It has been close to three years since Nikon announced the D4 and our readers might be wondering why I am only now reviewing the camera, especially given the fact that it has already been replaced by the Nikon D4s. While working on the D4s review, I thought that it would be a good idea to revisit the older D4 – better late than never! Since the camera came out, I have used it on several occasions for both personal and business needs, and a number of our team members have owned or still own the D4. Hence, the information and images that I gathered for this review represent a collective effort between our team at Photography Life.
Being a top-of-the-line DSLR from Nikon, the D4 is a specialized tool that is primarily targeted at news, sports and wildlife photographers. With a 16 MP sensor that is capable of capturing images all the way to ISO 204,800, up to 11 frames per second continuous shooting speed, a huge buffer for photographing fast action, a solid all-metal construction and a high-end ergonomic design, the Nikon D4 is a serious camera for serious needs.
After owning the Nikon D3s for 4 years, I really struggled with the decision to upgrade to the D4. The thing is, back when the D3s came out, Nikon only had the D700 as the lower-end FX option, which was noticeably worse in image quality. So if one wanted to get the best image quality, the only option was to move up to the D3s. At $5,200, there was a bit more than $2K price difference between the D700 and the D3s. When the D4 came out, Nikon pushed its price up higher to $6K, which was double the price of then newly-announced D800. And if you remember that time-frame, the D800 generated so much buzz in the industry, that it practically de-popularized the high-end line and put it in the shadows. Personally, I went for the D800 at the time and spent a considerable amount of time working with the camera. It was a great buy at $3K and I did not see much reason to move up to the twice more expensive D4, especially after seeing high resolution sensor advantages and realizing that the D4 did not offer significant image quality improvements over the D3s. Putting $6K towards a camera that was only marginally better in image quality than my D3s and came with a few unwelcome changes such as the XQD card slot and small, Canon-like joysticks (more on this on the next page) was a hard pill to swallow, so I decided to skip a generation and see if a future model would offer better value. And with Lola’s wedding business growth, I found myself shooting wildlife a lot less, shifting more towards lifestyle and landscape photography. The Nikon D800 was superb for those needs and Lola kept on using the D3s for her work and projects. It worked out great, as we had both a high ISO king and a high-resolution king in our arsenal. Eventually, Nikon released the Df, which was Lola’s dream come true, because it had similar image quality and pixel-level performance as the D4, minus the bulk and weight. That’s when we decided to get rid of the D3s…
While our story above reflects our decisions and reasoning why we chose not to get the D4, my wildlife friends were happy to move up to the D4 and they never regretted that decision. The thing is, for sports and wildlife needs, the D4 was still the best Nikon camera to get at the time. With its super fast shooting speed and a huge buffer, the D4 was the right tool for freezing those fast action moments. Had I kept my focus on wildlife photography, I would have probably either upgraded to the D4, or the latest generation D4s. Since the D300s and D700, Nikon kept its high-end line protected by intentionally crippling lower-end cameras with slower fps and smaller buffers.
1) Nikon D4 Specifications
- 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
- MSRP Price: $5,999
Detailed camera specifications can be found at Nikon USA.
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, Thomas Redd and Robert Andersen. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission.