Entry 128 : [REVIEW] Form Over Function? PART 2: Nikon Df & Nikon D4s

Hey, there!
If you're here because you finished reading PART 1 of my review, then thank you for your interest!

If you're here because you wanted to read a review about the Nikon Df and D4s, I also thank you for your interest!

After I got kicked out (not really) of Sony, I took the pedestrian walkway to Pavilion and walked further to reach Nikon Centre at Berjaya Times Square.
The dudes at Nikon KLCC would only let me look at the cameras behind the glass, smirking at my enquiry of whether I could test them out.
There were three people at the customer service counter at Nikon Centre and I approached the one that looked the least pissed off by the fact that they had to work on a Saturday.
I had brought my friend's FE10 along in case they could repair film cameras but unfortunately I was diverted to a shop at Pudu Plaza.
I then asked Ain, the nice girl who let me peruse Nikon gear, if I could try out cameras that weren't on display.
She said yes and I immediately felt like screaming.
But I didn't.

First up: Nikon Df.

"Hipstermatic," - Jared Polin aka The Fro
Shot with a Nikon D7100 + 35mm f1.8 DX

I love this camera.
For whatever crap people have said about it and for everything that isn't pure about its supposedly "Pure Photography" slogan, I love it.
Even though I, myself, had a hard time trying to use all the weird dials and functions it so specially had, I love it.
The Df is (supposedly) a tribute to old mechanical film SLRs, where the "Df" stands for digital fusion.
Having a design reminiscent of the Nikon FM2, the Nikon Df was made to reignite the pureness of photography by doing away with video mode (which is understandable) and placing various dials on the top to encourage "slowing down" as opposing to snap-and-go (which is the unanimous nature of photography nowadays).
But once you get your mind off all that marketing gibberish, you'll realize that this camera is a failure.
Let me break some things down about this DSLR:

It is basically a DSLR with redundant dials and knobs.
I understand that they wanted to bring back the old school dials on the top, but they only did it so half-heartedly it constantly confuses me.
The ISO and exposure compensation dials are okay but then again, the camera is factory set to AUTO ISO and once again I had to rummage through the menu just to turn it off.
The big deal with the weird dials is the shutter speed dial and exposure mode dial on the top.

Firstly, the exposure mode dial is an extreme bugger.
I don't believe they had to actually include all MASP (manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program) modes.
They should have just gotten rid of everything and leave it at manual!
Okay, so maybe they wanted to give people who are too lazy to learn the basics of photography a chance to use this camera.
But it's supposed to be PURE PHOTOGRAPHY!
The camera doesn't even have AUTO mode, so really, none of A, S or P are a grey area between knowing how to manually set exposure and not.
What's more, I almost twisted the dial off because it really isn't my basic common sense to pinch a dial upwards before turning it.

Furthermore, if you're going to go back to manual dials, why still include the usual DSLR shutter speed dial, as well?

Because they can, that's why

You could only remember to use the top dial for so long.
The dial on the back can only be activated by setting the top dial to 1/3 STEP, which will literally gives you 1/3 steps of shutter speed adjusting.
But people back in the day didn't need 1/3 stops and they delivered just fine.
Even film photography enthusiasts right now aren't too fussy about this.
It's a mess of a combination between automation and manual work and I feel as if they wanted to compensate for something; something irrelevant.
If they took away the dial at the back, then they could also get rid of the small LCD screen on top that displays the settings.
Why would we need a screen to display our settings when the settings are already written on the dials?
Oh, right.
"Digital fusion".

The button layout on the back is the same as the D7100, albeit an isolated Lv button for live view, which is another unnecessary thing to have.
The camera can't do video, can't flip its screen and doesn't have touch screen.
So why would anybody want to shoot in live view?
For the sake of live view?
Again, blatant redundancy. 

The feel of the Nikon Df is best described as undemanding.
Its magnesium alloy frame gives it sturdiness but it doesn't feel like you're holding too much in your hand because the grip is made for people with ultra short fingers.
I have used a Nikon FE10 and Nikon FM2 before, therefore the shutter dial didn't feel alien to me.
I honestly have nothing bad to say about the feel and handling.
It's a very easy-going feel, different from the feel of Nikon's other DSLRs that are more cut out for work.

Image Quality
It has a D4 sensor, which means unchallenged quality.

Enhanced with VSCO Film for extra old school-ness
Shot with a Nikon Df + (Special Edition) 50mm f1.8G

The photos taken with this camera are beautiful, colorful and just plain wonderful.
The benefit from the D4 sensor is that it can natively go up to ISO-12800!

Would you believe me if I told you this was shot at ISO-12800? Because it was
f/1.8 | 1/2000 sec. | ISO-12800 | 50mm

I would have loved to take this camera out onto the streets where the real weirdos are but I had to settle with an in-store review.

