Nikon D4 DSLR Announcement

Nikon has just released the much anticipated Nikon D4 DSLR, a major update to the existing Nikon D3s camera that was released back in 2009. The Nikon D4 is Nikon’s flagship DSLR, designed specifically for sports, news, wildlife and event photography that require superb low-light capabilities. Due to the high resolution sensor of the Nikon D800, we might not see a Nikon D4x for landscape and fashion photography needs, but a Nikon D4s might follow in a couple of years.

Nikon D4

So, what does the Nikon D4 bring to the table? Here is a summary of its features:

  1. Sensor: 16.2 MP FX, 7.3ยต pixel size
  2. Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
  3. Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 50
  4. Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 25,600-204,800
  5. Camera Buffer: Up to 100 12-bit RAW images, 70 14-bit uncompressed RAW and up to 200 JPEG images in continuous 10 FPS mode with XQD card
  6. Processor: EXPEED 3
  7. Dust Reduction: Yes
  8. Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec exposure, self-diagnostic shutter monitor
  9. Shutter Durability: 400,000 cycles
  10. Camera Lag: 0.012 seconds
  11. Storage: 1x Compact Flash slot and 1x XQD slot
  12. Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  13. Speed: 10 FPS, 11 FPS with AE/AF locked
  14. Exposure Meter: 91,000 pixel RGB sensor
  15. Autofocus System: Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX with 51 focus points and 15 cross-type sensors
  16. AF Detection: Up to f/8 with 11 focus points (5 in the center, 3 on the left and right)
  17. LCD Screen: 3.2 inch diagonal with 921,000 dots
  18. Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 30 fps max
  19. Movie Exposure Control: Full
  20. Movie Recording Limit: 30 minutes @ 30p, 20 minutes @ 24p
  21. Movie Output: MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed
  22. Two Live View Modes: One for photography and one for videography
  23. Camera Editing: Lots of in-camera editing options with HDR capabilities
  24. Wired LAN: Built-in Gigabit RJ-45 LAN port
  25. WiFi: Not built-in, requires WT-5a and older wireless transmitters
  26. GPS: Not built-in, requires GP-1 GPS unit
  27. Battery Type: EN-EL18
  28. Battery Life: 2,600 shots
  29. Weight: 1,180g

I only took the most important features from a very long list of detailed features presented at NikonUSA.com. While I will provide a separate comparison between the Nikon D3s and the Nikon D4 in a separate article, I would like to talk about some of the new features on the D4.

Let’s first talk about resolution: I believe Nikon made a wise choice with a 16 MP sensor. I know that many of us long for a higher resolution camera to do it all, but don’t forget that the D4 is a low-light camera. Cramming more pixels would have an effect on noise at high ISOs, which Nikon did not want to do. Nikon wants to retain its flagship low-light camera as the low-light king in the market. We all know that nothing came even remotely close to the D3s that dominated the low-light market for two straight years, until Canon announced the 1D X. Now we have the Nikon D4, which should give us even better low-light capabilities than the D3s. Judging from what Nikon did in the past, I suspect the Nikon D4 will have at least a full stop advantage over the Nikon D3s, with more megapixels. What this means, is that we should see ISO 6400 on the D4 look as good as ISO 3200 on the D3s. Once the 16 MP image is down-sampled to 12 MP, this difference should add another 2/3 of a stop of advantage. This means that the difference between the D4 and the D3s should roughly be the same as between the D3s and the D3 – about 1.5 of difference total. So those of you who are skeptical about the native ISO 100-12,800 sensitivity, do not assume that ISO 12,800 on the D4 will look the same as ISO 12,800 on the D3s – it won’t. Another important factor to keep in mind, is that the Nikon D4 now has ISO 100 as its base ISO. This translates to much better dynamic range results (the Nikon D4 will most likely take the #1 spot in DxOMark’s camera sensor ratings).

