There’s been some speculation lately that Nikon was about to announce a compact system camera with a full-frame sensor, just like Sony’s A7.
Nikon took those rumours outside and drowned them in a bucket of truth-juice this morning, showing off instead a proper DSLR that packs the same 16.2MP full-frame sensor as Nikon’s professional D4 into a body that’s smaller, lighter and better-looking than the D800, and which works with lenses that are over half a century old. We managed to get a brief fondle of the new Nikon DF, and crikey, it is a lovely thing.
What DF is that
It’s a superbly attractive camera, with a design that harks back to classic Nikons of yore, particularly the FM and FE series of small, light SLRs that Nikon produced in the 1970s and 80s. Just as the FMs were aimed at both professional photographers and the lucky amateur skunks who could afford one, the DF is a professional DSLR that’s no bigger than a regular consumer camera and weighs just 710g (the D4, which has many of the same innards, weighs 1180g).
It also takes its heritage seriously: thanks to a collapsible coupling lever, which is one of our favourite kinds of lever, you can attach classic non-Ai lenses from as far back as 1959 to the DF without a converter. To help with manual focussing there’s full-aperture metering through any lens, and the viewfinder is the same bright, clear pentaprism you’ll find in the D4.
The top of the camera is a knob-fiddler’s dream, with sturdy mechanical dials made from proper metal for for speed, ISO, exposure compensation, exposure mode & release mode. Although it’s the smallest and lightest FX camera it feels very well-made indeed, and those dials click firmly but smoothly for quick, sure adjustment of settings.
Now the bad news: it’s S$3999. That price does include a special-edition version of Nikon’s popular 50mm prime (you can’t buy it without the lens), but you’d still have to be a very lucky skunk indeed to afford one of these. Yes, it looks and feels a little nicer than the Canon 6D, but it remains to be seen if the DF can offer over S$1000 worth of extra performance.
Our first impression is that while it’s small and very pretty, the Nikon DF is emphatically not a rich man’s toy. This is a workhorse, a camera that can shoot 1400 shots between charges, that is rated to a shutter count of at least 150,000, that is weatherproofed and dustproofed but will still perform as well as its larger siblings in a studio. It makes us want it, while simultaneously wishing we were good enough at photography to even think about owning one.