A look under my Christmas Tree! Nikon Df, Leica M, Sony A7r and the Olympus E-M1!

Look at what is Under My Tree!


Ho Ho Ho! Man, am I a lucky guy or what? I realized that I currently have 4 of the hottest, if not THE hottest and most desired digital cameras out there right now!

The Nikon Df, the Leica M 240, the Sony A7r and the Olympus E-M1.


I just had to take a quick shot of them as one of these is my pick for Camera of the Year 2013. Which one will it be? Hmmmm..

Also, The Nikon Df just arrived to me today and my 1st impressions?

  • It is much lighter than I expected. The Nikon Df with 50 1.8 is lighter than my M 240 Body alone.
  • It is easy to manual focus
  • IQ seems the same as the D4
  • The camera is smaller than I thought it would be, but still fat.
  • Shutter is nice and smooth, more quiet than the A7 for sure.
  • IQ with the 50 1.8 kit lens is SOFT. This lens sharpens up by 2.2/2.5
  • Smaller battery than D700, D800, etc but Nikon claims 1400 shots.
  • Dials and buttons feel more on the cheap side than rock solid side. 
  • Low light? Superb but the RX1 may beat it in this area..or similar. 
  • It is unique and I love the manual controls. After 10 minutes I learned them all quite easily. 
  • Love the design and look. But the E-M1 feels better in my hand. 
  • VS the A7? The Df is $1000 more for the body but offers many more lenses, faster AF, better high ISO/Low light, quieter operation and an overall faster feel. But it is a DSLR and NOT a mirrorless, so lenses are larger. The Nikon is made in Japan as well. Overall the Sony offers more bang for the buck but lacks in the lenses. 

I will be starting to shoot it tomorrow and will post my full review in the next 2-3 weeks. I will do my 1st look video on Friday or Saturday and compare the black and silver side by side. I will also be testing a trio of 50’s..the kit 1.8, the 50 1.2 AIS and the new 58 1.4, which looks spectacular.

Stay tuned!



  1. Tested the Sony before buying my Df last week. What a disappointing shutter sound. Horrible really. Had me rushing to the Nikon section and part with my cash. Nothing more off putting than a horrible shutter sound.

  2. Steve, did you try calibrating the focus on the 50 1.8? I heard a lot of those guys back focus. It’s not going to ever be crazy sharp wide open, but it still should be pretty usable.

    • No but this is the third one I have tried..same result BUT the funny thing? Had a silver Df arrive for review (now have black and silver here) and the 50 that came with the Silver is much better. Still nothing like a premo 50 but much much better and now I would say it is “sharp” even at 1.8 though not razor sharp. Does Nikon usually have these kinds of issues? Using the calibration in camera is sort of a fix and a way for Nikon to be lazy with their lens production..if they are not perfect you can always calibrate in body. Hmmm.

  3. Hi guys! I have a question I’m hoping one of you can clarify for me. I see a lot of Steve’s photos and a lot of the portraits seem to have this 3D pop which I love. Does this have to do with having a full-frame sensor or is this because of the lens used? Would I be able to get this with a DF and a fast lens let’s say? I see it in his photos with the A7 cameras but wondering if it’s because he used a Leica/Voigtlander/Zeiss lens on it?

    Where I am from, such high end camera models are on a “by-order” basis and don’t have demo units for testing. So I have to rely on review sites such as this to figure out if I am really getting what I want. I am debating on whether I should get the DF or the A7. Seeing that the DF isn’t MUCH bigger, I may go for that since I also have a few Nikon lenses I can use with it already. Decision will be based on which has the faster AF (seems to be the DF), dynamic range and SOOC colors with emphasis on skin tone since I will be using it to photograph my kids and I don’t like to have to tweak TOO MUCH on Lightroom.

    Hope you guys can answer this 🙂 Many thanks!

