Shooting the Nikon Df Old School style by Huss Hardan

Shooting the Nikon Df Old School style by Huss Hardan

I had been curious as how the Df would stack up shot like one of my old school film Nikons. Using old Nikkor AI-S lenses, setting the aperture using that weird ring thing on the lens body, and focussing it manually.

The first thing I had to do was dive into the menu and manually set and save each lens by scrolling through the lens list until I found each one.

Just to give an idea as to how easy this is to do, I have never used a Nikon DSLR before, I did not open the owner’s manual, and it still only took a few minutes until all my lenses were set. 24mm 2.8, 50mm 1.2, 55 2.8 Micro, 105mm 1.8

Then, whenever I changed a lens I would push MENU, SELECT NON CPU LENS DATA, and then pick the lens. It takes longer to read this than do it. Of course, if you have a modern lens, none of this is necessary. But that is the beauty of this, all this beautiful old glass can be used.

And it works gloriously.

I’ll leave the real review up to the pros like Steve. This is just an amuse bouche until then.

Processed in LR4 and Nik Silver FX.

Peace out.


Pic 1 50mm 1.2 AIS at 1.2 Avenue of The Stars, Century City, CA

Pic 1

Pic 2 50mm 1.2 AIS righteous old Benz, Venice, CA

Pic 2

Pic 3 24mm 2.8 AIS high ISO shot, no noise, Motel on Rose Avenue, Venice, CA

Pic 3

Pic 4 24mm 2.8 AIS high ISO shot, no noise, Motel on Rose Avenue, Venice, CA

Pic 4

Pic 5 55mm 2.8 Micro AIS, Santa Monica, CA

Pic 5

Pic 6 55mm 2.8 Micro AIS, humming bird sunset, Santa Monica, CA

Pic 6


  1. To get correct data for a non cpu lens you scroll though to find correct focal length, max aperture and coupling method for your lens. Assign it a reference number and choose which of the camera controls you want to use to quickly access that lens number from the bank. Works perfectly with all my primes including Micro Nikkors.

  2. I checked out a Df at a local store today with my Nikkor 2.8 Micro AIS. At 2.8 the exposures were correct, but stopped down to f11 & smaller, the shots were overexposed. This was with M & A modes. The lens data was not input in the camera menus. Thoughts?

  3. A little help! How does one change the eyepiece on the DF? I’ve changed it no problem on my D700, and by the posts on this site, it seems others have changed it out on their DF’s as well. The VF on my DF seems locked in place to me. Am I missing something? Thanks!

    • Paul, I just bought two and have managed with the D700 and the DF successfully. The original ring just unscrews the same way as the D700 and you fix the DK-17.

  4. I wished d800 had the D4 sensor, the d800e the 36 MP sensor and the DF was a mirrorless FF compatible with all F mount lenses with real capacity to manual focusing (a real retro feature). Was 2013 the year Nikon joined Kodak and stopped being relevant?

  5. I’ve really been enjoying my Df since it turned up. Just one of those cameras that clicks with you. I enjoy using it and I think that shows in the images I take. Interestingly it took me at least an hour to warm to the controls, but when I worked it out it all fell into place. It’s a little bit Nikon DSLR, a little bit Nikon SLR and all with an eye to the way Fuji has implemented its cameras. The controls and ergonomics are actually very well thought through. I particularly like the ISO dial, which means I give ISO much more thought.

    I put my hand up and admit this wasn’t a D800 replacement, its a complement. What it isn’t is a camera for all purposes or for professional use. Get past that, and the fact you won’t be using big zooms on it and you’ll have a blast. My three favourite MF lenses on this camera: (1) 28mm F2 AiS, (2) 105mm F2.5 AiS; and (3) 50mm F1.2 AiS. The voigtlander pancakes are right behind and my Samyang 14mm has had lots of use too.

  6. Has anyone here tried a Legacy2Digital converted lens on the Df? I would love to know how well they play together. How about pre-Ai lenses that have been converted to Ai AND have L2D conversion? I can tell from the posts above that I am far less knowledgeable about these issues, so thanks in advance for any thoughts.

  7. Lots of people who don’t have a D800 and Df are having hard times to justify the price of the Df.. But I’m pretty sure there are D800 enthusiasts users who are thinking to switch to the Df. If I was one of them I would think well I don’t need the extra megapixel and the extra focus points ….

  8. Very nice shots that show what to expect with old lenses on the DF. I like the results a lot. High ISO perfomance was out of question anyhow.

    I used the DK-17M on a D800. It helps to focus but it limits the view a bit. maybe up to 10 percent. i tend to look left right up and down to see all i was missing (or thought i would miss). I ended up demounting it.

  9. Have used AI and AIS lenses on D700 with great results. (No problems with focus) am more interested in using pre AI lenses on Df camera. Any one tried pre AI and what results?

