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Nikon D4 Digital Camera Review.

April 3 2012

by Philip Northeast

The Nikon D4 is the digital camera photojournalists choose when there is only one chance to get iconic shots from the ball game to the battle field.

The D4 is Nikon’s top line DSLR with a new FX size digital sensor housed in a rugged body. Nikon have increased the D4’s sensor resolution to 16.2 Megapixels without sacrificing image quality according to DxOMark tests.

Nikon D4 with ME1microphone

Nikon D4 with ME1microphone

The Nikon D4‘s upgraded video capabilities reflect the changing DSLR technology but also the transition of traditional print journalism online versions of newspapers and magazines using video alongside still photos.

“ The Nikon D4 hosts a multitude of advanced new features and useful functions that deliver speedy performance and amazing image quality for when missing the shot is not an option,” said Nikon.

DxOMark Tests 

These independent tests show Nikon have managed to maintain the level of sensor performance while increasing the resolution of the full frame digital sensor. This addresses the situation where the best of smaller APS-C sensor cameras, the Pentax K-5, challenged the older D3s for image quality while delivering higher 16 Megapixel resolution.

DxOMark three way comparison summary Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

DxOMark three way comparison summary Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

 

The D4 now shows an overall advantage over the Pentax in all areas except for some areas of dynamic range.

DxOMark three way comparison for dynamic range of  Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

DxOMark three way comparison for dynamic range of Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

 

The D4 has a curious flat spot dynamic range revealed in the DxOMark tests at low ISO, falling short of the Pentax K5 in this area. Considering the Nikon D4 is a sports and action camera for low light conditions then most users will not find this a problem. When a high shutter speed is necessary to capture action in low light the D4’s improved dynamic range at the higher ISO settings delivers the results photojournalists need.

 

DxOMark three way comparison for digital noise  of  Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

DxOMark three way comparison for digital noise of Nikon D4 & D3s and Pentax K-5

 

The ISO tests show despite the small photo receptors necessary to increase the resolution to 16 Megapixels the digital noise added to images is similar to the D3s’, and still better than the Pentax K-5.

The performance advantage of the D4 now provides a justification for the six times greater price than the Pentax K5.

“Speed without accuracy is irrelevant,” said Bo Kajiwara, director of marketing, Nikon Inc. “The status of a Nikon flagship camera is not given lightly; this next generation of Nikon’s most professional body exceeds the needs of a wide variety of both still and multimedia professionals that rely on Nikon to make their living. Besides overall performance and burst speed, the D4 provides Nikon’s most advanced AF system to date, as well as enhanced workflow speed to give professionals the edge in the field.”

 

The Camera Body

You get a lot of camera for your money. The Nikon D4 is is a large body for a DSLR based on the compact 35 mm film SLR architecture. The D4 does have a large sensor, and consequently a larger reflex mirror system, to account for some of the size. The large 2000mAH battery takes up plenty of space, but supplies power for the number of shots, or minutes of video, a hard working professional will shoot in a day.

 

Nikon D4 back view

Nikon D4 back view showing the well laid out controls

 

The large body does have its benefits as there is room to for all the switches, displays and the array of connection sockets. The space allows the switches and control buttons their own space, so it less likely to accidentally hit the wrong control, or stop monitoring the action to find the right button.  The extra LCD screen on the rear of the camera makes it easier for sports or wildlife photographers to check information when using a monopod.

The Nikon D4 comes with dual memory card slots for large capacity high speed cards. One is for the established compact flash cards and the other for the new high speed XQD card, smoothing the transition to the new card system.

As a multimedia camera the Nikon D4’s large body provides room for all the connectors associated with a multi-purpose high end camera.  One that is sadly neglected in many digital cameras with video capability, is the sound. Nikon D4 includes headphone jack so the sound can be monitored properly while shooting video.

Nikon D4 with dual card slots

Nikon D4 with dual card slots

Nikon have upgraded the video to Full HD resolution with a variety of frame rates. One important feature is an Autofocus system that works while the D4 is in video Mode. Now video is more than just an afterthought.

Wedding Photographers 

The top Nikon’s appeal to wedding photographers who shoot ceremonies and on location. Often the light is low and the D4‘s lack of noise at higher ISO settings allow wedding photographers to capture the subdued atmosphere, rather than destroying it with flash.

The Role of the Flagship Camera 

The D4’s role as the flagship camera of their extensive provides a number of benefits for Nikon. The tangible benefit is the sale of a premium priced digital camera and the lenses and accessories to match.

The intangible is the brand prestige Nikon accrues from the highly visible use of their cameras at public events. This brand awareness plays a part in buying decisions for modestly priced cameras, right down to compact digital cameras.  The hope is that using the same brand as the top professionals will ensure a two hundred dollar digital camera will give the same results as the experts.

All photographers benefit from this pursuit of excellence with the trickle down effect of technological advances developed for showpiece cameras and lenses.

Price and Availability 

The Nikon D4 can be pre – ordered from Adorama with a guide price of around $5US999.00 and is expected to start shipping in April.

 

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