The Nikon Df, and thoughts from a wedding photographer

Joined
Jan 9, 2006
Messages
1,936
Location
Oakley, Hampshire, England
Morning all

As some might know, I'm a full-time wedding photographer here in England and have been watched the rise of mirrorless (and Fuji in particular) with interest. I've spent the last 2 years shooting with a pair of D3s's, having used D3/D700 before that, and the original 5D for a few months before that.

As the seasons have passed I've moved from a mainly zoom set-up (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200) to a pure prime set-up, specifically Nikkor 24/35/50/85 f1/4's, along with a 28/1.8 recently. This lightening and downsizing has led me to look at my ageing D3s's with view to seeing where I go next. Having run an X-Pro1 as a personal camera for a few months but finding the AF and battery life clear barriers to using that (and the XE's) for pro work. The X-T1 then piques my interest, but having trialled a friend's I found a number of issues with that as well - namely the AF in low-light is still not at D600 level, let alone better, the battery life still an issue with pros I know using them needing a min of 3 batteries a day for each body, the way the (admittedly excellent) EVF blocks up in very bright sunlight (aka, summer receptions at weddings) and the noise levels within the EVF leading to some lag in low light (aka, evenings at UK weddings). Of the 10 or so UK pros who are using Fuji I only know one who has moved entirely to Fuji, with the rest keeping at least one good DSLR because of AF and some performance issues with the Fuji as the light falls.

That leads me to the Df then. I always found it odd that the camera was so heavily panned on release. Whilst the looks are probably love/hate (and I love), it seemed a great option for me and the way I shoot (documentary, available light and discreet), and offered an alternative to the large file sizes of the D800. I'd ruled out the D4 or D4s because of my wish to move to smaller, lighter and quieter bodies. I bought a Df late December last year, a little too late for my last wedding of 2013, and slowly, but surely, fell in love with the camera.

My 2014 wedding season started last Friday, and that was the point where I used the Df as my main camera for the day, with a D3s on the other shoulder. Friday just confirmed what I thought. The Df is absolutely what I have been after. Having established over the grim UK winter that the oft-panned AF wasn't an issue in reality I found the reaction to the Df a real winner. It's much quieter, and far less obvious. Not once during the ceremony was I aware of a guest looking at me as they often do when the D3s fires. Battery life is great, handling doesn't slow me at all and I love using the dials for ISO and EV. Once the camera is set-up I'm really only changing those, aperture and metering mode which I have set to the Fn button.

And the files. They are gorgeous. I expected great high ISO performance, but not the way that the colours hold together at 3200 and above compared to the D3s. They are richer tonally and have terrific DR. AF didn't let me down once.

I cane home, reviewed some of the files and ordered a second the next day. It has arrived and my D3s's are being sold (one has already gone). By moving to a pair of Df's and just using my primes I've dropped my kit bag from 14lbs to just over 7bs. With 43 weddings this year that's not to be sniffed out, especially with London weddings that mean trains and lots of walking.

Much of the criticism aimed at the Df seems, to me, equally valid for the Fujis, but the online evangelism that the Fuji community is generating would lead you to think otherwise, whilst also overlooking, IMO, what are genuine concerns with moving to that system as a sole system (namely AF, battery life and only using an EVF). I do suspect that in 2 years that might not be the case and it will be a genuine option for people like me with these concerns.

The way I see it every camera is a compromise somewhere.

I give up the D3s's and I lose the very best AF, amazing battery life and the handling only the big pro bodies give. But I also lose the weight, size, and noise. By choosing the Df I gain less weight, smaller, less intimidating cameras but drop some AF and battery life but I also gain the D4s sensor. I did try the XT-1 and for me the AF isn't quite there, nor is the battery life and the EVF in very bright and very low light isn't for me, but those things might be very different for other people. Df over XT-1 means more expensive, heavier and louder, but it also means I keep an excellent OVF, lenses I've already invested in and a workflow that stays the same.

There's never been more choice for us as photographers. Choose wisely, and for you, and it's happy days.

