A review of the Nikon DF DSLR for professional wedding photography

I decided to write this review because when I was weighing up my upgrade options from my 2x d700 I did extensive research into the Nikon df, Nikon d4 and d3s. I quickly rules out the df as it got pretty slated as an expensive hobbyist camera, but after a few of my peers raved it to me I decided to give it another look over.

So I know everyone's wedding photography needs will be different, so this review may apply better to either those with small hands and weak arms. Essentially, one of my main priorities in a camera after things like image quality and fast AF is the weight, and this is what made me hesitate to get a full sized (as opposed to the compacts like d700/d610) full frames d4/d3s for so so long. I never machine gun in burst mode, so I must say that frames per second rate does not factor into my buying decision. I shoot in a very photojournalistic way, I want to move quickly, take the shot as stealthily as possible and move on, so if your needs are different then this review may not be that useful for you.

Jenny Packham wedding dress-1

(Taken second shooting for Yellow Bird Photography)

Moving on to the df- the main things that got me to take the plunge were:

It's super light- 765g which is little over half the weight of the d4 which comes in at 1340g

The price- Even a d3s second hand costs around £2.3k in good condition- I got my Nikon df for £1.4k from Panamoz. I believe it was retailing at 2.4k when released, which might've been the cause of most of the slating.

The d4 sensor- Wait, so I can get the d4 sensor for 1.4k?

louboutin wedding shoes-1

(Taken second shooting for Lemonade Pictures)

Some of the main complaints lodged against the Nikon df from dpreview and my thoughts on this cons are as follows:

No dual card slots- I dual shoot so this isn't an issue for me personally

Locking iso and expo dials are fiddly- Yes I'd say the locking iso dial is a bit of a naff engineering. You have to press the little button down with your left hand and roll the dial- it feels a bit stiff. The expo compensation dial which sits on top of the iso dial feels a bit looser.

Small AF area coverage- Yes, it is a bit weird going from the ace 51 d700 points and feeling now like it's a lot harder to compose a more quirky shot with the subject on the edges.

beautiful bridesmaid dresses-1

(Taken second shooting for Lemonade Pictures. I did a lot of second shooting in that one week!)

Here are some cons I would personally add:

The weight 2.0- I shoot with primes only, but with my heaviest prime, the 35mm 1.4 it felt a bit like the balance was all in the lens at first. It took a little getting used to- if you shoot with heavy zooms, forget attaching them to this body, it'll feel like it's going to rip off. So the weight is kind of a pro but also a con.

The grip- It doesn't feel rounded enough to get a solid firm grip on the camera, neither is it rubber, so don't pick up the df with any oil on your hands.

Marks Hall wedding-1-8

My own pros and why I bought a second Nikon df the day after using the first body:

+ The image quality is just brilliant, I feel I couldn't go back to the d700 now, the images look much crisper, I don't really get the science behind these things but it definitely has a more tack sharp feel to the images with identical processing.

+ Even in normal mode the shutter is so much quieter and more appropriate for wedding ceremonies than my d700. That feels like a Godsend and whilst it's not silent, I feel like I can finally sell my fuji x100s

+ The low light performance- I shot quite a few weddings over this Winter and Spring that had low dingy light- I was shooting ceremonies at iso 6400 and I didn't enjoy the noise level. With the Nikon df I'm not even remotely afraid of shooting in low light conditions. It has been hailed as a low light king and I'd believe it. I have wanted to rock natural light more in those moody candlelit weddings but wanted to still nice a relatively clear image. This is why I bought the camera and it does not disappoint!

Here it is at its max of iso 12,800 SOOC- yes you can see noise but that could easily still be fixed with noise reduction in post processing. Marks Hall wedding-1-9

In short, I'm getting better quality images in a smaller, lighter, more responsive body. I feel like some of the buttons may feel fiddly to those with larger hands, so I can see why this camera would not appeal to everyone, but if you like a light camera and shoot in auto-iso mode a lot (i.e. you don't need the iso dial to be fast), this produces amazing image quality for half the price of Nikon's top end cameras. I really did sell both my d700s which I have loved within the same week as buying the df.

All photos have been taken by the Nikon df.

One Comment

  • Posted May 26, 2015 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Hello Marianne – Very good review of the DF. I also have 2 D700s and use primes esp the Sigma 35 1.4. Yes – at 6400 ISO looks like a confetti and my 35 1.4 keeps me from raising it up to 12000. I am also considering the DF because I shoot very patiently and I love the natural / ambient lighting. Thank You.

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