Photography

The Nikon Df in downtown South Bend

I’m continuing to inventory Michigan Road Historic Byway signs all along the route, looking for missing ones so they can be replaced. A recent day off work saw me inventorying signs between Indianapolis and South Bend. I brought my Nikon Df along, with the cheap and cheerful 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 AF Nikkor lens attached. I shot the Df on a photowalk in downtown South Bend.

Here’s the Morris Performing Arts Center, originally known as the Palace Theater. The light was odd this late-winter afternoon — thinly overcast and moderately bright. I wasn’t wowed with how the Df handled this light. I punched all of these images up in Photoshop, including adding about a half stop of exposure to each.

The Palace Theater

The Palace opened in 1922, and so the Morris is celebrating the venue’s 100th anniversary this year. I shoot straight JPEG in the Df. It has a RAW mode, but I haven’t tried it yet.

The Palace Theater

Here’s a detail shot of the Palace’s terra cotta. We’re fortunate to still have the Palace. Another theater, the Granada, used to stand across the street but met the wrecking ball about 50 years ago. It was equally grand.

The Palace Theater

The Palace could easily have met the State’s fate, too. It’s down Michigan Street a couple of blocks. It’s vacant and has received minimal maintenance over the years. The state of its wonderful sign breaks my heart. I saw my first movie in the State, a reissue of Disney’s Bambi. I remember well when this sign used to light up at night, and it is a glorious sight.

State Theater

I stepped way back and made a photo of the whole building from the front. I had to tilt the camera up to fit it all in. Photoshop’s perspective correction tool set it right. The 28-80 lens was a kit lens on countless late-film-era Nikon SLRs, but it’s a solid performer and lets me pull large buildings like this into the frame.

State Theater

The State may be closed, but one business continues to operate out of one of its storefronts. I slung the Df over my shoulder for this walk. You notice this camera when you carry it — it’s larger than, and almost as heavy as, a Nikon F2.

Idle Hours Bookshop

I walked a little bit down Colfax Avenue to pass by The Griffon, a longtime bookstore for nerds and gamers. (I’m definitely a nerd, so I can say that.) I used to go in here sometimes when I lived in South Bend in the early 1980s. I’m thrilled to see it still operating, and I’m even more thrilled to see its facade in such great condition.

The Griffon

I walked a bit down Main Street, which isn’t actually South Bend’s main street (Michigan Street is). This is Fiddler’s Hearth, a longtime Irish pub.

Fiddler's Hearth

I needed to use perspective correction in Photoshop to set the St. Joseph County Courthouse square. I think it’s a little overcorrected. At least I could get the whole building in the frame at 28mm.

St. Joseph County Courthouse

I stepped down Jefferson Boulevard to recreate a photo I made in 1985. Let’s just say my photo skills weren’t that sharp then.

Former WSBT building

Here’s my original photo, from 1985, shot on film of course because we didn’t have digital yet.

One last photo. Michigan Road signs only recently went up in South Bend, along with Lincoln Highway signs. The Michigan Road and the Lincoln Highway share the route west from downtown South Bend for about 18 miles.

Michigan Road and Lincoln Highway

I am pleased to own my Nikon Df, but I don’t use it nearly as much as I thought I would. One reason is its large size. I hesitate before taking it along for the ride. This was my first ever road trip with the Df! It performed adequately as a road-trip companion. But frankly, my Canon PowerShot S95 is an easier companion because it fits in the palm of my hand.

Naturally, the Df’s full-frame sensor is going to beat the S95’s 1/1.7-inch sensor every day of the week. The Df also benefits from about seven years of digital imaging advances over the S95. The Df is hardly the latest and greatest, however — even though I bought mine new last year, the camera was introduced in 2013. Its 16.2-megapixel sensor attests to it being from that era of DSLR.

Even after a year, I’m still getting to know my Nikon Df. I’m not unhappy with it, but I’m not fully in love like I thought I would be. Because it was so touted, and so bloody expensive, perhaps my expectations of it have been too high. I am in love with my Canon S95, but I believe my expectations of it have always been in line with its reality.

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15 thoughts on “The Nikon Df in downtown South Bend

    • There’s a lot to get to know. I’ve yet to shoot it on anything other than the default settings. Well, I did turn on Auto ISO for better low-light work. But that’s it.

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I think you’ve hit on a couple of things here Jim. The Df is certainly the camera Nikon should have always produced, especially when it comes to the lens mount! The “legend” that Nikon’s mount had stayed the same over the years is just that, a legend without much fact. There are certainly many examples of lenses not retro-fitting back and forth between the years, and you certainly could NOT mount older lenses to newer mounts if they did not have the “flip up ear or flag” on the mount; which mostly appeared only on the most expensive of the newer cameras. The Df was a move towards rectifying that!