  4. Oi Stevo Leica M 240 Sorry Nikon but This being Christmas I hope Saint Solms gives all the nice guys n dolls nothing but good deals at discount prices. I’ve got my eye on a 2nd hand M9 for under 4 grand cdn but being on a budget-Will settle on the Panaleica-Any critics out there about the M9 Kodack Senser.
    I walked passed a Toronto camera shop and noticed a lot of vintage SLR-My eyes went to the Rolli’s and Nikon F-Rock N Roll Phot pass came to mind.
    Latest find 1976 50 MF Cannon 1.4 for under 30 cdn with Ebay CF to M 4/3-Will post some of my D Clicks soon folks. (what took me so long) my sign is influences my Led wallet.
    As always Mr. Steve keep this great site up and running your passion along with all the Int. Photo folks around the world makes a great Pick me up.
    In Joy the Holly Daze and Hippy shooting folks.
    Click! Film advance.

  5. There are something I don’t understand after I followed this blog for more than a year. Some people complained about different cameras:”D800 is too easy to use, so I switched to Leica M because of the simplicity of picture taking.”

    What are the differences between “easy” and “simplicity”? Can someone explain to me?

    Now a day all digital cameras has image processors in them. Some are multi-cores processor(a DSP for still picture, a video processor and an ARM processor-like for user interface, WiFi, NFC, etc.). All of them are computerized no exceptions. All of them work like a computer. The only difference is the user interface to setup shooting controls. Please don’t confuse yourself and me.

  6. Hi Steve, sadly here in Brazil we don’t have access to all that amazing equipment so sites like yours are of great help on our decision of which equipment to get. Been hitting my head if the a7r camera will save me from spending the big bucks on a leica M. I have a Sony RX1, love the little camera but its like shooting a computer. The image quality is amazing, but when shooting with it i feel like i am using a phone …. The D800 which i have also, is more camera like, I feel more connected…. How do you feel using the A7r? is it like a computer as well? that’s why i am looking as well at the Df, but price is to high…

  7. Steve, when you have finished your evaluations I hope you will tell us: “if I could only keep one of the four it would be _______ , and here is why______.

    • I’m afraid not, the image circle is half the diameter of a 35mm frame. It is fantastic on the EM1 though.

    • No, it is soft using AF or MF and it is in focus – it is just not a sharp lens wide open. I remember this from when I had the lens many years ago with my D700. When you are used to lenses like the Leica Summicron, Summiluc or Zeiss Planar 50mm’s, most lenses will be soft in comparison. To me, this lens is soft until about 2.2 but really 2.5. Better at 2.8.

      • Any lens that I’d want to use would have to be very very useable from f2.0. That seems to rule out this 1.8. Fyi; in my experience (50’s only) the Makro-Planar is great, the 1.4/50 Planar so so, the 1.4/50G Nikkor boring, the 1.2/50 AiS exciting and challenging, the 1.4/50 AiS disappointing, the 1.8/50 AiS good.

        All this on full frame, D800 (and A7r) being noticeably more challenging than lesser Mp cameras.

        • Well, I still call it soft. I owned it with the D700, tested it on the D3s and the E-P2 with 20 1.7 spanked its behind in a big way and now with the Df..it is soft. The link you supplied has one image at 1.8 (where I said it is soft, and it is a resized shot). The lens portrays images in a flat and softer way. Nothing at all like a Leica sum micron or a Panasonic 25 1.4 for M 4/3. Not even close. By f/2.5 it sharpens up some but it still a “boring” lens in the way that it renders. I have the 58 1.4 with me here and it is better but still, not in the league of a Leica 50 cron or lux. IMO, that 58 1.4 is overpriced by about $700.

  8. I don’t like the Nikon DF body design and the only 16 Mpix sensor. I find the Nikon F6 body much more of a design perfection. Imagine the digital F6 with super high pixel density screen covered with gorilla glass. Body made of stonewashed Titanium with some real leather. And all the buttons must be made of titanium with symbols engraved in (not painted on plastic with low Q paint).

    Leica looks very lovely on the pic

  9. Too be honest, I’m really looking forward to your Nikon Df review. More so than any other review you’ve done recently. As a Panny GX-1 user, I’m committed to the m4/3 lenses and format…but some of the early reviews, YouTube videos and sample JPEGs from the Df have piqued my interest.

