Monday, February 3, 2014

Nikon Df Gariz leather half-case

Just for fun, I decided to try out the Gariz leather half-case for the Nikon Df (to all you Df haters out there, yes, I spent more money on my overpriced camera just to make it look even more fashionable).

So I received my case a couple of days ago. And I gave it a test run over the weekend to see what I thought of it and to give all of my lovely readers a real working photographer's perspective on this quite fancy little accessory for our pretty little Nikon Dfs.

First of all the Gariz case (model XS-CHDF1) comes in two colors, a rich brown leather and a more subdued black leather. I chose the black, because I like the understated look and I think it goes better with the black and silver model Df that I have. I also don't like brown leather at all, and I never buy anything made with it (not even boots). When I say the black "goes better", I guess what I really mean is that it's actually almost invisible. It's not something that most people are going to notice unless they look real close. I haven't seen a brown leather one on a black on black camera, but I think it would probably look a lot better, if not really sharp, on that color scheme.

When I first pulled it out of the shipping box I was really impressed with the attention to detail of the packaging. The boxing was a nice matte black and the case was in a black drawstring bag not unlike the one the Df camera comes in. After taking it out of the bag I was even more impressed. This leather half-case is very well built. I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect. I guess was thinking that it was going to be simple soft leather with a base. And at some point I was wondering if the leather would stretch out after awhile. The leather was quite rigid, thick and, form-fitted to the Df. The stitching was perfect as well, no loose ends or sloppiness at all. The bottom is a highly polished slightly brushed thin stainless steel plate with clean engraving covering a polycarbonate base. The interior portion is completely lined with the soft suede like backside of the leather, even covering the top of the bottom plate. Honestly, everything about this Gariz half-case exudes quality. And for about $130 retail I'd expect quality, and Gariz does not disappoint.

The bottom plate connects the camera via the tripod mounting socket with a screw-in lug. Don't worry if you're a tripod user, the baseplate has a threaded hole for your tripod quick-release plate. Everything is solid and fits tight. If you trust your BlackRapid strap then there's absolutely no reason to doubt this design.

The case basically covers mostly the black leatherette portion of the Df and just a small amount of the metal around the base of the camera, and to be 100% honest, this half-case isn't really doing much to protect the camera from scrapes and scratches. The thicker leather and base will give it a small measure of extra protection from light impacts that happen when the camera is hanging from a strap and bangs into a table or doorframe or something along that line. But if you're looking for a case to keep your Df nice and pristine, this really isn't going to do that (if that's what you want you can kick down $280 for Nikon's hideous "never-ready" case).

So, if the Gariz leather half-case doesn't protect the camera much, then what good is it, you may ask? Well, the leather of the case is a bit softer and more pliable than the leatherette of the Df's body. So it gives you a firmer purchase when you're gripping the camera body. At first it feels a little more slick than the leatherette because it has less texture, but I have no doubt that after using the case continuously for a month or so the leather will break in and the grip will become even more comfortable and as the leather becomes more pliable it will be more "grippy".

Another feature the Gariz half-case is the base plate. It adds about a 1/2 inch of height to the overall size of the camera making it about the same size as the D800 and for people like me that have larger hands this gives you a little more to hold on to. Initially my picky finger would dangle off the bottom a little, and now it's just perfect. Not that it was uncomfortable in the first place, but the added bit just makes it feel like my grip is just a little more secure. Now I'm sure some of the Df detractors will comment about making a "small camera" larger, but the Df isn't being marketed as a tiny camera like the Fuji mirrorless cameras,  it's a small DSLR and it's sized like a small DSLR. I like having a bit of extra height without the overkill of the vertical grip. This is actually the main reasons why I would recommend this half-case.

Nothing is perfect, so now for the drawbacks of the Gariz leather half-case. Oddly enough the few things I found I didn't like about are all equated with the one thing I like most about it; the baseplate. Since the battery and the memory card are both located at the bottom of the camera there needed to be a way to access these things through the baseplate of the camera. The solution was simple enough, the baseplate has a opening that allows you to open the battery/memory card compartment, and it works pretty well. Sometimes when I pick up the camera my finger falls into the hole and it feels awkward until I fix my grip, but that's not a huge deal.

