Nikon D4: The New And Cool Stuff

I wrote a short post previously on how the D4 stacks up against it’s closest competition (Nikon D3s and Canon 1D X). It covers at the features photographers will look at most often when comparing bodies, things like sensor resolution, frame rates, buffer size, and low light performance. In this artile, I’ll go over some of the new things Nikon threw in there that make the body interesting.

Nikon D4 guts

Video capability

The D4 can record 1080p Full HD video at 30/25 or 24p in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format.  Full HD video is available in three formats: FX-based, DX-based (1.5x) or 1,920 x 1,080 (2.7x) crop movie format. It can also export its uncompressed video footage via HDMI.

Nikon was the first company to add video to a DSLR in the D90.  Having used a D90 extensively, I can tell you that the video feature is weak and almost useless.  Canon nailed a home run with the 5D Mark II, and even Hollywood caught on and started using the camera in some scenes.  The 5DII sold well, Nikon missed the boat and lost customers.  The D4 addresses all of the previous problems and, for now, puts Nikon at the top of the DSLR video heap.  It’s not perfect but it’s a video monster that will please almost everyone.

For those of you that think video doesn’t belong in a still camera… get over it.  Video is here to stay and almost everything with a lens these days can take stills and video.  People want it so the companies are going to include it.  I don’t think it affects the still photo capability of the camera, the D4 is looking like Nikon’s best still camera to date.  The only drawback is likely a higher price, but I guess that is progress for you.

Here is a sample video shot with a D4. Looks good, even compressed for the web (available in 1080p)

Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor module

51 AF points, with all 51 (15 cross type) points of the D4 are usable with every AF NIKKOR lens of f/5.6 or faster. AF detection is fast and accurate down to an impressive -2 EV. 15 cross-type sensors in the central area and 11 focus points compatible with f/8.

The D4 keeps the same number of AF points as the D3s but just makes everything better.  One of the big things here is the ability to use lenses with minimum f-stop of f/8.  You find this when using some of the big telephoto lenses (such as the 200-400 f/4) with a 2x teleconverter.  You can now have a 400-800 f/8 lens that will autofocus for a change.  No other Nikon body will do this, so you were forced to use fast telephoto lenses like the 400mm f/2.8 or go without auto focus.  This should be good for sports or wildlife shooters that commonly use these lenses.

Exposure Meter and AF Improvement

The D4 is fit with a 91,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering. This is a massive improvement over the 1,005 pixel sensor in the D3s. Because of the increased resolution, the D4 now offers face detection autofocus and can account for up to 16 human faces in the frame even when using the optical view finder. Previously, face detection was only available in live view because you were using the entire sensor and contrast detection autofocus.

The D4 also adds scene detection. The 3D Color Matrix Metering III metering mode compares metered scenes to a large in-camera database of scene types, before determining exposure variables. To me, this seems like a gimmick and reminds me of Clippy from the old MS Office programs: “It looks like you are trying to compose a sunset shot, let me bollocks that up for you”. On a camera targeted at professional shooters, do you need this?

Remote Operation

Remote viewing and operating of the camera for stills and video from your laptop/iPad/iPhone in real time. This is built into the camera, and just damn cool. No extra software needed, but you do need the wireless adapter (WT-5A) which isn’t cheap at almost $900 US. Once it’s up and running though, you can see the live view image, adjust most camera controls, trigger exposures remotely and view the captured image. This means you can mount the camera somewhere where it may not be easy or safe to be during an event to capture images. In other settings, clients can immediately see captured images on a big screen as you are shooting. I’m sure there will be a lot of creative uses for this, a nice feature.

Watch the video of the ipad control in action.

Improved exposure bracketing

The camera will allow 3, 5, 7, or 9 exposures in either 1/3, 2/3, or 1 full stop (plus 2 stops and 3 stops) The possible dynamic range capture for very difficult HDR situations has been massively increased! The D4 also features a quick HDR feature that makes an in camera file based on a overexposed and normal frame. I don’t think the in camera HDR feature will be that useful, but the extra bracketing options is going to be great for HDR shooters.

A few minor items

Illuminated buttons, a very nice addition when you are shooting in low light (which is certainly where this camera will get used).

Time lapse movie creator will compile multiple exposures (based on your settings) into an HD movie but it does not retain the images so may not be useful for most.

Improved rear LCD.  3.2″ 921,000 dot with expanded color gamut and a sensor to detect ambient light levels to automatically adjust brightness and saturation.