Nikon Df Outshines New Flagship D4s in High ISO Test on DxOMark

March 10th 2014 9:45 AM

We, and almost everyone else, gives the Nikon Df a hard time. But today, I have some news that is both surprising and firmly in the “reasons to buy” column for the Df. According to DxOMarks latest testing (which we KNOW you guys love!), the new Nikon Flagship D4s is not the “King of low ISO,” that title belongs to the Df.


I personally find this not only surprising, but also sort of odd. The Df and the D4s share the same sensor, and being as the Df is the (slightly) older camera you would think that the D4s – being Nikon’s new Flagship DSLR – would have the best performance.

[REWIND: Nikon Announces New D4s Specs]


Not only is the Df better, but it is actually significantly better (in lab test terms) – roughly 200 ISO – than the new D4s. Obviously, since these are lab results from DxOMark, they should be taken with a grain of salt. But the results are still worth noting. This actually makes the Df a bit of a conundrum for me, because on one hand ,with the Df you get this amazing D4 sensor (with apparently insane low light performance), but on the other you get a rather poorly executed retro styled DSLR.

What are your thoughts on this? Does this make the Df anymore attractive to you knowing that it outshines the new D4s in low light? Leave a  comment below to join the discussion.



Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Comments [14]

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  1. 1

    Que, the comments about a D700s, D400, and other cameras that will never happen. Nikon is is a sticky situation. On one hand they make cameras that push and change the industry. D800 perfect example. Then you have them create a DF. Great for the person who loves photography. Why not offer up a way to retro fit your old F mount lenses without damaging them or use the newest and greatest? Something like that I feel would have really made the feeling of retro a little better.

    • 12096000_10153171245684013_1977723213241257596_n.jpg15
      Matthew Saville

      Husarb, as I mentioned in my other assessments of why Nikon made the Df, you have to consider the fact that in decades past Nikon has been known to make gold-plated, lizard-skinned cameras LOL. So the Df is actually quite a welcomed “commemoration” of their rich history, if you ask me. I’m surprised they didn’t make a gold-plated version of the Df!

      Yes, they’re in a sticky situation. However from a purely photographic standpoint, (meaning, forget video) …Nikon is still king of the hill with every single camera they’ve offered in the past ~5 years. So what on earth could we possibly expect Nikon to deliver that isn’t also going to be another ground-breaking innovation? A D700s or a D400 would, of course, completely smash not just the 5D mk3 and the 7D, but probably even their replacements unless Canon can figure out dynamic range in a hurry.


    • 12096000_10153171245684013_1977723213241257596_n.jpg15
      Matthew Saville

      By the way, I know I sound like a Nikon fanboy right there but trust me I can rail and rant about Nikon just as much as I can for Canon or any other brand; this just happens to be the current topic. It’s my job to see both sides of any debate!


  2. 1

    The feel and functionality of the Df is terrible and not at all inspiring. Great image quality yes but if you don’t like shooting with it then what’s the point?

    This is why I now own a X-T1.

    • 11639728605_06d8af2404_z.jpg10
      J. Dennis Thomas

      @Chris: I find the feel and functionality of the Df great, on the other hand I find the X-T1 a terrible camera to use.

      I almost smashed the X-T1 loaner I got because it’s gets in it’s own way. I didn’t like shooting with it, but I do like shooting with the Df. To each his own…

  3. 1

    Seems to me, since this is essentially the same sensor, that this says more about the quality of testing than the quality of the camera.

  4. 1
    David Liang

    I think you’re over stating the difference of 200 ISO since ISO is not measured on a linear scale. The difference between 100 iso and 200 iso is a stop. The difference between 3000 and 3200 is less than 1/20th of a stop. Another way to look at is through margin of error, there’s likely more than 1% deviation for margin of error, 200 points on a 3000 point scale is less than 1% difference. So the ISO difference between the D4s and DF are well within the tolerance for margin of error, it just as well be the DF unit tested slightly better than average and the D4s unit tested slightly below, it could just as easily have been the other way around.

    • 12096000_10153171245684013_1977723213241257596_n.jpg15
      Matthew Saville

      David, I’m personally inclined to agree with you on this one. I’m entirely willing to believe that the Df and D4s have identical improvements over the D4, in the real world. Either way 1/10 of a stop or 1/20 of a stop is just not going to ever make a difference for anyone, period.

      Therefore, a photographer can safely buy whichever camera they want. …Provided they can afford it, LOL.

      Personally I’m still gonna get the Df. Sure, it’s a little bit of an oddball WRT professional grade performance, however my experience with it both at weddings and in high-adventure situations has brought me to truly love using it. Hopefully a bunch of hipsters will get tired of theirs and sell one to me for $2200 in mint condition! :-D


    • 11639728605_06d8af2404_z.jpg10
      J. Dennis Thomas

      I haven’t seen a hipster with a Df yet. And I live in hipster central. I wish there were hipsters dumping these things. I’d own 4 of them!

      Next to my D700 probably the best camera I’ve owned. Including the D4.

  5. 1

    200 points at ISO 3000 is less that 1/10 of a stop. Nice grab ;)

  6. 1
    Graham Marley

    New headline: DxOMark tests have zero influence on photographers in the D4s market segment.

  7. 1
    Larry L

    So the Expeed 4 , from the D4 , compaired to Expeed 3, DF, only helps a little from my findings on the ISO only at the extreme non usable settings. Even the old D700 is almost the same up to 1600 for pracical purposes. ISO performance for now, has hit a wall it seems.

  8. 1

    If D4s and Df sensors are really identical then the difference of ISO 3000 to 3200 comes from semiconductor manufacturing process variation. It is absolutely normal for two sensors that come from two different wafers to be slightly different. You could take two D4s cameras and conclude they have slightly different ISO performance.

  9. Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 4.47.20 PM.png16
    Rafael Steffen

    Great discussion on ISO ranges and quality. Thanks for sharing.