Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Nikon Df style debate.

When it comes to the Nikon Df there are a lot of strong feelings. The forums are overflowing with full-on verbal assaults between people who love the camera and people that hate the camera. I try to stay away from all that mudslinging, but I can't help but to run across it from time to time especially when my name gets batted around because of my Df Real World Review, in which I tried to give an objective review. This post isn't defending my review. All I did was give my honest opinions which stemmed from my usage of the camera and my extensive familiarity with all of Nikon's DSLRs.

The first thing I want to put out there is that my review was not an attempt to justify my purchase of the Nikon Df. That's a ludicrous theory. I have no need to explain what I spend my money on to people on the internet. I can afford the Df. I'm a photographer by profession so the camera is an expense that I will easily recoup. I'll even admit that the camera is overpriced. I think the Df should have been priced lower. $2500 seems to be about right.

So if I think the Df is overpriced then why did I buy it? Because, aside from the amazing IQ, I like the way it looks. There. I said it. I bought the camera because I think it looks cool. Am I a fashion victim? Have I fallen prey to Nikon's marketing scheme? Or even worse, am I *gasp* a hipster?!? Maybe so.


I was born in the early 70's. I started out in photography at a pretty young age so therefore I obviously started out shooting with these old blocky film cameras. My first camera was a Pentax Spotmatic, to which the Nikon Df takes a resemblance. I identify with this design. So when I saw the Df it struck a chord with me.  The Df, especially the silver one, looks like the cameras I grew up using. Am I trying to fool myself into that the Df operates like an old film camera? Absolutely not. It's a DSLR and I know that. Even with the retro dials the Df still handles like a DSLR. Because it is.

The Reverend Horton Heat plays retro style music on a hot-rodded vintage-styled modern guitar. The Rev thought the Df was a slick camera. 

There's is nothing wrong with buying something because you like the way it looks. I mention this point in my review but I would like to go a little deeper on the subject because when Df haters run out of arguments it seems they attempt to end the argument by trying to shame people for actually liking the way the camera looks.

I doubt that anyone out there who makes a big deal out of the style of the Df is wearing brown dungarees, a plain brown button down shirt, and brown work boots like they are in the Communist labor party. Visual and stylistic design permeates every aspect of consumerism.

If you are a normal and somewhat functioning person in society I'll bet that you make lots of choices every day based solely on style. When you put on clothes today did you select things that matched? Probably, because that's part of what people in society do. If you didn't select things that match then you made a stylistic choice as well. What color is your car? Do you own any T-Shirts with logos on them? Do you own any jewelry? Do you wear a necktie? Do you have a collection of hats? I could go on and on in this line of questioning with no end. The point is, that everyone buys things for a reason. Your style is what you show to the world depending on how you want the people that you encounter to perceive you. Whether you like it or not, every single day you play the style game.


When I was at the camera store picking up my camera another shopper (quite rudely) asked the question, "Why would you buy a silver camera? It's just going to attract more attention to you." I'm not sure why there is this current obsession with keeping the camera hidden and being stealthy.

I don't mind people noticing my camera. Since I bought the Df I've gotten a lot of attention. Other people, especially non-photographers, like they way the Df looks too and it has started a lot of conversations. Why is this good? Do I crave attention? No, I don't need the attention to satisfy my ego. The attention I'm getting has generated work for me. The first event I shot using the Df I had a few people come up and ask me about the camera. I handed out quite a few cards and ended up booking two paid photo shoots. This is directly attributable to the positive attention that my camera received from people who were attending the event.

These folks really liked the style of the Df and were surprised to learn it was digital. Regular people love the way the Df  looks, even if some photographers don't. 

As a professional photographer, being noticed is a way to gain new clients. Attracting attention to yourself is relatively difficult to do in a positive manner as you're working. I'm not a street photographer, so I'm not trying to blend into the shadows. I also don't have the time or necessarily want to approach prospective clients as I'm working. The Df draws people in and allows prospective clients to approach me.

Another thing about the styling of the Df is that due to the diminutive size and quirky 70's retro look it's less intimidating when you're photographing people. The camera fits into a niche that even the Fuji cameras don't cover. It looks like a serious camera without appearing too professional. These are the some of the practical sides to the "style" of the Df.

