6 November 2013

The Nikon Df

A Dream Come True

I prepared the following a month ago, but haven't posted it to this blog yet.  Then yesterday, Nikon announced their Df  digital SLR camera!  It's as though they read my mind.  Here's what I wrote:

I want a camera that......

Is a "full frame" 24x36mm DSLR, with an optical mirror box viewfinder and instant return mirror, with a viewfinder image coverage of 100% and a magnification of 95% and an eyepiece relief distance that allows the user to wear glasses and still see the info bar at the bottom of the viewfinder screen.  The viewfinder should be purely mechanical i.e. it should not have a "live" LCD overlay screen as used by Canon in the 7D/5D and should be just like an Olympus OM1.    It should have interchangeable focussing screens.  There should be NO movie capability whatsoever!

I want a camera that is the size and weight of a Nikon FM3n and has the build, finish and ergonomics of a Pentax K3.  I want a camera that has NO movie capability whatsoever.   I want a camera that has the rear LCD screen of the Nikon D7100, articulated to allow high and low level viewing with automatic brightness according to the ambient light.   I want a camera that has the Canon rotating command dial on the rear with a "Set" button in the centre.   My camera should have a top LCD screen on the right, looking from the rear, and a locking, mode dial on the left, concentric with a shutter speed dial.  The mode dial should allow a choice of Av, Tv, M and with user programmable  modes P1, P2 and P3. and no more!    The shutter speed dial should allow the selection of speeds from 1/4000 down to 1 sec and B, and have a green "Auto" setting.  "Auto" mode would over-ride the mode setting and take control of all exposure settings, metering, drive mode and auto focus settings, as well as set Jpg picture capture only.   The shutter release should come from a Pentax K5 and have DOF preview combined with the on/off switch around the shutter release button.   It should have dual SD memory card slots (because the pins of CF card slots are too fragile and prone to fault).   There would be only one control dial, below the shutter release button in front.  This front dial would control the aperture setting  IN ALL MODES!  In all modes except "M" mode, the rear command dial (the big one next to the rear LCD screen) would set the exposure compensation, by default.

In an ideal world, the lens mount (and here I admit I have a quandary) should be Nikon F.   However, I would prefer the aperture actuation to be electronic and not by means of a mechanical lever and spring mechanism, which contributes to vibration, harmonics and shake at the instant of exposure.    That restricts the choice of lens mount to Canon EF as things stand at the moment.   No bad thing as the range of Canon lenses is superb, and the "L" lenses are built tough.

  I want a camera that only has (5) buttons on the left side of the LCD, as follows:

Top left, within easy reach of my left thumb - > (Display) - Pressing this once displays the last image taken.  Pressing the (i) info button (see below) repeatedly while the last image (or any image) is visible cycles through the image information display modes:  Image only, Large histogram superimposed across the bottom of the image as per the Pentax D5, EXIF and Meta data displayed alongside and below the image and multiple RGB and luminance histograms displayed alongside the image. 

ISO - pressing this will show the range of ISO sensitivities on the LCD screen.  50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200.  Rotating the rear command dial will highlight each in succession and pressing the "Set" button will set the chosen ISO.  There will be no selectable  "Auto" ISO setting.  The selected ISO should be displayed in the top LCD screen, as well as in the viewfinder.

WB -(White Balance) - Pressing this should bring up a choice of white balance settings the same as a Canon 1/5/7 D.  Rotating the rear command dial should highlight each option and pressing the "Set" button will select the chosen option.   There should be a "custom" option which should only require that an image of a mostly white or grey subject be captured while this option is highlighted, to set the white balance accordingly.  An icon indication the set WB should be displayed in the viewfinder and on the top LCD.

Dr - (Drive) - Pressing this should display a list of the drive modes on the rear LCD.  These should be S (Single shot),  Cs (Continuous slow), Cf (Continuous fast) R (Remote)  RMU (Remote Mirror Up) Q (Quiet).  The option to set a delay of 2 or 10 or 30 seconds when using the remote, either IR or wired, should be available on the remote controller itself.  Drive mode should be selectable electronically, NOT mechanically by a dial a' la' some Nikon cameras, so as to allow for the drive mode to be programmable within P1, P2 or P3.

