My Review of the Nikon DF Split Manual Focusing Screen

Jerkwithacamera Gear, Gear Reviews, Nikon DF 52 Comments

_DSC2316---September-02,-2014-Edit

One of the biggest complaints about the Nikon DF retro styled camera (other than it doesn’t do video) is that it didn’t come with (or at least have an option for) an old school split screen manual focus screen. It did seem odd to me that they would make it compatible with any of the older Nikon manual focus lenses but they wouldn’t give a great way to focus them.

Now I can already hear you all cracking your knuckles getting ready to type out a long “But the two arrow/green dot rangefinder system is really good and accurate and Bla Bla Blaa…..” comment.

nikon-d600-viewfinder

To that I say yes it works great but it sucks to look away from your subject to the green dot and then back to the subject that chances are has moved :) The green Dot is awesome for stationary or slow moving stuff but street photos or what not it sucks to actually use in real life.

Now as near as I could discover researching this on the Internet was that everyone would say that these aftermarket focus screens were available but it would seem that no one wanted to spend the money to find out if they did or did not suck/work.

NIkon-DF-Focus-Screen-googleSeriously at the time of this post the first three google hits for ‘nikon df focusing screen‘ are Nikon Rumors saying hey these are available but nothing more, Dpreview.com forums filled with people wanting a review, and Flickr Discussion board filled with people asking if anyone had tried it out.

So the long and the short of it I got tired of waiting for someone to try them out and I tried one out myself. Now I feel obligated to tell the internet about how it all worked out :)

Nikon-DF-Focus-Screen

Installation:

The changeover was super easy once I half ignored the badly translated Taiwanese instructions and just looked at it logically. There basically is a wire spring/clamp (not all that dissimilar from a traditional mouse trap) that holds the screen in place in the camera. Holding the camera upside down with the front of the camera facing towards you gently press down and back on the wire to unhook it from the black plastic clip and bob’s your uncle it pops right up. The focus screen is actually sandwiched between two of these wire holders so carefully pull the old one out and put the new one in and reset the outer wire spring to hold it in place. Done!! I did have to lightly jiggle the camera to make the screen sit in there well to be able to clamp it down.

Initial insights of its actual Use:

It works Brilliantly! To start the manual focus seems to be BANG ON and the regular autofocus works just the same as it did with the factory screen.

It seems to be just as bright and what not as the factory screen with no overly dim corners or weird spots.

I didn’t have to shim it or anything to fit, it was perfect as is.

The split screen portion looks really small in the photos and when you are looking at the uninstalled screen but in the camera viewfinder it is large and easy to see the split.

NIkon-DF-Focus-Screen

It seems as though it is as accurate or better than the Electronic RF system. The green dot comes on when the split is in ‘focus’ but it seems you can do much finer adjustments with the split. Something that is slightly not matching on the split part will still just show as a green dot with the Electronic RF. We will see what real world testing shows on that EG: not just taking photos of things while I sit in the dark at my computer desk at 11:30pm :)

Update:

It seems that Prime lens manual focus works brilliantly but for some reason modern zooms seem to be a little hit & miss. I tested both manual and autofocus with the 24-70 and at 70mm the manual focus was significantly better while at 24mm the autofocus was the way to go. I found similar discrepancies with the 70-200 but I will have to do some more testing to be sure. That all being said all of my primes (35, 50’& 85’s) manual focus has always been as good or better than autofocus or the Electronic RF system.

The metering seems the same. I tested this by metering on some specific things about the house (spot, matrix, & Centre weighted) and confirmed these numbers with my Sekonic both before and after changing the screen and the numbers were the same.

Dealing with the company:

I was originally apprehensive about ordering some ‘sketchy screen’ from some ‘shady website’ that i am sure was translated into french, german, italian and mandarin before finally being translated into English. I actually feel that this video is a good representation of how such an awesomely awful translation could have happened.

However dealing with the company (at least from my point of view) was just fine really, the paypal payment was as they always are. Seemed all legit. ETC. All that being said I haven’t tried to return anything so who knows about that part of the customer experience really :)

Nikon-DF-Focus-Screen-siteThe Shipping to Canada was way quicker than I thought it would be.¨ I bought it in the middle of the night on July 28th and it was delivered here (Vancouver BC) August 5th. So just 5 business days! Way crazy.¨ There were 3 email updates to let me know when/what was happening so again the customer service seems good but again I haven’t returned anything or had out of the ordinary questions.

Other Random Questions I had that I couldn’t find answers to:

Q. Why is it say canon when it is for a nikon?
A. I don’t know. Infact have no idea. I just assume that the Canon made screens are the same spec as the nikon ones? I am guessing here really The screen came in a Canon box (although the packaging looks a little grey market)

Q.Do I need to shim or not?
A. totally looks like not but I think that some come with it just incase? Again the literature here is really hard to decipher but I am assuming the random plasticy things were shims and i am sure that I didn’t need to use them if that is infact what they were :)

All in all A++ would buy again :)

Comments 52

  1. Avatar
    Kenneth

    Thank you for sharing. Some time has passed since you did this mod, and I wonder if you, like some others, have gone back to the standard Nikon screen?

  2. Avatar
    Multi-Match-Mike

    Hi and thanks so much for the review. I am panicking a bit with the retaining clip on my Df. I tried to undo it yesterday with the L-shaoed aluminium tool provided but gave up as it wouldn’t unclip. I’ll try again today with the « push down and in » advice, but am worried about not forcing it. I can’t quite understand the relationship between the wire and black plastic clip?? Help! Please….

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