A Second Chance With The Nikon Df

Over some coffee and some conversation about the Nikon Df, a question came up. How effectively could it be used for event photography? In my review I mentioned it would be a decent camera for that type of photography. With permission I decided to use it in my biggest week of event photography to date, the lead up to a really big football game in New Jersey. It took place in the beginning of February 2014. We can’t say its name because due to some contractual things with my day job. I wanted to put the Nikon Df in a real world working situation.

The Nikon Df is not the most popular new camera on the market. Once you get beyond lack of shutter speed and lack of video, is it a good camera?

Gear Used

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Taken on S.B Blvd

For this week of photos for this über pig skin thingie, I used a variety of lenses. The situations kept changing, as did my lens choices. I mainly used my Nikon 35-70 f2.8D indoors. Outdoors at places like S.B. BLVD I mostly used my Tamron 28-200mm f3.5-5.6. When I had to do Ultra Wide Shots I used my Nikon 18-35 f3.5-5.6D. One day, I had an indoor meeting so I used my Nikon 105mm f2.8D. Eventually I pulled out my new Tamron 70-200 f2.8 VC . Believe it or not I also used my Nikon 200mm Ai f4 at a concert. I carried them all on my Black Rapid Yeti and in my ThinkTank Urban Disguise 60 V2.

Ergonomics

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The ergonomics of the Nikon Df were actually decent for a week of event photography. The camera has a decent weight and size. In the cold, where you get tired faster, it was welcomed. Carrying on a Black Rapid Yeti meant it did not have to stay in my hand all times. That was all superficial though. The deeper issue is once you got past the hand grip, there were still problems. On cameras like the Nikon D800,D700 and D600, changing settings like the ISO is much quicker. Having to deal with three lock buttons on the dial got a bit annoying at times. It slowed things down if I was trying to manually control everything. To keep up with everything around me, I mostly kept the Nikon Df on aperture priority with auto ISO. It saved me from having to use the dials.

One of the other issues for me, shooting this week of events, was changing from aperture priority mode to manual. The thing is you could not just move the button, you had to lift and turn. Little things like this just annoyed me personally. Coming from the typical Nikon camera, the Nikon Df is a bit of a change.

High ISO

ISO 12800

ISO 12800

The big winning feature of this camera was its ISO capabilities. With the Nikon Df you could get away without using a flash in a lot of environments. With spot metering you could get a good clear sharp image of a subject at a higher ISO. I found myself at ISO 128000 often and I never had a problem with the image. Having the high ISO capabilities of the Nikon DF for the events I was doing came in really handy. For a lot of the events I was covering, during this week of football related events, I got to carry less. There was less to worry about over all.

 Image Quality

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As I said in the review, the overall image quality of the Nikon Df was fantastic. My client wanted images as fast as possible for social media. Using an Eye Fi card I was able to upload images from the field quickly. All the images were usable. If there was one they really liked, I could give a touched up version later. I shot RAW + jpeg, giving me a huge amount of flexibility. Using the Nikon Df as an event photography camera did have its advantages.

 Battery Life

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The battery life was questionable. In the cold the battery seemed to fail much faster than other Nikon cameras I have used. At one point I used hand warmers to keep the camera going. I had just an hour left and I did not want to miss any shots. I put the hand warmer between my hand and the grip

 The Nikon Df Was The Scorn Of Pros The Envy Of Others

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At an event, I was standing with CNN and Getty photographers. While we were waiting for things to begin they noticed that I was shooting with the Df . In the photojournalism world, I am a nobody and I was way out of my league. I talked with them anyway. After discussing the specs of the camera they basically said, “Just invest in a Nikon D4”. It was what they were using.

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The next day I was tasked to get the numerals in Hoboken. A person walked up to me and thought I had the greatest camera in the world. It was an interesting change in opinion. If the price was lower, Nikon would have a winner for prosumers.

 In The End

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The Nikon Df is not the most so sought after camera, but it does have its strengths. When it came out I was very critical of it. With the Nikon Df you get a camera that’s lacking but still a decent performer. The camera has a retro look with modern functionality. The lack of video is an issue for many. Fortunately the photographer I was working with was using a Canon 5D, and covered the video portion of things. Satisfyingly, the image quality and the ISO performance made up for the rest of its shortcomings. The shutter speed did not matter much because I was mostly shooting at an average aperture of f8. The Nikon Df is good for events. If you decide to use it, you may want to keep a Nikon D610 body in the bag for video and back up.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.