Many of the current Nikon D3s owners like me probably wonder about the differences between the new Nikon D4 and the now obsolete Nikon D3s DSLR cameras. While I do not yet have the Nikon D4 to do more in-depth side by side comparisons, I decided to write about differences in body design and specifications between the two. More details about the Nikon D4 will be published in my upcoming Nikon D4 review.
First, let’s talk about differences in camera body design.
Nikon D4 vs D3s Camera Body Design Comparison
As expected, the Nikon D4 went through rather significant changes in camera body design. The overall shape of the camera has been completely changed and it now looks more curved than the D3/D3s/D3x models. Let’s start from the front of the camera, which went through the least number of changes. The only major change I see on the front is the C/S/M focus lever (bottom left side of the camera) that has been modified to adapt to the same switch we see on the Nikon D7000 DSLR. This was a good design change, because it will prevent accidental changes to autofocus when you pull the camera out of the bag. Now the switch only has two options – AF for autofocus and M for manual focus. The button on top of the switch replaces the AF mode switch on the back of the camera. Now you can switch between the different AF modes (single, dynamic and 3D) by pressing this button and rotating the camera dial. Oh and it looks like the grip is shaped a little differently, which should help with handling the camera a little more.
Now on to the camera left side:
There are some noticeable changes to the camera connector panels – the Nikon D4 has everything separated out by groups, while the Nikon D3s has a more consolidated look. The top left round connection is for the new WT-5a wireless unit. The bottom connection on the D4 shows Ethernet + HDMI connections. The Nikon D3s does not have an Ethernet port.
The top of the camera went through significant design changes:
Let’s start from the left, the camera dial. The front of the dial is fully closed and only the rear of the dial is exposed. The dial modes are the same, but there is a change on the top buttons – the useless “Lock” button on the D3/D3s/D3x has been replaced with a metering mode button. I really like this idea, because the metering mode switch on the right side has been eliminated as well! Now that I see this change, I started to realize how much I hate the old metering mode switch on the D3/D3s cameras. Pressing the button and then rotating the metering mode dial was never comfortable. I am glad that this annoyance has been finally taken care of. The right side of the camera has also been redesigned. The shutter release is now located at a lower angle for comfort and the camera mode and exposure compensation buttons have been moved up a little to make room for the new and small video recording button.
Now let’s talk about the back of the camera, which went through the most number of changes:
There are things I really like about what Nikon did with the D4 back layout/design and things I don’t. Let’s start from what I believe are good changes. Compared to the D3s, there is one extra button on the back of the D4. Finally, Nikon adapted a similar layout as the D700, which is the ability to zoom in out by pressing a button. I remember when I first held the D3s on my hand, I could not figure out how to zoom in. I then realized that I have to press the zoom button and then use the dial on the back of the camera to zoom in and out. What a pain! Now this pain goes away, because you just press the zoom in and zoom out buttons without having to rotate any dials! The lock/help button has been moved up right under the Menu button, which I would rather have on the bottom, because I never use it. In addition, all the new buttons are back-lit, which is great news for those of us that shoot in low-light or at night.
Let’s move to the LCD. The new LCD on the back of the camera has the same 921,000 dot resolution as the one on the D3s, but is now a little bigger in size (by 0.2 inches diagonal). While Nikon says that they always individually calibrate these screens, it is still the same old LCD technology we see on all other cameras. We are in 2012 now, come on, why doesn’t Nikon use higher-end screens on their new cameras? OLED is not cheap, but it uses a lot less energy than LCD and it lasts forever.
The button placement under the LCD, also went through some changes. While the ISO / QUAL / WB buttons are still in their respective places (come on Nikon, that QUAL button is evil! – see my Nikon D3s Review why), the audio record button has been moved to sit together in the same group. I don’t really care about this button, because I never use it. The Live View button has moved a little to the left now and has a lever for selecting between photo and video live view modes.
The vertical grip should now be a lot more comfortable, because the AF-ON button has been moved deeper into the camera body. This is great news, because the old AF-ON placement was never good to start with – I kept on accidentally hitting it while shooting horizontally and had to constantly turn it off when I was not using it. AF-ON should have been where it is now on the D3/D3s/D3x models.