Now let’s talk about the camera speed. While 10 FPS over 8 FPS on the D3s does not sound like a huge improvement, Nikon more than doubled the camera buffer on the D4. It is insane to think that we can capture 100 RAW images non-stop at 10 frames per second! That’s 10 seconds of non-stop shooting. Change the image size to JPEG and you can double that to 20 seconds. On the negative note, the camera will require the much-faster XQD cards to achieve those speeds, but that’s understandable, because even the fastest Compact Flash cards just cannot handle that much bandwidth. A rather serious design flaw, in my opinion, is the fact that Nikon is providing us with one CF and one XQD card slot. This is bad, because I use the dual card slots in backup configuration when shooting important events. Now I would have to get expensive and rare XQD cards to be able to do that. I think Nikon jumped on XQD too fast – with only Sony making 16GB and 32GB XQD cards right now, the price is rather steep. Nikon should have either done two CF slots (my preference) or two XQD slots, instead of giving us this “transitional” option.

Nikon also completely redesigned the metering sensor on the D4. We now have a 91,000 pixel RGB sensor, which, compared to the 1,005 pixel RGB sensor on the D3s is supposed to deliver outstanding results in 3D Matrix mode. And I am sure it will, because that’s a huge difference in metering sensor technology! Nikon incorporated advanced face-tracking from the V1/J1 cameras into the D4 and the camera will automatically adjust its exposure when it sees a face, whether you have a strong backlight or not. I am sure the Nikon D4 will nail exposure like no other Nikon camera to date.

Another huge plus of the D4 is its revamped AF sensor. While the number of focus points stayed the same (51 focus points), the new AF sensor is much more sensitive to light, allowing us to autofocus with f/8 lenses. This is great news for wildlife photographers, because we can now use our f/4 lenses with the TC-20E III teleconverter with fully functional autofocus. Yay to 600mm f/4 + TC-20E III! And that’s with 11 functional focus points (5 in the center, 3 on the left and 3 on the right). And if you have fast glass, your AF accuracy should be even better now, so event photographers will also be very happy with its low-light AF performance.

Videographers should be super excited about the D4, because they can record uncompressed videos at 1080p full HD for 30 minutes straight, with full exposure control. The uncompressed video is a big deal, because it can give production-quality results for film-makers that can now record videos to external devices. There is even a dedicated live view mode for recording videos that gives quick access to exposure control, including white balance.

There is more! The Nikon D4 now packs a wired gigabit LAN port to hook up the camera to your network in studio environments. And the new WT-5a wireless transmitter is super compact, yet very functional compared to the older generation WT-4a. Now you can fully control the camera from any device wirelessly. Imagine using your iPad in a studio, making changes to camera exposure and adjusting focus and not having to be by the camera. Videographers will also love this feature, because they could record videos without needing assistants.

There are many more features and options to talk about, including changes in body design, but I will leave that for the upcoming Nikon D4 review. Yes, I will be receiving a D4, as well as the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G the day it becomes officially available. I am very excited about the D4, because I believe it is yet another innovative camera from Nikon that brings a lot to the table. While its steep price of $5,999 makes it a very specialized camera just like its predecessors, I believe that many pros will see immediate benefits from using such camera for their work.

B&H is now taking pre-orders for the Nikon D4.
Adorama is also taking pre-orders for the Nikon D4.


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Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Suhaimi

    Mr. Nasim

    Thank you for the highlights and re-explanation esp. on the technical parts which we laymen do not understand much about. At the moment we will just admire the camera lol it’s expensive but it comed with technologies. We’ll be looking forward to your reviews & comparisons with the D3s. No news on the D800 from Nikon yet though. D4 should be a hit @ London Olympics.

    • Suhaimi, like I stated in my Nikon 1 V1 Review, it is always exciting to see groundbreaking technologies in new cameras. It is good to see that some of that new technology is making its way to DSLRs. We should see a very impressive Nikon D800, when it is announced. I very much hope that it will have a 36 MP sensor, as previously rumored. I desperately need a good landscape camera and 36 MP would be plenty for the next 3-4 years!