  10. Just go look in the closet, find yer mothers old Stylus and take some pictures. The half roll of film in it (18 full frame sensors) still works fine.

  11. Hi Steve!

    What a bunch of christmas presents!
    (By the way – quite strang for a European already seeing a Christmas tree – as we are not getting them up earlier then Dec. 24th. – right now in your house).

    Personally I would go for either the OMD or M240 – looking forware for your insights.

    Wish you well!

  12. WOW! I am amazed at how much bigger the M1 is than the A7r. (I know it has that extra base on it…but it would still be bigger without it).
    That’s wild.

    • EM1(without extra base) & A7 same size: I checked them out side by side yesterday.
      There is no contest if modern small fast AF lenses are not required : A7 every time

    • The trend is larger sensors in smaller bodies. Olympus EM-1 has a small sensor in a larger body. Clearly against the trend and not a sustainable and winning proposition.

      • But the bodies can’t get much smaller and still be usable for enthusiasts (obviously no view finder super iphone type models can), and so it comes round to lenses and versitility. m4/3 does fine, the full frame Sony is likely to find most use from 35-90mm where the lenses balance nicely and work well. You will be able to plonk a much longer lens on the front but it wont be particularly enjoyable, the same is true of the Df to some extent in terms of balance. So the olympus/panasonics with more reach from smaller optics, and good all round quality (printing up to A3 in my case) remain a great option, even for those of us who keep a full frame body too. For me all the talk of “boutique” vs “democratic” and “true cameras” is just brand loyalty and emotion, which is fine, but they all take digital images, and they are all computers, use whatever you enjoy using and that enjoyment will come out in the photos.

  13. Steve; I have the A7r and the EF 35mm. The lens is a little bit loose when mounted; I can move a tiny (just a tiny!) bit… Same with your camera/(lens?

  14. This really reminds you sensor size isn’t everything: e-m1 sitting next to 3 full frame beasts as an equal. Still can’t help but look forward to my a7r though…

    • What do you mean Nick? The E-M1 seems (in this pic) almost as big as the Df, and still has a much smaller sensor? Amazing indeed… 😉

          • it was in a post a couple of weeks back. Provides somewhere to rest your little finger which otherwise curls under the body. I dont bother, but then I take less photos than Steve, did have a side grip on the EM5, but thats built in on the EM1.
            Really, though, the point is, that there is no point making a body any smaller than the A7, EM1, because to accomodate a decent LCD, VF, dials etc, and balance with even a smallish lens we seem to be pretty much at the limit or very close to it.

          • There are a lot of issues at play here…

            Honestly, once a system camera gets below a certain size, it become awkward (opposite of cumbersome) to work with.

            I think Olympus had it just right with the original OM-1 & OM-2 and attached motor drives. They were a perfect size, IMO … and I think the OM-D emulates that nicely, with the addition of a built-in grip and a bit lighter weight.

            I finally got a chance to play with an OM-D E-M1 at my local retailer a few days ago, and I have to say I absolutely adored it, for most of the same reasons I adored the OM-1 & 2. Plus with all the technology that Olympus has packed into it, it really is a winner.

            Unfortunately, the store copy died in mid-demo. Just up and quit. We tried everything to revive it (yes, batteries, resets, everything), but apparently it was just a defective copy. Wouldn’t dissuade me from buying one, but was kinda annoying just as I was learning more about some of the detailed functions.

            I gone done and broke it, I guess. 🙁

            What scares me about M4/3 the current trend and the tech ceiling.

            Olympus is banking on M4/3 and operating their camera division at a loss. At some point, if they can’t increase mirrorless sales significantly, the company will have to close its consumer imaging division.

            I still believe ― all things being equal ― that the trend is towards larger sensors in smaller cameras (even as smart phone sensors get better and encroach from underneath). This puts another squeeze-play on M4/3s, IMO.

            While it’s true that the sensor technology will continue to improve, making the smaller sensors better, it will also improve in the larger sensors, too. And with talk of 8K resolution, small sensors will be hard-pressed to offer those levels of resolution. But they’ll definitely show up in full-frame.

