The D4 is Nikon’s flagship pro D-SLR. Everything about the D4 relates to ‘speed’. At a blistering 10 frames per second burst mode with full autofocus, it is nothing short of a machine gun.
With its new and faster Expeed 3 image processor, an improved Multi-CAM 3500AF module, coupled with a newly designed 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, it promises to be the ultimate professional tool for still and video photographers. Nikon has targeted the D4 especially at sports and press photographers, and with the Olympics coming up, D4 users are going to have a super great time.
Design and Build Quality
The D4’s build quality is just amazing. The chassis is constructed from magnesium alloy for maximum strength and durability. Weather-sealing for dust, moisture and electromagnetic interference offers it further reliability in tough climatic conditions. The body fits into your hands like a glove; the shutter release button is placed exactly where the index finger would be, unlike in the D800 where effort has to be put in to align the index finger over the shutter release button. You just have to hold the D4 in your hands to know what a pro model should feel like. Just like the D3 and D3s, the D4 too has a built-in grip for vertical shooting. The front facade is quite similar to that of the D3s, except for a change in the AF selection button, and a few other cosmetic changes. The familiar red v-shaped design over the finger-grip is now thin, almost crescent-shaped.
The D4, successor to the tried and tested D3s, brings more than 45 new features and has received a speed boost in every conceivable area. The target audience being sports and press photographers, the D4 offers a maximum burst speed of 11 frames per second (10 fps with full autofocus) and a start-up time of a mere 0.12 second. An all-new XQD memory storage card format capable of handling 100 NEF (RAW) files in a continuous 10fps burst or 200 JPEGs in a continuous 11fps burst, together with an unimaginable maximum ISO of 2,04,800, turns the D4 into a super Herculean mean machine. Such specifications of ultra-high-speeds at once makes us think about its shutter life. No sweat. Nikon claim its shutter life is 400,000 cycles (that’s equal to approximately 11,111 36-exposure rolls!)
The Nikon D4 is a 16.2 megapixel pro D-SLR designed to thrill. It features a newly developed full-frame (FX) CMOS sensor, coupled to a new EXPEED 3 processing engine that is 30% faster than the EXPEED 2 used in the D3s. Since the D4, with its high ISO range, is going to be used in very low light too, the icon on each control button is illuminated! Wow. The camera has two mini joysticks, one for selecting an AF point during horizontal framing, the other for selecting an AF point during vertical framing. Like in the D3s, the D4 has 51 AF points, but 15 are cross-type points for superior autofocus. What is more, 11 AF points are now compatible with an aperture of f/8. This means that AF will be possible even when you use teleconverters (2x on a f/4 lens and 1.4x on a f/5.6 lens). The improved Multi-CAM 3500FX AF module allows autofocus in light as low as -2 EV (moonlight). The camera’s advanced Scene Recognition System determines the camera-to-subject distance, colour information, and the selected AF area, and uses this information to ensure very accurate metering. It can detect up to 16 human faces in the frame when using Live View as well as the Viewfinder. The number of subjects that can be detected in Face-Priority AF drops in Movie Live View.
A feature that sports and press photographers (and many pocket-heavy photographers) will love is the the new (optional) WT-5 wireless file transmitter offering Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. The WT-5’s dongle attaches to a dedicated port on the left of the camera body. The WT-5 draws its power from the D4’s battery.
Do you fancy operating your D4 through your iPad or iPhone? No big deal! The WT-5 wireless transmitter adds an HTTP mode that allows you to do just that. During Live View shooting, uncompressed video can be recorded to an external hard drive. Want to ensure that the camera is leveled? A Virtual Horizon on the rear LCD assures you of that.
Just as with other D-SLRs, the D4 offers Live View shooting. Using an AF-S lens, autofocus is possible during Live View but there are several caveats, hence please check your user manual before doing so. During Live View photography, you can preview the effects of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity on the exposure, but here too, conditions apply. You can also adjust the exposure by +/- 5 EV (but the preview display will only reflect up to +/- 3 EV). In Live View, you can select between Face Priority AF, wide-area AF, Normal AF, and subject-tracking AF.
The D4’s video is one of the most talked-about. It represents Nikon’s first full-HD (1920 x 1080p @30fps), full-frame D-SLR that allows up to 4GB maximum length for individual movie files. Maximum recording time is 30 minutes (29 minutes and 59 seconds to be exact!). The D4 has a dedicated Stills/Video switch surrounding the Live View button, which makes it very easy to change from one to the other.
Though heavy, the D4 was a pleasure to use. (Be ready for other Nikon-model users eying your camera and going green with envy!). Focussing was ultra-fast, and each control felt positive. Shooting in vertical format was a breeze; the additional joystick made it easier to operate the camera in that position. The mode-dial lock prevents accidental changes to the shooting mode. When shooting in low light conditions, the illuminated controls were a big help.
