Test Review: Nikon DF

by valrac4_a3kqdy

The Nikon DF is digital SLR with a retro-style design and a full-frame sensor. It has 16-MP resolution; a splash/waterproof body; multiple dials, wheels and buttons for direct access to a lot of functions; and a professional image quality.

The standard test box was reproduced with natural-looking colours. The automatic white-balance settings cause a small shift into the blue direction (gray background), but this effect is nearly invisible. The sharpness is very good; fine structures are shown clearly and almost without any moiré problems (see center areas of the small Siemens stars in the lower right).

The standard test box was reproduced with natural-looking colours. The automatic white-balance settings cause a small shift into the blue direction (gray background), but this effect is nearly invisible. The sharpness is very good; fine structures are shown clearly and almost without any moiré problems (see center areas of the small Siemens stars in the lower right).

Comments on Image Quality

Colour: The colours look very natural. The Nikon DF doesn’t have the typical oversaturation of most digital cameras, and it reproduced the test chart with 98 percent. Colour errors are on a very low level; even dark blue nuances show only a little shift, while most other Nikon cameras show a boost in blue nuances. The automatic white-balance system performed excellently. The test images have a cooler look and minor shift into the blue areas and placed nearly exactly in the center of the result chart. Only the brightest grey nuance shifted into the yellowish and green direction. The skin tones nearly match their given values and have a realistic and natural look.

Sharpness: The camera performed very well in our resolution tests. The nominal sensor resolution of 3280 lines per picture height is transferred nearly completely into image details (test result: 2993 lines per picture height). ImaTests detects some overshot effects (exaggerated contrast lines), but the real-life shots have a clear and natural look without any artificiality due to over sharpened images. The test shots were done with the AF-S NIKKOR 50 mm 1:1.8G (Special Edition for Nikon DF).

The differentiation in monochrome areas is excellent. Details in the black stuffed animal or the red spool in the upper right are clearly noticeable. Fine structures in the portrait shot (hair, fabric) are also shown in a very crisp, but still natural-looking way.

Noise: The “pixel noise” RGB graphs in our result charts have remarkably high aberrations, but the overall noise level is so low and the “noise spectrum” is so smooth that there is nearly no noise even in the highest ISO speed settings of 6400 and 12800. Colour noise gets visible in the additional “high ISO” modes, but images taken with ISO speed 25600 and 51200 are still useable. Only in the highest ISO speed settings of ISO 102400 and ISO 204800 do the noise artifacts get really annoying.

The dynamic range results are also excellent. The camera gained a maximum of 11.9 f-stops and keeps a high level of 10 f-stops or more in images taken an ISO speed setting of up to 12800.

The new Nikon has multiple dials on the top to change image parameters like ISO speed, frame mode, or shutter speed without using the menu functions. All elements are very robust.

The new Nikon has multiple dials on the top to change image parameters like ISO speed, frame mode, or shutter speed without using the menu functions. All elements are very robust.

Comments on Handling

The Nikon DF is a retro-style SLR camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the brand new Fujifilm X-T1. The new Nikon offers a full-frame sensor with 16-MP resolution, which is the most important similarity between the new DF and the Nikon D4. While the D4 is designed as a very fast professional system for sports photography and has nearly all features of modern DSLRs, the DF is a classic camera for purists. That’s the reason why the DF does not have video capabilities.

The retro design the DF gives it a thinner body than the D4. This is less convenient than the design of a modern DSLR with a bulky grip on the right side, which fits perfectly into the photographer’s hand.

The slot for SD, SDHC and SDXC cards is located at the bottom of the camera. This is a little unusual for a professional camera and a little bothersome when working with a tripod. An X-sync interface for a studio flash system is located on the front and protected by a small plastic cover.

The slot for SD, SDHC and SDXC cards is located at the bottom of the camera. This is a little unusual for a professional camera and a little bothersome when working with a tripod. An X-sync interface for a studio flash system is located on the front and protected by a small plastic cover.