Finally, let’s talk about the rest of the buttons to the right side of the body and LCD. Similar to the Canon DSLRs, we now have two joysticks (the joystick is borrowed from the MB-D10 grip) – one to use in horizontal position and one to use in vertical position. The top joystick replaces the customizable AE-L/AF-L button (still wondering where it went). I don’t know about others, but I hate joysticks. If we have to use a joystick to move the AF point now, what is the purpose of having the bigger dial? Is there there now to move around while viewing pictures? I very much hope that I can still use the big dial to select AF points. Joysticks are the reason why I do not like the ergonomics of many Canon DSLRs. It is sad to see Nikon trying to copy Canon in that regard.
OK, let’s move on to differences in camera specifications. The below specifications comparison only shows differences between the two cameras – identical information has been intentionally removed.
Nikon D4 vs D3s Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D4||Nikon D3s|
|Sensor Resolution||16.2 Million||12.1 Million|
|Total Pixels||16.6 Million||12.87 Million|
|Sensor Pixel Size||7.3µm||8.45µm|
|Image Size||4,928 x 3,280||4,256 x 2,832|
|Storage Media||1x Compact Flash and 1x XQD||2x Compact Flash|
|Buffer Capacity||Up to 100 12-bit RAW|
Up to 70 14-bit uncompressed RAW
Up to 200 JPEG Large
|Up to 43 12-bit RAW|
Up to 36 14-bit uncompressed RAW
Up to 78 JPEG Large
|Focusing Screen||BriteView Clear Matte Mark VIII||BriteView Clear Matte VI|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10 FPS, 11 FPS with AE/AF Locked||9 FPS|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||300,000 cycles|
|Shutter Lag||0.042 seconds||0.04 seconds|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||91,000-pixel RGB sensor||1,005-pixel RGB sensor|
|Metering Range||-1 ± 20 EV||0 to 20 EV|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-12,800||ISO 100-12,800|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 25,600-204,800||ISO 100, ISO 25,600-102,400|
|Autofocus System||Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX||Multi-CAM 3500FX|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8||Up to f/5.6|
|Flash Sync Modes||Front-curtain sync|
Red-eye reduction with slow sync
Slow rear-curtain sync
Red-eye reduction with slow sync
|Flash Compensation||Yes, -3 to +1 EV||No|
|Live View Shooting Modes||Photography Mode|
|Live View Lens Servo||AF|
|Live View AF Area Mode||Face-priority AF|
|Video Output||MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed||AVI, Compressed|
|Video Maximum Record Time||20 min in 24p, 30 min in 30p||5 min|
|Video Maximum Resolution||1920×1080 (1080p)||1280×720 (720p)|
|Audio Recording||Built-in microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.0″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Adjustments||5 Levels||7 Levels|
|Playback Functions||Auto Image Rotation|
Full-Frame and Thumbnail
GPS data display
Playback with Zoom
|Auto Image Rotation|
Full-Frame and Thumbnail
|In-Camera Image Editing||Color Balance|
NEF (RAW) Processing
Edit Movie with Save Selected Frame
NEF (RAW) Processing
|Interface||HDMI output: Type C mini-pin HDMI connector|
Stereo Microphone Input
Super Speed USB 2.0
|Wi-Fi Functionality||WT-5A, WT-4A||FTP and PTP/IP with WT-4A|
|Total Custom Settings||58||46|
|Remote Shutter Release Compatibility||Corded and infra-red||Corded-only|
Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
|Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)|
|Battery||EN-EL18 Lithium-ion Battery||EN-EL4 Lithium-ion Battery|
EN-EL4a Lithium-ion Battery
|Battery Life||2,600 shots (CIPA)||4,200 shots (CIPA)|
|AC Adapter||EH-6b AC Adapter||EH-6 AC Adapter|
|Battery Charger||MH-26 Quick Charger||MH-21 Quick Charger|
MH-22 Quick Charger
|Dimensions||Width 6.3 in. (160mm)|
Height 6.2 in. (156.5mm)
Depth 3.6 in. (90.5mm)
|Width 6.3 in. (159.5mm)|
Height 6.2 in. (157mm)
Depth 3.4 in. (87.5mm)
|Weight (Body Only)||41.6 oz. (1,180g)||43.7 oz. (1,240g)|
Something in favor of the D3s is its battery life. I understand that there are some new battery requirements in Asia, but it is sad to see D4 have almost half the battery life of the D3s. This is a serious disadvantage, especially when shooting in cold environments where batteries die quickly. The new wireless WT-5a wireless transmitter also draws power from the camera, so expect to have even worse battery life with the WT-5a attached.
You can find more information on the Nikon D4, along with my thoughts on its features in the Nikon D4 article I posted earlier. A comparison between the Nikon D4 vs Canon 1D X is also coming.