Sitting back and watching the comments unfold about Nikon's Df camera has made for a mildly entertaining distraction today. For anyone who's missed out on the announcement or the teaser videos released in the run-up to its unveiling, this is it:
The Nikon Df has a 16 megapixel full-frame sensor powered by an EXPEED 3 processor, giving it the same guts as the Nikon D4. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 12,800, and is extendable to 204,800. It has a maximum continuous shooting speed of 5.5 frames-per-second, 39 point auto-focusing system, and pre-AI lens compatibility but no capability to match its retro-looks. It (and a 50mm ƒ/1.8G) also comes with a £2,750 ($3,000) price tag.
Mostly, the comments have ranged from 'Oh my good freaking deity of choice and all commensurate attendees, I have to own this camera right now and will sell a kidney to fund it!' to 'What a stinkingly ugly camera! Anyone prepared to pay that much for something that looks as if it has been welded together for spare parts must have more money than sense!' They do, however, go via: 'It had me until I saw the price,' and 'No video? It's not for me.' Even the more tempered comments are laced with a sense of disappointment or disbelief.
It's a camera that has divided opinions and caused people to talk. Lee Morris, over on FStoppers, has described it as a camera that exemplifies everything that is wrong with photography right now. That's not to say that the camera itself is terrible and awful, but that the current retro-obsession has maybe gone too far and that cameras have become fashion accessories rather than tools. Jaron Schneider, another FStoppers contributor, takes a different tack. He calls it a camera 'to remind you why you are a photographer.' There's very little by the way of ambivalence, and that is a good thing.
Why do I think that? I think that Nikon's produced a concept camera. It's expensive. It costs less than the D4, but it's still an almost-£3,000 camera. It has particular appeal with its capabilities and ergonomics. Many people will appreciate the dials and its old-school-lens-love, but it doesn't shoot video. For some people video's an irrelevance, for others it's a deal-breaker. I also happen to think it's ugly. That, however, is a matter of personal aesthetic preference. And to be truthful, I think I'm done with the retro-thing (although I will admit that I think Fujifilm has its styling right in this respect). I'm also entirely sick of the onanism that's taking place over it. That, though, is probably the point.
It's not meant to be a camera for anyone and everyone, it's meant to be a camera that gets people talking and it has certainly accomplished that.
Nikon's created a camera because it can. Not because it's ground-breaking or the market is baying for it, but because it has the creative latitude to do so. There are at least three reasons why I've absolutely no desire to own a Df, but if it's the kind of camera that reminds people why they love photography, then more power to Nikon.