Jeremy Walker became the first photographer in the UK to put the new retro-styled FX-format Nikon Df through its paces when he was chosen to shoot the brochure and website images. Not only did he like it, he liked it so much that he bought it. So we got Jeremy on the phone to ask why the Nikon Df had impressed him so much.
How extensively did you trial the Nikon Df?
I did an initial 11-day shoot up in Scotland with Nikon and the ad agency, who both wanted some very specific pictures, including a lot of portraits, and then I had a further eight days taking Scottish landscapes (to view some of these images head to our Nikon Df photo set on Flickr).
I was trying out lots of different ideas and getting used to a brand new camera, so it was a pretty full-on experience. I was shooting both JPEG and RAW and took around 3000 images on the first shoot, plus 220-odd frames on the second. Because I was shooting on a pre-production model, Nikon wanted all the RAW images to go straight back to Japan, completely unretouched, so their engineers could check the picture quality to make sure the camera was performing to spec.
How did it handle?
The first time I picked it up I was unsure of the ergonomics because I’m so used to very big cameras, but as soon as I fitted a prime lens and started shooting, those ergonomics really worked. It feels right in your hand and the mechanical control dials fit your fingers so well. The aperture wheel on the front of the camera below the logo is neat and easy to access; your finger just slides off the shutter release and straight to the wheel. It’s fantastic being able to set the shutter speed and ISO by clicking round a dial, so you can see at a glance what you’re shooting at, instead of having to look into the viewfinder.
How did you find the light sensitivity?
The idea behind the Df is that you don’t need a tripod because you can use high ISOs and still get exceptional quality – it has the same CMOS sensor as the D4 – so it gives you a lot more flexibility to move around. I was handholding for all my shots so I set ISO 1600 as standard, and every image was crisp and clear. The results were still really great at ISO 6400, too. It certainly freed me up for portraits because, when you’re not tripod-based, you can shift your viewpoint around and keep on shooting throughout; it’s a much less static process than having the camera mounted on a tripod, and it’s far less intrusive for the people you’re photographing.
What about the classic design?
I love the fact Nikon has gone retro with the Df – it’s like the FM or FE in looks – but it’s still got the D4’s processor. And there are some great touches, like 1/3 stop settings on the shutter-speed dial so you can have D800-style shutter-speed selection, and a tiny LCD screen on the top plate. I also like the old-fashioned cable release that screws into the shutter release button, and the fact that it doesn’t have video – so much of the appeal of this camera is that it’s purely for taking pictures.
The build quality is great, too, and the weather-proofing is as good as my D800. Another good point is the battery. It’s very small, which keeps the weight down, and I had no problems with battery life; even though I was shooting dawn till dusk, it was very rare that I needed to change batteries during the day. And the battery charger plugs straight into the plug socket, so you don’t need a cable, making it lighter and more portable and just easier to use.
And your final verdict?
I think the biggest test when you’re reviewing equipment is to ask yourself if you’d spend your own money on it. And I’d buy the Df in a shot, especially in the chrome version…
At this point external circumstances lead to a ten-minute break in the phone interview – and when it resumed, Jeremy had the following news to share…
OK, while you’ve been away I’ve just ordered one from my Nikon dealer – that’s what I think about Df. And yes, I got the chrome one!
The Df is so light and portable, and it’s designed to be used without a tripod, so you’re carrying far less weight, giving you more freedom of movement to get more creative – and it means you don’t go home with aching shoulders after a day out shooting landscapes. I love my D3X and D800, but you do know when you’re carrying them both around… the Df certainly makes hiking up the Old Man of Storr much easier!
To view more sample images captured by Jeremy head over to our Nikon Df photo set on Flickr
Visit Jeremy’s website to check out more of his images jeremywalker.co.uk