The Nikon Df with Zeiss Zf.2 Lenses by Sebastian Bey Haut

The Nikon Df with Zeiss Zf.2 Lenses

by Sebastian Bey Haut

Dear Steve,

I’ve been fortunate to have you publish my user report ( Fuji X-Pro1 / Zeiss Touit in Varanasi) in last February. I received very pleasing comments from your readers, which gave me enough confidence to submit my images more widely… As a result I recently exhibited my work in an important photo festival in France and got a few shots published in magazines. It has been highly motivating and made my interest for photography grow even more!

I still have my Fuji but enriched my gear list since my trip to India with a Nikon DF and two Zeiss ZF2 lenses, the 21mm 2,8 and 50mm 1,4.

I have always been attracted by manual focusing, but I did not want to do it via an EVF nor by manipulating a lousy focus ring made for autofocus (tried, and did not like it).

Photography is a hobby and I don’t need it to feed my family, I’m thus free to choose whatever gear I like without any technical constraints… Which is why I indulged my self with this new kit, starting with the lenses. The Zeiss ZF2 are 100% made for manual focusing: manipulating the focus ring is a joy, and their sturdy metal construction with almost no electronics will let me enjoy them for as long as there is a Nikon F mount camera on the market. It might be purely psychological, but this unlimited life time is really helping in the buying decision as I really see myself with my two Zeiss mounted on a DF 15 in 2034.

*The Ultimate Dream Zeiss Zf Lens kit for Nikon with case*

I’ll not discuss the technical merits of the lenses in details as there already are many reviews available. The only thing I want to emphasize on is the pleasure one has in using them during the “picture taking” process. It’s very easy to zone focus using their distance scale and there is no front / back focus to mess with. The 21mm is objectively superior to the 50mm in terms of pure image quality, but both have the same “Zeiss” color rendition and micro contrast that make your shots much more beautiful and alive.

After choosing the lenses then came the question of the body. The Df was a pretty obvious choice for me as I did not want to “waste” my money in buying a “pro” autofocus system and never use it because of the manual lenses… Much has been said about the Df which might be far from perfect on the paper… But once again what matters to me is the pleasure of using it, which is far superior than the one I have with my D300 for example. The small size, the D4 sensor, the dials, and (let’s be honest) the look make it the exact “fun” camera I was looking for.

I’ll mostly use it for street and travel photography: the old school “retro” design is very un-intimidating, even cheap looking for non connoisseurs. Manual focusing is very easy and the high iso capabilities allow to close the aperture to f8 to get enough depth of field for zone focusing in most of the lighting situations.

I matched it with a Gariz leather half case (perfect to get a bit of extra grip without adding too much bulk), a Roberu canvas strap, a Nikon DK17m magnifier to make focusing even easier, and cherry on the cake and absolute must have for any serious photographer: a soft release ! (the Nikon ebonite one – I fully assume my hipster tastes 🙂 )

I had my first serious photo trip with the Df in NYC in October, here are the resulting images.

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More are available on my 500px: https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien

36 Comments

  1. Have you compared the d700’s viewfinder with Df’s by any chance? I already usethe dk17m attachment but still struggle to nail the focus at times. Is it easier with the Df?

  2. Impressive and wonderful work! Do you use a plug in or special settings for the B&W conversion and the color grading?? Would really like to adopt your style.

  3. Sebastian,

    This is some of the better street photography I’ve seen on this site for quite sometime, you should be commended for your composition. But let me ask you a question, did you shoot your df in the B&W mode in picture controls or did you convert your Color to B&W in post processing.

    Gary F

  4. Good work! I had a little experiende with the Df and can confirm all that you just mentioned 🙂
    The most important issue that I had with the Df would be its bulk, compared with other “old school” film SLRs.

  5. Very nice pictures, fully doing justice to the kit. Nice work on the black & white versions as well.

    I am also blessed with a Df and a trio of ZF2 lenses (25f2; 50f2; 135f2) and a collection of old Nikkors. That sensor is magical and, with the right lenses, renders an unusual “velvety” sharpness, making the images feel “lush” (all non-scientific impressions). Anyway, love the camera and love the user experience with those manual lenses.

    Just in case: I would recommend the 50 f2 MP as a better and more versatile performer compared to the f1.4 Planar. Balances well with the Df.

  6. Df is definitely a winner and Zeiss lenses are legendary for a reason. As was previously mentioned, some manual focus Nikkors are also very impressive, and much less expensive.

  7. Great work Sebastian! Racing the Sun is my favorite with Halo and NYC Street Scene 4 a very close 2nd. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and images. Look forward to more.

  8. Cool photos man, I really enjoy the atmosphere that the lens flares give. I work in VFX and we spend a lot of time putting “atmosphere” and “optical” effects in our CG to match the photography they shot on location.

    Very well done

  9. I like your color work best. Especially the long shot of the Empire State building but also the pic of the guy with the headphones in his ears crossing the street with the lens ghosts.
    That pic looks like a good film pic or a scene from a movie.

  10. FANTASTIC SHOTS!!!!

    Number 4 especially just sings. Amazing capture of a perfect moment. It could not have been staged better.

  11. Just to add… the one lens that I can’t use on the Df is my Nikkor 2.1cm F4- it requires mirror-up lock. So far, the only letdown after a year of ownership. The ultimate Pancake lens on an F2.

  12. Beautiful photos, and after seeing the first set in Monochrome- i wonder how many people would be interested in a Monochrome version of the Df. Nikon has this sensor in color and monochrome, the latter available for a microscope camera. I wonder if it could be dropped into the Df.

    The Zeiss lenses are beautiful, bit don’t forget those Classic Nikkor manual focus lenses. Several can be picked up at very good prices these days.

  13. Congratulations Sebastian!!
    I really like your photos, especially your way to combine the light and the shadows. Really an eyacatcher. I also bought the DF and after frustrating experiences with heavy and very large zooms I also decided to go the “old fashioned way” with manual focus lenses (Zeiss and Nikon). I am also a fan of the Zeiss 50mm it is my “ready to use” lens. Did you also try another focussing screen?
    best regards and thank you very much for presenting your photos!
    best regards
    Marc

  14. Very nice shots!
    I notice the lens flare (which I thinks adds to the images) but am curious if that is from using a UV filter, or the lens did it by itself? My experience with Zeiss lenses (in ZM rangefinder format) is the T* coating really prevents flaring.

    Best regards
    Huss

    • Hi,

      Thanks for the kind words. I really had to try hard to get this ( intentional) flare: UV filters, no hood, and shooting straight into the sun!

      Actually I quite like the rendering and how it makes light “visible”

      Regards

      Sebastien

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