    • I often use a 50mm f1.4 converted pre-ai lens on my Df which I’ve had from its inception. It is so sharp even wide open and has a beautiful boket. It beats many modern lenses and I love using it

    • Thanks Ross, gives me a good idea in practical use of the camera. I have never used auto iso but like you say it may be a good option with this camera.

      • Auto ISO is a blessing as long as you know what the camera is doing, and the D800 (unlike the D700) allows you to manipulate minimum shutterspeed in auto ISO mode as well.

  10. I like to shoot with Zeiss manual focus lenses (ZF.2) and was wondering if anyone knows if it is possible to remove the focusing screen and replace it with a matt screen or split screen even if it voids warranty. I love the whole concept of the Df but really wish that Nikon had an option to pay extra for a manual focus screen. While I understand auto exposure would not work, I’m sure there are plenty of manual focus users who are also happy to manual expose their cameras. Zeiss, Voigtlander and even Nikon are still selling manual focus lenses – so there must be a viable market. I would encourage Nikon to be bold and really go retro with manual focus screen & manual exposure if auto exposure is too difficult. cheers Richard

    • Richard, I wanted a split screen for years as have been using manual focus lenses with my D700 almost exclusively. I actually wrote Nikon and asked about a possible screen replacement. NADA from them.

      I purchased and have been using a Custom focus screen from “KatzEye Optics” for a few years on the D700 and it works as advertised. It has a laser matte and split prism circle. It does not affect AF or metering.

      I called them and they are waiting to look at the DF to see if it is a candidate as well. Fingers crossed.–Custom-Focusing-Screens–store.html

  11. BTW: DxOMark (who I do take with a grain of salt) released their test results for the Df today, and apparently it is the new high ISO champ, besting the D4 and slightly nudging out the D3s.

    “…the Df score is 3279 vs. 2965 for the D4 (the D3s score was 3253). The Df’s sensor dynamic range performance is identical to the D4…”

    • But the D800’s dynamic range (even more important to me than high ISO capability) is noticeably better than on all three.

        • I only have one application (mine) and one digital camera (mine), so that camera needs to do all for me. In retrospect, maybe I should have hung on to my D700 a little longer. I would probably take the Df now (in spite of its hefty price tag) over the D800, as much as I love that camera. The ergonomics I might actually prefer over the Df’s.

          What do I do? Portraits, street, general situations, emptiness.

          The only real objection I have to the D800 right now is that it is more sensitive to motion unsharpness than I like; you need to use a faster shutterspeed than you’d normally do, which sometimes negates the very capable high ISO capability.

          That dynamic range comes in very handy actually in a lot of situations.

          • I tried it once again in a shop today. Not convinced against the D800, except maybe for that sensor whoch probably suits my shooting style better than 36MP. And the burning of money thing.

  12. Great images, and thanks for sharing. I rented a Df for a week, shot with a ZF.2 50mm f/1.4, a 28mm f/2.8 AIS, and loved both. As for the manual focussing, yeah, I’d prefer the finder in my FM3a, but this wasn’t bad, not at all. And with the moveable focus point, there are some advantages of this method.

    • Cool deal Chris. I too rented the Df (for 5 days) as I wanted to try before committing to buy.
      I want to let the experience digest for a while before doing anything rash!

      Best regards

      • Probably a bit early (you are still digesting!!) but given the size of this and form factor vs. say your favourite camera (or say the M9)…can you see yourself wanting to pick this up enough/all the time/ from time to time to buy it?

        • I can see picking it up enough but not all the time.
          I definitely prefer the handling of my FM2n or F2as. They just feel ‘right’. The Df is light, but fat. It is much bigger in every dimension than the F2as, even though it weighs a lot less.
          But my oh my does the Df have a sweet sensor.

          • Mmmm….similar to what I initially thought when trying it in a shop! I am going to rent it next year and see what I think, though perhaps for a month or so.

            I wish they’d put this sensor in the Leica RF…..I use the MM now and part of my interest here is keeping an eye on colour options for next year. Ideally I’d buy the M240 though the sensor doesn’t do a lot for me! Now if this was in that camera…….sold!

  13. Beautiful work! So glad to see someone using and enjoying the Df, for the way it was designed to be used. It’s funny because it would seem many of we “old school” film users who’ve put away the film (maybe only temporarily?), perhaps like you, and have picked up the digital side of photography have returned to the old glass and manual focus skills also and have become re-invigorated by it! I know I have! Glad you’re having fun with it also and thanks for sharing!

    • Isn’t autofocus inherently flawed and very frustrating sometimes? Sometimes I think it is. Still, I get by with my D800. Practising a lot helps. But manual focus sometimes is such a bliss. If you’ve got a good viewfinder that is. My “old” Nikon slr’s, particularly the F2, are still way better than my D800.

      Alas. Maybe some day.

      • All of the 1970s SLR viewfinders are better than today’s DSLR viewfinders.