            Perhaps this all becomes a moot point as soon as we hit a level of resolution where the human eye can no longer perceive increases in acuity. At that point the only real advantage of more pixels and/or larger sensors would be the cropping factor (and improved depth of field range in the case of the latter).

            Olympus makes some truly terrific cameras, and I love ’em for it, but I fear they may have bet the farm on a format with a dicey future.

            As we say in the muscle car world: “Smoke ’em while ya got ’em.”

  15. I will be interested in what you think of the 50 F1.2 AIS as I’ve just picked one up for my D600 and am mightily impressed. I’ve found it really is sharp by F2.0 and at F1.2 its still sharper than my 50 F1.4 AFG…sexy time as they say in Hong Kong lol

    • The 50mm f/1.2 AIS performs better by f/2 than many of the contemporary 50mm lenses from Nikon. At f/1.2 it’s softer, however — as you might expect — particularly at the edges.

      • The edges are, imho, never important in the kind of images you’d want to make at f1.2 (or f1.4, or f2.0 for that matter). The 1.2 gives a really special rendering in my experience, which sometimes is touch and go on the D800. On the Df I think it will be spectacular. Made one image with it last Friday of Nivo-Schweitzer’s owner, full bore, no card so only saw it on the display, and the shop people immediately started speculating on how to get it from the camera.

        • We had the 50mm f/1.2 Nikkor (mine) in the studio for the Df Inspiration shoot, but I never tried it.

          More importantly, we also had the Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 in the studio, too … but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to try that on the Df, either, on account of production time constraints. But THAT would have been a helluva combo!

          Did get to shoot with the new 58mm f/1.4G, however, and it’s wonderful, with a very definite character.

  16. This is the stuff crazy comparisons are made of….

    … possibly including Baby. I don’t think we’ve seen her for a while? I hope she is well.

  17. Now that’s a mean post… looking forward to your Df impressions. Was surprised as well by the lightweight. It’s not a camera for zooms. Pair it with primes and size is just perfect.

  18. I am interested to hear how you find manual focus. I currently like to use a manual focus Zeiss ZF.2 lens on a Nikon D800E but not always with successful sharp focus. I am also interested in the Sony A7R and would be interested to know if you find one or the other camera easier to manual focus otherwise Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas

  19. you say: It is much lighter than I expected. The Nikon Df with 50 1.8 is lighter than my M 240 Body alone. I would say that`s wrong…..

    • Actually, I just weighed both with batteries and they were just about the same. The Nikon with the 50 1.8 and the Leica body. Just over 2 lbs with battery each of them, so I was wrong, it is not much lighter (but feels like it is in the hand) but about the same.

      • Steve, your first impressions of the DF are right on. Those were my first impressions as well except that I have had the camera for four days now and they have changed somewhat. The buttons initially did feel ‘cheap’ as you said but after using them I find that the dials are well machined and not as fragile or ‘cheap’ as they first appear to be. The only button that I still find ‘cheap’ is the AF/M switch. The more you handle the body the more it feels like one solid although relatively light brick. Nikon obviously wanted to make this camera as portable and light as feasibly possible for a full frame dslr. As for the kit lens, I do not find it soft at f1.8, quite the opposite. I am not sure what lens you are comparing this to. The camera grows very quickly on you and it looks great. The files from this camera are outstanding and clearly beat anything I have ever used at high iso’s.

  20. Interesting in hand feel comment about the Df. My rental unit is coming in on Wednesday, but your observation is pretty much like everyone else who has used one, in that it feels surprisingly light. Some say that it almost feels like Nikon has used a super thin quality metal to create this. Nothing like their pro cameras, or even the old pro-am film cameras like the Nikon Fm2.
    So lasting many years may be a pipe dream.
    I’m looking forward to testing it with my 105 1.8, 50 1.2, 55 2.8 Micro and 24 2.8 AIS lenses. Should be fun either way.

    • I think it’s a mistake to conflate light weight with poor quality. Nikon DSLRs aren’t commonly known for just spontaneously falling apart, even at the consumer end.