We tested the Nikon D4 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The overall performance was just amazing. Dynamic range is amongst the best that we have seen. Images were crisp and bright, right out of the box. Colours/image contrast was very good. Autofocus was very fast, even in low light, though using slow lenses could possibly reduce the AF speed. On the White Balance front, there was a slight blue cast in ‘Shade’ and ‘Sun’ (AWB as well as the Presets), while ‘Flash’ and ‘Incandescent’ were perfect. There are various Fluorescent WB settings, which we did not check out for obvious reasons.
The first question that’s likely to be asked by any potential buyer is, “How much better is the D4 compared to the D3 and the D3s in low-light, high ISO image quality?” We have no way of ascertaining that (unless we can get all the three models together for a test), but as per Nikon, the D3s offered a 1-stop gain over the D3 and now the D4 offers a 1-stop gain over the D3s. Okay, but then how good is the D4 at its ISO 2,04,800 setting? Or, to put it another way, what is the usable range? We put the D4 to a stringent low-light test and here’s the answer. Up to ISO 6400, we could not see any obvious noise even at 100 percent enlargements. I wouldn’t hesitate to make 20 x30 inch prints at ISO 6400. At ISO 12,800, noise could be seen at 100 percent enlargement if you try to look for it; at 50 percent enlargement, difficult to notice. At Hi 0.3 (equivalent to ISO 16000, and Hi 0.7 (equivalent to approximately ISO 20,800), pixel peepers may notice some noise in underexposed areas, but I would have no hesitation in using these ISO sensitivities. At Hi 1 (equivalent to ISO 25,600), noise is very much visible but again, depending on the situation, I would use it if needed. Hi 2, Hi 3, and Hi 4 are noisy and I would try not to use them. Do keep in mind that these tests were done with the intention of proving how noisy/noise-free the D4 is; under adequate lighting conditions, and taking care not to underexpose, you may be able to use the D4 up to the Hi 1 setting.
Eagle-eyed readers, who may compare the D4’s noise performance with that of the D3s (SP, February 2010 issue), may see more noise in the D4 as compared to D3s. Do keep in mind that the D4 has 4-million extra pixels. D4’s file sizes are larger, and hence, you may not need to enlarge the files to the same degree.
A question that might arise, especially with beginners, is, ‘Why did Nikon opt for 16 megapixels on their top-of-the-line model, while 36 megapixels on the enthusiast model D800?’ While it is difficult to answer that, I can take a guess. First and foremost, 16 megapixels is more than adequate for day to day photography. Increasing the pixels, also increases digital noise. The D4, as mentioned earlier, is targeted at sports and press photographers who need to regularly shoot in less than favourable light. They also need to shoot at blistering high frame rate, and limiting the D4 to 16MP, lets the Nikon do just that. Images also need to be transmitted wirelessly as soon as they are captured. Using the new (optional) WT-5 wireless file transmitter with Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, sports and press photographers can easily transfer their images to their respective agencies.
So now the question is, should D3s owners jump the gun and go for the D4? As impressive as the D4 is, the D3s is no less a camera, and unless you need the capabilities of the optional WT-5 wireless file transmitter and the improved movie performance (or unless you just want the latest), there is no need. If you are a D3 owner, then run and get the D4!
Value for Money
The Nikon D4 is available at an MRP of Rs.3,24,950. At this price it is definitely expensive but then, we are talking of what could possibly be the best Nikon D-SLR available today.
+ Blistering fast AF
+ Max.11fps burst mode
+ Super high quality video
+ Bright and clear LCD, even in bright light
+ Good weather sealing
Design and Build Quality 19/20
Key Features 19/20
Noise Control 5/6
Value for Money 6.5/10
Grand Total 86/100
Battery Recall Advisory by Nikon
Nikon has issued an advisory stating that a certain batch of EN-EL15 batteries used in the D800/800E/D7000 and Nikon V1 could pose a potential hazard to consumers, and have hence been recalled.If the 9th character of the 14-digit serial number is E or F, your battery is among those being recalled.
The Nikon D4 represents the ‘bread and butter’ camera for professional photographers who need this kind of high burst rate combined with low-noise performance at higher ISO sensitivities. If the high cost bothers you, think of the D800, but keep in mind that it can only shoot at a maximum of 4 frames per second. The D4 has (compared to the D3s) better autofocus system that can work with lenses as slow as f/8, better shutter life, better movie features, a 2-axis virtual horizon, better memory buffer, 2 memory cards, built-in Ethernet port, and the ability to do HDRs.