Nikon Df

A glorious digital update of the iconic Nikon F

This new Nikon DSLR is called the Df, in reference to the Nikon F (1959-1973), which it resembles not precisely, but rather in spirit. It is a direct hark back to the 1960s and the 35mm reportage photography of that era. There has, of course, been a lot of retro design in cameras over the past couple of years, from FujiFilm’s X100 to Leica’s 1920s-inspired X1 and X2, as well as a variety of models from the likes of Sony and Samsung that aren’t copies of anything specific, but just look slightly 1950s.

Thankfully, most of these cameras are not just nostalgic retro-design exercises, but are also technologically advanced, and so it is with the Nikon Df. The design of this wonderfully tough-looking camera is still inspiring, though, and the look and feel of its complex, adaptable, dial-strewn form made me itch to get to some remote, dangerous spot and start shooting world-changing, stark black-and-white photos – just as the Nikon F captured many of the iconic images of the 1960s and 1970s. Even the dials are knurled and sited exactly where you want them, so you could use them blind in a foxhole under fire. It’s just a very Nikon camera, and different in a welcome way to the food-mixer-scale DSLRs that are so prevalent today, being a little smaller and considerably lighter.

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Technologically, the Df is wholly 2014 and I think that it will still be pretty current in 2020. We’re talking a 16.2-megapixel full-frame sensor – the same size as a 35mm negative, which is enormous for a digital camera, and the same as in the fully professional Nikon D4. And for low-light photography, the Df can shoot at ISO 204,800, meaning I was able to take reasonable pictures in near-pitch darkness at a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, which is insane. The Df can shoot 5.5 frames per second and also starts up in 0.14 of a second with a shutter-release time-lag of just 0.052s, which is as snappy as old-style mechanical, non-electronic cameras were in their day.

Overall, the Df is impressive and beautiful. I have to say, it’s not as good-looking as the original F, which is an all-time design classic, but it’s a worthy successor and – not a small point – it produces sharper, more high-resolution images. Any serious photographer will love it.

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