Nikon Df vs D800 vs D610 vs Sony A7 (Alpha 7) Comparison

December 25, 2013

Nikon Df DSLR camera banner

In this article will compare the Nikon Df vs Nikon D800, Nikon D610 and  Sony A7. The Nikon Df is probably the most interesting camera in the DSLR landscape, at least when it comes to design perspective. Some say that the Df is Sony’s take on Sony’s A7 and A7R camera, others just glad to have a stylish and advanced full frame DSLR to embrace.  The classic style, advanced features and price will put this camera in line with the D800, but it definitely lacks some of the more advanced D800 features, including video recording — Yep, no video on the Df, less AF points, slower maximum shutter speed, etc.

The Nikon Df is priced quite high and aimed towards enthusiasts and professional. No doubt that its main attraction is its relatively small size and classic design, but one that inherited the Nikon D4 sensor which enabled the camera to shoot up to ISO 20,800. Whether or not the Nikon Df is a good contender against other full frame DSLRs, we’ll find out in this comparison.

Nikon Df Introduction

Nikon Df top, front and rear images

Nikon Df

The Nikon Df certainly has its own design statement and will not doubt take you on a nostalgic trip to the past, in the days of film cameras.  It features a leather-texture grip and top, more rectangular design, magnesium-alloy top, back and bottom. At the top you have an ISO sensitivity dial, shutter speed dial with a dedicated lock release button in the middle, P/A/S/M modes and an exposure compensation (+/-3 stops) dial that sits on top of the ISO dial with an exposure compensation dial lock button in its center. There is no fully  automatic mode or scene mode available, you can use either program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority or manual. The camera mode dial needs to be pulled up in order to be rotated, kind of a weird lock mechanism to be honest.

At the front you can find a BKT (bracketing) button bear the camera’s mount, flash sync terminal input, AF mode button and focus mode selector dial. At the front you have a sub-command dial, Fn button and Pv button (Preview) to preview the effects of the aperture, also referred to as depth of field preview button.

The camera has a very tiny LCD control panel, which almost looks useless compare to what you get with other full frame DSLRs, really tiny.  The top LCD was resized in order to give more  room for the many controls that the camera has on top, and because the camera grip doesn’t have any buttons on it — so everything is squeezed into a small space at the top. The viewfinder’s compartment is covered with leather-textured coating at the top which also gives the Nikon Df a unique style among all the other digital SLRs we’ve seen to date.

At the back you have plenty of buttons and controls for quick access to frequently used camera settings including a metering selector, focus selector lock button and Live View button.

The Nikon Df is Nikon’s smallest and lightest FX (Full frame) DSLR cameras. However I think that there was no excuse to give us such a small grip, but I have to say that the small grip actually fits the overall design of the camera.

Nikon D800 vs Nikon Df size comparison

Nikon D800 vs Nikon Df size comparison (via camerasize.com)

The Nikon Df has the same weather sealing as the Nikon D800 and D700, which allows the camera to withstand in harsh weather environments. The Design of the Nikon Df however comes at the expense of a more ergonomic design, which can certainly can become helpful when shooting with long and heavy telephoto lenses or/and when mounting a flash unit on the Df’s hot-shoe connector. As for the time of writing, Nikon doesn’t offer an extended battery grip for the Nikon Df, which is quite petty considering the Df’s size, ergonomic design and the target audience that this camera is aimed for. I have large hands and I always find it useful to use a vertical battery grip, and I am sure that many people would love to have such a grip with their Df camera.

The Nikon Df is offered in either Black or Silver, and I have a feeling that more people will favor the silver for its more Retro-style look compare to the black.

The Df features a full-frame FX sensor inherited from Nikon’s professional D4 FX camera, a 3.2-inch 921K-dots LCD with wide viewing angles, 5.5 fps burst speed and a 100%/0.7x pentaprism optical viewfinder. The D4 sensor is the best low-light performer that we have as of the time of writing, and it’s high ISO performance is just spectacular. This opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities and low-light shooting opportunities that might won’t be able to capture without having this particular sensor. This is also the perfect camera for low light shooters. What I love about the Df is that you get the same D4 performance in a much smaller and lighter body.