For anyone interested in what a Nikon Df wedding can do, I've just blogged it. There are just 9 D3s photos in this post.

http://www.guycollierphotography.com/gate-street-barn-abbey-anthony/

Thanks

Guy
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2007
Messages
1,043
Location
Zagreb, Croatia
A very informative post from a respected photographer, thanks Guy.

Having established over the grim UK winter that the oft-panned AF wasn't an issue in reality (...)
AF didn't let me down once. (...)
This was the most interesting part for me, especially since you are an available light photographer, using primes (often near-wide open, I assume?), with previous extensive experience with top-class AF bodies.

As Df uses the same AF system as D600/6100, this is valuable info for me considering D600/610 for near-wide open prime shooting, as an alternative to D7000 I'm currently using.

Since I find D7000' AF to be not-too-reliable for low light wide-open shooting, I had an impression D600/610 would not be a big step forward in that department

(take for example this part from DPreview: "The biggest problem isn't the limited coverage of the focus system - it's its effectiveness in low light. (...) the performance of the Df's focus drops off significantly at even moderate indoor lighting levels (...) the performance is not up to the standards you'd hope for from a camera costing this much money - especially one built around a sensor whose main appeal in this case is its low light performance.")

However your post brings some new light on this matter.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2006
Messages
1,936
Location
Oakley, Hampshire, England
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
I certainly don't agree with that part of their review, no. If that was the case there's no way I'd be selling my D3s bodies.

I shoot with the Df in the same way I did the D3s. Typically at f2, using AF-C and rarely with the central focus point. I move the AF point around as I compose.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2013
Messages
50
Location
England
I'm not a great believer in reviews. On another forum someone was panning the Nikon 200-400 f4 along with any Nikon teleconverter above the TC 1.4II. Well I have that lens along with the TC-1.4II, TC-1.7II and TC-2.0- III, and guess what? On either my D4s or D800e, even with the TC-2.0III, the autofocus is incredible. Probably better on the D4s by a small margin, but either will bang in the focus, even in very dull conditions.
I'm also impressed by the Df, and glad you've enjoyed using one.
I did try one for a couple of days, but actually found it too small in my hands to hold comfortably( I'm 1.94 metres, 18stone with big hands) always felt like I was going to drop it.
Apart from that, I loved it, actually I adored it, especially the layout.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
Messages
1,011
Location
San Jose, CA
As they say, the proof is in the pudding... and your pudding (the sample gallery) was delicious. You really worked that wedding, and the photo-journalistic style is my preferred approach as well. Good show, Guy, and a good testimonial for the Df.
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2009
Messages
2,467
Location
NC
Based on what I saw here, the bridal couple made a very wise choice in their wedding photographer.....very wise, indeed.
 
Joined
Jan 23, 2009
Messages
1,474
Location
san diego
very nice work sir Guy. and thanks for the informative review...been debating on a Df myself and its great to hear how this camera can perform whereas i know i wont be pushing it as you do...but selling your D3s' are telling.
 
Joined
Jun 1, 2009
Messages
7,571
Location
Texas (KSKF)
Thanks for sharing this & glad to see that you've come to enjoy the Df :)

Morning all

As some might know, I'm a full-time wedding photographer here in England and have been watched the rise of mirrorless (and Fuji in particular) with interest. I've spent the last 2 years shooting with a pair of D3s's, having used D3/D700 before that, and the original 5D for a few months before that.

As the seasons have passed I've moved from a mainly zoom set-up (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200) to a pure prime set-up, specifically Nikkor 24/35/50/85 f1/4's, along with a 28/1.8 recently. This lightening and downsizing has led me to look at my ageing D3s's with view to seeing where I go next. Having run an X-Pro1 as a personal camera for a few months but finding the AF and battery life clear barriers to using that (and the XE's) for pro work. The X-T1 then piques my interest, but having trialled a friend's I found a number of issues with that as well - namely the AF in low-light is still not at D600 level, let alone better, the battery life still an issue with pros I know using them needing a min of 3 batteries a day for each body, the way the (admittedly excellent) EVF blocks up in very bright sunlight (aka, summer receptions at weddings) and the noise levels within the EVF leading to some lag in low light (aka, evenings at UK weddings). Of the 10 or so UK pros who are using Fuji I only know one who has moved entirely to Fuji, with the rest keeping at least one good DSLR because of AF and some performance issues with the Fuji as the light falls.

