I like that retro styling is becoming a way for camera makers to demonstrate their commitment to serious photography, because pretty cameras are pretty, but mostly because physical knobs and dials are often better than menus for common camera functions.
But as great as these physical UI elements look, what really matters is how they feel. As I wrote back in 2008, we should not lust after specs or superficial qualities of a camera, but instead seek the most transparent possible liaison between our artistic intent and the images we want to make.
No one who hasn’t touched a Df knows how it fares on that front. So I turned, as I often do, to my buddy Gordon Laing and his amazing Camera Labs site. He spent some time with the Df at a recent Nikon press event.
Retro styling is all about nostalgia, but industries move on for a reason. So in order to be successful with a retro concept, I believe you have to serve it with a generous dollop of the modern too. Trouble is, this is not always an easy balance to get right.
Gordon seems to conclude that Nikon didn’t quite get it right. For myself, I’ve concluded that I already own an expensive, hefty, full-frame DSLR—and while it might not look hipster-retro, it feels great, and using it is second nature to me. Upon closer inspection today, I was reminded that it is, in fact, covered with knobs and dials.
Oh, and it shoots video too, which the Df does not. And it has more megapixels, and a faster shutter, and a dial that adjusts shutter speed in 1/3 stop increments (instead of full-stop), because it’s designed to work well, not just look cool.
The same can be said for Nikon’s D800, which beats out the 5D Mark III in many comparisons.