Nikon D4: The King is Here

 

 

Nikon D4

Nikon D4

Raj Lalwani gets his hands on the Nikon D4 to get a sneak peek of what photographs shot at ISO 2,04,800 look like.

Since the past few days, the Better Photography office has sounded like a machine gun. The moment anyone approaches our desks, he is greeted with the 10fps burst of the Nikon D4. It is not just the fact that we have been preparing an exclusive sneak peek at Nikon’s latest flagship high-speed DSLR. It is also the simple fact that the camera is incredibly addictive. Here is why.

Eyes of the Dark
Until recently, the Nikon D3S has been the best camera in the world, in terms of high ISO image quality. Two recently announced cameras by Canon—the EOS 1D X and the 5D Mark III will surely try to topple that crown, but the D4 will be the fresh contender they will have to fight against. While our full-fledged test will carry a more detailed comparison, suffice to say that the D4 matches the D3S’ superb low light performance, despite its higher megapixel count of 16.2MP. For instance, ISO 12,800 is virtually noise free and settings of over a lakh are usable, if postprocessed carefully. It also has a new setting of Hi 4.0, which goes up to an unimaginable ISO 2,04,800.

The Devil Lies in the Details
Unlike the D3S which barely made any changes in the exterior of the camera, the D4 sees several ergonomic changes. Most of these are minor tweaks, but it is these tiny details that usually mean the difference between a captured moment and a missed opportunity.
The camera can focus in much lower light now (up to – 2 EV, as compared to the D3S that could focus only in -1 EV). This is fantastic news, considering that the sensor of the D3S had gone past the capability of the AF sensor, and there were times that one would really miss an AF-assist lamp. The backlit illuminated buttons are fantastic. A concept that was first used in Olympus DSLRs over three years ago, it is great to see it in a professional low light machine, finally.

Where are these Buttons Now?
There are some changes that may not appeal to everyone. Metering is now a button function and not a switch. Similarly, the switch at the back of the camera to switch between Single Point and Multi Point AF, is now missing. All the AF functions are controlled by pressing a button near the bottom of the lens and adjusting the dials. While this gives the advantage of all AF functions being accessible together, it is a marked departure and might not be as easy to operate while using a telephoto lens.

The New Video King?
The D3S’ video capabilities were only modest, but with the D4, Nikon seems to have finally taken the feature seriously. It is the first DSLR to incorporate a headphone jack to monitor audio, a feature that is now matched by the EOS 5D Mark III. That apart, it remains the only DSLR that can transmit uncompressed Full HD video through the HDMI output.

The Big XQD and Battery Debate
Two things about the D4 have attracted a lot of negative attention. The first one is the decision to use XQD cards for better buffer performance (class leading). The other, being a much lower projected battery life, according to CIPA standards. The XQD decision may be a visionary masterstroke or could eventually fall flat. Battery life, too, will need further testing because Nikon’s projected figures curiously state that the D4’s battery life is actually higher.
If the D3S was the king of still-camera DSLRs, the D4 aspires to be the stills-video emperor. We cannot wait to run it through our complete round of tests and are even more curious as to how the EOS 1D X would match up, against it. Over to you, Canon.

Some Interesting Changes to Look Out For:

  • Dual CF/XQD Slots
    The D4 is the only DSLR that uses XQD cards, which allow an buffer as high as 100 RAWs. If this is what the first generation of XQD cards can do, one cannot wait to see how CF manufacturers respond. 

    Dual CF/XQD Slots

    Dual CF/XQD Slots

  • Autofocus Functionality
    Instead of two dedicated switches, the same button controls the choice of every AF function, from AF-C to AF-S, from 9-point to 51-point and even Single Point to Multi Point. 

    Autofocus Functionality

    Autofocus Functionality

  • New-age Connectivity
    Besides being compatible with the simultaneously announced WT-5, the D4 also boasts of Ethernet connectivity. This is ideal for the camera’s target audience. 

    Lan Connectivity

    Lan Connectivity

Tags: Raj Lalwani, Nikon D700, Hands On preview, Hands on preveiw, nikon d4, nikon d3s, april 2012