    Altho I did a lot of professional work at the dawn of digital on 12 megapixel cameras, and currently use M 4/3rd’s cameras with 16 megapixel sensors, certainly 24 megapixels is about the minimum I would want these days, and is sort of the “toss away” megapixel standard now for most stuff. The Df should have been moved up to this years ago.

    If I wasn’t “semi-retired”, I probably would have bought this camera, but at this price range, there are a lot of “better tech” cameras now available. Not being a person that shot 35mm professionally, many of the newer electronic view-finder cameras, have the ability to shoot square and 4X5 format (4:3), more useful to me, and those focus screens are more focusable than “aerial image” focus screens of many of those cameras like the Df have.

    The Df DOES have a .tiff file setting, the standard for a true professional camera! Having shot transparency for years, I’ve always considered the ability to shoot uncompressed standardized imagery a plus, This would go along with the native digital file being improved so that it looks more “film-like”. The Df’s older tech does not have this “look” (altho still very good). It is what it is. For professional imagery, the work process is shooting RAW, post-processing, then saving off as .tiff for the highest rez image to the ad agency/end user. If you can set the camera for the “look” you want in a situation, shooting native .tiff is the way to go. Jpeg is only for web usage, as far as professionals are concerned.

    Interesting to note, is that the Df is no longer listed on B&H or Adorama. Is there going to be a “new era” Df with a 24 or even higher megapixel count, and a more focusable screen? Time will tell. When I quiz 35mm professional shooters about which camera they would like to be stuck on a desert island with, there are an amazing amount of pros telling me that a cheap to buy used Canon 5D MkII would be the way to go…

    • After having used the Df for a year, I can’t shake the feeling that this is a specialty camera, not a workhorse. I thought I was getting a workhorse. But then, I’m still learning this camera’s ways. Perhaps I haven’t unlocked all of its power yet.

      The Df is no more. Nikon probably stopped manufacturing it several years ago and
      everyone has been selling off leftover stock. When I bought mine, it was hard to find a chrome-topped one left anywhere. For some reason, the all-black version was much more available.

      Nikon’s new-era Df is actually a mirrorless camera, the Z fc: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/mirrorless-cameras/z-fc.html

      • Andy Umbo says:

        That certainly “looks” like the heir to the throne, but a few problems: not full frame, doesn’t shoot 4:3/5:4, altho does shoot square and 16:9, doesn’t shoot native .tiff. Typical camera design mess, corrected some of the things wrong with the Df, and then left the things out that were right! Oi, I hate this stuff…

        I DID notice, like you, that you can easily get a Df with a black top, but silver as difficult as hen’s teeth…that must have been what everyone wanted…gave it that FM look….

  2. When I sold my Leica M9, I flirted with the idea of getting a Nikon DF. The main reason was the compatibility with all of my Nikon lenses, but I also loved the retro (like a Nikon FE) look of the camera. I played around with one in the local camera store but decided to put the Leica proceeds in the bank and fool around with more film cameras.

    • When I decided to treat myself to something very nice last year about this time, I settled on the Df because it has controls like a Nikon FE and takes all of my manual focus Nikon lenses with no trouble at all. It is now my main digital camera.

  3. Jim,
    Just wanted to say after reading about your experiences with the Canon s95, I finally bought one a few weeks ago. I was surprised at how small it is. Love it!

  4. I have the Zfc and the Df. I think the Df has fantastic color. It will take more time with the Zfc to determine whether the camera is as good. The Zfc is 20 megapixels. Both 16 and 20 megapixels are enough for most applications.

    • The Zfc looks to be a much more comfortable size compared to the Df. But, of course, it doesn’t take all of my existing F-mount lenses.

  5. Darts and Letters says:

    Jim, how do you like the dials on the Df? Do they really mimic the feel of the old cameras? My Fuji DSLR has the same kind. At first they were super awkward but now I love’em and they feel really. intuitive.

    I wonder what the Df size is compared to the D750? I still have my D750 and man alive, when I try to take it on walkarounds now, it boggles my mind that I used to lug that thing on ten mile hikes and brush bashing.

    • I took to the Df’s controls right away because they’re so much like a 70s film SLR. I’ve used my wife’s D3200 and my old Pentax K10D and found them to be less intuitive, coming from old film SLRs as I have.

      I don’t know how large the D750 is. I do know that the Df is larger than and almost as heavy as my Nikon F2.

      • Darts and Letters says:

        I just looked, the d750 and Df are basically the same size but the Df is 80 grams lighter. Boy, the Df sure is a pretty camera! I love the black and silver!

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