I have been working on testing the performance of the new Nikon D4s to compare it to the D4 and see what advancements in sensor technology and image processing pipeline Nikon delivered in the latest revision of the top-of-the-line camera. Designed for sports, news and wildlife photographers that often have challenging light conditions and demanding environments, the high-end camera line is supposed to feed the never-ending thirst for more pixels and better low-light performance. Does the Nikon D4s deliver better image quality than its predecessor? While we know that the resolution of both cameras stayed the same, the big question is whether Nikon was able to enhance the existing 16.2 MP sensor and perhaps use better software algorithms to decrease noise – and that’s what we are here to find out today.
A number of our readers have been asking us for some information regarding the new Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX lens, requesting a review and a comparison with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (see my in-depth review). While the review is definitely in the pipeline, I thought it would be nice to provide a preview of my observations so far, along with some image samples from my recent trips. At $600, the full-frame Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is another “value” lens from Nikon when compared to its super expensive brother, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G. It is $300 cheaper than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, and both significantly smaller and lighter in comparison. So for those that are looking for a lightweight alternative to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX might be a great lens to buy. Let’s take a look at the lens in a little more detail.
My D7000, Nikkor 500mm and I have had some wonderful times together – the shots of a Peregrine chick jumping off the ledge for the first time, the yoga-stretching Osprey that made Audubon’s Top 100, and who can forget the Night Heron flying past with a baby alligator in it’s mouth. But like all relationships, it seemed the initial pizazz was fading. I began to notice how she had trouble staying focused and got noisy when I pushed an issue. Furthermore, with 190,000 clicks under her belt, well, let’s just say her shutter curtains were starting to droop a bit. It was time to move on, but don’t get me wrong, we’ll always be friends. Now I hate to admit it, but I’d been having an online affair with the new Nikkor 800mm for almost a year – I’d link over to her B&H page and run my finger gently around her buy now button. Oh how we teased each other… Then one day we went all the way.
Next week she was there in front of me, the ten pound, one ounce Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR OMG BFF. However, when I unpacked my new lens, it was obviously lacking a proper rear lens cap. How inconsiderate of Nikon not to include a D4s to keep the rear element clean. Nothing a few years of crippling debt couldn’t solve. I dusted off my backup credit card and a few days later the D4$ showed up. So without further ado, my first 29 hours testing the 800mm/D4$ combo for reach, handholding, buffer, burst rate, high ISO ability and general BIFiness.
Let’s start at the end of the day and half of testing – 800mm of reach allowed me to maintain a non-threatening distance from this Common Black-hawk posing in front of the moon sneaking through the clouds. 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 2500, 800mm, D4s. I cut loose with some artistic experimentation with this – embrace the post-processing noise – it’s pretty much the last you’ll see in the article:
What do you do when you have two low-light kings, the Nikon D4s and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4? You take them for a night shoot of course! After receiving both for some testing / reviews, I took off to photograph Denver downtown at night. It was way past the sunset time, so I knew that I would only have street lights to illuminate my subjects. Since the Zeiss Otus is an insanely sharp lens wide open, I set its aperture to f/1.4 and only changed it a couple of times during the night in order to increase depth of field and ISO. Interestingly, at such a large aperture, I found myself often shooting at pretty low ISO levels – generally under ISO 3200. So it was nice to be able to push my shutter speeds as high as 1/400 for freezing motion:
Nikon has just announced the Nikon 1 V3, an update to the existing Nikon 1 V2 mirrorless camera that was released two years ago. Unlike many of the recent camera introductions which have been relatively small improvements over previous versions, the Nikon 1 V3 is a substantial rework and renewal of the Nikon 1 V2 and frankly, the changes appear to be exciting. First, is a new sensor with more resolution (18.4 MP), better ISO sensitivity (12,800) and a new EXPEED 4A processor to accompany it. Second, there is an improved hybrid autofocus system which incorporates 171 autofocus points (171 points for contrast detection and 105 points for phase detection) for fast and accurate focus acquisition and tracking. For comparison, the V2 uses 135 focus points (135 for contrast and 73 for phase-detect). These alone would be nice improvements, but Nikon went further and improved the frame rate to a WHOPPING 20 fps at full resolution AND full autofocus. To put that into perspective, the new D4s which costs $6500 “only” shoots at the rate of 11 fps. Why stop there? How about a new tilting touch screen monitor with higher resolution than the previous V2? Finally, throw in built-in WiFi and you’ve made not just an incremental upgrade, but a totally new camera.