At the end of the day it's just a camera. Find the camera that's right for YOU and go take some pictures. Don't worry about what everyone else is shooting. The last thing a photographer should worry about is what other photographers think of their camera.

I used an old retro 70's lens to take a photo with my retro-styled camera of my retro-styled motorcycle. 


Sloan said...

I got mine (black) because it appealed to me. I liked most of the specs and I love the way it looks. I like how it feels in my hand, and the files it produces are excellent. The price? I thought I might get more (d700 territory specs) and that's about my only complaint -- really I don't care that much, I've been waiting for something like this from nikon for a long time. It's also a bit fat bottomed lol but still very pretty to just gawk at when you're not shooting. I absolutely love it and you know, it will sound cheesy, but I loved it before I even got one.

J. Dennis Thomas said...

Right on Sloan! When I saw D4 sensor in a cool retro body I knew I would buy one. I wasn't sure if it would be my main camera or not, but so far it's been meeting the quota.

shaun alcedo said...

Lovely article. I sold my d700, d3 as i didn't want the heavy gear any more. sold my 70-200, 24-70.

i bought a black nikon df. with 50mm kit.
sticking with primes now. so i will get a 105m and a 35mm

i love this camera. i love the way it feels. how light it is. durability. the image clarity is amazing and super sharp. sharpness this camera is amazing compared to my d3 and d700

i do wish they had at least 2 sd card slots but 1 is acceptable
the af speed is good. but of core coming from a d700 and d3 it took some time to get used to.

it is a small camera which is why they made it, i hate how some people are saying its too small and their fingers are curling up cos its so small and bad ergonomics. then don't buy it if you don't like it. Nikon did not make the camera especially for one particular person.

some others said no LCD screen is better so it can be like a real film camera. turn off the lcd screen and don't use it,

i think some people really expected nikon to bring out a film camera but with digital format. no electronic aids like LCD. i think it was wishful thinking.

they won't make this camera a absolute killer in all specs, then it will brig down sales on the d800 and d4.

but they made it so its only for some people who want it.

i am also getting the painful annoying comments how its too expensive. then don't buy it. i bought it. because i worked hard to get it. i didn't buy the camera without investigating and thinking about it.

the price will go down eventually but aim very happy with what nikon brought out..

lovely review by the way

shotsbybarry said...

Well, I bought one. Little Time Machine, it looks so much like my first FE.
The dials are OK -- for my taste I think I would have preferred that they put the release Mode Dial where the Exposure Mode Dial is and made the Exposure Mode Dial like it was on the FA.
Then there is the dial for setting the meter pattern. I felt that the best placement was where it was on the F4, and since the Df has no pop-up flash, I would have liked to see it similarly placed.
My only other complaint so far is that the Bracket Button can't be programmed for HDR like on the D800. Would have made sense, I think.
Functionally, when I first tried it out, I could not get it to Auto-focus, even with my 50mm f1.4. It appeared that the AF Coupling Pin was mis-aligned. I "moved it back" with my finger and that seems to have solved the problem, though I have been careful to mount lenses only with the camera set to MF.
Contacted to ask if a Field Guide is planned. So far, No. Sure hope that you-and-they can get on that soon.

John Hooton said...

Well said J. Dennis and everybody else for that matter. I started with an F in 1964. In those days we didn't discuss cameras or yearn for the next model. We just bought one, slung it in a bag and took pictures with it. We didn't mollycoddle our cameras. They were tools of the trade and other than avoiding dropping them, we were pretty carefree about how they got treated.
This is why I bought a Df. To remind me of those days, and most of all, I have found that the urge to buy the next new thing has disappeared. Finally I have a very nice camera that will last for years and I don't care what else is new.
I have owned a D200, D300, D3 and D800E. I still had the D3 and the D800E when I bought the Df, but I have sold them. Why? I don't want to be tied down by the complexities of choice. I just want one good camera I can shoot with and the Df fills that niche. Now I can just go and shoot pictures like the old days, because then, we we were never conscious of what camera we were using. For in reality it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters one iota is the final picture.

J. Dennis Thomas said...

@John Hooten: Well said my friend. The Df is a photographers camera. I love it (although not as much as my Leica). It does everything a camera should do. Is it perfect? No. But it's good enough. Actually, it's pretty great.