 9 cross-type AF points (same as D610)
3.2-inch, 921k-dot LCD screen
Physical shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation dials
Compatible with virtually all Nikon F-mount lenses (including pre-Ai standard)
Single SD card slot
EN-EL14a battery (quoted endurance of ~1400 exposures)
According to Nikon, the ‘F’ in Df stands for ‘fusion’ – specifically, fusion of the old and the new. We know all about the old: the ‘retro’ styling – after all, the Df was widely leaked before its announcement and Nikon has been teasing it to death since the Photo Plus Expo show last month. Which leaves us with the ‘D’.

The ‘D’ is of course for ‘Digital’. The Nikon Df boasts a full-frame sensor, 39-point AF system and a maximum shooting rate of 5.5 fps. The LCD on the rear of the camera is a 3.2″, 921k-dot display and, despite its ‘fully manual’ pretensions, the Df boasts front and rear control dials alongside the dedicated physical dials on the top-plate. It’s a thoroughly modern DSLR in fact, but with one major difference. 

Read the rest of the DP Review here

You may assume that my reason for championing DP Review is that in general they agree with my views (notice the switch there, note to self beware of hubris) so imagine my joy when I read their first impressions conclusion

I’ve had to type the word ‘retro’ so much in the past couple of years that I shudder every time someone says it, but the fact is that retro is ‘in’ at the moment. Pretty well all of the major camera manufacturers have something in their lineup which sports self-consciously old-fashioned design accents, whether they be chunky metal dials for exposure compensation, rangefinder-style optical finder windows, or even just accessory leather cases.

As far as I can see there are no unequivocally good reasons, either from an engineering or ergonomic point of view, for the Nikon Df to look like an oversized F3. The camera’s appearance is a self-conscious flourish intended to appeal on an emotional, as much as technical level. A lot of people will be interested in the Df not because of its ISO span or resolution, but because it because it looks… well, it looks really cool. There is nothing wrong with this – car and clothing manufacturers (among many others) know the monetary value of nostalgia, and companies like Fujifilm are literally banking on it….

The danger is that the design gets in the way of usability. When ‘traditional’ ergonomics work really well, as in the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X100S, the effect is luxurious. ‘Hands-on’ manual control coupled with hybrid viewfinders and a boatload of features – plus, of course, excellent lens quality – make using those cameras a lot of fun to shoot with. My worry about the Df is that Nikon might have gone too far backwards for the sake of cosmetic appeal, without really adding any practical benefit to the shooting experience.

Don’t get me wrong – personally, in my brief time with the camera, I enjoyed the experience of holding and using the Df. But even with the Kool Aid within reach, I certainly wouldn’t try to convince anyone that its control logic – which heavily promotes the use of dedicated, lockable mechanical dials – is any better than a camera like the D610. 

PS. This is what Nikon say

“[The impetus was to] create a camera that celebrates Nikon’s engineering capability, a camera that will be a pleasure to own and use and that will be considered a future classic,” said Jeremy Gilbert, Nikon UK’s group marketing manager, at a launch event on 04 November. “It’s the camera that makes you think about the picture you’re about to take.”

 The new Df full-frame camera is said to seat “in a class of its own” in Nikon’s line-up of digital SLRs, appealing to photography enthusiasts, advanced amateurs and professional photographers. “The concept for this camera was based on the emotion of photography and will appeal to passionate photographers who enjoy pure photography and cherish their cameras, as well as their images, old and new,” says Hiro Sebata, product manager at Nikon UK, in a prepared statement.
No don’t get me started

Read more: http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/2304913/nikon-aspires-to-create-a-future-classic-with-the-full-frame-df-retro-dslr#ixzz2jtAc8dOJ
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