        If you want to see a jawdroppingly big, bright, optical viewfinder, look through an Olympus OM-1 or OM-2.

        • The OM can’t hold a candle to the glorious finder on the Contax Aria (and RTSiii) the best by far

          • Yes Ibraar, if you conveniently ignore that truly awful blue lcd display in any light brighter than a candle in a coalmine of the RTSIII… 😉

  14. Easy using the whole field and the confirmation led.
    Of course, once I realised to set the diopter adjustment dial!

  15. I meant the comments on #2(the night sky) and #5(the last picture). Don’t know why the “Reply” comment won’t link with the appropriate post.

    • A completely irrelevant, petty and stupid comment. And not even responsive to the the article.

    • Hi Giorgio

      Yes I could have got all the shots apart from the night ones with any of my film and digital cameras.
      But the two of the motel were hand held at ISO 6400, and they are clean with no noise.
      My Leica M-E cannot do that, nor can any of my other cameras. I could get the same result if I used a tripod with those. This shows the flexibility of the Df.
      I think that there may be a few other digital cameras that have the high ISO performance of the Df, but not very many at all.

      Best regards

        • Canon and Nikon would rather make us spend a lot more on every lens than offer in body stabilisation. Still, it would be a wonderful thing if they did.

          • Image stabilisation is completely irrelevant with respect to the sensor in the Nikon D4 and the Df. Completely. It’s so clean at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, and there’s no video, so it would only be a waste of money.

          • Completely disagree with this statement.

            You forget that the D4, D3s and Df also provide improved IQ at the lower ISOs, too. If we could shoot at those lower settings with a stabilized camera we would enjoy improved dynamic range and ultimate image quality overall, while extending the maximum range by another 3 to 4 stops. This would be advantageous in low light when shooting wide open wasn’t convenient or preferable.

          • And if “it” also had a great EVF and no mirror box it would be called a FF Sony? On the other hand if it actually had IBIS it would be what the Olympus FF OM 21st Century?

  16. Nice shots. Now I’m (almost) sad I sold all my old Nikkors a decade ago. Just almost. This again proves that the shooter is always the most important element. And whatever it takes to ignite the urge to actually go out and shoot!
    Peace out indeed!

  17. “Then, whenever I changed a lens I would push MENU, SELECT NON CPU LENS DATA, and then pick the lens. It takes longer to read this than do it.”

    I bet that, like all the other Nikon cameras, you can assign that as a favorite menu item, that way you don’t need to navigate the menus to change the lens.

    One thing I would really like to have on the Df is an easier way to focus manually, since a lot of their marketing is built around old lenses. I never tried one, but have a few digital Nikon bodies (the viewfinder is basically the same) and none is built to focus manually. Having a interchangeable focusing screens so that we could have split image focusing would be sweet!

  18. Hi Huss, nice pics and glad you like the Df. Setting up for non-CPU lenses seems as easy as it is on a D800 (or D700, for that matter), but that D4 16MP sensor must be more forgiving for “old” glass and coatings than the 36MP D800 sensor.

    I’m really curious to know about the ease of manual focusing, but as you haven’t used an ff Nikon DSLR before, it would be hard for you to compare.

    Good luck with that Df, and let us know how you get on with it!

    • Hi Mike
      I found the manual focussing surprisingly easy, and using the green confirmation dot guaranteed pin point accuracy. Most of the time I never bothered with the dot but it is worth referring to if you shoot wide open.
      I did find the viewfinder image on my film Nikons to be much larger than on the Df. It would have been nice if the Df could have matched up that way.

      Best regards

      • Have you considering a DK-17M, that will make your viewfinder as 1.2x, and apparently it only costs less than 40 dollars.

        • Hey Zach. I did not get to use that (did not know about it) and the rental has now been returned. Sorry!
          Maybe someone else can help?

          Best regards

        • Zach, I purchased the Df and have been using it the with the DK-17M eyepiece. For me the stock viewfinder is good, manual focusing is no problem and especially good with the green dot. However, there is not much eye relief with the stock eyepiece. My nose and cheek are pretty pressed up against the LCD (when I wear my contact lenses). I have a difficult time seeing all of the viewfinder image if I wear my eye glasses.

          Eye relief is better with the DK-17M installed. My nose now just touches the LCD. The DK-17M also provides a tad more magnification. I do not recommend using the DK-17M if you wear eye glasses. I have to wear my contact lenses to effectively see through the viewfinder with the DK-17M.

          • Thanks for the feedback, now, do you have to move your eye around to see the entire viewfinder? what i mean is, are there any vignetting in the viewfinder with the DK-17M.
            Thanks so much again

  19. have you ever got a chance to use the DK-17M on your Df? I’m really curious about the combination of these two, and will you lose 100% coverage by using any magnifying eye piece on a Nikon viewfinder?

  20. Neat photos – glad you are having a good time with the new camera. So, how was the manual focusing?

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