Nikon D4 vs Df camera size comparison

Nikon D4 vs Df camera size comparison (via camerasize.com,)

No Video Capture with the Nikon Df, wonder why? — I can just assume that Nikon assume (probably did a research for that) that the target audience that this camera is aimed for is not interested or care about having a video capture feature. Furthermore, Nikon probably wanted to make the Df stand apart from the rest of its FX cameras, in a philosophical standpoint — which will give the photographer a feel like shooting with a retro film camera.

This should be the perfect nostalgic union between the past and present, between digital and film and bring those beautiful memories of the film days back to life in the form of a new full frame Nikon camera — the Df.

According to what I’ve read on cameraegg.com, Df  was speculated to stand for “Digital Fusion” and it carries the Nikon FM2 design. Well, I went to Wikipedia to see for myself if those two cameras look alike, and they certainly have their similarities.. Take a look..

Nikon FM2

Nikon FM2 with Voigtlander Ultron 40mm F2 SL II lens (image credit: Wikipedia)

I also find it quite similar to the Nikon FG and F3 as well — closer to the Nikon F3 look in my opinion.

Underneath its beautiful stylish retro design, the Nikn Df is all digital. It features flagship image quality with its FX sensor, EXPEED 3 image processor, WU-1a wireless adapter compatibility,  39-point AF system with 9 cross-type sensors, built-in HDR, Active D-Lighting, DX crop mode, Quiet shutter release mode and many other features that you expect from a professional-grade full frame DSLR camera.

The question that still remains is the price. The Nikon D800 and Df are almost identical in terms of pricing, with the D800 being around $50 more expensive. I assume that most people will be interested to know the differences between the D800 and the Df, as both cameras are very attractive for still photographers, and if you don’t mind not having video function, I know that the Df certainly looks like a very attractive offering.

Here’s an informative Nikon Df short review by Digital Camera World.

Nikon Df is the only DSLR I can recall that comes with a reworked version of the  50mm f/1.8G as lens — but this lens is a special edition lens and was designed to embrace the Df look and feel. The difference between the body only and 50mm Kit is approximately $100. The regular Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S lens costs approx. $216 as of the time of writing.

Now that you’ve got a good overview of what the Df is all about, let’s dig deeper into the specs and see how the Df stands apart from the other cameras in our comparison, and whether or not the Df should be your next DSLR camera.

Oh, before I forget, Nikon also offers a black or brown leather carrying case (CF-DC6B and CF-DC6S), which was specifically designed for this Df.

Nikon Df vs D610 vs D800 vs Sony A7

All of the four cameras are full frame interchangeable lens cameras. However, the Df, D610 and D800 are DSLR cameras, whether the Sony A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. This means that the A7 doesn’t employ a reflex mirror inside its body. This means a few things, among others, the A7 features an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder. Second, it allowed Sony to create a significantly much smaller full frame camera, which you can see in the image below. In fact, the Sony A7 is the smallest interchangeable lens full frame camera to date  (as of October 2013 according to Nikon’s official a7 product page). We do have the Sony Cyber-shot RX1R, which is a full frame digital camera and it’s smaller than the A7, but it features a fixed lens.

Sony A7 vs Nikon Df size comparison

Sony A7 vs Nikon Df size comparison (via camerasize.com)

No doubt that the A7 size and weight is among its key selling features. However, as small as it is, you’ll still need a camera bag to carry it around. Some photographers even prefer the a larger and heavier body because it helps them to better stabilize the camera when using long and heavy lenses. Having said that, mirrorless cameras have several advantages over DSLR cameras in terms of speed, viewfinder features, etc. For a more in-depth comparison between the two types of cameras, I recommend reading my mirrorless vs DSLR guide. This will give you a better understanding of the cons and pros of each type of camera and help you make a smart buying decision.

