Nikon D4 Zoom

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)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZZMIo7Zfys

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0DnEoqm-wc&feature=player_embedded

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.

 


Nikon D4 with body

Nikon D4 High ISO Sample Images

Mircea Bezergheanu has been posting some sample images from the Nikon D4. These are the first images I have seen that are not from Nikon or part of the Nikon advertising campaign.

I'm not sure what type of post processing is involved, however the images do look great even up to ISO 12,800. I think some post processing would make them look even better.

Until we get side by side comparisons of the D4 and the D3S, shooting the same subject in the same light, it will be tough to compare the two bodies directly. Right now though, the D4 is certainly looking good.

View the images on Mircea's Smugmug page.


Nikon D4 Front 220

Nikon D4 Versus the Competition

Now that the Nikon D4 is official, we can compare specifications with its closest competitors.  To me, the two closest competitors are the Nikon D3S and the soon to be available Canon 1D-X.  I'll throw in the Nikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IV and Canon 1Ds Mark III as they are all pro bodies with similar capability.  I don't consider the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D Mark II direct competitors to the D4 so I'll exclude them here.  They can certainly be considered competitors for some applications and are themselves excellent cameras but they primarily target a different market.  I'll also exclude the Sony Alpha A900, it's a full frame camera but it has been discontinued.  Sony is rumoured to be developing a new full frame shooter, but no word on when it will be available.  Also, things like the Leica M9, Pentax 645D, or even more expensive models from Hasselblad are not direct competition.  So let's compare the D4 to five of it's closest competitors.

Sensor

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
Effective Pixels16.218.112.124.516.121.1
Sensor Size (mm)36 x 23.936 x 2436 x 23.935.9 x 2427.9 x 18.636 x 24
Max resolution4928 x 32805184 x 34564256 x 28326048 x 40324896 x 32645616 x 3744
Pixel Size (µm)7.36.958.455.945.76.4

Looking at the table, we can see that the odd-ball in terms of sensor size is the Canon 1D Mark IV which does not have a full frame sensor but one slightly smaller and what Canon calls the APS-H.  Prior to the 1D-X, Canon's high speed pro camera used the APS-H sensor and their slower, high resolution camera used a full frame sensor.  The 1D-X is a blend of both, full frame, high speed, and 18MP.  On simple spec alone, the D4 is nothing special.  It's not not highest resolution and Canon's latest flagship is 2Mp ahead in the 'megapixel race', if you are counting.  Pro shooters realize there is a lot more to image quality than megapixels, but it's worth to note.

Resolution is only part of the story, the size of the pixels affects sensitivity and as you cram more pixels in the same amount of space those pixels get smaller and thus less sensitive to light.  The D3S still has the biggest pixels in the list, which makes sense as it's the lowest resolution.  The D4 increases resolution but claims one stop better low-light performance over the D3S.  It remains to be seen if that claim holds up, but one can assume that the new generation of sensors are better than the old so this may be true.  Time will tell.

Performance

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
ISO Native100-12800100-51200200-12800100-1600100-12800100-1600
ISO (boosted)50-20480050-204800100-10240050-640050-10240050-3200
FPS10 with AF/AE, 1112, 14(JPG)9-111-5105/3
Autofocus points516151514545
AF f-stopf/8f/5.6

The benchmark for low light performance for the last several years has been the Nikon D3S.  It was one to two stops better than the already good D3 and well ahead of anything from Canon.  The D4 is said to improve on the already impressive D3S by at least one full stop but no real-world testing and comparisons have yet been completed.  The new Canon 1D-X is a wild card here, on spec alone it looks better than the D4 but I personally don't think it will match the performance.  Nikon has had the edge in this department for some time and once both models are available for side-by-side testing I think the D4 will come out on top.  It may be even possible to get relatively clean images from the D4 at ISO 12800 which will be boon to many types of shooters.

In terms of speed, the D4 will shoot at 10 frames per second (fps) with full autofocus and metering in RAW.  The 1D-X has an edge here, shooting at 12fps.  Honestly, I doubt any Nikon shooter would make the switch to Canon for 2fps but if you have no investment in glass and are looking to buy a pro camera it may sway some to Canon.  For my shooting needs, I don't need anything with even 10fps so it's a moot point.

Nikon has enjoyed an advantage in autofocus performance for some time.  Some Canon shooters may disagree, but I see it in review after review that the pro Nikon cameras just focus faster and more consistently than their Canon rivals.  The 1D-X has more focus points and more cross-type focus points but one of the big new features of the D4 is the addition of 11 autofocus points that work down to f/8.  This should mean even better autofocus performance in low light, and combined with it's expected performance at high ISO this should translate to great shots in available light (weddings, concerts, sports, etc.).

At the end of the day, both the D4 and 1D-X are the top of the DSLR pile in terms of features and performance.  The D4 has potentially caught up to Canon in video performance and Canon to Nikon in autofocus and low-light performance.  There is no doubt that both models will make their owners very happy and saying one is clearly better than the other is not possible.  The new D4 is clearly an evolution in Nikon's lineup but not a revolutionary camera.  I'm looking forward to hands-on reviews and sample images in the months to come.

There are a lot of other features worth talking about, but I'll leave that for another post.  Now Nikon, please release the D800!

 

Visual comparison of the Nikon D4 and Canon 1D X

Nikon D4 Front

 

Canon-1DX

Nikon D4

 

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent

Nikon D4 High Res Back Transparent


Nikon D4 Logo

Finally! The Nikon D4 is Announced

Nikon did not have a good year in 2011 as they were affected by two major disasters. The earthquake in Japan and following tsunami forced the shutdown of their plant in Sendai.  This plant produces their professional line of cameras and lenses.  Later in the year, the flooding in Thailand submerged the Nikon factory at the Rojana Industrial Park.  This plant produces many of their consumer cameras and lenses.  Because of these disasters, their entire product line-up was affected and shortages of equipment were common.  Nikon planned to introduce a few new camera models and lenses in 2011 but all announcements were postponed while they worked to rebuild their facilities and solidify their supply chain.

Towards the end of 2011, things were looking up and production was getting back on track.  Nikon did make one product announcement, the SB-910 Speedlight but the year ended with no significant products for us to drool over.  The good news is that 2012 has started off with a bang.  Leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nikon has announced a new flagship digital SLR camera, the D4 (official press release).  Along with the new pro camera, they announced an 85mm f/1.8G lens and a wireless transmitter.  A big announcement to start the year and I expect more to come in the coming months.  The rumoured D700 replacement, the D800, is very likely the next body that will be announced but when that will happen is anyone's guess at this point.

Nikon D4 on Nikon's website

Nikon D4 brochure (PDF)

Nikon D4 full specification

Nikon D4 High Res Front Transparent

Nikon D4 Back

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent


Nikon D4 Trio

Nikon D4 Leaked by the French

The rumours were flying around for months and the mill was in high gear for the last few weeks about Nikon's new flagship camera, the D4.  Official announcement is likely to come on Friday, Jan. 6th (late Thursday in Canada/USA) but a French magazine spilled the beans early.  A scan of the article can be seen here.  Looks like a great body, and should compete well against the new Canon 1DX.

Specs:

  • 16 megapixels
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 50-204800)
  • 51 autofocus points
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 10-12fps
  • 91000 point metering system
  • 1080p video recording
  • CF/XQD card slots
  • 1.34kg weight
  • €5,800 (likely to be about $6,000 USD)

Full details when officially announced by Nikon later today.

Nikon D4 Front

Nikon D4 Left

Nikon D4 Back