Ps - (Picture Style) - Pressing this should display a choice of the usual Jpg picture styles i.e: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, B&W.  Selecting B&W and pressing the "Set" button should display the options for B&W filter simulation, i.e: Yellow, Red, Orange, Geen and None, with None as the default.

Immediately above the command dial and to the right of the rear LCD screen there should be an "Info" (i) button.    Pressing this once should display a "Quick Control Screen" as per the Canon 5/7 D cameras.  This should show all of the basic exposure settings in grid layout.  Rotating the command dial would highlight each setting in sequence, pressing the "Set" button once would display a list of the options for that particular item, again, rotating the command dial would highlight each option in turn,  and pressing "Set" again would select the highlighted option.  Items in this screen should include battery condition, card slot allocation (Jpg slot 1, RAW slot 2, backup or overflow,  image number, file name, copyright data and shutter count.  There would be no menu containing reams of custom functions or any other settings.  There would be no post capture editing or effects filters.

Beneath the "Info" button would be a "LV" live view button.  This would initiate live view for image framing and critical focussing purposes.  I include this feature as I know that many macro enthusiasts use live view as well as others, although I rarely use it.  

On the top left of the prism housing, there should be a "Qual" button to select the Jpg image size, compression and RAW file recording, used in conjunction with the command dial.   Options should be displayed on both the top and the rear LCD screens. 

On the lower left of the mirror box there would be a button to set the AF mode, used in conjunction with the command dial, and incorporating a switch to disengage the auto AF.  On the back of the camera, top right and positioned to fall beneath my right thumb, there should be an "AF-On" button to initiate the auto-focus i.e. permanent back button focus.  The only time this would be disabled and auto focus initiation given to the shutter button would be when "Auto" mode was selected.   Alongside this button, and recessed to a lower level, would be an auto exposure lock button (* or AEL). 

On the top plate, in front of the top LCD screen, there should be a button to access the metering mode, used in conjunction with the rear command dial.  Modes should include Matrix, Centre weighted average and 2 degree spot.  Alongside this should be a "Green" button, Pentax style,  pressing which should set the exposure when using OEM or non-communicating lenses.  On the front, between the mirror box and the grip, would be a "RAW" button, pressing which when picture quality is set to Jpg only, would result in the capture of a RAW file.

There would be no "menus" or screen after screen of custom functions.  It would be more camera and less electrical appliance.  The shutter would have a nominal life of 200 000 actuations.

Connectivity would include a live feed for tethered viewing of live view or captured image playback on a tablet,  (with the necessary  software supplied on a CD) as well as a USB port for connection to a PC or laptop and a wired remote control 1.5mm socket.   Built in Wi-Fi connectivity as well as built in GPS data would be provided.   There would also be a "universal" 12 volt DC power supply input which would also serve to charge the battery when connected.

There would be a built-in AF assist lamp which would double as an off-camera IR flash commander and  trigger.  There would be no built-in pop-up flash.  The battery would give at least 900 exposures without using live view.  There would be a battery grip capable of taking six AA batteries or two Ni-Mh batteries shaped like the grip for the Pentax K5.  Image stabilization would be built in to the sensor, as would auto levelling and dust removal.  Image stabilization would also be available as a lens feature.  A Quick Menu Screen item would allow sensor stabilization to be deactivated.  Neck-strap attachment would be by traditional lugs, not slots.  However, there would be provision for the attachment of a hand-strap on the right side without requiring the attachment of the battery grip.

So, Mr Canon, do you have what it takes.........?

Well, Canon haven't come to the party, but Nikon certainly have.  The Nikon Df answers most of my desires, and I predict that demand will outstrip supply.  

Bravo, Nikon and Thank You!