The next side by side comparison table will give you a good understanding of the differences, as well as the cons and pros of each camera. This is a good practice to use this specs comparison table and spot features that you want to have with your new camera and those who are less important. Doing so will help you eliminate the camera that doesn’t fit to your specific shooting style and stay with those they do.

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Conclusion

So where the Nikon Df sits compare to the other three cameras. First of all, the Df lacks video capture, which means that if you intend and want to shoot HQ videos, you can forget about the Df.  The Df is durable and carries the same weather protection as the D800, but have a unique retro-style design that will appeal to many stills photographers who carry with them nostalgic moments from the film days.   The Df is smaller than the D800 and D610, but much larger than the A7 in that regard. If you are searching a small full frame interchangeable lens camera and the size does matter to you, the A7 is the best option.

In terms of accessibility, ergonomics and handling, all three Nikon’s lead the pack and offer extensive amount of controls. The A7 is behind but for many enthusiasts this would be more than enough for most of their needs.  The A7 lacks the top LCD, the Df has a tiny one and the D800 and D610 have a large LCD control panel. This control panel can help photographers get a fast glimpse about the camera settings and also save battery life because you don’t need the LCD to verify the changes in the camera setting. You just change the settings using the buttons and dials and they are reflected on the monochromatic LCD display.

The Df has a relatively small grip and currently doesn’t have an official (nor 3rd party as far as I know) compatible battery grip. Considering the fact that many photographers will use telephoto lenses with it,  it might be less comfortable to shoot with it compare to the D800 and D610 which are bigger, heavier and have a larger hand grip and compatible battery grip.

The Df offers manual controls to change the shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation, instead of pressing a button and rotating a dial to do so as with the other cameras.  The Df does offer a rear and front dial as well, so you don’t give up anything in exchange for enjoying this manual dials.

The Df have the same light metering and AF sensor as the D610, which is less advanced than the D800 / D800E.  For video, the Sony A7 offers the best of features and it’s the best camera among the four for Videographers with its 1080p60, stereo mic, headphone and mic input, swivel display and 117 phase detection AF points for video recording.

The Nikon Df is quite expensive and sits almost at the same price range as the D800, around $50 less.  The A7 is the least expensive and costs around $1700 the last time I checked. The D610 costs around $800 less than the Df and D800, which put it in the affordable zone for enthusiasts who are looking to upgrade to a full frame DSLR.

The D800 has several advantages over the Df, including: video capture, much higher resolution, more advanced AF and light metering sensors, 2 storage slots instead of 1, built-in flash, 1/8000 Sec shutter speed, more durable body (all magnesium alloy), official battery grip available, headphone and mic inputs, full automatic mode and AF assist lamp. However one of the Df’s main selling points is its high ISO performance. The Df lacks behind in terms of resolution and can’t match the D800 and Sony Alpha 7 details. However it blows the competition away with its excellent high ISO performance.

The great thing about the Nikon Df is that it doesn’t employ a strong NR if at all. Its dotty noise pattern is much easier to remove using noise reduction software, but you won’t need it until shooting above ISO 1600. In terms of high ISO performance, the Nikon Df comes first, Sony A7 second, Nikon D610 third, and  D800 last (compared in dpreview). The Sony Alpha 7 applies very strong NR from ISO 1600 and up and its less preservative compare to the Nikon’s. The A7 did produce the sharpest image, noticeably sharper than all the other three cameras in low-ISO.

In my opinion, the 1.5EV advantage that the Df has over the D610 might convince some people to get the Df and enjoy a D4 like performance for much less. Talking about the D4, I also compared some D4 high ISO sample images against the Df and the D4 images were noticeably cleaner (when viewed at 100% scale).

For the most part, the Nikon Df is a superb stills camera, and probably one of Nikon’s best (depends who you ask).  If you look at the whole package, the Df certainly worth the asked price, but it’s important to understand its cons prior to deciding to buy this camera.



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