In The Process
In terms of its image processing functions, the Df is pure Nikon D-SLR, starting with its set of six ‘Picture Control’ presets… five for colour and one for B&W capture. The colour presets are adjustable for sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue, either individually or in groups via a ‘Quick Adjust’ control. The Monochrome preset replaces the colour-related parameters with a set of B&W contrast filter effects, and toning in one of nine colours over seven levels of density. Up to nine customised ‘Picture Control’ presets can be created and stored.
For dealing with dynamic range issues, the Df has both Nikon’s ‘Active D-Lighting’ (ADL) processing and a dual-shot HDR capture mode. As on the D4, the ADL menu has an ‘Extra High 2’ setting to fully leverage the sensor’s inherent dynamic range. This is one of five manual settings; the alternative is automatic correction which is applied according to the exposure and brightness range in the image. ADL bracketing can be applied over sequences of two, three, four or five frames.
The HDR mode offers a choice of Auto correction – which has a range of up to +/-2.0 EV – or manual settings for +/-1.0, +/-2.0 or +/-3.0 EV. Auto alignment – or ‘Smoothing’ as Nikon calls it – is available with Low, Normal or High settings.
The Df also has separate adjustments for high ISO and long exposure noise reduction, in-camera lens corrections for vignetting and distortion, a multiple exposure facility, and an intervalometer. As on the other ‘FX’ format Nikon D-SLRs, correction for lateral chromatic aberrations is performed ‘behind the scenes”. Not surprisingly, there are no special effects available for application at the point of capture, but there’s an extensive choice of editing functions available in the camera’s Retouch Menu. These include includes a number of special effects such as ‘Fish-Eye’, ‘Colour Outline’, ‘Colour Sketch’, ‘Miniature Effect’ and ‘Selective Colour’. Filter effects are provided separately and include ‘Skylight’, ‘Cross Screen’, ‘Warm’ and ‘Soft’.
There’s a ‘Quick Retouch’ setting which automatically boosts the saturation and contrast with the choice of ‘Low’, ‘Normal’ and ‘High’ settings. Many of the editing functions are adjustable and, of course, the effects can be previewed in live view.
The other offerings in the Retouch Menu include ‘D-Lighting’ (for post-capture dynamic range expansion), straightening, distortion control, perspective control, red-eye correction, adjustments to colour balance (using RGB histograms for guidance), trimming, B&W conversion (with the option of either sepia or cyanotype toning), image overlay (for two RAW files with the capacity to balance the exposures as required), resizing and in-camera RAW-to-JPEG conversion. For the in-camera conversion of RAW files, the adjustable parameters are displayed alongside the thumbnail image and include image quality/size, white balance, colour space, ‘D-Lighting’ correction and the ‘Picture Control’ preset. It’s simply a case of using the ‘Multi-Selector’ controller to navigate through them and change any settings as desired. The exposure compensation adjustment is reduced to a maximum of +/-2.0 EV.
As we noted when we reviewed the D600 – so this observation is also true of both the D601 and the Df – its camera control systems aren’t in the same league as either the D800 or the D4, but they’re still acceptably ‘high end’. Autofocusing is via a 39-point system of which nine points are cross-type arrays. The seven most central points will work with lenses as slow as f8.0 (primarily to accommodate users of Nikon’s 2.0x teleconverter). The focusing points can be selected manually or configured to nine, 21 or the full 39 points in the camera’s ‘Dynamic-Area’ mode. There’s also a ‘3D Tracking’ mode which automatically switches the active points as the subject moves. AF in live view is via contrast detection with the choice of face priority, normal area, wide area and subject tracking modes. There’s a dedicated ‘AF-On’ button adjacent to the rear input dial, and fine-tuning is available for up to 12 lenses to correct for slight shifts in their focusing. Obviously these lenses have to be the CPU-equipped types.
Exposure control is based on Nikon’s 2016-pixel, RGB-sensitive sensor which drives ‘3D Colour Matrix Metering II’ multi-zone measurement and the alternative centre-weighted average and spot modes. As on all the higher-end Nikon D-SLRs, the centre-weighted metering has a variable diameter central area or can be switched to make fully averaged measurements. In keeping with the ‘pure photography’ theme, the Df doesn’t have any subject modes so exposure control is via the standard set of ‘PASM’ modes. The manual overrides comprise an AE lock, up to +/-3.0 EV of compensation (versus +/-5.0 EV on the D610) and auto bracketing either for available light exposures, flash exposures or a combination of both. The bracketing sequences can be set to between two and five frames.
The white balance control options are the same as those available on the D610, starting with two auto correction modes – one normal and the other designed to maintain warmer tones when shooting under incandescent lighting. The standard automatic correction has a range of 3500 to 8000 degrees Kelvin. There’s a choice of 12 presets for different lighting types, including seven for the various different types of gas-ignition lamps ranging from sodium-vapour at 2700 degrees Kelvin to mercury-vapour at 7200 degrees Kelvin.
Fine-tuning of all the presets is possible in five-mired increments across the green-to-magenta and blue-to-amber colour ranges. Alternatively, the colour temperature can be set manually from 2500 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin. Up to four custom white balance measurements can be made and stored for future recall. White balance bracketing adjustments can be in five-, ten- or 15-mired increments over the amber-to-blue colour range, and over sequences of two or three frames.
Making It Work
Beyond all its dials, the Df uses a pretty standard Nikon D-SLR set of menus divided into Shooting, Playback, Custom, Set Up and Retouch plus the very handy Recent Settings which is a quick way of reviewing the last 20 adjustments.
There’s a very 21st century ‘Information Display’ – which automatically switches between black-on-white and white-on-black according to the available light levels – and Nikon’s interpretation of the quick control screen. These are called ‘Menu Banks’ and there’s four of them which can be preselected in the Shooting Menu and then allow direct access to a small selection of functions via the info display. Additionally, there’s a set of four ‘Custom Settings Banks’ which can be configured, logically, from the Custom menu.
With its proper glass pentaprism, the Df’s optical viewfinder is a beauty except that the focusing screen is fixed so there isn’t the option of fitting one with a split-image rangefinder (for use with those classic Nikkors). Neverthless, it still vindicates Nikon’s decision to make the Df a D-SLR and not a mirrorless design. There are the options of having a framing grid and a level indicator, but alternatively there’s a very flashy dual-axis ‘Virtual Horizon’ display that’s available on the monitor screen, either by itself or in conjunction with live view. The live
view screens include 3x3 or 4x6 grids and various levels of information, but quite surprisingly, no
However, the replay/review screens provide the choice of a brightness histogram or the full set of RGB channel graphs, plus the option of a highlight warning which can also be cycled through each colour channel. It’s also possible to switch between various pages of capture data which is superimposed over the image. In addition to the Retouch Menu, the replay modes include zoom, slide show with variable image display time, 4/9/72 thumbnail pages, a calendar thumbnail page, and the capacity to add comments or copyright information.