That leads me to the Df then. I always found it odd that the camera was so heavily panned on release. Whilst the looks are probably love/hate (and I love), it seemed a great option for me and the way I shoot (documentary, available light and discreet), and offered an alternative to the large file sizes of the D800. I'd ruled out the D4 or D4s because of my wish to move to smaller, lighter and quieter bodies. I bought a Df late December last year, a little too late for my last wedding of 2013, and slowly, but surely, fell in love with the camera.

My 2014 wedding season started last Friday, and that was the point where I used the Df as my main camera for the day, with a D3s on the other shoulder. Friday just confirmed what I thought. The Df is absolutely what I have been after. Having established over the grim UK winter that the oft-panned AF wasn't an issue in reality I found the reaction to the Df a real winner. It's much quieter, and far less obvious. Not once during the ceremony was I aware of a guest looking at me as they often do when the D3s fires. Battery life is great, handling doesn't slow me at all and I love using the dials for ISO and EV. Once the camera is set-up I'm really only changing those, aperture and metering mode which I have set to the Fn button.

And the files. They are gorgeous. I expected great high ISO performance, but not the way that the colours hold together at 3200 and above compared to the D3s. They are richer tonally and have terrific DR. AF didn't let me down once.

I cane home, reviewed some of the files and ordered a second the next day. It has arrived and my D3s's are being sold (one has already gone). By moving to a pair of Df's and just using my primes I've dropped my kit bag from 14lbs to just over 7bs. With 43 weddings this year that's not to be sniffed out, especially with London weddings that mean trains and lots of walking.

Much of the criticism aimed at the Df seems, to me, equally valid for the Fujis, but the online evangelism that the Fuji community is generating would lead you to think otherwise, whilst also overlooking, IMO, what are genuine concerns with moving to that system as a sole system (namely AF, battery life and only using an EVF). I do suspect that in 2 years that might not be the case and it will be a genuine option for people like me with these concerns.

The way I see it every camera is a compromise somewhere.

I give up the D3s's and I lose the very best AF, amazing battery life and the handling only the big pro bodies give. But I also lose the weight, size, and noise. By choosing the Df I gain less weight, smaller, less intimidating cameras but drop some AF and battery life but I also gain the D4s sensor. I did try the XT-1 and for me the AF isn't quite there, nor is the battery life and the EVF in very bright and very low light isn't for me, but those things might be very different for other people. Df over XT-1 means more expensive, heavier and louder, but it also means I keep an excellent OVF, lenses I've already invested in and a workflow that stays the same.

There's never been more choice for us as photographers. Choose wisely, and for you, and it's happy days.

For anyone interested in what a Nikon Df wedding can do, I've just blogged it. There are just 9 D3s photos in this post.

http://www.guycollierphotography.com/gate-street-barn-abbey-anthony/

Thanks

Guy
 
Joined
Dec 30, 2012
Messages
327
Location
MD, USA
Very, very nice review! Makes me more confident in my 600's AF if anything as I stand right now, and Df's essence definitely caught my eye although not its price for quite some time. I'm sure once I move into bigger budgets, I'd be much more free in my choices based on feelings and feels alone rather than getting bang-for-buck.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2006
Messages
1,936
Location
Oakley, Hampshire, England
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
Thanks all. Since I blogged that wedding and posted in a couples of places I've seen 9 fellow wedding photographers order one. I should be on commission!
 
Joined
May 15, 2008
Messages
1,188
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Excellent work and great review. Glad to see someone using/testing their gear and then posting their findings as opposed to simply stating what they've
read online.
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2009
Messages
5,301
Location
San Jose, CA
Your work is fantastic, and this is very interesting. I've long since been debating picking up a Df, and you may have just cast the swing vote.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2011
Messages
382
Location
Tejaz
Reviews like this that make me look forward that much more to the Df II... because you know they'll improve the AF even more with the next body.
 

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