      We spent time with the Df, and while every camera has it’s strengths and weaknesses, IMO it strikes a realistic balance of weight, solidity, IQ, handling, and retro.

      fyi: Under shooting conditions, early results would seem to indicate that the sensor may be improved beyond the one in the D4, with even lower noise under ISO3200.

      Haven’t compared it to the RX1, but I would be very, very surprised if the Df wasn’t better.


    • I don’t think that the camera is meant to be bashed around like a full pro camera. They seem to have focused more on light weight, portability and enjoyment for well versed amateur photographers. I am sure that my Sony Alpha 850 would be able to handle more bumping around than my DF. The DF is camera that I would not want to bump around. It’s the kind of camera that will be cared for by most purchasers, just like a fine watch. The camera still feels well built and compact for a full frame dslr.

  21. The DF is to buy and keep for many many years. The A7`s half life is about 2 years max. and it will depreciate very quickly (I bought a A7R nevertheless). But it has a number of rough edges which require smoothing and improvement in the next generations. The M is for the m-lenses and good for a number of years only as Leica will improve live view and EVF integration in a next generation. The EM1 is to much camera for the tiny sensor in terms of size, weight and price imho. The M and the DF are cameras and there to stay, the others are computers and partly gadgets which come and go, like seasons.

    • why will the A7 last only a couple of years?

      will all the e-mount morph into some form of Zombie-mount in which case after 2 years you can no longer use any lenses on this body?

      huh… didn’t know that. Well I least I can get two years worth of use before throwing away all my lenses. Thanks!

      • “why will the A7 last only a couple of years?”

        Because Sony is schizophrenic and will develop an entirely new system before coming out with any lenses beyond the f/4 zoom, orphaning all 4 of their existing systems before any are fully developed.

        • Exactly. And because the first generation of Sony`s A will look very dated when they follow their semi annual release of new bodies. Who remembers the first NEX 5 which was released some short three years ago and what is today`s demand in the market for them?

          • I can’t find many people looking for a Olympus PEN E-PL1 either or any other camera from 2010 in that pricerange..
            A lot of people want a new camerabody after just one year of use. I don’t blame Sony for selling them.

          • That is why my initial post says “they come and go”, whether Sony, Olympus, Panasonic. The DF and M instead are cameras to hold on to and use for years and thus are less expensive (not: expense and cost do not mean the same).

          • Had the chance to take a look at the A7 over the weekend. Nice and light, very easy to handle, with a front command dial for aperture and a rear command dial for shutterspeed. Shutter has a nice solid sound, very positive. But there are some issues – it looks like a Bridge camera ( and that was with the Zeiss 35mm attached ) and looking through the view finder, it was like tunnel vision ( or maybe I am used to my Leica M). I just wondered how durable the camera and lens will be because they just don’t look very substantial and are lacking in heft. Certainly the Canikons look more well built not to say a Leica. Just my impression.

          • ex·pen·sive
            costing a lot of money.

            I think your using a different meaning to everyone else. IMO I see the Df or M staying in people’s collections longer because they are bought to be toys as much as tools and therefore it doesn’t matter if they’re dated, as long as they’re still fun to use.

            Personally if I got an A7 unless my subject matter changed drastically I wouldn’t see myself selling it for a good few years.

        • “why will the A7 last only a couple of years?

          Because Sony is schizophrenic and will develop an entirely new system before coming out with any lenses beyond the f/4 zoom, orphaning all 4 of their existing systems before any are fully developed.”

          And also because Sony electronics aren’t built to last anymore.
          *looks across the room at totl Sony blue ray player that quit working after 13 months*

    • Another passer-by that spouts the stale “tiny sensor/high price” comment. It seems that all the FF users enthusiast for the new Olympus camera are just deluded fools that likes to throw away their money… 😉

  22. Can you play Santa this year and give one away? How about the least favorite one is the one to give away?

  23. I think you’ll choose the A7 as the fave because of how it plays with those nice little range finder lenses, albeit mostly over 35mm….

  24. I think it will be the E-M1 but it could also go to A7R. E-M1 hits the sweet spot of IQ, portability, glass ecosystem and price. Those Zeiss lenses for the As are going to be uber expensive

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