      And yes, the D4 will be a hit at the London Olympics.

      • 10
        ) Jorge Balarin

        Dear Nassim,

        You said “I desperately need a good landscape camera”; means that assertion that your Nikon D3S or your D700 are not good enough for landscape photography ? Greetings, Jorge.

        • Jorge, 12 MP is just not enough for very large prints. I have been thinking about buying a dedicated medium format film camera for landscapes, but if D800 has 36 MP, that should be plenty for a while :)

          • D800 has me VERY excited for the same reasons!!!

          • 22
            ) Jorge Balarin

            And what about the 24 MP D3X ? (Ups ! I saw the price). Do you think Nikon is going to launch a 36 MP camera, at a lower price than the 7500 dollars D3X ? Greetings and thank you very much for your work.

            • Jorge, yes, the upcoming Nikon D800 should have a 36 MP sensor, priced at roughly $4K USD.

  2. 2
    ) Razak

    D4 is targeted for sports photojournalists for the upcoming Summer Olympics. I wonder what the spec for D4s if they decide to release one. Or maybe, Nikon will release a lower version of D4, maybe with 2 CF slots instead of 1 XQD + 1 CF; lower frame rate (8 fps perhaps?), etc. to cut down the price, targeted for the rest of us?

    • Razak, it is hard to predict what the D4s will be like, but I am assuming even better ISO performance :)

      A lower-end version of the D4 was supposed to be a D800, but looks like Nikon is changing its game by releasing a much higher resolution 36 MP full-frame sensor. I wish they had two variants of the D800 – one with the same sensor as the D4 and one with a 36 MP sensor…but I doubt we will see two D800 cameras this year :)

      • 5
        ) Mike

        Nasim,

        No way Nikon would release a D800 with the D4 sensor. That would severely impact the sales of a D4 and would not be good business for Nikon. They are going to milk the D4 for all it’s worth. Maybe, and only a small chance, in a couple of years you see a D800S with the D4 sensor but that is also unlikely.

        Nikon, like Canon, seems to be moving to a high speed, low light, 16/18MP camera for sports/events/etc. and a high-res, low speed, 24/36+ MP smaller body camera for landscape and possibly studio work. This way there is a clear separation in the lineup.

        • Mike, I agree with you, makes sense from the marketing stand point…

          The Nikon D3x did not sell well – only among the top landscape and fashion photographers, which there are not that many. With all the crazy megapixel sensors coming out from Sony, it makes sense to move to a lower-end body with lots of megapixels. Canon realized that early in the game, which is why it so successful with its 5D Mark II.

          • 19
            ) Mike

            Nasim,

            Part of the reason the D3X didn’t sell well was the insane price tag. Had it been priced like the D3S, more would have bought it. There was enough difference between the two pro bodies that they could have priced them the same and consumers choose what they need.

            On a side note, I get three emails notifying me there is a reply. Any idea why?

            • Mike, I agree – D3x pricing strategy was a big mistake on behalf of Nikon. They couldn’t drop the price down to $5K either, or they would have to send big checks back to angry D3x owners.

              As for the notification, it is a bug in the autoreply plugin that I am using. Will be fixing it very soon or will completely remove it if I can’t find an alternative!

  3. 6
    ) Roman

    Hello, Nasim :)

    A great camera, indeed. Importantly, D3s should get cheaper in the used market, too.
    I don’t expect there to be a D4x, though. As we saw with 1Ds III and 5D II, the latter almost completely killed the sales of the former, which makes sense. Now Nikon is, as rumored, preparing a D800 with 36 MP, which leaves no need for a D4x, especially one announced later than the D800.
    Still, I’m excited about the D800. Currently shooting with a D700, which I love, I could use the higher MP count in certain situations, I’m sure.

    On the other hand, I’ve been attracted to old Medium Format film cameras lately. Digital for work, film for pleasure. :) I really hope that Kodaks’ film department will continue to operate, film lovers, of whom there are still plenty and in fact it seems as if film photography is reaching its Renaissance , would be crushed if they lost the Tmax, Trix and the wonderful Portra.

