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.
So, what does the Nikon D4 bring to the table? Here is a summary of its features:
- Sensor: 16.2 MP FX, 7.3µ pixel size
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 50
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 25,600-204,800
- 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
- Processor: EXPEED 3
- Dust Reduction: Yes
- Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec exposure, self-diagnostic shutter monitor
- Shutter Durability: 400,000 cycles
- Camera Lag: 0.012 seconds
- Storage: 1x Compact Flash slot and 1x XQD slot
- Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
- Speed: 10 FPS, 11 FPS with AE/AF locked
- Exposure Meter: 91,000 pixel RGB sensor
- Autofocus System: Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX with 51 focus points and 15 cross-type sensors
- AF Detection: Up to f/8 with 11 focus points (5 in the center, 3 on the left and right)
- LCD Screen: 3.2 inch diagonal with 921,000 dots
- Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 30 fps max
- Movie Exposure Control: Full
- Movie Recording Limit: 30 minutes @ 30p, 20 minutes @ 24p
- Movie Output: MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed
- Two Live View Modes: One for photography and one for videography
- Camera Editing: Lots of in-camera editing options with HDR capabilities
- Wired LAN: Built-in Gigabit RJ-45 LAN port
- WiFi: Not built-in, requires WT-5a and older wireless transmitters
- GPS: Not built-in, requires GP-1 GPS unit
- Battery Type: EN-EL18
- Battery Life: 2,600 shots
- 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.