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Nikon D4 review

Thursday March 15 2012

Sensor Review
Nikon D4 Lens Recommendations | Introduction | Nikon D4 Preview | Nikon D4 Hands-on | Nikon D4 versus competition | Nikon D4 Sensor performance

While we wait for Sony’s promised pro reflex (which will undoubtedly evolve in terms of higher definition), and since all the other competitors’ results are available, let’s first compare the Nikon D4 with the Nikon D800 (whose 36Mpix offering took its inspiration from the D4’s prosumer version). Then we’ll see how the D4 evolved by comparing it with its predecessor, the D3s, and then, finally, we’ll compare it with the Canon EOS-1D X, its true rival.

Nikon D4 vs Nikon D800

Nikon D4 vs Nikon D800

The comparison between the latest two Nikon cameras is already available here: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D800

Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3s

Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3s

The complete comparison is available here: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3s.

Below is an exhaustively long list of the Nikon D4’s new features:

  • New CMOs Full-Frame 16 Mpix sensor (FX mount).
  • Minimum sensitivity lowered to 100 ISO (vs 200 ISO on the D3s).
  • Maximum sensitivity of 25 600 ISO (extendible to 204 800 ISO).
  • New 16-bit EXPEED 3 sensor signal processor for handling Active D-Lighting image calculation, scene detection and analysis, Full HD video encoding, etc.
  • New 91,000-pixel scene recognition (vs. only 2000 pixels for the next most recent model, the D7000). This sensor prepares the work of the sensor upstream by analyzing the scene framework so as to adapt the camera settings, works with autofocus, assists with subject tracking, analyzes the light source, detects the presence of faces, etc. The scene type database is reduced from 50,000 to only 30,000, thanks to the sensor’s better definition.
  • 3D Color Matrix III exposure management.
  • The Nikon D4 offers viewfinder-based face detection, a first, thanks to its new scene recognition sensor.
  • HDR mode: the D4 mixes images between 0Ev and +3EV to arrive at an HDR photo calculated directly in the camera itself.
  • Full HD video mode (24p, 25p, 30p) on a memory card or via HDMI 4:2:2 recorder without sensor signal processing for a rate of 200 Mbps — in other words, broadcast quality.
  • The D4 offer different shooting ratios in video: FX, DX (1.5x crop equivalent to Super35) and CX (2.7x, using the sensor’s central 1920 x 1080 pixel plane).
  • Time Lapse: the D4 permits recording and composition of time-lapse videos compiled in the camera itself over the course of several days.
  • As with the D3s, the Nikon offers 51-point autofocus. While the module is still called “Multi-Cam 3500 FX,” it’s actually a very new and different autofocus that has been integrated into this pro reflex. It is more sensitive and can work in low-light down to just 2EV (moonlight). It is also more versatile, with 15 cross-type collimators (11 sensitive to f/8), thus more efficient when using a telephoto lens and focal doubling system.
  • When one tilts the D4 to shoot in portrait orientation, the active autofocus collimator adapts so as to position itself on the same subject.
  • The D4’s new shutter has undergone 400,000 test cycles.
  • Noticeably loud, the Nikon D4 recalibrated its "Quiet" mode for quieter shooting.
  • The D4 has an electronic for shooting in complete silence at 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution.
  • The D4 adopts an ergonomic “must-have”: its buttons are lit in the dark.
  • Burst shooting at 10 fps when AF tracking is active and at 11 fps when deactivated.
  • As the shutter ages, it tends to slow down. The D4 offers a guarantee that the exposure will always be correct.
  • In video mode, one can use the test buttons to fine-tune the depth of field and Fn in increments of 1/8 EV.
  • The D4 has two joysticks, one of which for use in portrait orientation.
  • More intuitive handling: Unlike the D3s, the D4’s controls are in the same place in portrait orientation as when in landscape orientation.
  • The D4’s pentaprism was redesigned to adapt to its new mechanism for tilting the mirror, but its viewfinder still provides the same 100% coverage and 0.7x magnification.
  • The D4 has an ethernet port.
  • In addition to a microphone jack, the D4 offers a headphone jack as well as an integrated viewmeter.
  • Compact flash card and XQD dual card slots for photo and video storage. The D4 is the first camera to adopt this new type of memory card that should deliver very high transfer rates, on the order of 720 Mbps at launch.
  • New EN-EL18 battery: due to new regulations governing electronic devices in Japan, Nikon had to redesign and reduce the power of its pro reflex battery to 2000 mAh — thus dropping the autonomy from 4200 images to only 2600.
  • The D4 is compatible with the new WT-5 Wi-Fi transmitter that allows it to interact with any smartphone or tablet on the market and to view photos via internet browser. Nikon is planning on launching an iPhone and iPad application that allows users to control the camera remotely.
  • Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 is compatible with D4 video controls.

Nikon D4 vs Canon EOS-1D X

Nikon D4 vs Canon EOS-1D X

The complete comparison is available here: Nikon D4 vs Canon EOS-1D X.

Rarely have these Canon and Nikon rivals gone so directly head-to-head:

  • Bye-bye to the EOS 1D’s APS-H-format sensor (see the 1D Mark III and the 1D Mark IV for its last uses): the EOS-1D X adopts the Full-Frame format for its camera designed for reportage and action photos — and not only for its high-resolution pro reflex (see the EOS 1Ds Mark III). A priori this is a rather good idea on Canon’s part, given that its camera results suffered by comparison, especially in terms of low-light. (Don’t forget that the larger the sensor, the better its handling of noise.)
  • Bye-bye to Nikon’s lag-behind video mode: today, the Nikon D4 is on par with the Canon EOS-1D X and goes so far as to propose a few additional refinements, starting with the ability to export the video stream via HDMI 4:2:2 output.
  • Both the Nikon and Canon cameras have an ethernet port and compatibility with a new WiFi transmitter that makes it possible to connect with a smartphone or tablet internet browser. Such connectors are a real asset for those looking for quicker integration with their workflow, such as those adopted by cable news agencies.
  • The two cameras have honed their automation with 51-point autofocus for the Nikon D4 and 61-point autofocus for the Canon EOS-1D X, both coupled with scene recognition sensors that weigh in around 100,000 points. The Canon has the advantage of a far greater number of cross-type collimators — 41 vs. 15 for the Nikon.
  • Both cameras have made progress in terms of burst shooting speed. The Canon retains superiority, however: in normal mode (that is, with autofocus tracking and exposure metering on), the EOS-1D X attains 12 fps versus 10 fps for the Nikon D4. With automatic features disengaged, the Canon achieves a record 14 fps versus 12 fps for the Nikon.
  • Both cameras have seen their autonomy reduced compared to their respective predecessors because of new regulations governing Japanese electronics. But as for the battery optimization game, Nikon has limited the damage with an announced autonomy of 2600 photos per full charge, whereas the Canon promises only 1120 photos for a fully-charge EOS-1D X. That’s not much.

The Nikon D4 is very similar to the Canon EOS-1D X — more than Canon and Nikon professional SLRs have ever been before. The retail price of the Canon EOS-1D X, however, is 500 euros higher than that of the Nikon D4.