    • Roman, you are probably right about the D4x, if D800 truly does have the 36 MP sensor. We’ll see what Nikon is planning for us :)

      I know that a lot of people would love to buy a cheaper camera with the same sensor as the D4. With the D3/D3s/D3x cameras Nikon clearly showed that it had no interest in making a cheaper body with the D3x sensor, but the original D3 sensor was incorporated into the D700. Now the game is changing 180 degrees – a high resolution sensor on a lower-end body and a low-light sensor on a high-end body. I guess they want to play it tight with Canon :)

      I have been thinking about medium format for landscapes, but I decided to wait for the D800 instead! I know medium format can be way more than 36 MP, but I just don’t want to invest in another bulky camera system.

      • 20
        ) Roman

        Yes, I guess I just like the slow work. Thinking about a Rolleiflex 3.5F – found a bargain, but it’s still expensive. :)

        • Definitely get the Rolleiflex. There is no pleasure comparable to a fine TLR in photography. I use my grandfather’s, and it’s as reliable as the day it shipped.

          • 28
            ) Roman

            Unfortunately, the man changed his mind about selling it. He uses two, now. Along with a Mamiya C330f.

            I’m looking at my options, which also depend on price. I think a Bronica SQ-a is also a good choice :)

  4. 7
    ) Carl TightShooster

    I am glad that the Nikon Story continues!
    I like that 16MP and ISO Performance and the back lit buttons!
    and the HDR Capabilities

    Well done Nikon!!!!

    /Karl

    • Carl, agreed, but I am more excited about the upcoming D800 :)

  5. 8
    ) Don

    Hi Nasim,

    So you were correct. The D4 dropped. While I see it as evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, I am pretty pleased with it and will get one. I guess the D3S will be on the market. My daughter decided that she didn’t want it because it is too heavy. She prefers her D700. What can I say? I was going to give her the D3S but she isn’t interested. :)

    • Don, I won’t sell my D3s until I get to test it head to head against the D4 (otherwise it will be hard to obtain the D3s for my testing). I will probably sell it right after my tests and get the D4 :)

  6. 9
    ) Jorge Balarin

    Don,

    If you don’t know what to do with your old D3S, here it is a guy ready to receive it for free : )

    • 11
      ) Don

      Uhhh…. Right…. :)

    • Jorge, nah, you don’t want the D3s – it is too old and obsolete now, LOL :)

  7. 21
    ) Wilson

    It’s great to understand more insight of those changes in D4! Although D4 is not the one for me at the moment due to the cost and weight it’s always exciting to have this new Nikon’s flagship hitting the market.

  8. I hope the D4 becomes readily available here quickly so I can pick up someone’s used D3S at a reasonable price!

    • 27
      ) Don

      Define reasonable….

  9. Hi Nasim,

    Slowly entering this thread. I fully agree with you (as gathered from another thread) that Nikon cameras focus better and performs better at high ISOs. Sure, D3S is still the kind of action cameras. However, I would love to read your head to head comparison of it against D4. You might also consider another comparison between D4 and 1DX.

    I am a Canon user enthusiast nature and wildlife photog. To tell u the truth, I’m as unhappy with Canon bodies as I’m happy with their lenses. My body is EOS 50D and never contemplated 7D as that is the noisiest body in world (it had to be with 18 mps on its 1.6 crop sensor). My lenses are EF 400mm f/5.6L USM, EF 200mm f/2.8 L II USM (just bought but not yet used), EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM and EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM. They serve my purposes well. The body 50D’s focusing is so so for my purposes however; ISO performance is obviously bad. May be I’ll use it for another one and half years following which I’ll need a replacement.

    May I request you to kindly suggest which body should I go for? In case Nikon offers all my above mentioned lenses; I’m ready to consider a swith.

    Thanks in advance.

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