Why the Nikon Df scares consumers / by Isaiah Winters

I've been into photography for quite some time now, ever since I was a child I always wanted to have a camera with me. Even if it was one of those cheapo disposable cameras with 100 film ( I always begged my mother for the more expensive 400). As I grew older, I became interested in other things and stopped spending my money on film and time in the darkroom. Around this time, we began to see the inclusion of decent sensors in smartphones and if a person wasn't using a cheap point-and-shoot they were using their smartphones. I even fell into this and began using my iPhone for most of my photography on the go. It was something I had already paid for, was using everyday for a number of tasks, and was always available to me.

After spending some time doing this I began to feel like I wasn't able to capture some of the images that I wanted to, this led me to start leaning back towards the world of cameras, and even more importantly, the world of DSLRs. I was shocked when I got my first Nikon and saw just how expensive it was to get an entry-level DSLR, and it almost scared me away from getting back into the hobby. Luckily I had been viewing the work and tutorials of great photographers like Matt Granger (www.mattgranger.com) and Nico Mojica (www.camcrunch.com) and I just had to get back into taking real photos.

Even though I knew it would be similar to outgrowing your first bike, I wanted to make sure I didn't overwhelm myself when I started so I opted for the entry-level Nikon D3100. My local Best Buy was having a sale on the kit and I just could not pass it up. After convincing my wife that $500 is actually very cheap for a DSLR with two kit lenses (which was not easy mind you) I took my new toy home and began using it. It took a little bit of time but I easily learned all the functions of the camera and paired with Adobe CC began producing some fairly decent work with it. 

Taken with Nikon D3100  (f/11 1/200s ISO200 66mm)

Fast forward a little bit and after acquiring a bunch of gear, as well as selling a bunch. I now have a home studio with a decent amount of lighting equipment and I also went from the D3100 to the D5100, and now I am truly in love with my used D7000. I am slowly moving up because that is what my budget allows, and everyone will take a different route. Some may start out with the very best gear, but without investing time and studying (which I spent hundreds of hours doing) all of that expensive gear won't help you out at all. I would tell anyone remotely interested in photography to beware of getting G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) because it can lead to severe financial hardship, like famous photographer Zack Arias may be able to tell you. 

So now we move on to the topic of DSLRs like the Nikon Df, which has a very niche market but tell a story of the greater issue going on in DSLR sales today. The initial ads for the camera were met with an amazing amount of hype and once again the Nikon and greater photography community was excited again for this product that was going to change things and get us back to "Pure Photography". Something that was so exciting that consumers and enthusiasts were going crazy for any information they could get their hands on about it. 

In reality what we got was a camera that "fuses" the new with the old and combines the body and feel of some of the older film cameras with the sensors and features of newer high end DSLRs like the Nikon D600 and the Nikon D800. The camera has an EXPEED 3 image processor with 16.2MP sensor and many of the features of the other full-frame Nikon cameras. There is one big feature which is missing though, and that is video. I am not a big user of the video features but if someone if paying upwards of $3000 for a full-frame camera, they better get the same features as other cameras in a similar price point. I understand that to make the camera smaller they had to also have a battery that was smaller, and from initial reviews I doubt it would even be able to power video recording for very long if at all. 

I have no problem at all with the Nikon Df and I am sure if I was wealthy and dying to get rid of some cash I would go pick one up, I think the styling is amazing and it does remind me of older cameras I used to use during high school. My problem here is with the fact that Nikon spent so much time and money marketing the Nikon Df to be this huge game changer and revolutionary product. When in reality only photographers who are well off, and rich hipsters will be the ones putting up the cash to pick this camera up. At the time of this post, this Nikon Df, which had generated so much buzz before it was initially unveiled, is #75 on Amazon's DSLR Best Sellers Rank. It also has a whopping (wait for it).... 29 Customer Reviewers in the two months it has been available. 

With the availability of newer and better smartphone cameras, what is a huge company like Nikon going to do to get people more interested in DSLRs or even the almost comatose point-and-shoot market. I know tons of people who look at my work online and on instagram and ask what camera I use, but once they start looking into the costs and all gear necessary they simply back off. With the new iPhone 5S or the Nokia Lumia 1020 why would anyone want to spend time worrying about a heavy clunky DSLR, or even a lightweight alternative like the Sony A7.

All of these ideas that I have are sadly being backed up by the recent earnings reports by big photo companies like Nikon and Canon. Sales seem to be down across the board and Nikon just posted a 41% drop in operating profit due to the drop in demand of higher end SLRs among hobbyists. There are also reports coming out that say only Nikon, Canon and Sony will survive all the new smartphones that are becoming people's go-to cameras. I hope that they can take a new approach and find a way to get people back into the idea of using dedicated cameras, because I would hate to see a company like Nikon continue to lose profit and relevance during this smartphone revolution.