The Nikon Df Was Ahead of Its Time, and Now We Need More Cameras Like it

The Nikon Df was a camera designed for stills and nothing else, and we desperately need more cameras like this now.

Eight years ago, the Canon 5D II hit the streets, and it took the industry by storm, not only for being an excellent stills camera but because it could record professional-grade 1080P video too. Once the 5D II was released, every camera manufacturer did everything they could to make hybrid cameras. In 2013, Nikon saw a gap in the market, and they introduced the photography centric Nikon Df. The Df was underappreciated, overlooked, overpriced, and honestly, poorly marketed, but now photographers are clamoring for this camera. Ask photographers what they want now, and you will find that the desire for more photography-forward cameras, like the Nikon Df, is stronger than ever. Let’s talk about this after the break.

The Nikon Df Was the Right Camera at the Wrong Time

Nikon Df

The Nikon Df was the right camera at the wrong time. When Nikon released the Df, everyone and their dog was just too excited about hybrid cameras and all the new things they could do. The Nikon Df featured the same sensor as the Nikon D4, it had the AF system from the D610, it had a retro look and feel with dials those who used old film cameras would love, and the Df produced gorgeous images. The Nikon Df had spectacular low light abilities too, and more importantly, it had no video modes. Nikon marketed this camera with the slogan ‘pure photography.’ Unfortunately, instead of keeping the price low, they cranked it up to $2,700 because they thought they were special. This strategy backfired in a significant way simply because hybrid cameras with more features were around the same price.

Move on a couple of years, and we have started having cameras that could offer 4K video. Cameras being released around 2015 were becoming more complex and with more convoluted menus. Cameras were beginning to be marketed around their video prowess rather than their stills capabilities, and that has continued until now.

Photographers Have Been Pushed Aside

The Canon EOS R5 – marketed as an 8K video camera that also shoots stills.

One recent camera, the Canon EOS R5, which is the Mirrorless successor to the legendary 5D series, was marketed fully as an 8K video camera that can also shoot stills. This is a complete reversal of how these cameras should be marketed, and in doing this, Canon angered many of their long time photographers for seemingly forgetting to care about them. As we have all seen, it has backfired. Now, instead of being a capable stills camera (which it is), that was one of the first to offer 8K video, it will forever be remembered as a video camera that couldn’t even get that right.

Look, I’m all for hybrid cameras, they definitely have their place, and it is great that modern cameras can offer these features, but the race for video supremacy has pushed photographers aside. There are very few cameras on the market today that are truly photography-forward.

Cameras Like the Nikon Df That Put Photography First Are a Dying Breed

I am often mocked for my like of Pentax cameras, but they do offer a pure photography experience. The Pentax K1 II will forever be one of my all-time favorite stills cameras. The X-Pro series, and X100 line from Fujifilm, while they offer video capabilities, are stills-centric cameras, and so too is the Sony a7r series. Older Canon and Nikon cameras like the 5D IV and D850 offered 4K video, but they still focused on photography more than video.

Move on into the world of professional sports photography and you will find the Nikon D6, the Canon 1DX III, and the Sony a9 II that are all stills-centric. Then, of course, the likes of Leica and Hasselblad with their X1D II have stayed true to their roots as well, but the average photographer cannot afford a lot of these top tier professional tools. It seems as though other mainstream cameras have a heavier emphasis on videography rather than photography these days, and that’s a shame. You just have to look at the marketing for them to see this.

Nikon Df

I don’t know about you, but I yearn for a no-compromise, yet more affordable Mirrorless camera that’s focused on photography. We are now starting to see manufacturers separate menus between stills and video features, and that’s a good start. I hate having to shift through 10 pages of video features that I have no interest in, but I would like more than that.

I hate to hark on the R5 because, as we are finding out here at The Phoblgrapher, it is indeed a fantastic stills camera, but because it can capture 8K video, the price has ballooned up to $3,899. If you want to utilize both card slots, you have to have at least 1 CFexpress card, which is far more expensive than a UHS-II SD Card. So, because of the need for faster cards for 8k video, photographers are being dinged financially here as well and, really, that sucks.

Stop Making Compromises, Give Us the Best Tools for Each Job

Nikon Df

I applaud Sony for making a dedicated DSLR-style Mirrorless camera that’s intended for video use. The Sony a7s III will become a massive hit with videographers thanks to its output and excellent ergonomics compared to dedicated professional video cameras. Still, I want to see someone make a dedicated Mirrorless stills camera in the same vein as the Nikon Df.

What does an ideal photography forward camera look like? They look a lot like they do now, but strip out the video features, simplify the user experience, make them and market them as cameras for photographers, and lower the price of entry. Without video features and the need for licensing of video technologies, the manufacturing savings could be passed on to us. As it stands right now, photographers who are buying cameras are having to pay over the odds for cameras with features that hardly get used. Perhaps I am the odd one out here, but the only time my camera goes into video mode is when I accidentally turn the mode dial to it.

Nikon Df

Manufacturers, let’s get back to putting photography first, or do like Sony and Panasonic has done and create dedicated cameras for videographers. Stop making compromises in your hybrid cameras as both photographers and videographers deserve more. Nikon, you were on the right track with the Nikon Df, now, let’s try it again. Do you want to see more cameras that push photography more than videography? Let us know in the comment section below.

P.S – No brownie points will be awarded for being the first person to comment and say ‘just go back to shooting film then.’

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.