Nevertheless, the camera lets you set up all parameters very comfortably. It has many set-up dials, function buttons and control wheel for changing the ISO speed setting, EV compensation, shutter speed, frame mode (single shot, continuous shot high, continuous shot low, self-timer, etc.), and exposure mode. Most dials on the top are locked and can be rotated by pressing an “unlock” button. This makes it a little bit confusing because the photographer has to lift the exposure mode dial a bit to switch from P to A mode, for example.

The camera uses two set-up dials for changing additional parameters like the aperture size. The first dial is located on the front. Due to the smaller camera body, the smaller handgrip and the form of the dial, changing parameters is not as comfortable as with a dial located near or in the front of the shutter-release button (used by the D4 and other professional SLRs). The second dial is located on the back and used with the thumb of the right hand.

The new Nikon offers a large LCD screen (3.2 inches) with an average resolution (921000 RGB dots). An 8-way control field and additional buttons on the back give direct access to many functions. Using the LV button shows a live preview image on the screen. The “loupe” button on the left magnifies the live preview and helps with manual focusing.

The new Nikon offers a large LCD screen (3.2 inches) with an average resolution (921000 RGB dots). An 8-way control field and additional buttons on the back give direct access to many functions. Using the LV button shows a live preview image on the screen. The “loupe” button on the left magnifies the live preview and helps with manual focusing.

The camera has a fixed 3.2-inch LCD screen on the back. The resolution of 921,000 RGB dots is a little low for a modern professional digital camera, especially in this price range. The camera has a large (0.7x), bright optical viewfinder, which allows for comfortable shooting.

In continuous shot mode, the DF isn’t as fast as the D4. While the D4 is able up to 11 frames per second, the DF will take 5.5 frames per second. But the new Nikon has a very fast AF system with 39 AF sensors (including 9 cross-type sensors), which allows one to easily set up the focus. Shutter delay and start-up time are extremely low and, therefore, on a professional level.

The camera offers three interfaces, which are located on the left-hand side of the body: USB for data transfer, an HDMI port for image presentation on HD TVs, and a special Nikon interface for optional remote control.

The camera offers three interfaces, which are located on the left-hand side of the body: USB for data transfer, an HDMI port for image presentation on HD TVs, and a special Nikon interface for optional remote control.

Pros
+ Professional SLR system with retro design
+ Sealed body, splash/waterproof
+ Many function elements, buttons and dials allow for setting up the camera almost the same way as an analog SLR system and without using the LCD menu

Cons
– No swivel monitor
– Lacking digital comfort features like WLAN and GPS function (additional GPS module is optional)
– No video capabilities

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Nikon DF
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 4928 x 3280
Resolution Sensor 16.6
Colour depth (in bits) 42
Size of sensor (in Inches) 0/0.00
Size of sensor (in mm) 36.0 x 23.9
LENSES:
Focal length (wide angle; 35-mm equivalent; in mm) 50
Focal length (tele; 35-mm equivalent, KB in mm) 50
Focal length (wide angle; real; in mm) 50.0
Focal length (tele; real; KB in mm) 50.0
Speed 1.8 – 1.8
Macro 45 – 100
Manual focus, controlled by function elements no
Manual focus, controlled with lens ring yes
TAKING PICTURES:
Startup time (in sec) 0.05
Shutter delay (in sec) without pre-focusing 0.05
Shutter delay (in sec) with pre-focusing 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 5.5
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 999.0
Fastest shutter speed (in sec) 1/8000
Long time exposure/shutter speed (in sec) 4
Self-timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings,
automatic bracketing, time lapse photography
Exposure programs 0
White balance:
Auto yes
White-balance settings 6
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 100
ISO max 12800
ISO steps 22
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash no
Flash mode:
Slow-sync, anti-red-eye, rear-curtain sync
External Flash:
X-Sync yes
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG-compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size (in inches) 3.2
Resolution of LCD (in pixels) 921000
Zoom mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slideshow during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available no
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included yes
Power connector no
Power supply unit no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards SD card, SDHC card, SDXC card
PC CONNECTION:
PC connection USB, HDMI
TV out HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions (width x height x depth; in mm) 143 x 110 x 66
Weight (body without battery and memory card; in g) 765
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no

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