There are pretty much only two things that are annoyances. The first is that it's a tiny bit difficult to flip up the latch that you turn to open the battery compartment. It really is just a tiny bit. If you have big hands or fingers it's a little tight in there. Having fingernails to help flip up the latch helps immensely and I imagine that could be a potential problem when needing to swap out a battery or card quickly (I have slightly long nails for fingerpicking my guitar so it's not an issue for me). Once you get the compartment door open it's not too difficult to flip the clip and slide the battery out and pop a new one in. The biggest problem is removing the SD card. The SD card  on the Df sits quite close to the edge of the camera's frame and when you open the compartment it's recessed a bit. Pressing on it springs it up just enough to let you grab it and pull it out without a case on the camera. When the case is on you have that extra 1/2" or so depth to deal with so getting the SD card out is actually pretty difficult. I can do it somewhat quickly with my guitar picking hand (the one with nails), but when using my fretting hand (which has nails that are cut short) it's nearly impossible for me to remove the card. The way the card sits you can't get a good grip on it by gripping it from the edges or from the flat side. The nails definitely help in this situation, but I'm sure most people that own this camera aren't finger-picking guitar players. If any of my readers who use this half-case please feel free to share your techniques. I suppose carrying a small pair of tweezers around could help, but that would be kind of annoying. Worst case scenario you take the case off the camera to remove the card. Inserting the card on the other hand isn't particularly difficult. Otherwise the half-case doesn't impede the functions of any of the other camera controls at all.

The SD card is pretty deep and tight in there.

So to wrap up, here's the short story. The Gariz leather half-case is a very finely crafted case. It fits perfectly, which also makes it look great (depending on your color preferences), it adds a little extra grip with the pliant thickness of the leather and especially the added height. Is it something I would say is a necessary addition to your Df kit? No, it's not an essential. I think at the end of the day the market is going to be people looking to add little extra size and a small amount of additional comfort to their Df. In my eyes it makes it more comfortable to use for longer photo-sessions.

In the end, I do recommend the Gariz leather half-case if it's something you might think you need. But I'd think hard about what your intended uses are. If you're looking for heavy protection, this isn't the best choice. If you're looking to make your camera look a little snappier, then buy yourself a brown one to help it stand out. If you have big hands or want a camera that's going to get a little grippier (with use) then definitely buy it.

As far as I can see the Gariz leather half-case for the Nikon Df is only available on eBay. Most of the sellers are overseas and from what I've been hearing shipping is taking weeks. Luckily for you, if you live in the US, I have found a seller stateside. They were excellent to deal with. They shipped it out really quickly and I had it in a few days rather than a few weeks. The seller can be found here:
*I'm in no way affiliated with this seller. Just a happy customer. 

Here are a few shots taken this weekend with the Nikon Df and Gariz leather half-case. Of course the case made little practical use for most of these shots, but I just like posting a few Df shots just to show how good the images from this camera are. These were all taken in near-darkness with a $40 Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8-4 DG.

_JDT2554 _JDT2511 One Shot


Jay Cassario said...

Think I might pick the brown one up, I like the way it looks and would like a little more camera to grip onto. Nice review.

J. Dennis Thomas said...

Thanks Jay. It's been on my camera sine day one and it's still nice and tight and no quality problems. I'm still annoyed with the battery compartment recess, but it's a necessary design element.

Ian said...

Been on my Df for a couple of months now. I think the brown one works well with my silver/black Df and promotes the vintage look. Also keeps the silver from being scratched. Excellent tight fit too.
I enjoyed your review thanks and agree with your comments.

Joseph Tremain said...

I've been searching for several answers to no avail on the net. Anything would be helpful at this point, lol.

1. Can you use the screw fastening ring (locking time indicator) as a sling connector, or will it unlock?

2. Has anyone attempted to use the Gariz XS-HG2/BR1 Hand Strap Grip?

3. Are there any good wrist straps that can actually be used with the Df. I've run into a problem due to the front mounted neck strap rings since the front mounted ring makes it impossible to use a normal wrist strap unless it's just a small leather strap which allows you to put your forefinger above the strap with the other fingers below.


J. Dennis Thomas said...

@Joseph Tremain:

1: I would definitely not recommend using the screw mechanism as a sling connector. I'm sure it could work, but you'd have to constantly check it. Slings move around so much I'm positive it would eventually result in something bad happening.

2: I have never used the hand strap grip. If you order one from eBay you could probably return it if you don't like it. Depending on the seller's return policy of course.

3: I never use wrist straps, so I can't help with that question.