With its retro-chic design and sublime lines, the Df gave a stylish twist to Nikon’s DSLR range when it was launched in 2013. But with the recent release of the feature-packed D850, how does the style stand up against the substance? We take a look at the specifications of both cameras to help you decide…
Design and ergonomics:
While the design differences of DSLR cameras are usually minimal, this is certainly not the case this time around. While the D850 looks like a regular Nikon DSLR, the Df has a retro design that pays homage to Nikon film cameras of yesteryear. Both cameras are weather sealed, so they can be used in harsh environments and both cameras are built around a full-frame (FX) sensor. However, there is a massive difference in resolution between the two cameras, with the Df offering 16-megapixels from its sensor (the same on found on the D4) and the D850 serving up a huge 45.7-megapixels.
This is just the start of a number of areas where the newer D850 pulls ahead on the spec sheets. There’s big differences in the autofocus department too – while the Df offers a modest 39 AF points, the D850 borrows the same 153-point system from Nikon’s flagship D5 sports camera. Then there’s the 3.2-inch LCDs on the rear of the camera. While the Df’s monitor is a fixed screen, the D850 features a tilting design that is useful for both setting up awkward compositions and when shooting video – plus the D850’s screen boasts higher resolution (2359k-dot v 921k-dot) and is touch sensitive too!
The D850 has a faster maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec compared to the Df’s 1/4000sec and also offers a faster max burst rate as while the Df tops out at 6 frames per second, the D850 can achieve 7FPS or 9FPS when used with the optional battery grip. In terms of connectivity, the D850 pulls ahead here too, offering Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, all of which are missing on the Df. At the side of the D850 you’ll find dual memory card slots (one SD and one XCD), which enables users to instantly back-up images to the second card, shoot JPEGs to one card and RAW files to the other or use one card for stills and the other for video. However, on the Df there is just one SD card.
Both cameras use the usual Nikon F mount for lenses and this means there is a huge amount of optics available from both Nikon and third-party manufacturers such as Sigma or Tamron. In terms of weight, the Df is the lighter option, tipping the scales at 760g compared to the 1015g D850. The Df also has a decent battery life of 1400 images between charges, but this still can’t compete with the D850, which can go 1840 on a full charge.
While the Df will be seen by some as ‘underpowered’ in today’s market, the 16-megapixel resolution will still be ample to make A3 prints from uncropped RAW files. However, the resolution of the D850 is incredible and will be able to make prints well in excess of A3. What’s more, because of the huge files, users can crop heavily in post-processing without compromising image quality. If you’re likely to shoot in low light conditions, it’s worth knowing the D850 has double the max native ISO of the Df (25600 v 12800). However, when using the expanded ISO option, things change and the D850 can use a max ISO level of 102400 while the Df has a ceiling of 204800. While both cameras shoot both JPEG and RAW file formats – it’s can be handy to know that, as the RAW files from the D850 are so big, photographers can decide to select the smaller Medium Raw or Small RAW options. This approach can be useful when if your computer set-up struggles to deal with large files or you’re running low on memory on your SD card.
This is the area where the cameras differ the most. Quite simply, the Df has no video mode at all, so has no ports for headphones or an external mic. In complete contrast, the D850 has it all, and can shoot ultra high-quality 4K (3840×2160) footage. The D850 will also film at Full HD at a number of frame rates, including a fast frame rate that can be used to create dramatic slow motion sequences. The D850 offers ports for an external microphone and a headphones (so you can accurately monitor audio). What’s more, footage from the D850 can be used to create insanely high quality 8K time-lapse creations in post-processing.
Extras and verdict:
There’s no doubting these two cameras are different propositions and are unlikely to be purchased by the same sort of photographer. The Df is a beautifully-crafted piece of art that is capable of producing high-quality imagery, especially in low light. The D850 however is a different beast and is one of the most advanced cameras on the market.
Capable of shooting high-quality stills and video, the D850 is a DSLR that has it all. Along with that high resolution, there’s innovative features such as a special Focus Bracketing mode, that will automatically take up to 300 shots at various depths of field. These images are then merged to produce a single image with front-to-back sharpness – an option sure to capture the interest of macro photographers. Another interesting feature is that the buttons on the rear of the camera are illuminated, making it easy to select the right options in low light conditions. Given the vast range of features and functions, it’s clear the D850 is sure to be a workhorse camera for professional landscape and portrait photographers for years to come.