In this follow-up article to the mirrorless camera comparison, I will be comparing high-end options available on the market today from different manufacturers. While the mirrorless market has not shown healthy growth in the US and Europe lately, it is just a matter of time before the new technology makes its way into our daily lives and starts replacing lower-end/small sensor DSLRs. High cost is still an issue for now, but considering that mirrorless cameras use far less components than DSLRs, we will soon start seeing them at very attractive prices. In fact, many mirrorless camera models already have seen significant price decreases (remember the ridiculous Nikon 1 V1 $299 price drop?) and we will be seeing a lot more of that in the next few years. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing the top of the line mirrorless cameras on the market, specifically designed for professionals and photo enthusiasts that look for the best image quality, features, autofocus performance and a solid lens selection. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras and their published specifications.
|High-End Mirrorless Cameras #1||Fujifilm X-T1||Nikon 1 V2||Olympus OM-D E-M1||Panasonic Lumix GH4|
|* Denotes PL Subjective Rating|
|Lens Mount||Fuji X||Nikon 1||Micro 4/3||Micro 4/3|
|Announcement Date||Jan 2014||Oct 2012||Sep 2013||Feb 2014|
|Sensor Size (Diagonal)||28.3mm||15.9mm||21.7mm||21.7mm|
|Megapixels||16.3 MP||14.2 MP||16.3 MP||16.05 MP|
|Movie Recording||1920×1080 @ 60p||1920×1080 @ 60i||1920×1080 @ 30p||4096×2160 @ 24p|
|Native Lenses Available||12||11||16||19|
|Third Party Lenses||8||0||33||30|
|Image Quality (10)*||8||5||6||6|
|Autofocus Speed (5)*||5||5||5||5|
|Image Stabilization (5)*||4||4||5||4|
|Manual Focus (5)*||5||3||5||5|
|System Compactness (5)*||4||4||5||5|
|EVF Mil Dots / Quality (5)*||2.36 / 5||1.44 / 4||2.36 / 5||2.36 / 5|
|Build Quality (5)*||5||5||5||5|
|Design and UI (5)*||5||4||5||4|
|Manufacturer Link||Fujifilm X-T1||Nikon 1 V2||OM-D E-M1||Lumix GH4|
Before everybody kills me about hand-holding, I just have to say this – I was doing some personal testing / photography and wanted to see what this combination could do for me. So please be kind to me :) Let me be clear, the Nikon D4 is a dream camera and I loved that camera to death. I got the D4s, because a friend wanted my D4, so this deal worked out for both of us. Upon purchase, I found it hard to believe the D4 could be improved upon and it’s still too early for me to make a conclusion on that, as I have only had the camera for 2 days. I feel there is an improvement in ISO noise at higher levels, however, the new focusing system got me interested in this camera and today’s trip to the coast to shoot some owls was all about giving me a feel for what was possible. I hand-held this combination a lot today, because I tend to do that when shooting and I wanted to know if I could do it with the 800mm and also get a feel for the D4s abilities. Anyway, here are some real world shots from me, good or bad, it was awesome fun and I got some shots I am very happy with.
I think the Nikon D4s and 800mm might be a marriage made in heaven for me. The Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E snapped into focus on everything I threw at it and I feel it did better than the D4, which I wouldn’t have believed possible.
The first photo sample was taken just after sunrise. The mink was a fast little critter and hard to shoot, only showing himself for seconds at a time – I was panning to get this shot.
While Tom Redd and I are still waiting for the Nikon D4s sample to arrive next week, our wildlife guru Robert Anderson has already gotten a hold of the D4s and has been testing out his new favorite toy today. Rob was kind enough to send me some image samples from the camera at high ISO settings: 6400, 12800 and 25600. As you may already know, the Nikon D4s pushed the maximum “native” sensitivity level by a full stop from 12800 on the D4 to 25600. While some image samples and comparisons for the D4s have been available on the Internet, many of them lacked consistency to be able to do a more thorough comparison. Therefore, I asked Rob to take pictures of a real scene after sunset, shooting on a tripod at different ISO levels. Below you will find two different scenes that Rob graciously provided for our readers to enjoy. While we do not yet have comparisons of the Nikon D4s to the D4, we will post those comparisons as soon as we get a hold of the D4s next week!
Take a look at the below images from the first scene:
Our friends at B&H are selling some Nikon-refurbished cameras at great prices, so I wanted to share those deals with our readers. The Nikon D610 is already available at a great price of $1,749 for a refurbished model, as well as the Nikon D7100, which you can buy now for $939. As before, the Nikon D800 is also available at $2,399 and there are a few other options for refurbished lenses. Please note that a manufacturer-refurbished item means that the camera was returned by a customer (sometimes due to flaws and other times for no reason / dissatisfaction) and the manufacturer thoroughly re-inspected the item, fixed any potential issues and put it for sale it at a significantly lower price. Just like with any new item, B&H provides a 30-day warranty for refurbished stock, so you can return the item if you are not happy with its condition. In addition, there is a 90-day manufacturer warranty in case anything goes wrong, so you can send it back to Nikon for free repair. If you would like to find out more about refurbished gear, check out this article at B&H.
Nikon has not yet updated its main site with the D4s image samples, but thanks to our readers, we have received links to other Nikon global sites that host high resolution image samples from the new Nikon D4s (see related posts). As we receive more sample images, we will be updating this article with those samples for your viewing pleasure.
Please keep in mind that the images are taken in RAW and simply converted to JPEG via Capture NX 2. No other editing has been done, including sharpening.
Link to download the image | Shutter Speed: 1/4000, Aperture: f/5.6, ISO: 250