As I have said before, I love this camera but I feel as if there's too much effort put into the wrong places and not enough effort put into the supposed places.
It annoys me so much that I was so excited to use this camera but there were a lot of let downs in terms of operations and specifications, too.
It has the AF system of the D600/D610/D7000 but the sensor of a D4!
It would have been better off with the AF system of a D7100/D800/D4 and the sensor of a D600/D610.

The real question behind the production of the Nikon Df is: Who on Earth is this camera actually for?
Is it for the casual hobbyist?
If it is, then it has too good a sensor with too much ISO capability.
Not even street photographers need ISO-12800 at night.
Is it for the the working photographer?
The impracticality of the dials and the compact AF area would really deter a working photographer, namely me.
The shutter speed only goes up to 1/4000 sec. and the shutter button doesn't seem like it can withstand a lot of constant pressure.
Is it for everyday people who want to take it on travels or for family photos?
I mean, would you really spend RM10k just to bring it on travels?
RM10,000 can buy you a trip to Europe, all expenses included.
For real.
Is it for people who want a fashionable accessory that would probably make them cooler than everyone else?
Most probably.
Is it for rich people who are already bored with their Leicas?
Most definitely (for rich people).

So, really, what was Nikon's target market?

According to my suggestion, a D7100-like AF system would give much better coverage (51 AF points) and also focusing speed.
By using a D600/D610 sensor, it would substantially reduce the price to a more affordable level.
Right now, it costs almost as much as a D800 (RM11k, 36MP, full HD video, 51 AF points) and is way more expensive than the D610 (RM6.5k, 24MP, full HD video, same AF system) but can't do half as much as both those cameras.
Makes sense, doesn't it?

The Df is a lot like the Chicken Cordon Bleu I once had at Secret Recipe.
On paper, it looked and sounded fantastic.
But once you take a bite of it, you realize it isn't as what you expected.
What's more, you find out that there isn't even any cheese inside the chicken.
True story.

I still love this camera but solely for how it looks and how much potential it had.
And the only reason I have so much to say about it is because I care.

But I didn't stop there.
I've had the appetizer and now it was time to move on to the main course.
Ladies and gentlemen, I got to play with the epitome of DSLRs: the Nikon D4s.

"s" for pants-crapping fantasticity.

When I held it in my hands, I couldn't stop shaking.
I felt just as starstruck as when I met Siti Nurhaliza in person.
In fact, I wasn't shaking as much when I wanted to take a self-portrait (real photographers say self-portrait) with her than I was when I took one with the D4s.
This beast of a camera is all you ever need and more.
Super fast burst (11 fps), super good focusing and imaging in low light, super awesome handling and super duper build.
I won't be making a thorough review of the D4s, though.
Just a bit of my input and first impressions.

I was genuinely terrified of using the D4s.
I had only dreamed of holding one and now I had it in my hands.
What's more, when I asked for it, Ain asked, "What lens?".
In my mind I was like, "300 2.8, no, 400 2.8, no, 85 1.4, no 24 1.4, no, no, no" but I quickly and calmly said "50 1.4".
Nailed it.
I was having the time of my life.
After a while I realized I was just shooting landscape.
So I changed to portrait and I was like, "Eh?".

It honestly didn't feel as good in my hands as the MB-D15 on my D7100.
The vertical grip isn't as deep and coupled with my anxiety, it just asked for a RM23k compensation worth of damages.
Yes, it was hard as The Rock (not a rock, The Rock) but it just wasn't comfortable.
Like, why couldn't the vertical grip be as deep and as comfortable as the horizontal grip?
But then again I only got to use it for a few minutes AND I was jittery so that might have clouded my judgement.

So there you have it; my one-two cents about the incredible Nikon flagship DSLR and its mid-life crisis-struck friend.
Cameras are always fun to play around with (in a serious, professional manner, that is) and I always look forward to trying them out, whether they are hot of the rack or as old as photography itself.
There is a certain thrill I get whenever I see a camera store.
As hostile as the salespeople are, I always feel intrigued by how magnificently engineered these cameras can be and how much they have progressed thus far.

I went back home that day feeling very satisfied; and tired out of my mind.
I spent the whole of the next day in bed nursing my aching legs.
But it was all worth it and I sure as Hell would do it again.
Big thanks to the people at Sony KLCC and Ain at Nikon Centre for being so nice!
God bless you all.

You can check out the FULL RES photos from this review here.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone
Eid Mubarak!
Eid is approaching soon and I'm pretty sure a lot of people are doing last minute shopping, some even for cameras.
For those of you who have absolutely no idea of what camera to get or what suits you best, give me a comment and I'll help you out however I can.

"Sharing is caring"

DISCLAIMER: I do not represent Nikon, Sony or any other brand that might be showcased in this review. This review is written for THE FEAR and is of no significance to any sort of argument that may or may not ensue. I deliver this with utmost honesty and sincerity.