Nikon's stylish Df full-frame supports pre-AI lenses, but sorry, no video

November 4, 2013 8:00 PM PST / Updated: November 4, 2013 8:00 PM PST
Nikon

Nikon's roots in photography dig deeper than most, so it's not surprising that when it finally decided to pop out a retro camera it went just a little further than everyone else. In this case it means not just the de rigueur two-tone silver-and-black body bristling with dials (though you can get it in basic black as well), but also full support for the company's pre-1977 non-AI (Automatic Maximum Aperture Indexing, in other words, automatic metering) lenses without fiddling.

One potential downside: the camera doesn't support video.

Given that, I've got mixed feelings about Nikon's sensor choice. The camera uses the sensor and Expeed 3 processor from the D4 , which will be two years old in January. The advantage of that sensor is that you get about two usable stops of low-light performance over the newer ones. But for sharpness and tonal range, if you subscribe to DXO's methodology, the sensor isn't even as good as the D610's. The question becomes: are there more people who want to shoot in the dark than who want best-in-class photos in bright or dim light? I'm somewhat inclined to think that the OLPF-free sensor from the D800E is the better choice for this model. That sensor in this body would really tickle the fancy of the type of "passionate photographer" Nikon wants to attract. And while the D4 sensor has more latitude, the D800E's is certainly no slouch in dim light.

In conjunction with the camera, Nikon will be reissuing its staple 50mm f1.8 lens to offer as part of a kit. While the lens has the same optical components as the current version, it's constructed of aluminum.

Here's a slice of the increasingly competitive full-frame field:

  Canon EOS 6D Nikon D610 Nikon D800 Nikon Df Sony Alpha
ILCE- 7 /7R
Sony Alpha SLT-A99
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP CMOS
n/a
14-bit
24.3MP CMOS
n/a
14-bit
36.3MP CMOS
14-bit
16.2MP CMOS
14-bit
24.3MP Exmor CMOS/
36.4MP Exmor CMOS
14-bit
24.3MP Exmor CMOS
n/a
14-bit
35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 24mm 35.9 x 24mm 36 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes/No Yes
ISO range ISO 100 - ISO 25600/ 102400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 6400/
25600 (exp)
ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 12800/ 204800 (exp) ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25600
ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 51200/ ISO 102400 (exp, via multishot NR)
Burst shooting 4.5fps
15 raw/unlimited JPEG
5.5fps
n/a
4fps
n/a
(5fps with battery grip)
5.5fps
n/a
2.5fps (5fps with fixed exposure)/
1.5fps (4fps with fixed focus)
n/a
6fps
13 raw/14 JPEG

VF Optical
97% coverage
0.71x
Optical
100% coverage
0.70x
Optical
100% coverage
0.70x/
0.70x
Optical
100% coverage
0.70x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
AF 11-pt AF
1 center cross type
39-pt
9 cross type
(Multi-CAM 4800FX)
51-pt
15 cross type; 11 cross type to f8
39-pt
9 cross type
(9 center to f5.6, 7 center to f8, 33 center to f7.1)
Hybrid AF system
25-area contrast AF;117-pt phase-detection/
25-area contrast AF
Dual phase -detection system
19-pt
11 cross type;
102-pt focal plane
AF exposure range -3 - 18 EV
(center point)
0.5 - 18 EV
(other)
-1 - 19 EV -2 - 19 EV -1 - 19 EV 0 - 20 EV -1 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles n/a 200,000 cycles
Metering 63-area iFCL 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 91,000- pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering III 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering exposure range 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -2 - 17 EV
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
Best video H.264 MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/
50p
H.264 MOV
1080/30p/
25p/24p; 720/ 60p/50p/
25p/24p
all at 24, 12Mbps
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p/25p/ 24p @ 24, 12, 8Mbps
None AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/60i/ 24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps
Rated estimated max HD video length at best quality 29m 59s 20 minutes 4GB/20 minutes n/a n/a n/a
Audio mono; mic input mono; mic input; headphone jack mono; mic input; headphone jack n/a Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3.2 inches
921,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches tilting
921,600 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC
Wireless flash No Yes Yes n/a No
(No on-camera flash)
No
Battery life
VF/
Live View (CIPA rating)
1,090/220 shots
(1,800mAh)
900/n/a shots
(1,900mAh)
900 shots
(1,800mAh)
1,400 shots
n/a
340 shots
(1,080mAh)
410/500 shots
(1,650mAh)
Wireless Wi-Fi Via optional WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter $59.95 None Via optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter $59.95 Wi-Fi, NFC None
Size (inches, WHD) 5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8 5.5 × 4.5 × 3.2 5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 5.6 × 4.3 × 2.6 5 x 3.8 x 1.9 5.9 x 4.5 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 27.2 30.1 35 28 (est) 16.7 (est) 28.7
Mfr. price $2,099 (body only) $2,099.95 (body only) $2,999.95 (body only) $2,749.95 (body only) $1,699.99 (body only)/
$2,299.99 (body only)
$2,799.99 (body only)
$2,899 (with 24-105mm lens) $2,699 (with 24-85mm lens) n/a $2,799.95 (with 50mm f1.8 lens) $1,999.99 (with 28-70mm lens)/
n/a
n/a
Ship date December 2012 September 2012 March 2012 November 2013 December 2013 October 2012

I'm predisposed to like the Df, as it's shiny with dials and a good full-frame sensor. Nikon certainly gets points for style, and I agree that a lot of folks won't miss the video. But I think that sensor will keep it from being a slam-dunk choice among photographers who've gravitated to similarly targeted models like the Fujifilm X100S . Sony's A7R lacks an optical viewfinder, doesn't excel for autofocus, and isn't as shiny, but in exchange it's a lot cheaper, significantly smaller, and produces stellar photos; the Nikon D610 is a lot cheaper with a lot more features and I assume (I haven't tested it yet, but it's pretty much the same as the D600) produces the same great photos. Yes, for the Df you can go on a binge with all the old Nikon lenses you can scoop up cheaply on eBay, but if you're that photogeeky then you know that these days you can mount almost any lens on any body with a little work.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Digital SLR
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 23.9 x 36mm
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.